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first, to thank God for the recent victory and deliverance of Israel from Canaanitish bondage and oppression; and next, to celebrate the zeal with which some of the tribes volunteered their services against the common enemy; and to censure the lukewarmness and apathy of others, who staid at home and thus betrayed the public cause; and by this contrast and exposure to heal those fatal divisions among the tribes so injurious to the common weal."
6-8. "In the days of Shamgar," &c.-These three verses contain a very striking description of the state of Israel while under the oppression of Jabin.
8. "Was there a shield or spear seen. ..in Israel."-We thus see that it was the policy of the northern Canaanites, while the Israelites were in subjection, as it was afterwards of the Philistines (1 Sam. xiii. 9), to deprive the people of their arms. Did Shamgar's employment of the ox-goad arise from the want of a better weapon? This text affords us an opportunity of noticing shields and spears, which are so often mentioned in the Bible, with such pictorial illus trations as will at one view bring the whole subject fully before the reader. They exhibit the various forms of these offensive and defensive arms among the same and among different ancient people, and also among those modera Oriental nations which are supposed to have preserved the ancient forms of their weapons. From these, and the statements which we annex, some ideas of the form of the Hebrew weapons may be collected. We are not to suppose that there was any thing peculiar in their shape or substance. There are fewer peculiarities in the arms of most nations than in any thing else belonging to them. The act of warfare itself brings them acquainted with the weapons
of their neighbours, and perhaps of remote nations; and a nation is seldom slow to adopt from a conquered or conquering enemy improved or varied forms of the arms which they mutually employ. Hence, as we know little or nothing precisely concerning the forms of the Hebrew arms, we may safely consider them as represented by those of the nations with which they were acquainted.
Shields. The shield is unquestionably the most ancient and most general piece of defensive armour in the world. When it was first invented we cannot say; but it is mentioned in the Bible long before helmets or other defensive
It is the only defensive arm mentioned in the books of Moses. The Egyptians as usual claim the honour of the invention ; and before it was discovered, men probably endeavoured to break the force of blows by doing what Diodorus tells us that the first kings of Egypt did--investing their persons with the skins of lions and bulls. Among the means for this purpose, the superior convenience and efficacy of such a contrivance as a shield, could not fail soon to occur to the mind: and accordingly, there is hardly any nation in which the shield, in some form or other, is not employed. Savages, who have not the least idea of such defences as the helmet or cuirass, are yet seldom found without the shield.
There are three if not four sorts of shields mentioned in Scripture; or, at least, there are four names by which they are distinguished. The largest seems to be that called 1733, tzinnah, which was twice the size of the ordinary shield, as we learn from 1 Kings, x. 16, 17 ; 2 Chron. ix. 16, where 600 shekels of beaten gold were employed in the construction of the one, and 300 shekels in the other. Formidable as this weight of metal for the izinnah is, it probably does not give an approximating idea of its full weight, and still less of its size, as shields were almost never wholly of metal, but were of wood or skin covered with metal. We may suppose the tzinnah to answer to the larger kind of shields which were used in ancient nations. Concerning these and other ancient arms there are very complete indications in Homer's Iliad. Among his heroes, as well as in other times and nations, these larger shields were chiefly used by persons fighting on foot. Their length was nearly equal to that of a man, as we gather from several passages in that old poet; thus, he says of Hector:
“ So saying, the hero went, and as he strode,
The bull-skiu border of his bossy shield
Smote on his heels and on his neck behind." The same fact is implied in the intimations which we find of the bodies of the slain being carried on a shield; as in the famous injunction of the Spartan mother to her son, “ Either bring back this buckler, or be brought back upon it.” This refers also to the sentiment of honour connected with the preservation of the shield. It was natural enough for a man, when escaping, to desire to disencumber himself of such a burden and incumbrance as the larger kinds of shields were ; and therefore the sentiment of honour was brought in, and made it disgraceful to lose the shield under any circumstances. The civilized Greeks and Romans, and the barbarous Germans, equally shared this sentiment. Among the latter, those who left their shields in the enemy's power, were excluded from civil and religious privileges, and often sought a release from ignominy in a voluntary death. The Hebrews participated in this feeling: and David, in his fine elegiac ode on the death of Saul and Jonathan, does not omit to mention this among the subjects of national regret, “Ye mountains of Gilboa, let there be no dew, neither let there be rain, upon you, nor fields of offerings: for there the shield of the mighty is vilely cast away.” (2 Sam. i. 21.)
The length of these shields seems to show that they were either oblong or oval; and that they were hollow, which implies external convexity, we gather from their being described as “ enclosing" or " encompassing" the body. Homer has such expressions, and so has David (“With favour wilt thou compass him as with a shield,” Ps. v. 12 ), which seems to prove the analogy in this respect. Tyrtæus, in one of his hymns still extant, is very precise on this point: “The warrior stands in the contest firm upon both feet: the hollow of the spacious shield covering, below, his sides and thighs, and his breast and his shoulders above.” The manner in which these large heavy shields were used may be collected by a comparison of the different passages in Homer. They were supported by a leathern thong which crossed the breast. So Agamemnon advises the warriors to “Brace well their shields," and foretels that before the approaching battle is over,
“ Every buckler's thong
Shall sweat on the toil'd bosom." And so in the battle itself, Pallas finds Diomede beside his chariut,
“ Cooling the wound inflicted by the shaft
Of Pandarus ; for it had long endured
That bore his ample shield.” His wound was on the right shoulder ; whence we may infer that the belt hung from that shoulder, and crossed the breast to the left side, where it was attached to the shield, which could, of course, be moved at pleasure, behind or in front. Lighter shields had sometimes a thong fastened to the handle, by which they were hung round the neck, and carried in any convenient position when not in use—upon the arm, at the back, or even on the hip. In action, and indeed often out of action, shields of different sizes were carried and swayed by means of a handle fixed to its inner surface; or, if large, by two loops or handles, through one of which the arm was passed while the hand grasped the other. In marching it must have been thrown behind, as we see from the instance of the margin of Hector's shield smiting his heels as he walked. In marching immediately to the assault, it was however sometimes turned entirely in front; the warrior then advanced, like Mars,
6 Behind his broad shield pacing;" but then the length of the shield obliged the owner to walk with short steps, like Deïphobus :
“Tripping he came, with shorten'd steps, his feet
Shelt'ring behind his buckler." This also shows its length, and seems at the same time to prove that its weight prevented it, under such circuin stances, from being held at such a distance before the body, as to allow the free action of the feet. The weight of the larger kind of shield rendered it so great an incumbrance to a person otherwise heavily armed, that persons of consideration had an attendant, whose principal business it was to carry the shield of his superior. And this he did not merely when it was not wanted, but in action he sometimes marched before the warrior, to ward off the missiles which were aimed against him. The warrior of course sometimes took it himself when in close action. David was made Saul's armour-bearer, Jonathan's armour-bearer took a very active part in his master's exploit against the
Philistine garrison (1 Sam. xiv). Goliath had an armour-bearer who carried his great shield before him (1 Sam. xvii. 6, 7. 45). Arrian relates that Alexander had the shield which had been taken from the temple of the Trojan Pallas carried before him in all his wars. The large shields were of great service when a body of men, acting in concert, joined their shields and opposed, as it were, a wall against the assault of the foe. In attacking fortified places the soldiers also joined their shields over their heads, to protect themselves from the missiles which were discharged upon them by the besieged. This was called the testudo, or tortoise, because the soldiers were thus covered
The TESTUDO, or Tortoise-shaped Assemblage of Shields. From the Column of Trajan.
from the weapons of their enemies as a tortoise by its shell. This invention was exhibited in various forms, which ancient authors describe. That it was known to the Jews, appears from Ezek. xxvi. 8, where the king of Babylon is described as lifting up the buckler against the city of Tyre. To render this junction of shields the more compact the Roman legions had their scutum, with squared sides. It was of an oblong form (Polybius says, generally four feet long by two and a half broad) with a convexity given to its breadth. This shield, though it seems to have been reduced by the Romans to a comparatively moderate size, may be taken as an average representative of the class of large shields, and therefore may be put in the same group with the Hebrew tzinnah. But the square form being intended to assist united action, we are not to expect to find it so prevalent among Orientals and barbarians, who trusted less to the effect of combined action than did the Romans: and to an individual, a square shield with its sharp angles. is less convenient than one more or less of a rounded figure. Hence we seldom find shields other than round or oval, among the Orientals, either ancient or modern: the Egyptians, however, had their shield of the shape of a tomb-stone square at one end, and round at the other.
Another Hebrew shield was the 90, magen, which is the first that the Scripture mentions (Gen. xv. 1), and seems to have been that which was most commonly in use; being conveniently portable, and perhaps really more useful than the large one ; for although it did not protect the whole person, it could be turned with facility to ward off a coming blow or missile. This kind of shield is generally mentioned in connection with arrows and swords ; but the tzinnah with spears. It was about half the size of the latter, as we see that Solomon only appropriated three hundred shekels of gold for the manufacture of a magen, but six hundred for a tzinnah. Among the ancients the lesser shield seems to have been always used by horsemen and persons who fought in chariots, and occasionally by lightly armed footmen. The large shield was not the only one in use in the Homeric period. Neptune's advice to the Argives shows this :
“The best and broadest bucklers of the host,
And brightest helmets put we on, and arm'd
- Ye then, who feel your hearts
Their stronger shields and broader take yourselves.” And again :
“With many a stroke
The bull-hide shields and lighter targes rang." Perhaps, however, there was not such a contrast of size between the smaller and larger shields mentioned here, as between the tzinnah and magen. The latter is the shield which the present text mentions, and is thought by Gesenius to be analogous to the Roman clypeus. In this opinion we concur, because both seem to have been shields of average form and size. The Roman clypeus was a medium-sized shield, round, oval, or hexangular in figure; and had sometimes a boss in the centre, as had the Hebrew mayen, to which bosses are assigned in Job xv. 26—“The thick bosses of his bucklers.” The central boss, which was a kind of projecting dagger, does not however seem to have been peculiar to any one kind of shield. It rendered the shield the same time an offensive as well as a defensive weapon, and was of great use in bearing down the enemy in close fight. The shield of Agamemnon had twenty-one bosses,—twenty surrounding bosses, and one in the centre. See infra.
The Hebrews must have had a considerable variety of shields; for besides these two, which occur most frequently, there are others of which we know nothing distinctly; but may infer that the different terms describe peculiarities of form and size. One of these is the 77,7D, sohairah, which, from the etymology, would seem to have been of a round form, which was and is a very common shape for the smaller kind of shields, and sometimes for the larger, as will appear by our cuts. It may well be taken as the type of the Roman shield called parma, a small round shield much
Roman Combat with the Spear and the small round Shield (called parma). From a Bas-relief at Pompeii. used by the cavalry and light armed foot, and now very common in the East. Another is the wbw, shelet, (which occurs only in the plural,) and as it appears, from a comparison of parallel passages, to be sometimes used as synonymous with mugen, we may infer that the former was essentially the same as the latter, with some small variation of make or ornament. See, for instance, Sol. Song, iv. 4, " Thy neck is like the tower of David, builded for an armoury, whereon there hang a thousand bucklers (magen), all shields (shiltai, sing., shelet) of mighty men.” The last clause is evidently a repetition of the preceding, shelet being used as a verbal change for magen. We do not notice the 777'), kidon, translated“ target” and “shield,” in 1 Sam. xvii. 6, 45 ; because it is more than doubtful that any thing of the kind is intended.
Thus much for the different descriptions of shields. The varieties of form and size in which they were cast the wood-cuts will sufficiently represent. We have now to mention the materials of which shields were made. They were sometimes of wood, as they still are in several barbarous nations. Xenophon describes the bucklers of the Egyptians who served in the army of Artaxerxes at the battle of Cunaxa, as long wooden shields which reached down to the feet. Plutarch in his Life of Camillus ' says, that the Romans used wooden shields till the time of that general, who caused them to be covered with plates of iron. This agrees with the description of Polybius, who says, that the larger Roman shields were in his time composed of two planks glued together, and covered first with linen and then with hide. The extreme edges, both above and below, were guarded with plates of iron; as well to secure the shield against the strokes of swords, as that it might, without injury, be rested on the ground. To the surface was likewise fitted a shell of iron, to turn aside the more violent strokes of stones, spears, or other ponderous weapons. But the ancient shields with which we are historically best acquainted were made wholly of bull's hide doubled or tripled, or even more thickly folded. A previous extract from the Iliad shows Hector's shield to have been of this material, and this seems to have been the case with the shields of most of the Homeric beroes, whether Greeks or Trojans. These shields were
Form and manner of using the Roman Shields, as contrasted with those of Barbarians. From the Column of Trajan.
often anointed and rubbed, to keep them in good condition, and prevent cracking or injury from wet, as were also those of metal, to preserve them from rust. To which there are allusions in Scripture, as in 2 Sam. i. 21, 22; and in Isa. xxi. 5: Arise ye princes and anoint the shield." These shields of skin had often a metallic border, to preserve the margin from injury. The hides were often plated and otherwise strengthened and ornamented with metal; most commonly brass, but often silver and gold. Such were many of the shields of Homer's heroes. That most fully described is the shield of Ajax, and the description is most instructive. It is given in the account of the fight between
that hero and Hector:
We beg to direct attention to the circumstance, that this shield is called a brazen shield, though seven of its eight integuments were of skin. We may therefore infer with probability that the "brazen" shield of Goliath was merely covered with brass, for if it had been of solid metal, and had been, like his other weapons, proportioned to his gigantic bulk, it is not easy to understand how his armour-bearer could have supported its weight. This conjecture might also apply to the "golden" shields which were made by Solomon; and for which, after they had been taken away by Shishak, king of Egypt, Rehoboam substituted shields of brass. However, we will not insist on this, because such shields, hung up for display in armouries and sacred places, were often, among the heathen, of solid metal. (See 1 Kings x. 16, 17; and xiv. 25-28, with the note on the first of these texts.) Men prided themselves on keeping these plated shields bright and polished, whence Homer so frequently applies to them epithets expressing their brightness and splendour. They were kept in a case, seemingly of leather, when not in use: and hence to "uncover the shield” is an expression denoting preparation for battle (Isa. xxii. 6).
But although shields for action were generally plated with metal, those entirely of metal were also known. Hadadezer had golden shields, which became the prey of David (2 Sam. viii. 7). Alexander the Great had a body of Argyraspides, or soldiers with silver shields; and Alexander Severus established a troop of Chrysaspides, or soldiers with golden shields. Judging from the account of the famous shield of Achilles, we should suppose that the shields then used were not of a solid mass, but that their thickness was composed of several plates of the same or different metal. Of this shield we learn incidentally, in the account of the owner's combat with Æneas, that—
"With five folds Vulcan had fortified it; two were brass;
The two interior, tin; the mlmost, gold."