As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up in a whirlwind. Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his garment and tore it in two. ~ 2 Kings 2:11-12 New International Version
|Giuseppi Angeli, Elijah Taken Up in a Chariot of Fire,|
courtesy WikiMedia Commons
Going back in biblical history to the first mentions of chariots, the ancients probably did not associate chariots with romantic notions, but with transportation, hunting, or a nation’s strength in battle. It is to that notion of the nation's strength that Elisha compares his mentor when he calls Elijah "the chariots and horsemen of Israel."
The Earliest Chariots
|Image courtesy Wiki Commons.|
"Then Pharaoh took his signet ring from his finger and put it on Joseph’s finger. He dressed him in robes of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck. 43 He had him ride in a chariot as his second-in-command, and people shouted before him, 'Make way!' Thus he put him in charge of the whole land of Egypt." ~ Genesis 41:42-43
Six specimens were discovered in the tomb of Tutankhamun. It seems chariots were first used for transportation and hunting, but when improvements increased their speed, mobility, and strength, they were used in warfare. They may have spread to other countries by commerce or when taken as spoils of war.
The Armored Tanks of Ancient Times
The Israelites were not quick to add chariots to their arsenal.
|Image via Wiki Commons|
Jael-Sisera circa 1550
When the rainstorm's mud buried wheels in muck, Deborah sent Barak, leader of the Israelite army, in pursuit of the mired-down chariots.Meanwhile, Sisera knew his king, Jabin, had a trading relationship with the Kenites, but both appeared unaware of the Kenites' intermarriage with Israelites. Exhausted from his slog through the mud fleeing Israel’s army, Sisera accepted Jael, the Kenite's, offer of rest in her tent. After a drink of warm buttermilk, the enemy commander fell asleep. His nap lasted longer than expected when Jael drove a tent peg through his head.