ARMOR-BEARER. One who bears weapons. Abimelech (Judg.9.54), Saul (1Sam.31.4), Jonathan (1Sam.14.12), and Joab (2Sam.23.37) each had one. Cf. Goliath (1Sam.17.7, 1Sam.17.41).
. The tr. of the phrase (נֹשֵׂא כֵלִים
) “bearer of arms,” a term which describes the personal servants who carried additional weapons for the commanders of Israel’s armies. They are mentioned some eighteen times in the OT. Armor-bearers accompanied Abimelech (Judg 9:54
); Jonathan (1 Sam 14:7-17
); King Saul (1 Sam 16:21
); and Joab (2 Sam 18:15
; 1 Chron 11:39
). Another of their duties was to slay those wounded in the onslaught of their masters. While the chieftains threw the heavy javelins and shot the arrows, the armor-bearers used clubs and thick swords to dispatch the enemy wounded. Several kings of Israel were either killed by them or pleaded with their own armor-bearers to kill them. They seem to be rendered unnecessary after the chariot was introduced. They are no longer mentioned after the time of King David.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
One who carried the large shield and perhaps other weapons for a king (1Sa 31:4), commander-in-chief (2Sa 23:37), captain (1Sa 14:7) or champion (1Sa 17:7). All warriors of distinction had such an attendant. Rather than perish by the hand of a woman, Abimelech called upon his armor-bearer to give him the finishing stroke (Jud 9:54), and when King Saul’s armor-bearer refused to do this office for him that he might not become the prisoner of the Philistines, he took a sword himself and fell upon it (1Sa 31:4). David became Saul’s armor-bearer for a time, and Jonathan’s armor-bearer was a man of resource and courage (1Sa 14:7). The shield-bearer was a figure well known in the chariots of Egypt and Assyria and the Hittites, his business being to protect his fighting companion during the engagement.