by John R Ecob

Horses for courses, may mean some people are suitable in one situation but not in another. But in Israel’s case, horses were not to be multiplied in the land at all.

Did you ever wonder why, when the Israelites escaped from Egypt, the only horses at the Red Sea were drowned Egyptian horses?

Israel had no pack horses to carry the luggage through 40 years of wilderness and when Joshua’s army crossed the Jordan River he had no cavalry – only foot soldiers.

It wasn’t because they were so primitive that they hadn’t invented wheels for chariots. They probably built chariots for Pharaoh when they were slaves in Egypt. They just didn’t have one horse with them when they left Egypt!

Furthermore, when Joshua fought against the northern confederacy of nations that attacked him with “horses and chariots very many”, God told him:

Be not afraid because of them: for to morrow about this time will I deliver them up all slain before Israel: thou shalt hough [hamstring] their horses, and burn their chariots with fire (Joshua 11:6)

When God gave Joshua a resounding victory and the enemies were wiped out entirely, he “houghed [hamstrung] their horses, and burnt their chariots with fire” (Joshua 11:9).

The most successful soldier in the Bible was David. Philistines, Moabites, Syrians, Zobahites, Ammonites, Amalekites, all fell before David’s army and we never read of him riding horse. His evil son Absalom fled on a horse and perished. David’s army were footmen!

When David fought Hadadezer the King of Zobah he faced a large cavalry and many chariots. Each chariot normally was drawn by two or three horses. One man controlled the horses and the other was well armed with swords, spears and arrows.

David took from him [Zobah] a thousand chariots, and seven hundred horsemen, and twenty thousand footmen: and David houghed all the chariot horses (2 Samuel 8:4)

The cavalry were men who were expert horsemen battle trained to charge with long swords or spears to cut down the opposing soldiers.

The chariots sometimes had knives projecting out of the axles to cut men off at the knees as they swept through the ranks of opposing soldiers. The cloud of dust, the thunder of hoofs and the cry of the horsemen would be enough to scare the daylights out of any footsoldier.

When God told Israel what kind of king they should choose, He said:

But he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses: forasmuch as the LORD hath said unto you, Ye shall henceforth return no more that way (Deuteronomy 17:16)

When wicked king Ahab fought against the Syrians he was hit by a Syrian arrow as he rode in his chariot and his driver took him out of the battle. Chariots were handy if you decided the battle was going against you; it gave you the means of a quick get-away but foot soldiers had to stand and fight. God never intended Israel should flee.

Solomon disobeyed the Divine command when he became a trader in Egyptian horses and chariots. He made a lot of money out of the trade and it may have been why he married Pharaoh’s daughter!

Solomon’s Stables under the Temple Mount today is a Muslim Mosque accomodating 7,000 worshippers.

Shebna the Governor – Isaiah 22

In the 14th year of Godly King Hezekiah, the Assyrians came into Judah and took all the fenced cited.

When threatened by the enemies from the north, Judah was tempted to call on Egypt for help but God said:

Now the Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses flesh, and not spirit (angel). When the LORD shall stretch out his hand, both he that helpeth shall fall, and he that is helped shall fall down, and they all shall fail together (Isaiah 31:3)

However, the Governor (Treasurer) of Judah under Hezekiah was Shebna who had access the treasury and had become rich. Shebna rode around in chariots and built himself a lavish sepulchre to ensure he was honoured after he died. His chariots most likely were made in Egypt and had Egyptian horses. They could well have been a gift from the Egyptians for his corrupt business deals. Probably, Shebna negotiated with Egypt to help them against the Assyrians but when the Egyptians sent their chariots and archers, they were thoroughly thrashed by the Assyrians.

So Hezekiah sent a message to the Sennacherib offering to pay any amount of gold and silver if he would go home to Assyria.

Sennacherib asked for 300 talents of gold and 800 talents of silver which Hezekiah sent to him at Lachish where he was besieging the city. Since Shebna was the Governor at Jerusalem, in all probability it was he who negotiated to buy off the King of Assyria, but God sent Isaiah to Shebna to tell him he would be taken captive and “violently” tossed like a ball

into a large country: there thou shalt die, and there the chariots of thy glory, shall be the shame of thy lord’s house (Isaiah 22:18)

It was most likely when Shebna went to Lachish in his Egyptian chariot to deliver the 300 talents of gold and 800 talents of silver, that Sennacherib violently took him and sent him off to Assyria where he died. Sennacherib would know that Shebna had negotiated the treaty with Egypt and the sight of an Egyptian chariot would inflame him; he took the silver and gold and sent his servant, Rabshakeh, to Jerusalem to negotiate a surrender.

Meanwhile, God appointed a faithful man, Eliakim, to be treasurer in the place of Shebna and when Sennacherib sent his righthand man to Jerusalem he was met by Eliakim, Shebna the scribe and Joah outside the city. Rabshakeh said:

Now therefore give pledges, I pray thee, to my master the king of Assyria, and I will give thee two thousand horses, if thou be able on thy part to set riders upon them (Isaiah 36:8)

Rabshakeh would have known that Godly Hezekiah had no horses, no chariots and no cavalry. He didn’t have expert horsemen to ride 2,000 horses and in Rabshakeh’s mind it showed how incapable Hezekiah was to fight against the mighty Assyrian army with its thousands of horsemen and chariots! But the angel of the Lord slew 185,000 Assryrians in one night and Sennacherib fled without his army. No need for horses and chariots when you trust God!

Israel had Horses from Heaven

When the Syrian soldiers trapped Elisha in the city of Dothan, Elisha prayed that the Lord would open the eyes of his young servant and

the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha (2 Kings 6:17)

God has His army of angels:

The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: the Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place (Psalm 68:17)

The horses of the Syrians were no match for God’s fiery angelic cavalry and the Syrians were blinded by the angels just as the men of Sodom were blinded and “wearied themselves to find the door” (Genesis 19:11).

In the battle of Armageddon when Antichrist seeks to destroy the Godly remnant of Israel we read:

In that day, saith the LORD, I will smite every horse with astonishment, and his rider with madness: and I will open mine eyes upon the house of Judah, and will smite every horse of the people with blindness (Zechariah 12:4)

David said:

Some trust in chariots, and somein horses:but we will remember the name of the LORD our God. They are brought down and fallen: but we are risen, and stand upright (Psalm 20:7-8)

When the Lord Jesus presented Himself to the nation of Israel as their King He rode on “a colt, the foal of an ass”. Alexander the Great rode his great white steed for he came as a conquering warrior but Jesus came to His own as their Saviour and King. When He comes in glory He will ride a heavenly white horse- He will be carried by angels!

There are important lessons to learn from the Divine prohibition on horses in Israel. Horses were a way to escape the battle. When an army was on foot there could be no retreat and Israel must believe God for the promised victory. If Israel was walking with God, victory was assured. No need to flee. Israel never lost a battle while they obeyed the Lord. They had God’s promise:

The LORD shall cause thine enemies that rise up against thee to be smitten before thy face: they shall come out against thee one way, and flee before thee seven ways. (Deuteronomy 28:7)

But there was another reason. The Egyptian horse was associated with the worship of the sun. When godly Josiah cleansed the land from idolatry,

he took away the horses that the kings of Judah had given to the sun, at the entering in of the house of the LORD…and burned the chariots of the sun with fire (2 Kings 23:11)

King Saul and Ahab died in their chariot but David sought the Lord’s guidance, walked with God, and needed no chariot or horse – he houghed the horses!

Dear Believer. God is our defence. Let us put our full trust in the God who is the all-powerful Creator of the universe. He has sent the Lord Jesus to defeat Satan at the cross and He can make the wrath of man to praise Him!

It is when Christians compromise and trust in the flesh or become friends with the world, that we are most vulnerable.

Eliakim stands as a great type of the risen Lord Jesus. Eliakim means, “Almighty God to rise” and Jesus was Almighty God who rose from the dead.

Eliakim was given the “key to the house of David”. Jesus was from the line of David and He has the key that “opens and no man shuts, that shuts and no man opens” (Revelation 3:7-8).

Eliakim was to be like a nail fastened in a sure place on which all the glory of his father’s house was placed (Isaiah 22:23) and the Lord Jesus, during His ministry on earth displayed the glory of His father at Cana, on the mount of transfiguation, and in Gethsemane. John wrote:

We beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

The “nail in a sure place” was to be “cut down, and fall” (Isaiah 22:25). Christ was cut down on the cross and the glory of His Father was laid aside as He bore the shame of our sin on the cross. But He is truely Almighty God who rose and now is on the throne of heaven – He sets before us an open door and no man can shut it!