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The Horse in the Bible
(Abbreviations key appears at bottom of page)

HORSE \hors\: The common names are (1) sus and (2) hippos. (3) The word parash, "horseman," occurs often, and in several cases is translated "horse" or "war-horse" (Isaiah 28;  Ezekiel 27:14; Joel  2:4 RVm); also in 2 Samuel 1:6, where the "horsemen" of EV is  ba'ale ha-parashim, "owners of horses"; cf Arabic faris, "horseman," and faras, "horse."  (4)The feminine form, susah, occurs in Canticles (Song of Solomon) 1:9, and is rendered as follows: LXX he hippos; Vulg. equitatum; AV "company of horses," RV "steed."  It is not clear why EV does not have "mare." (5) The word 'abbirim, "strong ones," is used for horses in Judges 5:22; Jeremiah 8:16; 47:3; 50:11 (AV "bulls). In Psalms 22:12 the same word is translated "strong bulls" (of Bashan). (6) For rekkesh (cf Arab.  rakad "to run"), in 1 Kings 4:29; Esther 8:10-14; Micah 1:13, RV has "swift beasts," while AV gives "dromedaries" in 1 Kings and "mules" in Esther (7) For kirkaroth (Isaiah 66:20), AV and ERV have "swift beasts"; ERVm and ARV "dromedaries, LXX skiddia,  perhaps "covered carriages." In Esther 8:10-14 we find the doubtful words (8) dhasht'ranim, and (9) bene ha-rammakhim, which have been variously translated.  AV has respectively "camels" and "young dromedaries," RV "used in the king's service" and "bred of the stud," RVm "mules" and "young dromedaries." [See CAMEL].


The Hebrew and Egyptian names for the horse are alike akin to the Assyrian. The Israelites may have obtained horses from Egypt (Deuteronomy 17:16), but the Canaanites before them had horses (Joshua 17:16), and in looking toward the N.E. for the origin of the home, philologists are in agreement with zoologists who consider that the plains of Central Asia, and also of Europe, were the original home of the horse. At least one species of wild horses is still found in Central Asia. 


The horses of the Bible are almost exclusively war-horses, or at least the property of kings and not of the common people. A doubtful reference to the use of horses in threshing grain is found in Isaiah 28:28.   Horses are among the property which the Egyptians gave to Joseph in exchange for grain (Genesis 47:17). In Deuteronomy 17:16 it is enjoined that the king "shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he may multiply horses." This and other injunctions failed to prevent the Israelites from borrowing from the neighboring civilizations their customs, idolatries, and vices. Solomon's horses we enumerated in 1 Kings 4, and the se'irim and tebhen of 1 Kings 4:28 (5:8) are identical with the sha'ir ("barley") and tibn ("straw”) with which the Arab feeds his horse today. In war, horses were ridden and were driven in chariots. (Exodus 14:9; Joshua 11:4; 2 Samuel 15:1, etc)


The horse is referred to figuratively chiefly in Zechariah and Revelation. A chariot and horses of fire take Elijah up to heaven (2 Kings 2:11 f).   In Psalms 20:7;  33:17; and 76:6, the great strength of the horse is recalled as a reminder of the greater strength of God. In James 3:3, the small bridle by which the home can be managed is compared to the tongue (cf Psalms 32:9). In Job 39:19-25 we have a magnificent description of a spirited war-horse.




HORSE, BLACK (hippos melas): Symbolic of famine (“balance….measure of wheat for a shilling.”, etc., Rev 6:5-6; cf Zec 6:2-6.  See the Book of Revelation.


HORSE, RED (hippos purros):  Symbolic of war, bloodshed (“slay one another,” etc., Revelation 6:4; cf Zechariah 1:8; Zechariah 6:2).  See the Book of Revelation.


HORSE, WHITE (hippos leukos):  Symbolic of victory, conquest (“bow…conquering and to conquer,” Revelation 6:2; Revelation 19:11-14; cf Zechariah 1:8; 6:3-6).  See the Book of Revelation.


HORSES OF THE SUN (2 Kings 23:11):  In connection with the sun-worship practiced by idolatrous kings in the temple of Jerusalem (2 Kings 23:5; cf Ezekiel 8:16), horses dedicated to the sun, with chariots, had been placed at the entrance of the sacred edifice.  These Josiah, in his great reformation, “took away,” and burned the chariots with fire.  Horses sacred to the sun were common among oriental peoples (Bochart, Heiroz. I,2,10).




cf       = compare

ARV   = American Standard Revised Version

AV      = Authorized Version (1611)

EV      = English Version of the Bible

ERV    = English Revised Version

ERVm = English Revised Version, margin

LXX    = Septuagint

RV      = Revised Version

RVm   = Revised Version, margin

Vulg   = Vulgate (Jerome’s Latin Bible, 390-405 AD)



The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, 1915 Edition



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