Engine (μηχανή, machine, 1 Macc. 5:30, etc.; 2 Macc. 12:15, etc.), a term exclusively applied in Scripture to military affairs. Such instruments were certainly known much earlier than the Greek writers appear to admit, since figures of them occur in Egyptian monuments, where two kinds of the testudo, or penthouse, used as shelters for the besiegers, are represented, and a colossal lance, worked by men who, under the cover of a testudo, drive the point between the stones of a city wall. SEE FORT.
The Hebrew חַשָּׁבוֹן, chishshabon' (2Ch 26:15), lit. invention (as in Ec 7:29), is its counterpart in etymological meaning, each referring to the ingenuity (engine, from ingenium) displayed in the contrivance. The engines to which the term is applied in 2 Chronicles were designed to propel various missiles from the walls of a besieged town; one, like the balista, was for stones, consisting probably of a strong spring and a tube to give the right direction to the stone; another, like the catapulta, for arrows, an enormous stationary bow. The invention of these is assigned to Uzziah's time a statement which is supported both by the absence of such contrivances in the representations of Egyptian and Assyrian warfare, and by the traditional belief that the balista was invented in Syria (Pliny, 7:56). Of the balistae and catapultae it may be proper to add that they were of various powers. For battering walls there were some that threw stones of fifty, others of one hundred, and some of three hundredweight; in the field of battle they were of much inferior strength. Darts varied similarly from small beams to large arrows, and the range they had exceeded a quarter of a mile, or about 450 yards. All these engines were constructed upon the principle of the sling, the bow, or the spring, the last being an elastic bar, bent back by a screw or a cable of sinews, with a trigger to set it free, and contrived either to impel darts by its stroke, or to throw stones from a kind of spoon formed towards the summit of the spring. (See Smith's Diet. of Class. Antiq. s.v. Tormentum.) SEE WAR.
2. Another military engine with which the Hebrews were acquainted was the battering-ram, described in Eze 26:9 as מחַי קָבַלּוֹ, mechi' kobollo' lit. a beating of that which is in its front, hence a ram for striking walls; and still more precisely in Eze 4:2; Eze 21:22 as כִּר, kar, a ram. The use of this instrument was well known both to the Egyptians (Wilkinson, Anc. Eg. 1:359) and the Assyrians. The references in Ezekiel are to the one used by the latter people, consisting of a high and stoutly- built framework on four wheels, covered in at the sides in order to protect the men moving it, and armed with one or two pointed weapons. Their appearance was very different from that of the Roman armies with which the Jews afterwards became acquainted (Joseph. War, 3:7,19). No notice is taken of the testudo or the vinea (comp. Eze 26:9, Vulg.), but it is not improbable that the Hebrews were acquainted with them (comp. Wilkinson, 1:361). The marginal rendering ' engines of shot" (Jer 6:6; Jer 32:24; Eze 26:8) is incorrect. An engine for battering the wall is mentioned in the reign of king David (2Sa 20:15); but the instrument itself for throwing it down may have been that above noticed, and not the battering-ram. The ram was, however, a simple machine, and capable of demolishing the strongest walls, provided access to the foot was practicable, for the mass of cast metal which formed the head could be fixed to a beam lengthened sufficiently to require between one and two hundred men to lift and impel it; and when it was still heavier and hung in the lower floor of a movable tower, or helepolis, it became a most formidable engine of war — one used in all great sieges from the time of Demetrius, about B.C. 306, till long after the invention of gunpowder. Towers of this kind were largely used at the destruction of Jerusalem (q.v.) by the Romans. SEE BATTERING-RAM.