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In the days of the judges, God raised up from time to time men of special ability to save Israel when she had suffered for her apostasies and had been brought to repentance. These judges saved Israel from her foreign oppressors and they varied greatly in character, from the godly Deborah (Judg.4.1-Judg.4.24-Judg.5.1-Judg.5.31) to the rather erratic champion Samson (Judg.14.1-Judg.14.20-Judg.16.1-Judg.16.31). Israel’s armies down to Solomon’s time were composed mostly of footmen, armed with swords, spears, bows and arrows, and slings, and protected by small shields, with a judge, general, or king at the head.

Numbers 1 contains a military census of Israel at Sinai just after the Exodus, and Num.26.1-Num.26.65 records a second census taken forty years later in the plains of Joab. According to the plain sense of the English versions, the number of military men was immense: over 603,000 at the Exodus and nearly as many at the Jordan. These figures imply a total population of something like three million men, women, and children, accompanied by herds and flocks. It is hard to picture them drinking at a common spring, even a large one. The Hebrew word ’eleph means either a thousand or a family, and by reading “families” in the censuses, some would make the numbers more comprehensible; e.g., Num.1.21 could read “forty-six families, five hundred men” instead of “46,500.” This would not only make the story more easy to comprehend, but it would explain the very remarkable numerical phenomenon in censuses. In all the twenty-four numbers recorded, in the hundreds’ digits we have not a single “zero,” “one,” “eight,” or “nine,” and only one “two” in the whole list. The trouble with this theory, however, lies in the totals: if ’eleph here means family, the total in Num.1.46 would become 598 families, 5,500 men instead of 603,500 men, for we could not “carry over” the hundreds’ digit.


Linguistic usage.

The common Heb. word for army is צָבָא, H7372, usually designating a group of men engaged in military activity, but sometimes used for other and different group activities like the equivalent Akkad. “Sabu” or Ugaritic צבא. The other word for army (חַ֫יִל, H2657) means “strength,” “force.”

The Patriarchal period and the conquest of Canaan.

During the Patriarchal age, the wandering in the desert and the conquest of Canaan, the tribes of Israel did not develop an independent military organization. As disputes about water resources and pasture areas were common events, and clashes between clans or even tribes were an organic part of life, there was no need for such an organization in this society. Usually every adult member was a trained warrior: “from twenty years old and upward, every man able to go forth to war” (Num 1:30), carrying his own arms day and night. At time of danger each family or clan had only to gather its men and be ready in a short time to meet the enemy. Such was the case with Abram who “led forth his trained men, born in his house, three hundred and eighteen of them and went in pursuit as far as Dan” (Gen 14:14). In the Heb. version of this story occurs the word נְעָרִ֔ים (tr. “servants”) meaning, “young men” (cf. 2 Samuel 2:14: “Let the young men arise and play before us”). It is interesting to note that the same term is used by the Egyp. King Ramses II to designate a special Canaanite corps serving in his army at the Battle of Kadesh (1180 b.c.).

As already stated above, war played an important role in the tribe’s life, and as so was conducted according to well-established laws. These were initially perhaps unwritten, but well known to each of the tribe’s warriors. A later echo of these laws is to be found in Deuteronomy (23:1-15), announcing the cases when certain people could be dismissed from fighting.

When summoned, every warrior came with his own arms and supplies sufficient for a few days. If war lasted longer than that, supplies were sent to the individual soldiers by their families at home: “And Jesse said to David his son, ‘Take for your brothers an ephah of this parched grain, and these ten loaves, and carry them quickly to the camp to your brothers; also take these ten cheeses to the commander of their thousand. See how your brothers fare, and bring some token from them’” (1 Sam 17:17, 18).

A similar military system was established at that time also among the Canaanite inhabitants of the country, although they were dwelling in city-states. Even the size of their military units was the same, except that they were fixed according to the size or richness of the individual cities and not on the sizes of the tribes. Tablets found lately in the city of Mari testify that when a few towns united in a coalition against a common enemy, they were able to send to war corps which numbered up to ten thousand men. A well-known example is the Canaanite coalition which fought the Egyp. King Thutmose III (1468 b.c.) near Megiddo, where more than three hundred Canaanite “kings” assembled together. Usually the Canaanite corps numbered between three hundred to one thousand men alone. Little cities were able to summon only a few hundred soldiers, the basic unit being the ten.

Although similar in number the organization of the Canaanite army was superior to that of the Israelites for several reasons. The Canaanites were under the absolute rule of kings who kept regular units of hired soldiers. These men were able to devote all their time to military equipment such as chariots. They also had developed an elaborate system of logistics.

The period of settlement and the Judges.

With the beginning of the settlement, conditions were changed. The wandering tribes found themselves inhabiting cities and villages which they had to defend, and the military problems were quite different. They were still divided into tribes, but ties became loose, each tribe now primarily engaged in solving its own problems. Old institutions failed to unite the tribes in face of a common enemy, and this situation is clearly reflected in Deborah’s song (Judg 5). The sense of loyalty to the family or clan became stronger, and soon clashes between the tribes themselves ceased. In course of time, people were more and more related to their places, cities and villages: “And the Benjaminites mustered out of their cities that day twenty-six thousand men” (Judg 20:15); and they are named by their cities, and not by their tribe: “the inhabitants of Gibeah” (ibid, 20:15), or, “the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead” (1 Sam 31:11).

Soon it became obvious that against the Canaanites and the Philistines with their developed military system and superiority of arms (iron), stronger military organization was badly needed. Consequently, and for a short period, the institution of the judge was born. These new military charismatic leaders who relieved the old one in time of distress, depended completely on a personal courage and ability in battlefield, and solved the problem of a proper leadership. They were not able to change the general situation of the army, which, as in the previous period, was still in the stage of a militia, and could be summoned only for a short period. Moreover, the judges were not able to unite all the forces of the tribes even in the time of great danger, and usually they depended upon their own tribe or upon a few others who dwelt in the immediate neighborhood. This situation is clearly reflected by the phrase: “In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes” (Judg 17:6).

Under the steady military pressure of the Philistines, it became clear that good military leadership alone without a proper army would not save the nation. The necessity for permanent and central rule, which alone would be able to build such an army, was recognized by all. We are told that the demand for a king came from among the people, against the will of Samuel: “Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to appoint for us a king to govern us like all the nations” (1 Sam 8:4, 5).

The transition period betwen the judges and the kings is symbolized by the leadership of Saul. Saul started his career as a typical charismatic judge by showing his military talent in the war against the Ammonites, but later was appointed king by Samuel. He soon turned to build a regular army corps, prob. enlisted from the tribe of Benjamin. This unit initially numbered about 3000 men (13:2) but was steadily increased (14:52).

The period of the United Kingdom.

It was not until the days of David and Solomon that a standing army was created. David developed the first regular unit that he inherited from Saul and turned it into a well-organized and efficient tool, with which he gained a large territory for Israel and defeated all his enemies. Solomon completed the task by adding some new corps, as units of war chariots.

The second group serving in the regular army was composed of hired non-Israelite mercenaries (Cherethites, Pelethites and Gittites). These people served as the king’s bodyguard, and were used mainly in time of internal clashes against the king’s personal enemies, since he could always depend on their loyalty (2 Sam 15:18).

David did not fail to reorganize the second and bigger part of his army—the militia: “This is the list of the people of Israel, the heads of fathers’ houses, the commanders of thousands and hundreds, and their officers who served the king in all matters concerning the divisions that came and went, month after month throughout the year, each division numbering twenty-four thousand” (1 Chron 27:1). It should be emphasized that although the number twelve is used here again as the basic number for division, it is obviously not based on the twelve tribes of Israel, but on a territorial scheme. Each unit composed of 24,000 men served one month every year. At time of danger it was rather easy to gather all of them, as their staff officers were regular army men who served the king during the whole year. When gathered, it should have been an enormous army for those days.

The reorganization of the militia could be accomplished only after an overall numbering. This task was given to Joab (2 Sam 24). “And Joab gave the sum of the numbering of the people to David. In all Israel there were one million one hundred thousand men who drew the sword, and in Judah four hundred and seventy thousand men who drew the sword” (1 Chron 21:5). The numbering was actually forced on Joab who, being a regular army officer, did not like the militia. Other numberings took place in the time of Jehoshaphat (2 Chron 17:14) and Amaziah (25:5), and were prob. practiced until the end of the Judean kingdom.

Solomon, who inherited a well-developed army from his father, added to it some new units, among them corps of war chariots and horsemen: “And Solomon gathered together chariots and horsemen; he had fourteen hundred chariots and twelve thousand horsemen, whom he stationed in the chariot cities and with the king in Jerusalem (1 Kings 10:26). Solomon was also the first Israeli king who systematically fortified the main cities of the kingdom. Three of the city gates he built were lately discovered in the excavations of Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer (9:15).

The period of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah.

With the division of the kingdom the army was divided too. In Judah it was based on the people of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, and in Israel on the people of the other ten tribes. We have no evidence about general changes in the organization of the two armies. It seems that both of them were divided into the same two parts as in the previous period: a regular army and a militia. The main power of the two armies continued to be—at least in the first years—the corps of war chariots. For this hypothesis we have good evidence not only in the Biblical sources, but also in the Assyrian documents and archeological finds. A cuneiform tablet dated to the reign of Shalmaneser III, king of Assyria, describes the battle near the Syrian city of Qarqar (853 b.c.) which was conducted against a coalition of twelve Syrian kings. Among them appears Ahab of Israel, who brought with him about 2000 war chariots, more than all the other kings together (it seems that this formidable army included also that of the kingdom of Judah, as the kings of the two countries were allies [2 Kings 3:7]; but even so this number is quite impressive). Lately it became evident—after Prof. Y. Yadin’s new excavations at Megiddo—that the famous stables discovered there about thirty years ago (with places for 450 horses or 150 chariots), which were previously connected with Solomon—are in fact from the days of Ahab. Biblical sources preserved also some titles of the officers who served in these corps, as that of Zimri: “Commander of half his chariots” (1 Kings 16:9).

At the end of the 9th cent. b.c., the chariot corps were defeated so that in the days of King Jehoahaz there were left “not...more than fifty horsemen and ten chariots...for the king of Syria had destroyed them, and made them like the dust at threshing” (2 Kings 13:7).

The destruction of the main fighting power of the two kingdoms had driven the armies out of the open battlefield, where they used to meet their enemies in the previous period. The main military efforts were now concentrated in fortifying the walls of the cities to prepare them for long siege. Fine examples of this work were uncovered in the excavating of many Israeli and Judean cities. In a few of them (Hazor, Megiddo, Gezer, Gibeon and Jerusalem) elaborate water systems were also found. The archeological finds bear evidence also to a logistic system practiced in the last days of the Judean kingdom as to the collecting of supply into the king’s storage cities. These are jar handles which were stamped with the Heb. word למלך (to the king) above the royal emblem and the name of the city.

The other units of the armies of the two kingdoms were organized prob. still as they were in the days of David and Solomon. Each of them divided into little units of a regular army with some mercenaries and the militia. An interesting new bit of evidence about the mercenaries was discovered in recent years in the excavations at Tell Arad, a Judean southern border fortress (about nineteen m. E of Beer-Sheba). Here was found a Heb. ostracon (dating to the 8th cent. b.c.) in which certain soldiers are mentioned as כתים. This name was explained by Prof. Y. Aharoni as that of Gr. mercenaries. Another new witness to the existence of Gr. soldiers in Judah (dating to the end of the 7th cent. b.c.) was found in a little Judean fortress on the sea coast not far from Ashdod, called now “Mezad Hashavyahu,” where most of the pottery discovered consisted of imported E Gr. vessels. In this place also was found a Heb. ostracon which is a long letter of complaint sent to the captain (שׂר הצבא) of the fortress by one of the Judean soldiers who served under him.

By a unique Assyrian relief found at Nineveh, we have the opportunity to glance at the Judean army in time of war. This relief describes the storm of the city of Lachish at 701 b.c. by the armies of Senacherib, king of Assyria. The Judean soldiers are depicted fighting from above the walls and the gate of the besieged city. The rare Assyrian relief is until now the only extant document in which one can see the dress and weapons (including one war chariot), of the Judean army in the Biblical period. Relying on this description, Dr. R. D. Barnett tried a few years ago to prove that Judean soldiers were later enlisted into the bodyguard of the Assyrian king.

Another valuable glimpse into the everyday life of the Judean army at that time is given by some ostraca discovered in the recent excavations at Arad and Tel Beer-Sheba, which were at that time southern border posts of the kingdom. These ostraca deal with small cargoes of supply sent with little groups of soldiers. Each of them, even in the smallest quantity, was carefully recorded, and the record was kept in the fortress office.

There exists also another Heb. ostracon, this time from the city of Lachish, found in the room inside the city gate, and addressed to its military officer (השׂר). It is a letter written at the time when the Babylonian army was approaching the region in the last days of the kingdom. In the letter the officer is informed that the neighboring city of Azekah already had been captured by the enemy.

Postexilic period.

After the fall of Israel and Judah, the country was divided into many satrapies ruled first by the Assyrians and later by the Babylonians and the Persians. There is no doubt that in this period the army units who were stationed here were but part of the general military organization of these empires. It is also evident now that the existence of Jewish troops did not end with the fall of their independent kingdom. This evidence is drawn from the well-known Aram. papyri found at Elephantine in Egypt, dating to the 5th cent. b.c. The papyri reflect the life of a Jewish military colony, formed prob. already by the Assyrians, but surviving until the end of the 5th cent. b.c., when destroyed by the Egyptians. The soldiers were organized in a unit called דבל (Standard) and were under the command of a Pers. officer. Two years ago an ostracon was found at Arad, written in Aram. script and dating also to the end of the 5th cent. b.c. In this ostracon the same unit (דבל) is mentioned, and it seems therefore logical to assume that another Jewish unit was stationed in this desert post.

At any rate, the revival of the Jewish army took place, but not before the country regained its independence during the Hasmonean period. First it existed as scattered guerilla bands, and later—under John Hyrcanus—as paid soldiers, Jewish and Gentile alike (Wars I. v. 4; I. ii. 5).

In the year 63 b.c. Pal. was conquered by the Romans who brought with them their own army. For a short period they let their vassal kings, Herod and his successors, keep their private little armies, in part composed of hired Thracians, Germans, Gauls and Greeks (Wars I. xxxiii. 9). This army ceased to exist after the first war against the Romans (a.d. 69-73).

The last war fought by a Jewish army against the Romans was in the year a.d. 132, when the second rebellion under the leadership of Bar-kokhbah took place. About this war and the army who fought it, we are now in the possession of an important new evidence, discovered in the recent sensational excavations in the desert of Judah. See War, Warfare.


W. F. Albright, “A Colony of Cretan Mercenaries on the Coast of the Negeb,” JPOS (1920), 187ff; W. W. Tarn, Hellenistic Military and Naval Development (1930); Y. Yadin, “Let the Young Men, I pray thee arise and play before us,” JPOS, xxi (1948), 110-116; R. O. Faulkner, “Egyptian Military Organization,” JEA, 39 (1953), 32-47; E. G. Kraeling, The Brooklyn Museum Aramaic Papyri (1953); A. Malamat, “The War of Gideon and Midian; A Military Approach,” PEQ (1953), 61ff.; R. D. Barnett, “The Seige of Lachish,” IEJ 8 (1958), 161-169; F. Willesen, “The Philistine Corps of the Scimitar from Gath,” JSS 3 (1959), 495-508; J. Naveh, “A Hebrew Letter from the Seventh Century b.c.,” IEJ 10 (1960), 129-139; A. Van-Selms, “The Armed Forces of Israel under Saul and David,” Die Ou Testamentiese Werkgemenskap in Suid Afrika, Studies in the Books of Samuel (1960); Y. Yadin, “The Expedition to the Judean Desert, 1960,” IEJ 11 (1961), 35-52; B. Mazar, “The Military Elite of King David,” VT XIII (1963), 310-320; Y. Yadin, The Art of Warfare in Biblical Lands in the Light of Archaeological Study (1963); Y. Aharoni, “Three Hebrew Ostraca from Arad,” BASOR 197 (1970), 16-42; Y. Yadin, “The Megiddo of the Kings of Israel,” BA XXXIII (1970), 66-96.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

(chayil, "army," tsabha’, "host," ma`arakhah, "army in battle array" gedhudh, "troop"):

1. The First Campaign of History

2. In the Wilderness

3. The Times after the Conquest

4. In the Early Monarchy

5. From the Time of Solomon Onward

6. Organization of the Hebrew Army

7. The Army in the Field

8. The Supplies of the Army

9. In the New Testament

The Israelites were not a distinctively warlike people and their glory has been won on other fields than those of war. But Canaan, between the Mediterranean and the desert, was the highway of the East and the battle-ground of nations. The Israelites were, by the necessity of their geographical position, often involved in wars not of their own seeking, and their bravery and endurance even when worsted in their conflicts won for them the admiration and respect of their conquerors.

1. The First Campaign of History:

The first conflict of armed forces recorded in Holy Scripture is that in Ge 14. The kings of the Jordan valley had rebelled against Chedorlaomer, king of Elam--not the first of the kings of the East to reach the Mediterranean with his armies--and joined battle with him and other kings in the Vale of Siddim. In this campaign Abraham distinguished himself by the rescue of his nephew Lot, who had fallen with all that he possessed into the hands of the Elamite king. The force with which Abraham effected the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings that were with him was his own retainers, 318 in number, whom he had armed and led forth in person in his successful pursuit.

2. In the Wilderness:

When we first make the acquaintance of the Israelites as a nation, they are a horde of fugitives who have escaped from the bitter oppression and hard bondage of Pharaoh. Although there could have been but little of the martial spirit in a people so long and grievously oppressed, their journeyings through the wilderness toward Canaan are from the first described as the marching of a great host. It was according to their "armies" ("hosts" the Revised Version (British and American)) that Aaron and Moses were to bring the Children of Israel from the land of Egypt (Ex 6:26). When they had entered upon the wilderness they went up "harnessed" ("armed" the Revised Version (British and American)) for the journeyings that lay before them--where "harnessed" or "armed" may point not to the weapons they bore but to the order and arrangements of a body of troops marching five deep (hamushshim) or divided into five army corps (Ex 13:18).

On the way through the wilderness they encamped (Ex 13:20; and passim) at their successive halting-places, and the whole army of 600,000 was, after Sinai, marked off into divisions or army corps, each with its own camp and the ensigns of their fathers’ houses (Nu 2:2). "From twenty years old and upward, all that are able to go forth to war in Israel," the males of the tribes were numbered and assigned to their place in the camp (Nu 1:3). Naturally, in the wilderness they are footmen (Nu 11:21), and it was not till the period of the monarchy that other arms were added. Bow and sling and spear and sword for attack, and shield and helmet for defense, would be the full equipment of the men called upon to fight in the desert. Although we hear little of gradations of military rank, we do read of captains of thousands and captains of hundreds in the wilderness (Nu 31:14), and Joshua commands the fighting men in the battle against the Amalekites at Rephidim (Ex 17:9 ff). That the Israelites acquired in their journeyings in the wilderness the discipline and martial spirit which would make them a warlike people, may be gathered from their successes against the Midianites, against Og, king of Bashan, toward the close of the forty years, and from the military organization with which they proceeded to the conquest of Canaan.

3. The Times after the Conquest:

In more than one campaign the Israelites under Joshua’s leadership established themselves in Canaan. But it was largely through the enterprise of the several tribes after that the conquest was achieved. The progress of the invaders was stubbornly contested, but Joshua encouraged his kinsmen of Ephraim and Manasseh to press on the conquest even against the invincible war-chariots of the Canaanites--"for thou shalt drive out the Canaanites, though they have iron chariots, and though they are strong" (Jos 17:18). As it was in the early history of Rome, where the defense of the state was an obligation resting upon every individual according to his stake in the public welfare, so it was at first in Israel. Tribal jealousies, however, impaired the sentiment of nationality and hindered united action when once the people had been settled in Canaan.

The tribes had to defend their own, and it was only a great emergency that united them in common action. The first notable approach to national unity was seen in the army which Barak assembled to meet the host of Jabin, king of Hazor, under the command of Sisera (Jud 4:5). In Deborah’s war-song in commemoration of the notable victory achieved by Barak and herself, the men of the northern tribes, Zebulun, Naphtali, Issachar, along with warriors of Manasseh, Ephraim and Benjamin, are praised for the valor with which they withstood and routed the host--foot, horse and chariots--of Sisera. Once again the tribes of Israel assembled in force from "Da even to Beersheba, with the land of Gilead" (Jud 20:1) to punish the tribe of Benjamin for condoning a gross outrage. The single tribe was defeated in the battle that ensued, but they were able to put into the field "26,000 men that drew sword," and they had also "700 chosen men left-handed; every one could sling stones at a hair-breadth, and not miss" (Jud 20:15,16).

4. In the Early Monarchy:

Up to this time the fighting forces of the Israelites were more of the character of a militia. The men of the tribes more immediately harassed by enemies were summoned for action by the leader raised up by God, and disbanded when the emergency was past. The monarchy brought changes in military affairs. It was the plea of the leaders of Israel, when they desired to have a king, that he would go out before them and fight their battles (1Sa 8:20). Samuel had warned them that with a monarchy a professional soldiery would be required. "He will take your sons, and appoint them unto him, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and they shall run before his chariots; and he will appoint them unto him for captains of thousands, and captains of fifties; and he Will set some to plow his ground, and reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and the instruments of his chariots" (1Sa 8:11,12). That this was the course which military reform took in the period following the establishment of the monarchy may well be. It fell to Saul when he ascended the throne to withstand the invading Philistines and to relieve his people from the yoke which they had already laid heavily upon some parts of the country.

The Philistines were a military people, well disciplined and armed, with 30,000 chariots and 6,000 horsemen at their service when they came up to Michmash (1Sa 13:5). What chance had raw levies of vinedressers and herdsmen from Judah and Benjamin against such a foe? No wonder that the Israelites hid themselves in caves and thickets, and in rocks, and in holes, and in pits (1Sa 13:6). And it is quoted by the historian as the lowest depth of national degradation that the Israelites had to go down to the Philistines "to sharpen every man his share, and his coulter, and his axe, and his mattock" (1Sa 13:20) because the Philistines had carried off their smiths to prevent them from making swords or spears.

We can identify them with the gibborim--the mighty men of whom Benaiah at a later time became captain (2Sa 23:22,23; 1Ki 1:8) and who are also known by the name of Cherethites and Pelethites (2Sa 8:18). These may have received their name from their foreign origin, the former, in Hebrew kerethi being originally from Crete but akin to the Philistines; and the latter, in Hebrew pelethi being Philistines by birth. That there were foreign soldiers in David’s service we know from the examples of Uriah the Hittite and Ittai of Gath. David’s gibborim have been compared to the Praetorian Cohort of the Roman emperors, the Janissaries of the sultans, and the Swiss Guards of the French kings. Of David’s army Joab was the commander-in-chief, and to the military’ genius of this rough and unscrupulous warrior, the king’s near kinsman, the dynasty of David was deeply indebted.

5. From the Time of Solomon Onward:

6. Organization of the Hebrew Army:

Over the whole host of Israel, according to the fundamental principle of theocracy, was Yahweh Himself, the Supreme Leader of her armies (1Sa 8:7 ff); it was "the Captain of the Lord’s host," to whom Joshua and all serving under him owned allegiance, that appeared before the walls of Jericho to help the gallant leader in his enterprise. In the times of the Judges the chiefs themselves, Barak, Gideon, Jephthah, led their forces in person to battle. Under the monarchy the captain of the host was an office distinct from that of the king, and we have Joab, Abner, Benaiah, named as commanders-in-chief. An armor-bearer attended the captain of the host as well as the king (1Sa 14:6; 31:4,5; 2Sa 23:37). Mention is made of officers who had to do the numbering of the people, the copher, scribe, attached to the captain of the host (2Ki 25:19; compare 2Sa 24:2;1Ma 5:42), and the shoTer, muster-master, who kept the register of those who were in military service and knew the men who had received authorized leave of absence (De 20:5, Driver’s note).

7. The Army in the Field:

Although David had in his service foreign soldiers like Uriah the Hittite and Ittai of Gath, and although later kings hired aliens for their campaigns, it was not till the Maccabean struggle for independence that mercenaries came to be largely employed in the Jewish army. Mercenaries are spoken of in the prophets as a source of weakness to the nation that employs them (to Egypt, Jer 46:16,21; to Babylon, Jer 50:16). From the Maccabean time onward the princes of the Hasmonean family employed them, sometimes to hold the troublesome Jews in check, and sometimes to support the arms of Rome. Herod the Great had in his army mercenaries of various nations. When Jewish soldiers, however, took service with Rome, they were prohibited by their law from performing duty on the Sabbath. Early in the Maccabean fight for freedom, a band of Hasideans or Jewish Puritans, allowed themselves to be cut down to the last man rather than take up the sword on the Sabbath (1 Macc 2:34 ff). Cases are even on record where their Gentileadversaries took advantage of their scruples to inflict upon them loss and defeat (Ant., XIII, xii, 4; XIV, iv, 2).

8. The Supplies of the Army:

Before the army had become a profession in Israel, and while the levies were still volunteers like the sons of Jesse, the soldiers not only received no pay, but had to provide their own supplies, or depend upon rich landholders like Nabal and Barzillai (1Sa 25; 2Sa 19:31). In that period and still later, the chief reward of the soldier was his share of the booty gotten in war (Jud 5:30 f; 1Sa 30:22 ff). By the Maccabean period we learn that an army like that of Simon, consisting of professional soldiers, could only be maintained at great expense (1 Macc 14:32).

9. In the New Testament:

Figurative: Among the military metaphors employed by Paul, who spent so much of his time in the later years of his life among Roman soldiers, some are taken from the weapons of the Roman soldier (see Arms), and some also from the discipline and the marching and fighting of an army. Thus, "campaigning" is referred to (2Ti 2:3,4; 2Co 10:3-6); the "order and solid formation of soldiers" drawn up in battle array or on the march (Col 2:5); the "triumphal procession" to the capitol with its train of captives and the smoke of incense (2Co 2:14-16); and "the sounding of the trumpet," when the faithful Christian warriors shall take their place every man in his own order or "division" of the resurrection army of the Lord of Hosts (1Co 15:52,53). (See Dean Howson, Metaphors of Paul--"Roman Soldiers.")

The armies which are in heaven (Re 19:14,19) are the angelic hosts who were at the service of their Incarnate Lord in the days of His flesh and in His exaltation follow Him upon white horses clothed in fine linen white and pure (see Swete’s note). See further ARMOR, ARMS.

T. Nicol.

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