I. ARMOR IN GENERAL--OLD TESTAMENT
II. IN THE NEW TESTAMENT; POLYBIUS
III. OFFENSIVE WEAPONS 1. Rod
3. Bow and Arrows
IV. DEFENSIVE WEAPONS 1. Shield
3. Coat of Mail
LITERATURE I. Armor in General--Old Testament.
II. In the New Testament; Polybius.
In the New Testament, Paul describes the panoply of the Christian soldier, naming the essential pieces of the Roman soldier’s armor--the girdle, the breastplate, the footgear, the shield, the helmet, the sword--although it is to be noticed that his most characteristic weapon, the pilum or spear, is omitted (Eph 6:10-17). In a similar context the same apostle speaks of "the armor" of light (Ro 13:12), "of righteousness on the right hand and on the left" (2Co 6:7). Of the equipment of the Roman soldier in detail, the most useful illustration is the account given by Polybius (vi.23): "The Roman panoply consists in the first place of a shield (thureos). .... Along with the shield is a sword (machaira). .... Next come two javelins (hussoi) and a helmet (perikephalaia), and a greave (knemis). ..... Now the majority, when they have further put on a bronze plate, measuring a span every way, which they wear on their breasts and call a heart-guard (kardiophulax), are completely armed, but those citizens who are assessed at more than 10,000 drachmae wear instead, together with the other arms, cuirasses made of chain mail (halusidotous thorakas)."
III. Offensive Weapons.
Scarcely less common and equally homely is the sling (qela`; sphendone) (1Sa 17:40). It consists of plaited thongs, or of one strip of leather, made broad at the middle to form a hollow or pocket for the stone or other contents, the ends being held firmly in the hand as it is whirled loaded round the head, and one of them being at length let go, so that the stone may take its flight. It is used by the shepherd still to turn the straying sheep, and it can also be used with deadly effect as a weapon of war. The slingers (ha-qalla`im, 2Ki 3:25) belonged to the light infantry, like the archers. The Benjamites were specially skilled in the use of the sling, which they could use as well with their left hand as the right (Jud 20:16). The sling was a weapon in use in the armies of Egypt and Babylonia, and Jeremiah in a powerful figure makes the Lord say to Jerusalem in a time of impending calamity: "Behold, I will sling out the inhabitants of the land at this time" (Jer 10:18; compare 1Sa 25:29).
3. Bow and Arrows:
A very important offensive weapon in the wars of Israel was the bow (qesheth) and arrows (chitstsim), and the archers whether mounted or on foot formed a powerful element of the fighting forces of the Philistines, Egyptians and Assyrians (s.v. ARCHERY; BOW).
The spear has various words to represent it.
(1) The chanith had a wooden staff or shaft of varying size and length with a head, or blade, of bronze, or, at a later time, of iron (1Sa 17:7). In the King James Version it is sometimes translated "javelin," but in the Revised Version (British and American) "spear" (see 1Sa 13:22; 18:11). Saul’s spear, stuck in the ground, betokened the abode of the king for the time, just as today the spear in front of his tent marks the halting-place of the Bedouin Sheikh (1Sa 22:6; 26:7). Nahum, describing the arms of the Assyrians, joins together the flashing sword and the glittering spear (Na 3:3). The bearers of the chanith belonged to the heavy-armed troops.
(2) The romach, also translated in the King James Version "javelin," was of the character of a lance. It does not appear to have differed much from the chanith--they appear as synonyms in Joe 3:10, where romach is used, and in Isa 2,4 where chanith is used, of spears beaten into pruning hooks. It describes the Egyptian spear in Jer 46:4. The bearers of the romach also belonged to the heavy-armed troops.
(3) The kidhon was lighter than either of the preceding and more of the nature of a javelin (gaison in the Septuagint, Jos 8:18 and Polybius vi.39, 3; Job 41:29; Jer 6:23). (4) In the New Testament the word "spear" occurs only once and is represented by the Greek logche, the equivalent no doubt of chanith as above (Joh 19:34).
Figurative: In the highly metaphorical language of the prophets it stands for war and its attendant calamities (Jer 50:35-37; Eze 21:28).
IV. Defensive Weapons.
The most ancient and universal weapon of defense is the shield. The two chief varieties are
(1) the tsinnah, Latin scutum, the large shield, worn by heavy-armed infantry, adapted to the form of the human body, being made oval or in the shape of a door; hence, its Greek name, thureos, from thura, a door; and
(2) the maghen, Latin clypeus, the light, round hand-buckler, to which pelte is the Greek equivalent. The two are often mentioned together (Eze 23:24; 38:4; Ps 35:2).
Figurative: Yahweh is spoken of as the Shield and Protector of His people--of Abraham (Ge 15:1); of Israel (De 33:29); of the Psalmist (Ps 18:30; 35:2, and many other passages). In his description of the panoply of the Christian soldier, Paul introduces faith as the thureos, the large Greek-Roman shield, a defense by which he may quench all the fiery darts of the evil one.
The helmet, qobha` or kobha`, seems to have been originally in the form of a skull-cap, and it is thus figured in representations of Hittites on the walls of Karnak in Egypt. In the earliest times it is found worn only by outstanding personages like kings and commanders. When King Saul armed David with his own armor he put a helmet of brass upon his head (1Sa 17:38). Uzziah at a later time provided his soldiers with helmets, as part of their equipment (2Ch 26:14). The men of Pharaoh-neco’s army also wore helmets (Jer 46:4), and the mercenaries in the armies of Tyre had both shield and helmet to hang up within her (Eze 27:10). The materials of the helmet were at first of wood, linen, felt, or even of rushes; leather was in use until the Seleucid period when it was supplanted by bronze (1 Macc 6:35); the Greek and Roman helmets both of leather and brass were well known in the Herodian period.
Figurative: Paul has the helmet, perikephalaia, for his Christian soldier (Eph 6:17; 1Th 5:8). In the Septuagint perikephalaia occurs eleven times as the equivalent of the Hebrew term.
3. Coat of Mail:
Body armor for the protection of the person in battle is mentioned in the Old Testament and is well known in representations of Egyptian, Persian and Parthian warriors. The shiryon, translated "habergeon" in the King James Version, rendered in the Revised Version (British and American) "coat of mail," is part of the armor of Nehemiah’s workers (Ne 4:16), and one of the pieces of armor supplied by King Uzziah to his soldiers. (2Ch 26:14). Goliath was armed with a shiryon, and when Saul clad David in his own armor to meet the Philistine champion he put on him a coat of mail, his shiryon (1Sa 17:5,38). Such a piece of body armor Ahab wore in the fatal battle of Ramoth-gilead (1Ki 22:34). In the battle of Bethsura in the Maccabean struggle the Syrian war-elephants were protected with breastplates, the word for which, thorax, represents the shiryon in the Septuagint (1 Macc 6:43).
Figurative: Isaiah in a striking figure describes Yahweh as putting on righteousness for a coat of mail and salvation as a helmet, where thorax and perikephalaia are the Greek words of the Septuagint to render shiryon and kobha`. It is from this passage (Isa 59:17) that Paul obtains his "breastplate of righteousness" (Eph 6:14).
Greaves (mitschah; knemides) are mentioned once in Scripture as part of the armor of Goliath (1Sa 17:6). They were of brass or leather, fastened by thongs round the leg and above the ankles.
The girdle (chaghorah; Greek zone) was of leather studded with nails, and was used for supporting the sword (1Sa 18:4; 2Sa 20:8). See Girdle.
Figurative: For figurative uses see under the separate weapons.
Nowack, Hebraische Archaeologie, I, 359-67; Benzinger, Herzog, RE, article "Kriegswesen bei den Hebraern"; McCurdy, HPM, I, II; Woods and Powell, The Hebrew Prophets for English Readers, I, II; G. M. Mackie, Bible Manners and Customs; Browne, Hebrew Antiquities, 40-46; corresponding articles in Kitto, Hastings, and other Bible dictionaries.