in the A.V., is the usual rendering of חֶרֶב, chereb (from חָרִב, to lay waste), which was simply a large knife, as it is rendered in Jos 5; Jos 2; Eze 5:1; Eze 2. Less frequent words are רֶעִח, retsach, Ps 42:10 , a crushing or outbreak ("slaughter," Eze 21:27); שֶׁלִח, shelach (Job 33:18; Job 36:12; Joe 2:8), a dart, as elsewhere rendered; N.T. ῥομφαία, a sabre, or long and broad sword (Luke 2, 35; Re 1:16; Re 2:12,16; Re 6:8; Re 19:15,21); elsewhere μάχαιρα, a dagger, or short sword. SEE ARMOR.
1. The first mention of this principal offensive weapon in Bible history is in the narrative of the massacre at Shechem, when "Simeon and Levi took each man his sword, and came upon the city boldly and slew all the males" (Ge 34:25). But there is an allusion to it shortly before in a passage undoubtedly of the earliest date (Ewald, 1, 446, note): the expostulation of Laban with Jacob (Ge 31:26). After this, during the account of the conquest and of the monarchy, the mention of the sword is frequent, but very little can be gathered from the casual notices of the text as to its shape, size, material, or mode of use. Perhaps if anything is to be inferred it is that the chereb was not either a heavy or a long weapon. That of Ehud was only a cubit; i.e. eighteen inches, long, so as to have been concealed under his garment, and nothing is said to lead to the inference that it was shorter than usual, for the "dagger" of the A. V. is without any ground, unless it be a rendering of the μάχαιρα of the Sept. But even assuming that Ehud's sword was shorter than usual, yet a consideration of the narratives in 2Sa 2:16; 2Sa 20:8-10, and also of the ease with which David used the sword of a man so much larger than himself as Goliath (1Sa 17:51; 1Sa 21:9-10), goes to show that the cheireb was both a lighter and a shorter weapon than the modern sword. What frightful wounds one blow of the sword of the Hebrews could inflict, if given even with the left hand of a practiced swordsman, may be gathered from a comparison of 2Sa 20:8-12 with 1Ki 2:5. A ghastly picture is there given us of the murdered man and is murderer. The unfortunate Amasa actually disemboweled by the single stroke, and "wallowing" in his blood in the middle of the road the treacherous Joab standing over him, bespattered from his "girdle" to his "shoes" with the blood which had spouted from his victim!
The chereb was carried in a sheath (תִּעִר, 1Sa 17:51; 2Sa 20:8, only; נָדָן, 1Ch 21:27, only) slung by a girdle (1Sa 25:13) and restilng upon the thigh (Ps 45:3; Jg 3:16), or upon the hips (2Sa 20:8). "Girding on the sword" was a symbolical expression for commencing war, the more forcible because in times of peace even the king in state did not wear a sword (1 Kings 3, 24); and a similar expression occurs to denote those able to serve (Jg 8:10; 1Ch 21:5). Other phrases, derived from the chereb, are, "to smite with the edge" (literally mouth; comp. στόμα; and comp. 'devour,' Isa 1:20) of the sword "slain with the sword" "men that drew sword," etc.
Swords with two edges are occasionally referred to (Jg 3:16; Ps 149:6), and allusions are found to "whetting" the sword (De 32:41; Ps 64:3; Eze 21:9). There is no reference to the material of which it was composed (unless it be Isa 2:4; Joe 3:10); doubtless it was of metal, from the allusions to its brightness and "glittering" (see the two passages quoted above, and others), and the ordinary word: for blade, viz. לִהִב, "a flame." From the expression (Jos 5; Jos 2; Jos 3) swords of rock," A.V. "sharp knives," we may perhaps infer that in early times the material was flint. Smith. SEE KNIFE.
2. The Egyptian sword was straight and short, from two and a half to three feet in length, having generally a double edge, and tapering to a sharp point. It was used for cut and thrust. They had also a dagger, the handle of which, hollowed in the center, and gradually increasing in thickness at either extremity, was inlaid with costly stones, precious woods, or metals; and the pommel of that worn by the king in his girdle was frequently surmounted by one or two heads of a hawk, the symbol of Phrah, or the Sun, the title given to the monarchs of the Nile. It was much smaller than the sword: its blade was about ten or seven inches in length, tapering gradually in breadth, from one inch and a half to two thirds of an inch, towards the point; and the total length, with the handle, only completed a foot or sixteen inches. The blade was bronze, thicker in the middle than at the edges, and slightly grooved in that part; and so exquisitely was the metal worked that some retain their pliability and spring after a period of several thousand years, and almost resemble steel in elasticity. Such is the dagger of the Berlin collection, which was discovered in a Theban tomb, together with its leather sheath. The handle is partly covered with metal, and adorned with numerous small pins and studs of gold, which are purposely shown through suitable openings in the front of the sheath; but the upper extremity consists solely of bone, neither ornamented nor covered with any metal casing. Other instances of this have been found; and a dagger in Mr. Salt's collection, now in the British Museum, measuring eleven and a half inches in length, had the handle formed in a similar manner. There was also a falchion called shopsh, or khopsh, resembling in form and name the κοπίς, or chopper, of the Argives, reputed to be an Egyptian colony. It was more generally used than the sword, being borne by light as well as heavy-armed troops; and that it was a most efficient weapon is evident as well from the size and form of the blade as from its weight, the back of this bronze or iron blade being sometimes cased with brass (Wilkinson, Anc. Egypt. 1, 358).
3. Assyrian swords, like the scepters, as seen on the monuments, were often richly decorated. The hilt was generally ornamented with several lions heads, arranged to form both handle and cross-bar. The scabbard or sheath was elaborately embossed or engraved (Layard, Nineveh, 2, 234).
4. The Greek and Roman sword (gladius, ξίφος, poet. ἄορ, φάσγανον, a glaive, by the Latin poets called ensis) hadgenerally a straight two-edged blade, rather broad, and nearly of equal width from hilt to point. The Greeks and Romans wore them on the left side, so as to draw them out of the sheath (vagina, κολεός) by passing the right hand in front of the body to take hold of the hilt with the thumb next to the blade. The early Greeks used a very short sword. Iphicrates, who made various improvements in armor about B.C. 400, doubled its length. The Roman sword was larger, heavier, and more formidable than the Greek (see Smith, Dict. of Antiq. s.v. "Gladius"). The swords of the most ancient times were made of brass or copper, hardened by some process now unknown; and this continued to be the case long subsequently with the Greeks and Romans, as well as among the Phoenicians (Kitto, Pict. Bible, note at Nu 31:8).
5. The sword is the symbol of war and slaughter (Le 26:25; Isa 34:5; Re 19:17-18), of divine judgment (De 32:41; Ps 17:13; Jer 12:12; Re 1; Re 16), and of power and authority (Ro 13:4). The Word of God is called "the sword," i.e. the weapon or instrument, of the Spirit (Eph 6:17).