Armor represented in the Auth. Vers. by several Heb. words, Gr. ὅπλα), properly distinguished from ARMS as being military equipment for the protection of the person, while the latter denotes implements of aggressive warfare; but in the English Bible the former term alone is employed in both senses. In the records of a people like the children of Israel, so large a part of whose history was passed in warfare, we naturally look for much information, direct or indirect, on the arms and modes of fighting of the nation itself and of those with whom it came into contact. Unfortunately, however, the notices that we find in the Bible on these points are extremely few and meagre, while even those few, owing to the uncertainty which rests on the true meaning and force of the terms, do not convey to us nearly all the information which they might. This is the more to be regretted because the notices of the history, scanty as they are, are literally every thing we have to depend on, inasmuch as they are not yet supplemented and illustrated either by remains of the arms themselves, or by those commentaries which the sculptures, vases, bronzes, mosaics, and paintings of other nations furnish to the notices of manners and customs contained in their literature. (See, generally, Jahn's Archeology, § 266-285.) In order to give a clear view of this subject, we shall endeavor to show, succinctly and from the best authorities now available, what were the martial instruments borne upon the person, whether for attack or resistance, by the ancient Asiatics, leaving for other proper heads an explanation of the composition and tactical condition of their armies, their systems of fortification, their method of conducting sieges and battles, and their usages of war as regards spoil, captives, etc. SEE BATTLE; SEE FORTIFICATION; SEE SIEGE; SEE WAR, SEE ARMY; SEE FIGHT, SEE FORTRESS, etc.


1. The instruments at first employed in the chase or to repel wild beasts, but converted by the wicked to the destruction of their fellow-men, or used by the peaceable to oppose aggression, were naturally the most simple. Among these were the club and the throwing-bat. The first consisted originally of a heavy piece of wood, variously shaped, made to strike with, and, according to its form, denominated a mace, a bar, a hammer, or a maul. This weapon was in use among the Hebrews, for in the time of the kings wood had already been superseded by metal; and the שֵׁבֶט בִּרזֶל, sherbet barzel', "rod of iron" (Ps 2:9), is supposed to mean a mace, or gavelock, or crowbar. It is an instrument of great power when used by a strong arm; as when, in modern menageries, a man with one in his hand compels a tiger's ferocity to submit to his will. (See Wilkinson's Ancient Egyptians, i, 327, fig. 3, 4; and mace, fig. 1, 2. The throw. stick, or lissan, occurs p. 329.) SEE ROD; SEE SCEPTRE. The other was also known if, as is probable, מֵפִיוֹ, mephits' (Pr 25:18), be a "maul," a martel, or a war-hammer. It is likely metal was only in general use at a later period, and that a heavy crooked billet continued long to serve both as a missile and a sword. The throwstick, made of thorn-wood, is the same instrument which we see figured on Egyptian and Assyrian monuments. By the native Arabs it is still called Asian, and was anciently known among us by the name of crooked billet. The Australians are exceedingly skillful in the use of this implement, called by them the boomerang. These instruments, supplied with a sharp edge, would naturally constitute a battle-axe and a kind of sword; and such in the rudest ages we find them, made with flints set into a groove, or with sharks' teeth firmly secured to the staff with twisted sinews. On the earliest monuments of Egypt, for these ruder instruments is already seen substituted a piece of metal, with a steel or bronze blade fastened into a globe, thus forming a falchion-axe; and also a lunateblade, riveted in three places to the handle, forming a true battle-axe (Wilkinson, i, 325, 326); and there were, besides, true bills or axes, in form like our own. SEE MAUL; SEE AXE.

Bible concordance for ARMOR.

2. Next came the dirk or poniard, which, in the Ho brew word חֶרֶב, chereb' (usually translated "sword"), may possibly retain some allusion to the original instrument made of the antelope's horn, merely sharpened, which is still used in every part of the East where the material can be procured. From existing figures, the dirk appears to have been early made of metal in Egypt, and worn stuck in a girdle (Wilkinson, i, 319); but, from several texts (1Sa 17:39; 2Sa 20:8; 1Ki 20:11), it is evident that the real sword was slung in a belt, and that "girding" and "loosing the sword" were synonymous terms for commencing and ending a war. The blades were, it seems, always short (one is mentioned of a cubit's length); and the dirk-sword, at least, was always double-edged. The sheath was ornamented and polished. In Egypt there were larger and heavier swords, more nearly like modern tulwars, and of the form of an English round-pointed table-knife. But, while metal was scarce, there were also swords which might be called quarter-pikes, being composed of a very short wooden handle, surmounted by a spear-head. Hence the Latin telum and ferrum continued in later ages to be used for gladius. In Nubia swords of heavy wood are still in use. SEE SWORD; SEE KNIFE.

3. The "spear, רֹמִח, ro'mach, was another offensive weapon common to all the nations of antiquity, and varied much in size, weight, and length. Prob. ably the shepherd Hebrews, like nations similarly situated in northern Africa, anciently made use of the horn of an oryx, or a leucoryx, above three feet long, straightened in water, and sheathed upon a thornwood staff. When sharpened, this instrument would penetrate the hide of a bull, and, according to Strabo, even of an elephant: it was light, very difficult to break, resisted the blow of a battle-axe, and the animals which furnished ft were abundant in Arabia and in the desert east of Palestine. At a later period the head was of brass, and afterward of iron. Very ponderous weapons of this kind were often used in Egypt by the heavy infantry; and, from various circumstances, it may be inferred that among the Hebrews and their immediate neighbors, commanders in particular were distinguished by heavy spears. Among these were generally ranked the most valiant in fight and the largest in stature; such as Goliath, "whose spear was like a weaver's beam" (1Sa 17:7), and whose spear's head weighed six hundred shekels of iron, which by some is asserted to be equal to twenty-five pounds' weight. The spear had a point of metal at the butt end to fix it in the ground, perhaps with the same massy globe above it which is still in use, intended to counterbalance the point. It was with this ferrel that Abner slew Asahel (2Sa 2:22-23). The form of the head and length of the shaft differed at different times both in Egypt and Syria, and were influenced by the fashions set by various conquering nations. SEE SPEAR.

See also the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

The javelin, named חֲנִית, chanith' (usually rendered "spear"), and כִּידוֹן, kidon' (variously rendered " spear," " shield," etc.), may have had distinct forms: from the context, where the former first occurs, it appears to have been a species of dart carried by light troops (1Sa 13:22; Psalm iv); while the latter, which was heavier, was most likely a kind of pilum. In most nations of antiquity, the infantry, not bearing a spear, carried two darts, those lightly armed using both for long casts, and the heavy-armed only one for that purpose; the second, more ponderous than the other, being reserved for throwing when close to the enemy, or for handling in the manner of a spear. This explanation may throw light on the fact of the

chanith being named in connection with the צִנָּה, tsinnaht, or larger buckler (1Ch 12:34), and may reconcile what is said of the chidon (Job 39:23; Job 41:29, and Jos 8:10). While on the subject of the javelin, it may be remarked that, by the act of casting one at David (1Sa 19:9-10), Saul virtually absolved him from his allegiance; for by the customs of ancient Asia, preserved in the usages of the Teutonic and other nations, the Sachsenrecht, the custom of the East Franks, etc., to throw a dart at a freedman, who escaped from it by flight, was the demonstrative token of manumission given by his lord or master; he was thereby sent out of hand, manumissus, well expressed in the old English phrase "scot-free." But for this act of Saul, David might have been viewed as a rebel. SEE DART; SEE JAVELIN; SEE LANCE.

4. But the chief offensive weapon in Egypt, and, from the nature of the country, it may be inferred, in Palestine also, was the war-bow, קֶשֶׁת, ke'sheth ("bow"), the arrow being denominated חֵוֹ, chets. From the simple implements used by the first hunters, consisting merely of an elastic reed, a branch of a tree, or rib of palm, the bow became in the course of time very strong and tall, was made of brass, of wood backed with horn, or of horn entirely, and even of ivory; some being shaped like the common English bow, and others, particularly those used by riding nations, like the buffalo horn. There were various modes of bending this instrument, by pressure of the knee, or by the foot, treading the bow, or by setting one end against the foot, drawing the middle with the hand of the same side toward the hip, and pushing the upper point forward with the same hand, till the thumb passed the loop of the string beyond the neck The horned bows of the cavalry, shaped like those of the Chinese, occur on monuments of antiquity. They cannot be bent from their form of a Roman C to that of what is termed a Cupid's bow, but by placing one end under the thigh; and as they are short, this operation is performed by Tatar riders while in the saddle. This was the Parthian bow, as is proved by several Persian bass- reliefs, and may have been in use in the time of the Elamites, who were a mounted people. These bows were carried in cases to protect the string, which was composed of deer sinews, from injury, and were slung on the right hip of the rider, except when on the point of engaging. Then the string was often cast over the head, and the bow hung upon the breast, with the two nocks above each shoulder, like a pair of horns. SEE BOW; SEE ARCHER.

The arrows were likewise enclosed in a case or "quiver," תּלִי, teli', hung sometimes on the shoulder, and at other times on the left side; and six or eight flight-arrows were commonly stuck in the edge of the cap, ready to be pulled out and put to the string. The infantry always carried the arrows in a quiver on the right shoulder, and the bow was kept unbent until the moment of action. On a march it was carried on the shield arm, where there was frequently also a horn bracer secured below the elbow to receive the shock from the string when an arrow was discharged. The flight or long-range arrows were commonly of reed, not always feathered, and mostly tipped with flint points; but the shot or aimed arrows, used for nearer purposes, were of wood tipped with metal, about thirty inches long, and winged with three lines of feathers, like those in modern use: they varied in length at different periods, and according to the substance of the bows. SEE ARROW; SEE QUIVER; SEE SHOOT.

5. The last missile instrument to be mentioned is the "sling," קֶלִע, ke'la (Job 41:28), an improvement upon the simple act of throwing stones. It was the favorite weapon of the Benjamites, a small tribe, not making a great mass in an order of battle, but well composed for light troops. They could also boast of using the sling equally well with the left hand as with the right. The sling was made of plaited thongs, somewhat broad in the middle, to lodge the stone or leaden missile, and was twirled two or three times round before the stone was allowed to take flight. Stones could not be cast above 400 feet, but leaden bullets could be thrown as far as 600 feet. The force as well as precision of aim which might be attained in the use of this instrument was remarkably shown in the case of David; and several nations of antiquity boasted of great skill in the practice of the sling. SEE SLING.

All these hand-weapons were in use at different periods, not only among the Hebrews and Egyptians, but likewise in Assyria, Persia, Greece, and Macedonia; in which last country the sarissa carried by the heavy infantry of the phalanx differed from the others only in the great length of the shaft. The Roman pilum was a kind of dart, distinguished from those of other nations chiefly by its weight, and the great proportional length of the metal or iron part, which constituted one half of the whole, or from two and a half to three feet. Much of this length was hollow, and received nearly twenty inches of the shaft within it; the point was never hooked like that of common darts, because, the weapon being nearly indestructible, the soldiers always reckoned upon advancing in battle and recovering it without trouble when thrown; whereas, if it had been hooked or hamate, they could not have wrenched it out of hostile shields or breast-plates without trouble and delay. SEE WEAPON.


1. The most ancient protective piece of armor was the Shield, buckler, roundel, or target, composed of a great variety of materials, very different in form and size, and therefore in all rations bearing a variety of names. The Hebrews used the word צִנָּה, tsinnah' (rendered "shield," "target," or "buckler"), for a great shield-defence, protection (Ge 15:1; Ps 47:9; Pr 30:5)which is commonly found in connection with spear, and was the shelter of heavily-armed infantry; מָגֵן magen' (rendered "shield" or "buckler"), a buckler or smaller shield, which, from a similar juxtaposition with sword, bow and arrows, appears to have been the defence of the other armed infantry and of chiefs; and סֹחֵרָה, socherah' (only once, Ps 91:4, "buckler"), parma, a roundel, which may have been appropriated to archers and slingers; and there was the שֶׁלֶט, she' let ("shield"), synonymous with the magen, only different in ornament. In the more advanced eras of civilization shields were made of light wood not liable to split, covered with bull-hide of two or more thicknesses, and bordered with metal; the lighter kinds were made of wicker-work or osier, similarly, but less solidly covered; or of double oxhide cut into a round form. There were others of a single hide, extremely thick from having been boiled; their surface presented an appearance of many folds, like round waves up and down, which might yield, but could rarely be penetrated.

We may infer that at first the Hebrews borrowed the forms in use in Egypt, and that their common shields were a kind of parallelogram, broadest and arched at the top, and cut square beneath, bordered with metal, the surface being covered with raw hide with the hair on. The lighter shields may have been soaked in oil and dried in the shade to make them hard; no doubt hippopotamus, rhinoceros, and elephant skin shields were brought from Ethiopia and purchased in the Phoenician markets; but small round hand- bucklers of whale-skin, still used by Arabian swordsmen, came from the Erythrean Sea. During the Assyrian and Persian supremacy the Hebrews may have used the square; oblong, and round shields of these nations, and may have subsequently copied those of Greece and Rome. The princes of Israel had shields of precious metals; all were managed by a wooden or leathern handle, and often slung by a thong over the neck. With the larger kinds a testudo could be formed by pressing the ranks close together; and, while the outside men kept their shields before and on the flanks, those within raised theirs above the head, and thus produced a kind of surface, sometimes as close and fitted together as a pantile roof, and capable of resisting the pressure even of a body of men marching upon it. The tsinnah was most likely what in the feudal ages would have been called a pavise, for such occurs on the Egyptian monuments. This weapon was about five feet high, with a pointed arch above and square below, resembling the feudal knight's shield, only that the point was reversed. This kind of large- sized shield, however, was best fitted for men without any other armor, when combating in open countries, or carrying on sieges; for it may be remarked in general that the military buckler of antiquity was large in proportion as other defensive armor was wanting. Shields were hung upon the battlements of walls, and, as still occurs, chiefly above gates of cities by the watch and ward. In time of peace they were covered to preserve them from the sun, and in war uncovered; this sign was poetically used to denote coming hostilities, as in Isa 22:6, etc. In Europe, where the Crusaders could imitate the Saracens, but not introduce their climate, shields were carved in stone upon towers and gates, as at York, etc. The Eastern origin of this practice seems to be attested by the word Zinne, which, in German, still denotes a battlement, something pointed, a summit, and conveys the idea of a pavise with the point uppermost, a shape such as Arabian battlements often assume. SEE SHIELD; SEE BUCKLER.

2. The Helmet was next in consideration, and in the earliest ages was made of osier or rushes, in the form of a bee-hive or of a skull-cap. The skins of the heads of animals--of lions, bears, wild boars, bulls, and horses-were likewise adopted, and were adorned with rows of teeth, manes, and bristles. Wood, linen cloth in many folds, and a kind of felt, were also in early use, and helmets of these materials may be observed worn by the nations of Asia. at war with the conqueror kings of Egypt, even before the departure of Israel. At that time also these kings had helmets of metal, of rounded or pointed forms, adorned with a figure of the serpent Kneph; and an allied nation, perhaps the Carian, reported to have first worn a military crest, bears on the skull-cap of their brazen helmets a pair of horns with a globe in the middle-the solar arkite symbol. The nations of farther Asia, however, used the woolen or braided caps still retained, and now called kaoukl and fez, around which the turban is usually wound. These were almost invariably supplied with long lappets to cover the ears and the back of the head, and princes usually wore a radiated crown on the summit. This was the form of the Syrian, and probably of the Assyrian helmets, excepting that the last mentioned were of brass, though they still retained the low cylindrical shape. The כּוֹבִע, ko'ba ("helmet"), some helmet of this kind, was worn by the trained infantry, who were spearmen among the Hebrews; but archers and slingers had round skull-caps of skins, felts, or quilted stuffs, such as are still in use among the Arabs. The form of Greek and Roman helmets, both of leather and of brass, is well known; they were most likely adopted also by the Hebrews and Egyptians during their subjection to those nations, but require no farther notice here. SEE HELMET.

3. Body Armor.-The most ancient Persian idols are clad in shagged skins, such as the AEgis of Jupiter and Minerva may have been, the type being taken from a Cyrenaean or African legend, and the pretended red goat-skin may be supposed to have been that of a species of gnu (Catoblepas Gorgon, Ham. Smith), an animal fabled to have killed men by its sight, and therefore answering to the condition both of a kind of goat and of producing death by the sight alone. In Egypt cuirasses were manufactured of leather, of brass, and of a succession of iron hoops, chiefly covering the abdomen and the shoulders; but a more ancient national form was a kind of thorax, tippet, שִׁרִיוֹן, shiryon' (" coat of mail," "habergeon"), or שִׁריָן, shiryan' ("harness," "breastplate"), or square, with an opening in it for the head, the four points covering the breast, back, and both upper arms. This kind in particular was affected by the royal band of relatives who surrounded the Pharaoh, were his subordinate commanders, messengers, and body-guards, bearing his standards, ensign-fans, and sun-screens, his portable throne, his bow and arrows. Beneath this square was another piece, protecting the trunk of the body, and both were in general covered with red-colored cloth or stuff. On the oldest fictile vases a shoulder-piece likewise occurs, worn by Greek and Etruscan warriors. It covers the upper edge of the body armor, is perforated in the middle to allow the head to pass, but hangs equal on the breast and back, square on the shoulders, and is evidently of leather. (See the figure of Menelaus discovering Helen in the sack of Troy, Millin, Mon. inedits.) This piece of armor occurs also on the shoulders of Varangi (northmen, who were the bodyguards of the Greek emperors); but they are studded with roundels or bosses, as they appear figured in mosaic or fresco on the walls of the cathedral of Ravenna, dating from the time of Justinian. The late Roman legionaries, as published by Du Choul, again wear the tippet armor, like that of the Egyptians, and one or other of the above forms may be found on figures of Danes in illuminated manuscripts of the eleventh century. By their use of metal for defensive armor the Carians appear to have created astonishment among the Egyptians, and therefore may be presumed to have been the first nation so protected in western Asia; nevertheless, in the tombs of the kings near Thebes, a tegulated hauberk is represented, composed of small three- colored pieces of metal-one golden, the other reddish and green. It is this suit which Denon represents as composed of rings set on edge; but they are all parallelograms, with the lower edge forming the segment of a circle, and each piece, beside the fastening, has a button and a vertical slit above it, giving flexibility by means of the button of each square working in the aperture of-the piece beneath it. This kind of armor may be meant by the word תִּחרָא, tachra' ("habergeon," only Ex 28:32; Ex 39:23), the closest interpretation of which appears to be decussatio, tegulatio, a tiling. The expression in 2Ch 18:33, may be that Ahab was struck in one of the grooves or slits in the squares of such a shirsyan, or between two of them where they do not overlap; or perhaps, with more probability, between the metal hoops of the trunk of the shiryon before mentioned, where the thorax overlaps the abdomen. The term קִשׂקִשִּׂים, kaskassim' (elsewhere "scales"), in the case of Goliath's armor, denotes the squamous kind, most likely that in which the pieces were sewed upon a cloth, and not hinged to each other, as in the tackha. It was the defensive armor of Northern and Eastern nations, tnh Persian Cataphracti, Parthians, and Sarmatians. But of true annular or ringed mail, Denon's figure being incorrect, we doubt if there is any positive evidence, excepting where rings were sewn separately upon cloth, anterior to the sculpture at Takt-i- Bustan, or the close of the Parthian era. The existence of mail is often incorrectly inferred from our translators using the word wherever flexible armor is to be mentioned. The tachra could not well be worn without an undergarment of some density to resist the friction of metal; and this may have been a kind of sagum, the shiryon of the Hebrews, under another form-the dress Saul put upon David before he assumed the breastplate and girdle. The Roman sagum offers a parallel instance. Under that name it was worn at first a lorica, then beneath it, and at last again without, but the stuff itself made into a kind of felt.

The Cuirass and Corslet, strictly speaking, were of prepared leather (corium), but often also composed of quilted cloths: the former in ancient times generally denoted a suit with leathern appendages at the bottom and at the shoulder, as used by the Romans; the latter, one in which the barrel did not come down below the hips, and usually destitute of leathern vittce, which was nationally Greek. In later ages it always designates a breast and back piece of steel. It is, however, requisite to observe that, in estimating the meaning of Hebrew names for armor of all kinds, they are liable to the same laxity of use which all other languages have manifested; for in military matters, more perhaps than in any other, a name once adopted remains the same, though the object may be changed by successive modifications till there remains but little resemblance to that to which the designation was originally applied. The objects above denominated appendages and vittce (in the feudal ages, lambrequins), were straps of leather secured to the lower rim of the barrel of a suit of armor, and to the openings for arm- holes the first were about three and a half inches in width; the second, two and a half. They were ornamented with embroidery, covered with rich stuffs and goldsmiths' work, and made heavy at the lower extremity, to cause them always to hang down in proper order; but those on the arm- holes had a slight connection, so as to keep them equal when the arm was lifted. These vittae were rarely in a single row, but in general formed two or three rows, alternately covering the opening between those underneath, and then protecting the thighs nearly to the knee, and half the upper arm. In the Roman service, under the suit of armor, was the sagum, made of red serge or baize, coming down to the cap of the knee and folding of the arm, so that the vittae hung entirely upon it. Other nations had always an equivalent to this, but not equally long; and, in the opinion of some, the Hebrew shiryon served the same purpose. The Roman and Greek suits were, with slight difference, similarly laced together on the left, or shield side; and on the shoulders were bands and clasps, comparatively narrow in those of the Romans, which covered the joinings of the breast and back pieces on the shoulders, came from behind. and were fastened to a button on each breast. At the throat the suit of armor had always a double edging, often a band of brass or silver; in the Roman, and often in the Greek, adorned with a lion's or a Gorgon's head. It was here that, in the time of Augustus, and probably much earlier, the warriors distinguished for particular acts of valor wore insignia; a practice only revived by the moderns under the names of crosses and decorations. The Romans, it appears, had phiale and phalerce of honor, terms which have been supposed to signify bracelets and medals; but all opinion on the subject was only conjectural previously to the discovery, on the borders of the Rhine, of a monumental bass-relief, raised by the freedman of Marcus Cmlius Lembo, tribune of the (xiix) 18th legion, who fell in the disastrous overthrow of Varus. The effigy is of three-quarter length, in a full suit of armor, with a laurel crown on the head, a Gallic twisted torque round the neck; and from the lion-head shoulder-clasps of the cuirass hang two embossed bracelets, having beneath them a label with three points, from which are suspended five medals of honor; one large, on the pit of the stomach, representing a face of Medusa; and two on each side, one beneath the other; and all, as far as can be seen, charged with lions' faces and lions' heads in profile. The monument is now in the museum of the university at Bonn. SEE COAT OF MAIL.

The girdle, or, more properly, the baldric or belt (cingula or balteus), was used by the Hebrews under the name of אֵזוֹר, ezor' ("girdle"); it was of leather, studded with metal plates or bulge; when the armor was slight, broad, and capable of being girt upon the hips; otherwise it supported the sword scarf-wise from the shoulder. SEE GIRDLE.

4. Greaves were likewise known, even so early as the time of David, for Goliath wore them. They consisted of a pair of shin-covers of brass or strong leather, bound by thongs round the calves and above the ankles. They reached only to the knees, excepting among the Greeks, whose greaves, elastic behind, caught nearly the whole leg, and were raised in front above the knees. The Hebrew word סץוֹן, seona ("battle"), in Isa 9:5, is supposed to mean a halfgreave, though the passage is altogether obscure. Perhaps the war-boot may be explained by the warshoe of Egypt with a metal point; and then the words might be rendered, "For every greave of the armed foot is with confused noise and garments rolled in blood," etc., instead of "every battle of the warrior," etc. But, after all, this is not, quite satisfactory. SEE BREASTPLATE GREAVES.

Topical Outlines Nave's Bible Topics International Standard Bible Encyclopedia Online King James Bible King James Dictionary

Scripture linking and popups powered by VerseClick™.