We are going to briefly go over a few of the short range weapons in the early bronze age (pre-patriarchal) and then move on to medium and long range weapons, applying this spiritual to the development of our weapons.
The main weapon was the mace but it is never used in Scripture because it was out of use by the time warfare is discussed. The idea was to attack the head, so helmets began to be used. When the helmet appears, the axe is used and there were two kinds. One was a “piercing axe for full armor and the other was a cutting axe for those not wearing armor. Helmets and armor were not developed in Egypt until 1000 years after Mesopotamia did.
So, if Sumer fought Egypt, they could use a cutting axe, but Egypt needed both. Two hands were required for the for the piercing axe and it was the preferred weapon of the spear throwing infantry and charioteers. The cutting axe was used on fortresses. The sword was usually straight, short and double-edged, used for stabbing. The “sickle sword” was developed with an outside edge for striking down rather than stabbing. At the time of King Saul, there were only two swords in the whole army (1 Sam 13.22). These weapons are used in close range. For medium range, the spear and the javelin were developed weapons by the time of Abraham. Mesopotamia had these developed to a better stage than Egypt.
As you can see, Egypt was slow to conform to the development of weapons, and sometimes we are like that, even if we have seen the evidence of a good weapon and the value of it. Rather than learn and develop our weapons better, we drag our feet and don’t put in the time to develop them. However, we shouldn’t try to “force” it either. If we don’t know how to use a good sword or axe, we shouldn’t try to use it until it is “developed” within us. We should let it come by the Spirit. We try to imitate someone who has these weapons developed when ours aren’t, and then we get into a battle and get defeated. The Lord will develop these within us as we learn and grow.
At this time, the bow had not come into primary use, but it enters its “golden age’ about the time of Abraham. The sling is not a primary weapon, but by the time of David it enters the army and is highly developed by the time of the Assyrians. For personal protection, shields were very heavy at first. There are two kinds of shields. The “tzinah” is long because it covered the body and curved at the head. They were long like this because no armor was used so they needed protection.
As armor developed, shields were shortened, except in Egypt. They still used small shields and no armor. The other shield was called a “magen” and did not come into usage until the “sea peoples (the Philistines were a part of them) from the Greek isles and Europe. When we talk about the “shield or faith” we need to know what shield to use in what battle. You can’t use a “tzinah” shield when you are in a close combat battle, and you can’t use a “magen” shield when you are in a long range battle and the enemy is shooting arrows and javelins at you.
The main weapon used on fortifications was the battering ram, called a “karim” in Hebrew. They were very crude at first, with no protection and no thrusting power. But it was effective, so moats were built around a city. Spiritually we should build our fortifications in a way that no one wants to mess with us. That is your main defense. Those coming against you would have to pay too high a price and it would be too much effort. People will not contend with you about the Scriptures once they evaluate your strength. The more you build, the less you will contend. Don’t fight a battle just to fight a battle. If you are going to fight battles, be led by the Lord into important ones. It is more important to build the fortification around your city (you) than to argue about the Scripture.
Prov 16.12 says we are to prepare and know what you are talking about so you can be used of God in what you say. Then you have a fortification if you get attacked. You have a good battering ram if you are sent to attack. If it is an open field battle, you have a chariot and mobility. How good these weapons are depends on your preparation. For example, a chariot is a “merkavah” in Hebrew and the driver is called the “rakav.” A third person will be added to a chariot called a “shelish” and they were bodyguards for the king, nobles and officers that fought from a chariot. They relied on him for protection in a battle. This could only happen if you developed the chariot to where it could carry three people, but it couldn’t in its earlier stages.
A tower is called a “migdal” and it is where the word “Magdalene” comes from because Mary came from a town called Migdal because there was a fortress there. By the time of Yeshua, the fortress was gone but it was still called Migdal or “Magdala” and it was a “red light” district for Tiberius, a Roman garrison.
Migdal Eder is a place mentioned in Gen 35.19-21; Micah 4.6-8, 5.2 and it means “tower of the flock” because temple sheep and priestly shepherds raised their animals there. It is just outside of Bethlehem and it was where Yeshua was born. Any animal that is raised outside of the perimeter around Jerusalem could not be used in the temple. The perimeter could be no farther than Migdal Eder as you drew a circle around Jerusalem. The towers there protected the sheep.
Now, in a side note related to sheep, in Micah 2.12-13, Isa 62.10-12 and Mal 3.1 we learn about the “poretz” which means “the breaker.” He was the person who took out the stones that penned up the sheep at night. John the Baptist is the “poretz” and he went before the Yeshua to remove the “stones” and the hindrances before the Messiah, who would come and lead his sheep out into the pasture, which was seen as the Kingdom of God.
By the time of Abraham (middle bronze or “patriarchal age) Egypt was developing from the old kingdom and no pyramids to a new kingdom with pyramids and great cities. Everything was changing and kingdoms arose with a central authority. Warfare was important because it protected communication and where to put forts was carefully selected. Fortified cities were built to protect highways, water and the frontiers. This led to standardized planning for all fortifications.
King Solomon built Hazor, Gezer and Mediddo with the same pattern and design, probably using the same engineers. Because of the aggressive desires of the powerful kingdoms in Mesopotamia on distant regions, countries went defensive. Egypt was behind in all this. They had just combined lower and upper Egypt with one Pharaoh. They had no time for weapons and tactics, but warfare was advancing. Light chariots with horses and better battering rams were introduced.
This changed the character of open battles and fortifications. In Egypt they were using the “cutting axe” (against those with no armor) while in Mesopotamia they were using the “piercing axe.” Why? Because armor was used in Mesopotamia (Babylon, Assyria, Canaan, Ur, Mari, Haran, etc). Well made sickle swords were used and the advantage was the “head” didn’t come off. It was easy to handle, especially by charioteers.
A short stabbing sword was also used (Judges 3.15-23). Spears and javelins were also used in Mesopotamia that had a “tang” or “socket” for the spear-head. At the other end of the spear there was a pointed end so you could stick it into the ground, or use it as a weapon. This was not used in Canaan till around the time of Abraham. These were found in the graves of nomadic warriors, not cities, because there was a migration from Mesopotamia to Canaan by nomadic warriors like Abraham.
Many families traveled in groups at that time to Canaan. That is why Abraham feared for his family. An ambush was a real possibility and cities retaliated against other cities and so on. The bow was developing, with Mesopotamia having a complex composite bow with a quiver. Egypt still carried their arrows in their hands. Attacking archers did not have shields but were screened by the shields of the axe and spear bearers. The sling was increasing and used to support the archers.
When it came to personal protection in the bronze age, shields were smaller and rounded at the top, but in Mesopotamia it was rectangular. The round “magen” shield will be introduced in the Iron Age by the Philistines and the sea peoples. When it came to fortifying a city, it was quite complex.
Hazor, a Canaanite city, was very large and had 30,000 people, It is north of the sea of Galilee and Sisera (Judges 4) was from there. It had a lower and upper city and they constructed artificial devices to protect the lower city like a glacis and a moat. The gates are made with a 90 degree angle and the wall was 22 feet thick and 50 feet high. The moat served two purposes.
First, it helped build a mound. It was 250 feet wide and 120 feet wide at the bottom. Secondly, this kept the archers away and broke any charge against the wall. The path leading to the gates were stepped and at a 90 degree angle. This tells us that nobody had a chariot. As the glacis improved, the gate designs would change.
In Megiddo, there were gates that were straight and direct with no angle. They were made deep, and reached anywhere from 12 to 16 yards with a long, narrow passage (2 Sam 3.26-27).It had six compartments, three on each side, and it narrowed at three points in the gate. In Hazor, the gate was 81 feet above the countryside with an oblique approach (non-direct). The approach was always from the right to the left as one faced the city so that the right was exposed and at the mercy of the city’s defenders. This makes it important to have left-handed attackers. The tribe of Benjamin was famous for being left-handed, and they were the greatest warriors in Israel (Judges 3.15; Judges 20.15-17). The whole system was designed to fight a right-handed enemy.
In front of the gate was a level space for a chariot to enter. Hazor was a major chariot city. Sisera brought 900 chariots to battle Deborah (Judges 4.3). The path, its embankment and the level space in front was protected by a wall. In the patriarchal age, methods of warfare against a fortified city meant that a chariot was not used, except for messages and to cut off supplies. The battering ram was important and well developed by this time.
Siege towers would be erected to protect the rams, and some cities could be taken within a week. In open terrain, there were three types of battles. There was the duel, like David and Goliath, where two great fighters fought, winner take all (1 Sam 17.8-9). Next, smaller groups would fight, like the young men of Abner fought the young men of Joab (2 Sam 2.12-17), but this got out of hand. The next type was armies themselves would fight.
Organized units in armies consisted of no more than 10,000 warriors. Assault groups were 300 men, made up of three companies of 100 men. Signaling was the way to communicate, given by torches, firebrands, trumpets or flags. Favorable news from a battlefield was called “the basar” (1 Sam 31.9; 2 Sam 1.20, 4.10, 18.19-31 and 2 Kings 7.9) which means” the good news.” This was done with runners, trumpets or flags.
Intelligence services (spies) were well developed. Units would go out and capture people and “make them talk.” These were called “informers.” Hammurabi called them the “men of the tongue.” Mesopotamian armies were organized, consisting of administrative services, quartermaster records of equipment and supplies, engineering corps and transport services. They even had medical corps. Egypt could transport boats on carts. War was fought on a high level. Chariots by 1800 BC were very important in open terrain now.
In Egypt by the middle bronze age, the Hyksos were being expelled. The Pharaoh who defeats them is Kamoses. Another Pharaoh was Ahmoses and then Thutmoses. See the relationship to a man named Moses? Kamoses writes about his battles with the Hyksos and their chariots. The Hyksos were Asiatic (Semitic) tribes who ruled Egypt in 1700 BC to about 1550 BC. Hysos means “foreign rulers.” They migrated down from Mesopotamia, Canaan and Aram, settled in Egypt and then took over.
Here is a question: what kind of people were the Hebrews? They were Semitic. So, when Abraham goes to Egypt, it may have been when the Hyksos were taking over. He would have been seen as part of the Hyksos. When Joseph is sold, he finds favor with Potiphar because he was part of the Hyksos (Gen 39). The Pharaoh who elevated Joseph was probably Hyksos. The Hyksos were hated by the Egyptians because they conquered the “old kingdom.” They were seen as foreign rulers (Hyksos) and a mixed multitude.
The Egyptians revolt under Kamoses and in time the Hyksos are expelled to the north, going back “home.” A new line of Pharaohs did not trust the Hyksos because there were too many of them. In Exo 1.1-8 we read about the problems the Israelites were having and this would coincide with the expulsion of the Hyksos and explain Joseph’s rise. In Exo 1.10, the phrase “those who hate us” refers to the Hyksos.
It is possible that the Exodus happened under a pharaoh named Thutmoses III, while some think it was Dudimose. The Hyksos used chariots when Kamoses defeats them.From this time on, Egypt adapted quickly into the advanced, technological side of warfare. Chariots also appear in Canaan and the strength of an army was based on their light horse drawn chariots. When Israel faced an army in the time of the Judges, it is important to realize that they had no chariots.
By this time, the chariot and the composite bow were the primary weapons. Spiritually, if we are going to move from the “bronze age to the iron age” it is going to take maturity and training. Heb 6.1-2 has a list of things that are in our “spiritual bronze age.” Teshuvah, Emunah, Tevilah, Shemichah, Natzal and Mishpat are the foundation of your wall, the basics. Until you have a working knowledge of these things, you are still a novice Paul says (or “in the bronze age”). As you move from the bronze age to a new age (iron), all of a sudden the weapons of the past are ineffective and useless.
Most believers reach the early bronze age, very few reach the middle bronze age and fewer yet reach the late bronze age. Even fewer than that go into the iron age and have a correct vision for the kingdom and the coming of the Messiah. There is a great “dumbing down” and a “dulling” going today. The Scriptures are watered down and replacement theology doctrines are everywhere and contrary to the Scriptures. But, at the same time, there is a true movement going on and people have rejected replacement theology and are “breaking away” from the “traditions of men” in the “church.”
In Part 5 we will talk about the weapons of Iron Age I and of course apply this to our spiritual warfare and weapons.