Shield is the rendering in the A.V. of the four following Hebrew words, of which the first two are the most usual and important; likewise of one Greek word.
1. The tsinnah (צַנָּה, from a root]צָנִ, to protect) was the large shield, encompassing (Ps 5:12) and forming a protection for the whole person. When not in actual conflict, the tsinnah was carried before the warrior (1Sa 17:7,41). The definite article in the former passage (the shield, not a shield" as in the A.V.) denotes the importance of the weapon. The word is used with "spear," romach (1Ch 12:8,14; 2Ch 11:23, etc.), and chanith (1Ch 12:34) as a formula for weapons generally.
2. Of smaller dimensions was the magen (מָגֵן from גָּנֵ, to cover), a buckler or target, probably for use in hand to hand fight. The difference in size between this and the tsinnah is evident from 1 Kings 10:16, 17; 29 Chronicles 9:15, 16, where a much larger quantity of gold is named as being used for the latter than for the former. The portability of the magen may be inferred from the notice in 12:9, 10; and perhaps also from 2Sa 1:21. The word is a favorite one with the poets of the Bible (see Job 15:26; Ps 3:3; Ps 18:2, etc.). Like tsinnah, it occurs in the formulated expressions for weapons of war, but usually coupled with light weapons, the bow (2Ch 14:8; 2Ch 17:7), darts, שֶׁלִה (32:5).
3. What kind of arm the shelet (שֶׁלֶט) was it is impossible to determine. By some translators it is rendered a "quiver," by some "weapons" generally, by others a "shield." Whether either or none of these is correct, it is clear that the word had a very individual sense at the time; it denoted certain special weapons taken by David from Hadadezer, king of Zobah (2Sa 8:7; 1Ch 18:7), and dedicated in the temple, where they did service on the memorable occasion of Joash's proclamation (2Ki 11:10; 2Ch 23:9), and where their remembrance long lingered (Song 4:4). From the fact that these arms were of gold, it would seem that they cannot have been for offense. In the two other passages of its occurrence (Jer 51:11; Eze 27:11) the word has the force of a foreign arm.
4. In two passages (1Sa 17:45; Job 39:23) kidon (כַּידוֹן), a dart, is thus erroneously rendered.
To these we may add socherah (סֹחֵרָה, "buckler"), a poetical term, occurring only in Ps 91:4.
Finally, in Greek, θυρεός (probably a door, hence a large shield) occurs metaphorically once (Eph 6:16).
Among the Hebrews the ordinary shield consisted of a framework of wood covered with leather; it thus admitted of being burned (Eze 39:9). The magen was frequently cased with metal, either brass or copper; its appearance in this case resembled gold, when the sun shone on it (1 Macc. 6:39), and to this rather than to the practice of smearing blood on the shield we may refer the redness noticed by Nahum (Na 2:3). The surface of the shield was kept bright by the application of oil as implied in Isa 21:5; hence, Saul's shield is described as "not anointed with oil," i.e. dusty and gory (2Sa 1:21). Oil would be as useful for the metal as for the leather shield. In order to preserve it from the effects of weather, the shield was kept covered except in actual conflict (Isa 22:6; comp. Caesar, B. G. 2, 21; Cicero, Nat. Deor. 2, 14). The shield was worn oh the left arm, to which it was attached by a strap. It was used not only in the field, but also in besieging towns, when it served for the protection of the head, the combined shields of the besiegers forming a kind of testudo (Eze 26:8). Shields of state were covered with beaten gold. Solomon made such for use in religious processions (1Ki 10:16-17); when these were carried off they were replaced by shields of brass, which, as being less valuable, were kept in the guard room (14:27), while the former had been suspended in the palace for ornament. A large golden shield was sent as a present to the Romans when the treaty with them was renewed by Simon Maccabaeus (1 Macc. 14:24; 15:18) it was intended as a token of alliance (σύμβολον τ ης συμμαχίας, Josephus, Ant. 14, 8, 5); but whether any symbolic significance was attached to the shield in particular as being the weapon of protection is uncertain. Other instances of a similar present occur (Sueton. Calig. 16), as well as of complimentary presents of a different kind on the part of allies (Cicero, Verr. 2 Act. 4, 29, 67). Shields were suspended about public buildings for ornamental purposes (1Ki 10:17; 1Ki 1 Macc. 4:57; 6:2). This was particularly the case with the shields (assuming shelet to have this meaning) which David took from Hadadezer (2Sa 8:7; Song 4:4), and which were afterwards turned to practical account (2Ki 11:10; 2Ch 23:9). The Gammadim similarly suspended them about their towers (Eze 27:11). SEE GAMMADIM. In the metaphorical language of the Bible the shield generally represents the protection of God (e.g. Ps 3:3; Ps 28:7); but in 47:9 it is applied to earthly rulers, and in Eph 6:16 to faith.
The large shield (ἀσπίς, clipeus) of the Greeks and Romans was originally of a circular form, and in the Homeric times was large enough to cover the whole body. It was made sometimes of osiers twisted together, sometimes of wood, covered with ox hides several folds thick. On the center was a projection called ὀμφάλος, umbo, or boss, which sometimes terminated in a spike. After the Roman soldier received pay, the clipeus was discontinued for the scutum, θυρεός, of oval or oblong form, and adapted to the shape of the body. Significant devices on shields are of great antiquity. Each Roman soldier had his name inscribed on his shield. Paul (Eph 6:16) uses the word θυρεός rather than ἀσπίς. because he is describing the armor of a Roman soldier. See Kitto, Pict. Bible, note at Jg 5:8. SEE ARMOR.