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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

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ARMY . 1 . In default of a strong central authority; an army in the sense of a permanently organized and disciplined body of troops was an impossibility among the Hebrews before the establishment of the monarchy. The bands that followed a Gideon or a Jephthah were hastily improvised levies from his own and neighbouring clans, whose members returned with their share of the spoil to their ordinary occupations when the fray was at an end. The first step towards a more permanent arrangement was taken by Saul in his operations against the Philistines ( 1 Samuel 13:2; cf. 1 Samuel 14:52 ). David, however, was the first to establish the nucleus of a standing army, by retaining as a permanent bodyguard 600 ‘mighty men’ (their official title) who had gathered round him in his exile ( 1 Samuel 23:13; 1 Samuel 30:9 , 2 Samuel 10:7; 2 Samuel 16:6 ). To these were added the mercenary corps of the Cherethites and Pelethites (wh. see), and a company of 600 Gittites ( 2 Samuel 15:18 ). Apart from these, David’s armies were raised by levy as before, but now from the whole nation, hence the technical use of ‘the people’ in the sense of ‘the army’ ( 2 Samuel 20:12 and often). Solomon’s organization of his kingdom into administrative districts ( 1 Kings 4:7 ff.) doubtless included matters of army administration (cf. 1 Kings 4:28 , 1 Kings 9:19 , 1 Kings 10:26 ).

2 . The organization of the Hebrew army was by units of thousands, originally associated with the civil divisions of the same name, with subdivisions of hundreds, fifties, and tens ( 1 Samuel 8:12; 1 Samuel 17:18; 1Sa 22:7 , 2 Kings 1:9 ff; 2 Kings 11:4 ), an arrangement which continued into the Maccabæan period ( 1Ma 3:55 ). Each of these divisions had its special ‘captain.’ The whole was under the supreme command of the ‘captain of the host.’ The relative positions and duties of the shôterîm (AV [Note: Authorized Version.] ‘officers’) and other military officials are quite uncertain. The former appear to have been charged with keeping and checking the lists of the quotas to be furnished by the various districts ( Deuteronomy 20:5 ff.).

3 . The army was composed in early times entirely, and at all times chiefly, of infantry, the bulk of whom were armed with the spear or pike and the large shield or target (see Armour). The archers carried a sword and buckler ( 1 Chronicles 5:18 ), and with the slingers ( 2 Chronicles 26:14 ) made up the light infantry. Chariots, although long before a vital part of the forces of the surrounding nations, were first introduced into the Hebrew army by Solomon ( 1 Kings 4:25; 1Ki 9:22; 1 Kings 10:26 ff.; see Chariot, Horse).

4 . The period during which a citizen was liable for military service extended from his twentieth ( Numbers 1:3 , 2 Chronicles 25:6 ) to his fiftieth year (Jos. [Note: Josephus.] Ant . III. xii. 4). Exemption was granted in the cases specified in Deuteronomy 20:6 ff., at least under the Maccabees ( 1Ma 3:56 ), and to the members of the priestly caste ( Numbers 2:33 ).

5 . As regards maintenance, each city and district had doubtless to supply its own quota with provisions, in so far as these were not drawn from the enemy’s country. The soldier’s recompense consisted in his share of the loot, the division of which was regulated by the precedent of 1 Samuel 30:24 . The first mention of regular pay is in connexion with the army of Simon Maccabæus ( 1Ma 14:32 ). Foreign mercenaries figure largely in the armies of the later Maccabæan princes and of Herod. No reference has been made to the numbers of the Hebrew armies, since these have in so many cases been greatly corrupted in transmission.

For methods of mobilization, tactics, etc., see War, also Fortification and Siegecraft; and for the Roman army in NT times see Legion.

A. R. S. Kennedy.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Army'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible.​dictionaries/​eng/​hdb/​a/army.html. 1909.