Cart and Chariot

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CART AND CHARIOT , primary forms of land transport in the ancient world. The chariot (Heb. מֶרְכָּבָה ,רֶכֶב, the latter mostly collective, "Chariotry") was used in battle, in hunting, and in ceremonies; the cart served to transport freight, people, and captives. From the 15th century b.c.e. onward, chariots, like their immediate predessors, were two-wheeled and drawn by two horses, but the wheels had six spokes and the axle was located at the extreme rear; they were also operated by one or two persons. The Sea Peoples, including the Philistines, used chariots and carts (Heb. עֲגָלָה), which are depicted on the Medinet Habu reliefs portraying the battle between them and Ramses iii. Stronger chariots with more than six spokes per wheel were widespread, primarily in Assyria. Battle or hunting chariots always indicated an honored status. In the Bible the chariot is mentioned as a sign of importance to its owner: Pharaoh had Joseph ride in the chariot of his second-in-command (Gen 41:43; cf. 46:29; 50:9), and David's heir apparent Absalom acquired a chariot and horses and 50 outrunners (ii Sam. 15:1; cf. i Kings 1:5). When the tribes of Israel entered Canaan, they found the local population's iron chariot a serious obstacle to the conquest of the plains (Judg. 1:19). The Philistines dominated the Israelites due to their formidable chariotry during the time of Samuel and Saul (cf. i Sam. 13:5). David did not develop this technique of warfare, as may be seen from the fact that he simply destroyed the chariotry he captured from the Arameans (ii Sam. 8:4). Solomon, however, put his army on a par with those of his neighbors by the development of an army of chariots (i Kings 9:15–19). The Egyptians, Hittites, and Arameans were Solomon's main suppliers of chariots (i Kings 10:29), and chariots were prominent in the army of the northern kingdom; it is significant that the idea that the great northern prophets, Elijah and Elisha, were Israel's true defenders is expressed by the metaphor "Israel's chariots and horsemen" (ii Kings 2:12; 13:14; cf. ii Kings 13:7). Since chariotry was less developed in Judah, the people of Judah were more dependent on Egypt for help in chariot warfare (Isa. 31:1). Unlike the chariot, the cart was a heavy four-wheeled vehicle designed to carry heavy loads. It was usually drawn by cows or oxen, as is attested on Egyptian and Assyrian monuments and in the Bible (Num. 7:3–8; i Sam. 6:7; ii Sam. 6:3), and was employed for the transport of people and things (Gen. 45:19; 46:5). The Bible describes the cart as heavy and awkward: "Draw sin as with cart ropes" (Isa. 5:18); "[creaks] as a cart full of sheaves" (Amos 2:13, the translation is, however, uncertain). The transporting of captives in carts is depicted on Assyrian and Egyptian monuments of the seventh century b.c.e. The design of these vehicles is known from these monuments and from models uncovered in excavations. The word galgal, found in Ezekiel 23:24, probably refers to army transport wagons, and military transport may also be referred to by the term ʿagalot in Psalms 46:90. Carts whose railing was built as a trellis have also been unearthed; they were covered with fabric and were called ʿeglot ẓav, i.e., "turtle wagons" (Num. 7:3), because of their resemblance to the back of the turtle's armor.


Y. Yadin, The Art of Warfare in Biblical Lands (1963), 4–5, 37–40, 86–90 (incl. plates); em, 5 (1968), 462–72 (incl. bibl.); idb, s.v. (incl. plates); C. Singer et al. (eds.), A History of Technology, 1 (1955), 716ff.

[Ze'ev Yeivin]

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Cart and Chariot

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