What is a Chariot?
Chariots were not exclusively used for warlike purposes. In the Bible, instances of a peaceful use occur, as in the account of Joseph's exaltation, Gen 41:43, and meeting with his father, Gen 46:29; Ahab's fleeing before the coming storm at the command of Elijah, 1 Kgs 18:44; Naaman's coming to Elisha, 2 Kgs 5:9; and the Ethiopian eunuch's journey homeward. Acts 8:28. But the commoner use was for war. They are first mentioned in the Bible in connection with Joseph in Egypt. Later on they formed part of Pharaoh's pursuing army at the Exodus. And they were part of the offensive weapons among all nations which figure in Bible history. The use of war-chariots was introduced by David. 2 Sam 8:4. This change was obedient to the altered condition of the people, from a democracy, which relies upon volunteers for its defence, to a monarchy, which employs a regular army. Solomon had 1400 chariots, and cities fortified for their safe-keeping. 1 Kgs 10:26; 1 Chr 9:19. After his day they formed a regular branch of the military service, and are frequently mentioned. 1 Kgs 22:34; 2 Kgs 9:16,2 Chr 11:21; 2 Kgs 13:7, 2 Kgs 22:14; 2 Kgs 18:24; 2 Kgs 23:30; Isa 31:1. The texts just Egyptian Chariot. (After Wilkinson.) quoted also prove that Egypt was the source whence both the chariot-horses and the chariots themselves were principally drawn. A description of an Egyptian chariot will therefore be a description of a Jewish one. The Egyptian chariot was an "almost semicircular wooden frame with straightened sides, resting posteriorly on the axle of a pair of wheels, a rail of wood or ivory being attached to the frame by leathern thongs, and a wooden upright in front. The back of the car was open, and the sides were strengthened and embellished with leather and metal binding; the floor was of rope net-work, to give a springy footing to the occupants. On the off-side were the bowcase, sometimes the quiver, and spearcase, crossing diagonally; the last named inclined backward. If two warriors were in the chariot, there was a second bow-case. The wheels had usually six spokes, fastened to the axle by a linchpin, secured by a thong. The horses had a breast-band and girths attached to the saddle, but were without traces. They wore head-furniture, often ornamented, with a bearing-rein. The driving-reins passed through rings on each side of both horses. Two persons generally were in a chariot, but there was sometimes a third, holding the umbrella of state." - Wilkinson: Anc. Egypt., 1879, vol. i. pp.222-241: vol.ii. pp. 201-203. The Assyrian warchariots were nearly similar. Sometimes a third horse was attached, but in later times this was laid aside; the chariot was made higher, and the quiver placed in front instead of on the side. - Layard: Nineveh, vol. ii. pp. 348-354; Ayre: Treas. of Bib. Knowledge. Chariots armed with scythes were used in later times. Warriors sometimes fought standing up in them, or else used them to carry them into the battle, and leaping from them fought on foot. The word "chariot" is sometimes used figuratively; e.g. in Ps 68:17 it means the angelic host. Elisha called Elijah "the chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof." 2 Kgs 2:12. The imagery was borrowed from the phenomena of the miraculous ascent. The phrase means that Elijah, by his prayers and his counsels, was the true defence of Israel, and better than either chariots or horsemen. Captains of Chariots. The phrase occurs in Ex 14:7; Ex 15:4; 1 Kgs 22:33. In the first two passages it means "commanders of the highest rank, chosen specially to attend on the person of Pharaoh; probably commanders of the 2000 Calasirians, who, alternately with the Hermotybians, formed his body-guard. They may have been, for the most part, known to Moses." -Bible (Speaker's) Commentary, in loco. Chariots of the Sun. It was a Persian practice to dedicate a chariot and horses to the sun. These chariots were white, and drawn probably by white horses in sacred processions. This idolatrous practice found favor in Judah, for it is recorded, to the honor of Josiah and as a proof of his zeal, that he took away the horses which previous kings had given to the sun, and burned the chariots of the sun with fire. 2 Kgs 23:11.