[b-hebrew] Exo 14:7

David N. da Silva huyxh8s02 at sneakemail.com
Fri Oct 22 13:16:55 EDT 2004

KJV is:

And he took six hundred chosen chariots, and all the chariots of Egypt, and captains over every one of them.

I have a variant reading to propose that is quite different.   As always, I appreciate comments from anyone whose Hebrew is better than mine (that is, from anyone at all) :

And he took six hundred of his best chariots; they were Egyptian chariots with a third man, a shield-carrier, in every one of them.

The word at issue is shaliysh.  Its root means third.   It gets translated as captain many times in the KJV.   In many cases there is a definite association with chariots, and in no case where it is translated captain, is a connection with chariots (or horses) ruled out.   So I think it means the third man on a chariot.   What is harder is to say whether "shield-carrier" or "captain of the chariot" is a better reading.  I do think it is a technical term having to do with chariot warfare: I do not propose  it could mean shield-carrier in a non-chariot context. 

The passage of all of them that is least favorable to shield-carrier is Eze 23:23, which is still about horses, but about riding them rather than chariots.  A term for a man on the chariot team, would of course have had to get a new meaning when applied to cavalry.

2Kings 7:17, "And the king appointed the shaliysh on whose hand he leaned to have charge of the gate" is interesting.   If we accept that shaliysh does mean a third man in a chariot, we must suppose this means the third man on the king's chariot.  No one would have been the 'captain' of a chariot which had the king on it.

There were both two- and three-man chariots in the late bronze age.   There is always a driver and a man with a weapon (bow, usually).  If there is a third man, he carries a shield.   In the classic battles it was the Hittites who used three men; the Egyptians used two.  But the Egyptians did adopt the Hittite style.   I don't know anything about Philistine chariots.   The fact that there were 2- and 3- man versions, explains why the author of this passage specified that these were 3-man chariots.

As to whether the passage which KJV gives as "all the chariotry of Egypt" could in fact mean "Egyptian chariots", I don't know.   I hope someone who knows, will say.   thank you.
David Nunes da Silva

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