Iron chariots

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The Hebrew Bible mentions iron chariots in the following contexts:[1]

Book Verse Hebrew King James English
Joshua 17:16 ויאמרו בני יוסף לא־ימצא לנו ההר ורכב ברזל בכל־הכנעני הישב בארץ־העמק לאשר בבית־שאן ובנותיה ולאשר בעמק יזרעאל And the children of Joseph said, The hill is not enough for us: and all the Canaanites that dwell in the land of the valley have chariots of iron, both they who are of Bethshean and her towns, and they who are of the valley of Jezreel.
17:18 כי הר יהיה־לך כי־יער הוא ובראתו והיה לך תצאתיו כי־תוריש את־הכנעני כי רכב ברזל לו כי חזק הוא But the mountain shall be thine; for it is a wood, and thou shalt cut it down: and the outgoings of it shall be thine: for thou shalt drive out the Canaanites, though they have iron chariots, and though they be strong.
Judges 1:19 ויהי יהוה את־יהודה וירש את־ההר כי לא להוריש את־ישבי העמק כי־רכב ברזל להם And the LORD was with Judah; and he drave out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron.
4:3 ויצעקו בני־ישראל אל־יהוה כי תשע מאות רכב־ברזל לו והוא לחץ את־בני ישראל בחזקה עשרים שנה And the children of Israel cried unto the LORD: for he had nine hundred chariots of iron; and twenty years he mightily oppressed the children of Israel.
4:13 ויזעק סיסרא את־כל־רכבו תשע מאות רכב ברזל ואת־כל־העם אשר אתו מחרשת הגוים אל־נחל קישון And Sisera gathered together all his chariots, even nine hundred chariots of iron, and all the people that were with him, from Harosheth of the Gentiles unto the river of Kishon.

The perceived incongruity of these passages inspired the 1921 expedition by archaeologist and University of Pennsylvania museum curator Clarence Stanley Fisher (1876–1941), in which he traveled to the Holy Land seeking physical evidence of these iron chariots.[2][3]

Skeptics have cited Judges 1:19 in particular as an example of biblical self-contradiction regarding the omnipotence of the Judeo-Christian God. On this premise a group of atheists launched the counter-apologetics MediaWiki site in 2006. Scholars and apologists however have given various ways to reconcile the apparent discrepancy, which is excused as arising from the ambiguity in the English translation of the text.[4]

Douay-Rheims Bible[edit]

The Douay-Rheims Bible differs from all other known translations by including one extra instance of this phrase:

Book Verse Hebrew Douay-Rheims
1 Chronicles 20:3 ואת־העם אשר־בה הוציא וישר במגרה ובחריצי הברזל ובמגרות וכן יעשה דויד לכל ערי בני־עמון וישב דויד וכל־העם ירושלם And the people that were therein he brought out: and made harrows, and sleds, and chariots of iron to go over them, so that they were cut and bruised to pieces: in this manner David dealt with all the cities of the children of Ammon : and he returned with al his people to Jerusalem.[5]

However this error can be attributed to semantic reduplication and false cognates.[citation needed] The KJV translates the Hebrew word חריץ as harrow, evoking some agricultural device for tilling soil. While חריץ is transliterated in the Latin alphabet as chariyts, it comes from a root word meaning "to cut" or "to sharpen" and is pronounced much differently,[6] whereas the English word chariot (similarly to car, carriage, etc.) originates from the Latin carrum via Old French.


  1. ^ All translations retrieved from the Blue Letter Bible
  2. ^ "Search for Iron Chariots: Head of Pennsylvania University Mission Starts for Orient". The New York Times. May 12, 1921. p. 7. Retrieved 2009-05-02. 
  3. ^ Davis, Thomas W. (2004). Shifting Sands: The Rise and Fall of Biblical Archaeology. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-516710-4. 
  4. ^ Butt, Kyle. "Were the Iron Chariots Too Powerful?". Apologetics Press. Retrieved 2009-05-02. 
  5. ^ See reprint of 1610 Doay Old Testament, 1582 Rheims New Testament, page 754 [1]
  6. ^ Blue Letter Bible: חריץ