Ancient Ox Carts

Illustration of Ancient Philistine Ox Carts

This sketch contains a colored illustration of Ox carts used by ancient Philistines who are depicted with their plumed helmets. The ox-cart was used by the Philistines in the Bible story regarding the Ark of the Covenant in the land of Philistia.

The ox carts of the Philistines usually carried women and children being drawn by many oxen, usually four. They were shaped in a square and were made of wood, though sometimes they were made of woven materials. The wheels were made of wood. In the well-known story of the return of the ark of the covenant (1 Samuel 6:7), the Golden Ark was placed on a wooden cart and sent back to Israel.

2 Samuel 6:3 - And they set the ark of God upon a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab that [was] in Gibeah: and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drave the new cart.

Oxen and bullocks were perhaps a larger proportion of the wealth of Oriental peoples in olden times than now. The apostle asks: "Doth God take care for oxen?" "Thou shalt not muzzle the ox when he treadeth out the com." ^ The Mosaic law also provided that on the Sabbath "Thine ox and thine ass may rest." ^ The prophet Elisha "was ploviing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he with the t^'elfth," when Elijah met him and called him to the prophetical work.^ The purchase of oxen was made an excuse for not responding to a social inxitation: "I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them,"* The cows and the calves were trained to the yoke in early times. Thus, when the lords of the Philistines wanted to send back the ark, they said; "Make a new cart, and take two milch kine, on which there hath come no yoke, and tie the kine to the cart, and bring their calves home from them: and take the ark of the Lord and lay it upon the cart." And the prophet calls Ephraim "An heifer that is taught, and loveth to tread out the com." [Orientalisms in Bible Lands]

Cart in Smith's Bible Dictionary - Ge 45:19,27; Nu 7:3,7,8 a vehicle drawn by cattle, 2Sa 6:6 to be distinguished from the chariot drawn by horses. Carts and wagons were either open or covered, Nu 7:3 and were used for conveyance of person, Ge 45:19 burdens, 1Sa 6:7,8 or produce. Am 2:13 The only cart used in western Asia has two wheels of solid wood.

Cart in Easton's Bible Dictionary - A vehicle moving on wheels, and usually drawn by oxen (2 Sam. 6:3). The Hebrew word thus rendered, _'agalah_ (1 Sam. 6:7, 8), is also rendered "wagon" (Gen. 45:19). It is used also to denote a war-chariot (Ps. 46:9). Carts were used for the removal of the ark and its sacred utensils (Num. 7:3, 6). After retaining the ark amongst them for seven months, the Philistines sent it back to the Israelites. On this occasion they set it in a new cart, probably a rude construction, with solid wooden wheels like that still used in Western Asia, which was drawn by two milch cows, which conveyed it straight to Beth-shemesh. A "cart rope," for the purpose of fastening loads on carts, is used (Isa. 5:18) as a symbol of the power of sinful pleasures or habits over him who indulges them. (See CORD ¯T0000898.) In Syria and Israel wheel-carriages for any other purpose than the conveyance of agricultural produce are almost unknown.

Cart in the Bible Encyclopedia - ISBE: kart (`aghalah): The Hebrew word has been translated in some passages "cart," and in others "wagon." In one verse only has it been translated "chariot." The context of the various passages indicates that a distinction was made between vehicles which were used for carrying baggage or produce and those used for carrying riders (chariots), although in their primitive form of construction they were much the same (compare English "cart" and "carriage"). Carts, like "chariots" (which see), were of Assyrian origin. They were early carried to Egypt where the flat nature of the country readily led to their adoption. From Egypt they gradually found their way among the people of the Palestinian plains. In the hills of Judea and Central Israel, except where highways were built (1 Sam 6:12), the nature of the country prevented the use of wheeled vehicles. 1 Sam 6:7,8,10,11,14 show that the people of the plains used carts. The men of Kiriath-jearim found it easier to carry the ark (1 Sam 7:1). Their attempt to use a cart later (2 Sam 6:3,1; 1 Ch 13:7) proved disastrous and they abandoned it for a safer way (2 Sam 6:13). That carts were used at a very early date is indicated by Nu 7:3,7,8. That these vehicles were not the common mode of conveyance in Israel is shown in Gen 45. Pharaoh commanded that Joseph's brethren should return to their father with their beasts of burden (45:21) and take with them Egyptian wagons (45:19,21; 46:6) for bringing back their father and their families. The very unusual sight of the wagons was proof to Jacob of Joseph's existence (45:27). Bible descriptions and ancient Babylonian and Egyptian pictures indicate that the cart was usually two-wheeled and drawn by two oxen. With the Arabian conquests and subsequent ruin of the roads wheeled vehicles disappeared from Syria and Israel. History is again repeating itself. The Circassians, whom the Turkish government has settled near Caesarea, Jerash (Gerasa) and Amman (Philadelphia), have introduced a crude cart which must be similar to that used in Old Testament times. The two wheels are of solid wood. A straight shaft is joined to the wooden axle, and to this a yoke of oxen is attached. On the Philistian plains may be seen carts of present-day Egyptian origin but of a pattern many centuries old. With the establishment of government roads during the last 50 years, European vehicles of all descriptions are fast coming into the country.
One figurative reference is made to the cart (Isa 5:18), but its meaning is obscure.

In Egypt, the use of the ilail is unknown. To separate the grain from the straw, the inhabitants prepare, with a mixture of earth, &c., spacious floors, well beat, and very clean. The rice is spread thereon, in thick layers. They have then a sort of cart, formed of two pieces of wood joined together by two cross-pieces. It is almost in the shape of sledges which serve for the conveyance of burdens in the streets of our cities. Between the longer sides of this sledge are fixed, transversely, three rows of small wheels, made of solid iron,^ and narrowed off toward their circumference. On the forepart is a wide and high seat, upon which a man sits, driving two oxen harnessed to the machine. The whole moves on slowly, and always in a circular direction, over every part of the heap of rice, until there remains no more grain in the straw. When it is thus beat, it is spread in the air to be dried. Several men walk abreast, to turn it over, each of whom, with his foot, makes a furrow in the layer of grain ; so that in a few moments the whole mass is moved, and that part which was underneath is again exposed to the air. — Sonnini : Harjmr's Observations^ vol. iv., pp. 134, 135.

The Bible mentions a lot concerning "Carts"

Isaiah 28:27 - For the fitches are not threshed with a threshing instrument, neither is a cart wheel turned about upon the cummin; but the fitches are beaten out with a staff, and the cummin with a rod.

Amos 2:13 - Behold, I am pressed under you, as a cart is pressed [that is] full of sheaves.

1 Samuel 6:8 - And take the ark of the LORD, and lay it upon the cart; and put the jewels of gold, which ye return him [for] a trespass offering, in a coffer by the side thereof; and send it away, that it may go.

Isaiah 28:28 - Bread [corn] is bruised; because he will not ever be threshing it, nor break [it with] the wheel of his cart, nor bruise it [with] his horsemen.

1 Samuel 6:11 - And they laid the ark of the LORD upon the cart, and the coffer with the mice of gold and the images of their emerods.

1 Samuel 6:10 - And the men did so; and took two milch kine, and tied them to the cart, and shut up their calves at home:

Isaiah 5:18 - Woe unto them that draw iniquity with cords of vanity, and sin as it were with a cart rope:

1 Samuel 6:7 - Now therefore make a new cart, and take two milch kine, on which there hath come no yoke, and tie the kine to the cart, and bring their calves home from them:

2 Samuel 6:3 - And they set the ark of God upon a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab that [was] in Gibeah: and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drave the new cart.

1 Samuel 6:14 - And the cart came into the field of Joshua, a Bethshemite, and stood there, where [there was] a great stone: and they clave the wood of the cart, and offered the kine a burnt offering unto the LORD.

1 Chronicles 13:7 - And they carried the ark of God in a new cart out of the house of Abinadab: and Uzza and Ahio drave the cart.