(properly מֶרכָּבָה, merkabah´, a vehicle for riding; ἄρμα), a car used either for warlike or peaceful purposes, but most commonly the former. Of the latter use there is but one probable instance as regards the Jews (1Ki 18:44), and as regards other nations, but few (Ge 41:43; Ge 46:29; 2Ki 5:9; Ac 8:28). The Scriptures employ different words to denote carriages of different sorts, but it is not in every case easy to distinguish the kind of vehicle which these words severally denote. We are now, however, through the discovery of ancient sculptures and paintings, in possession of much new information respecting the chariots of Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, and Pera, which are, in fact, mentioned in the Scriptures. There has been some speculation as to any difference of meaning between the above word and the briefer (masc.) form מֶרכָּב,
merkab´, which occurs in three passages only. In 1Ki 5:6, the latter obviously means chariots, taken collectively. But in Le 15:9 (Auth. Vers. "saddle"), and Song 3:10 ("the covering"), it has been understood by some to denote the seat of a chariot. To this view there is the fatal objection that ancient chariots had no seats. It appears to denote the seat of a litter (the only vehicle that had a seat), and its name merkab may have been derived from the general resemblance of the body of a litter (distinguished from the canopy, etc.), both in form and use, to that of a chariot. Another still simpler form, the word רֵכֵב, re´keb (with the analogous forms רַכבָּה, rikbah´, Eze 27:20, and רכוֹב, rekob´, Ps 104:3), from the same root, appears to signify a carriage of any kind, and is especially used with reference to large bodies of carriages, and hence most generally of war-chariots; for chariots were anciently seldom seen together in large numbers except in war. It is applied to the war- chariots of the Egyptians (Ex 14:9), the Canaanites (Jos 17:18; Jg 1:19; Jg 4:3), the Hebrews (2Ki 9:21,24; 2Ki 10:16), the Syrians (2Ki 5:9), the Persians (Isa 21:7,9). To this corresponds the ῥέδη of Re 18:13; the Latin rheda, a carriage with four wheels, an improvement of later times. By a comparison of these references with those passages in which merkabah occurs, we find the two words applied to all sorts of carriages indifferently and interchangeably, just as we should say either "carriage" or "coach" — "neither of which is specific, and both of which differ more from each other than the Hebrew words in question — to denote the same vehicle. Indeed, there are passages in which both words are manifestly applied to the same identical vehicle, as in 2Ki 5:9,21, and 1Ki 22:35,38, where some have endeavored to make out a difference between the Hebrews terms. There is another word once rendered chariot, viz. עֲגָלָה (cgalah´, Ps 46:9), but it denotes a plaustrum, cart, or wagon drawn by oxen. SEE CART. The only other words rendered "chariot" in the Bible are אִפַּריוֹן (qappiryon´, Song 3:9), which the etymol, as well as the rendering in the Sept. and Vulg., shows to have been a portable sedan or palanquisn, SEE LITTER, and הֹצֶן, (ho´tsen, only in Eze 23:24), which, according to etymology and the Rabbins, means weapons or defensive armor. It is demonstrated that the word rekeb, rendered "horsemen," does not mean "cavalry," but merely riders in the chariots — in other words, chariotwarriors; for Ex 14:7, which gives the first account of the Egyptian army, says, "he took six hundred chosen chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt, and captains over every one of them" (or in each). The "horsemen" in verse 9 and the subsequent verses means literally "riders," not upon the horses, but in the chariots. Hence, though Moses's song of triumph mentions the "horse and his rider" (Ex 15:1), yet Ex 15:4 clearly indicates that by rider chariot-rider is understood: "Pharaoh's chariots and his host hath he cast into the sea; his chosen captains also (chariot warriors) are drowned in the Red Sea." SEE HORSE.
The earliest mention of chariots in Scripture is in Egypt, where Joseph, as a mark of distinction, was placed in Pharaoh's second chariot (Ge 41:43), and later when he went in his own chariot to meet his father on his entrance into Egypt from Canaan (Ge 46:29). In the funeral procession of Jacob chariots also formed a part, possibly by way of escort or as a guard of honor (Ge 50:9). The next mention of Egyptian chariots is for a warlike purpose (Ex 14:7). In this point of view chariots .among some nations of antiquity, as elephants among others, may le regarded as filling the place of heavy artillery in modern times, so that the military power of a nation might be estimated by the number of its chariots. Thus Pharaoh, in pursuing Israel, took with him 600 chariots. The Canaanites of the valleys of Palestine were enabled to resist the Israelites successfully in consequence of the number of their chariots of iron, i.e. perhaps armed with iron scythes (Jos 17:18; Jg 1:19; see Schickendanz, De curribus falcatis, Zerbst. 1754). Jabin, king of Canaan, had 900 chariots (Jg 4:3). The Philistines in Saul's time had 30,000, a number chich seems excessive (1Sa 13:5; but comp. the Sept. and Joseph. Ant. 6:6, 1). David took from Hadadezer, hing of Zobah, 1000 chariots (2Sa 8:4), and from the Syrians a little later 700 (2Sa 10:18), who, in order to recover their ground, collected 52,000 chariots (1Ch 19:7). Up to this time the Israelites possessed few or no chariots, partly, no doubt, in consequence of the theocratic prohibition against multiplying horses, for fear of intercourse with Egypt, and the regal despotism implied in the possession of them (De 17:16; 1Sa 8:11-12). — But to some extent David (2Sa 8:4), and in a much greater degree Solomon, broke through the prohibition from seeing the necessity of placing his kingdom, under its altered circumstances, on a footing of military equality or superiority toward other nations. He raised, therefore, and maintained a force of 1400 chariots (1Ki 10:25) by taxation on certain cities, agreeably to Eastern custom in such matters (1Ki 9:19; 1Ki 10:25; Xenoph. Anzab. 1:4, 9). The chariots themselves, and also the horses, were imported chiefly from Egypt, and the cost of each chariot was 600 shekels of silver, and of each horse 150 (1Ki 10:29). SEE SHEKEL. From this time chariots were regarded as among the most important arms of war, though the supplies of them and of horses appear to have been still drawn from Egypt (1Ki 22:34; 2Ki 9:16,21; 2Ki 13:7,14; 2Ki 18:24; 2Ki 23:10; Isa 31:1). The prophets also allude frequently to chariots as typical of power (Ps 20:7; Ps 104:3; Jer 51:21: Zec 6:1). Chariots of other nations are likewise mentioned, as of Assyria (2Ki 19:23; Eze 23:24), Syria (2 Samuel 8, and 2Ki 6:14-15), Persia (Isa 22:6); and, lastly, Antiochus Eupator is said to have had 300 chariots armed with scythes (2 Macc. 13:2). In the N.T. the only mention made of a chariot, except in Re 9:9, is in the case of the Ethiopian or Abyssinian eunuch of Queen Candace, who is described as sitting in his chariot reading (Ac 8:28-29,38). SEE RIDER.
Jewish chariots were no doubt imitated from Egyptian models, if not actually imported from Egypt. These appear to have come into use not earlier than the 18th dynasty (B.C. 1530). The war-chariot, from which the chariot used in peace did not essentially differ, was extremely simple in its construction. It consisted, as appears both from Egyptian paintings and reliefs, as well as from an actual specimen preserved at Florence, of a nearly semicircular wooden frame with straightened sides, resting posteriorly on the axle-tree of a pair of wheels, and supporting a rail of wood or ivory attached to the frame by leathern thongs and one wooden upright in front. The floor of the car was made of rope net-work, intended to give a more springy footing to the occupants. The car was mounted from the back, which was open, and the sides were strengthened and ornamented with leather and metal binding.
Attached to the off or right-hand side, and crossing each other diagonally, were the bow-case, and inclining backwards, the quiver and spear-case. If two persons were in the chariot a second bow-case was added. The wheels, of which there were 2, had 6 spokes: those of peace chariots had sometimes 4, fastened to the axle by a linch-pin secured by a thong. There were no traces; but the horses, which were often of different colors, wore only a breast-band and girths, which were attached to the saddle, together with head furniture, consisting of cheek-pieces, throat-lash, head-stall, and straps across the forehead and nose. A bearing-rein was fastened to a ring or hook in front of the saddle, and the driving-reins passed through other rings on each side of both horses. From the central point of the saddle rose a short stem of metal, ending in a knob, whether for use or mere ornament is not certain. The driver stood on the off side, and in discharging his arrow hung his whip from the wrist. In some instances the king is represented alone in his chariot, with the reins fastened round his body, thus using his weapons with his hands at liberty. Most commonly two persons, and sometimes three, rode in the chariot, of whom the third was employed to carry the state umbrella (2Ki 9:20,24; 1Ki 22:34; Ac 8:38). A second chariot usually accompanied the king to battle, to be used in case of necessity (2Ch 35:27).
On peaceable occasions the Egyptian gentleman sometimes drove alone in his chariot, attended by servants on foot. The horses wore housings to protect them from heat and insects. For royal personages and women of rank, an umbrella was carried by a bearer or fixed upright in the chariot. Sometimes mules were driven instead of horses, and in travelling sometimes oxen; but for travelling purposes the sides of the chariot appear to have been closed. One instance occurs of a 4-wheeled car, which (like the τετράκυκλος ἄμαξα of Herod. 2:63) was used for religious purposes. See CART. The processes of manufacture of chariots and harness are fully illustrated by existing sculptures, in which also are represented the chariots used by neigh. boring nations (Wilkinson, Anc. Egypt. 1:368, 386; 2:75, 76, 2d ed.).
The earliest Egyptian chariot noticed in Scripture (Ge 41:43) was doubtless a state-chariot; but, among the Egyptians, it does not appear to have been different from the war-chariot, the splendid military appointments of which rendered it fit for purposes of royal pomp. Hence, although the same word (מֶרכָּבָה, merkabah) is again used for chariots of state in Ge 46:29; 1Sa 8:11; 2Sa 15:1, it undoubtedly denotes a war-chariot in Ex 15:4; Joe 2:5. In Isa 2:7, the same word appears to comprehend chariots of every kind which were found in cities. In fact, chariots anciently in the East were used almost entirely for purposes of state or of war, being very rarely employed by private persons. We also observe that where private carriages were known, as in Egypt, they were of the same shape as those used in war, only having less complete military accoutrements, although retaining the case for arrows. One of the most interesting of the Egyptian paintings represents a person of quality arriving late at an entertainment in his curricle, drawn (like all the Egyptian chariots) by two horses (one hidden by the other in profile). He is attended by a number of running footmen, one of whom hastens forward to knock at the door of the house, another advances to take the reins, a third bears a stool to assist his master in alighting, and most of them carry their sandals in their hands, that they may run with the more ease. This conveys a lively illustration of such passages as 1Sa 8:11; 2Sa 15:1. The principal distinction between these private chariots and those actually used in war was, as appears from the monuments, that in the former the party drove himself, whereas in war the chariot, as among the Greeks, often contained a second person to drive it, that the warrior might be at liberty to employ his weapons with the more effect. But this was not always the case; for in the Egyptian monuments we often see even royal personages alone in their chariots, warring furiously, with the reins lashed round their waist. So it appears that Jehu (who certainly rode in a war-chariot) drove himself, for his peculiar style of driving was recognised at a considerable distance (2Ki 9:20). The Egyptians used horses in the equipment of an armed force before Jacob and his sons had settled in Goshen; they had chariots of war, and mounted asses and mules, and therefore could not be ignorant of the art of riding; but for ages after that period Arab nations rode on the bare back, and guided the animals with a wand. Others. and probably the shepherd invaders, noosed a single rope in a slip-knot round the lower jaw, forming an imperfect bridle with only one rein; a practice still in vogue among the Bedouins. Thus cavalry were but little formidable, compared with chariots, until a complete command over the horse was obtained by the discovery of a true bridle. This seems to have been first introduced by chariot-drivers, and there are figures of well-constructed harness, reins, and mouth-pieces in very early Egyptian monuments, representing both native and foreign chariots of war. In fighting from chariots great dexterity was shown by the warrior, not only in handling his weapons, but also in stepping out upon the pole to the horses' shoulders, in order the better to attain his enemies; and the charioteer was an important person, sometimes equal in rank to the warrior himself. Both the kingdoms of Judah and Israel had war-chariots, and, from the case of king Josiah at the battle of Megiddo, it is clear they had also travelling vehicles, for, being wounded, he quitted his fighting- chariot, and in a second, evidently more commodious, he was brought to Jerusalem (2Ch 35:24). Chariots of war continued to be used in Syria in the time of the Maccabees (2 Macc. 13:5), and in Britain when Caesar invaded the island (Bell. Gall. 4:29).
In the prophecy of Nahum, who was of the first captivity, and resident (if not born) at Elkosh in Assyria, there is much allusion to chariots, suggested doubtless by their frequency before his eyes in the streets of Nineveh and throughout the Assyrian empire. In fact, when prophesying the downfall of Nineveh, he gives a particular and animated description (Na 2:13) of their action in the streets of the great city:
The shield of his heroes is reddened, The men of prowess are crimsoned [in dress]: With the fire of irons [flashing steel armatures] is the chariot in the day of his array,
And the cypresses [lances] are brandished; In the streets will madden the chariot-force, They will race in the broad places; Their appearance is as the torches, As the lightnings will they rush.
Abundant illustrations of this passage occur on the recently discovered sculptures of Nineveh and Babylon. They are minutely described by Layard (Nineveh, 2:268 sq.). The earlier Assyrian war-chariot and harness did not differ essentially from the Egyptian. Two or three persons stood in the car, but the driver is sometimes represented as standing on the near side, while a third warrior in the chariot held a shield to protect the archer in discharging his arrow. The car appears to have had closed sides. The war- chariot wheels had 6 spokes; the state or peace chariot 8 or more; and a third person in state processions carried the royal umbrella. A third horse, like the Greek παρήορος, was generally attached (Layard, Nineveh,
2:350). In later times the third horse was laid aside, the wheels were made higher, and had 8 spokes, and the front of the car, to which the quiver was removed from its former side position, was made square instead of round. The cars were more highly ornamented, paneled, and inlaid with valuable woods and metals, and painted. The embroidered housings, in which in earlier times the horses were clothed, were laid aside, and plumes and tassels used to decorate their necks and foreheads (Layard, Nineveh, 2:353, 356; Nineveh and Babylon, p. 341, 587, 603, 618; Mon. of Nin. 2d series, pl. 24; comp. Eze 27:20). Chariots used for other purposes than that of war, especially in hunting, were also found sculptured on the Assyrian monuments, as well as occasionally carts for the transportation of persons or baggage.
The Persian art, as appears from the sculptures at Persepolis, and also at Koyounjik, shows great similarity to the Assyrian; but the procession represented at the former place contains a chariot or car with wheels of 12 spokes, while, from the sculptures at the latter, it appears that the Elamites, or Persians, besides chariots containing two persons, which were sometimes drawn by four horses, used a kind of cart, drawn by a single mule or more, consisting of a stage on high wheels, capable of holding five or six persons, of whom the driver sat on a low stool, with his legs hanging on each side of the pole (Isa 22:6; Eze 23:24; see Xenoph. Cyrop. 4:3, 1; 2:22; Niebuhr, Voyage, 2:105; Chardin, Voyage, 7:257, pl. 59; Layard, Nin. & Bab. p. 447,449; Olearius, Travels, p. 302). Chariots armed with scythes (ἃρματα δρεπανήφορα, Xen. Anab. 1:7, 10) may perhaps be intended by the " chariots of iron" of the Canaanites; they are mentioned as part of the equipment of Antiochus (2 Macc. 13:2), and of Darius (Diod. Sic. 17:53; Appian, Syr. 32). Xenophon mentions a Persian chariot with 4 poles and 8 horses (Cyrop. 6:4). The Persian custom of sacrificing horses to the Sun (Xen. Cyrop. 8:3, 12), seems to have led to offerings of chariots and horses for the same object among the Jewish monarchs who fell into idolatry (Eze 8:17; 2Ki 22:11;. see P. della Valle, p. 255). SEE WAGON.
Not very different from the Persian chariot is one represented on a coin found at Babylon, but somewhat ruder; but the spokes of the wheels are eight, as in the Assyrian chariot. This coin has given occasion to much unsound speculation in the attempt to connect it with the history of Daniel. SEE BABYLON.
Among the Greeks and Romans, chariots were used at all times for purposes of war, and the chariot-races of the "Isthmian Games" were especially famous (see Smith's Dict, of Class. Antiquity, s.v. Currus). SEE CHARIOT-RACE.
Among the parts of wheel-carriages mentioned in the Scriptures are:
1, the wheel, אוֹפָן (ophan , Ex 14:25, etc.); also גַּלגָּל (gilgal´, Isa 28:28) or גִּלגִּל (gilgal´, Isa 5:28; Eze 10:2,6; Eze 23:24; Eze 26:10; id. Chald. Da 7:9);
2, the rim, גָּב (gab, 1Ki 7:33; Eze 1:18);
3, the spokes, חַשֻׁקַים (chishshukim´, 1Ki 6:33);
4, the hub, חַשֻׁרַים (chishshurim´, 1Ki 7:33); 5, the axle, יָד (yad, 1Ki 7:32-33). To harness (yoke) the horses or other animals is designated by אָסִר (asar´, Ge 41:29; 1Sa 6:7; 1Ki 18:14), or רָחִם (ratham´, Mic 1:13); also רָכִב(rakab´, Ho 10:11), which properly signifies to ride or drive. SEE WHEEL.
The word chariots is sometimes used figuratively for hosts or armies (Ps 68:17; 2Ki 6:17); and Elijah, by his prayers and counsels, and power with God, was "the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof" (2Ki 2:12; see Rosh, De curru Israelis, Bautz. 1780), inasmuch as he did more for them than all the chariots they could muster (Ps 20:7; Isa 3:1). SEE WAR.
The term "chariot" is likewise used poetically in Scripture to designate the rapid agencies of God in nature (Ps 104:3; Ps 68:17; Isa 66:15; Hab 3:8).