Hough The Horses (2)

(2 Samuel 8:3) David smote also Hadadezer, the son of Rehob, king of Zobah, as he went to recover his border at the river Euphrates.
(2 Samuel 8:4) And David took from him a thousand chariots, and seven hundred horsemen, and twenty thousand footmen: and David houghed all the chariot horses, but reserved of them for an hundred chariots.

In the previous meditation, we noted this curious action by David that agreed with a previous order from God to Joshua to hough (hamstring) the horses of a conquered foe, rendering them unfit for warfare. We made a spiritual parallel to the infirmities under which God may suffer us to live, lest our lusts lead us back into the service of sin or being lifted up with pride we fall into the condemnation of the devil (1TI 3:6). We might also note that as Israel was not to appropriate the horses of their conquered enemies for their own use, so we ought not to appropriate the mechanisms with which Satan wars against our souls to do the work of God. Yet how many Christians think it wise to advance the gospel using Madison Avenue marketing techniques that appeal to lust (glitz, glamour, entertainment, empowerment, etc.), the very thing by which Satan rides to victory over us (EPH 4:30; JAM 1:13-15). “Do not err, my beloved brethren” (JAM 1:16). The church of God does not need the warhorses of Satan and is likely to be reduced by them, not conquer with them.

In both Joshua's and David's houghings, it might reasonably be asked, “Why not keep all the horses healthy to enhance their own military strength?” When one considers what Scripture has to say about the strength and courage of the horse, especially the warhorse (JOB 39:19-25) and how that even the returning Lord Jesus Christ and His heavenly armies will come in judgment riding on white horses (REV 19:11-16), the horse obviously represents great power. The warhorse was the battle tank of that day. Mind, though, that many horses were not the guarantee of victory in a nation's conflicts; if that were the case, then why did the Syrians lose (per our text)? “An horse is a vain thing for safety....the eye of the LORD is upon them that fear him....To deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine” (PSA 33:17-19). See also PRO 21:31. God intended that Israel rely on Him Who promised to restrain the enemy for the sake of the faithful (EXO 34:23-24), a great incentive to be faithful. “When a man's ways please the LORD, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him” (PRO 16:7). Later, Israel was straitly warned, “Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in horses, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the LORD!” (ISA 31:1).

Further, as to David not appropriating all the seized horses for his own government, it might also reasonably be asked, “Do a sensible people really want their government to have all that extra power?” A disproportionate amount of lethal power in the hand of the state has dire implications for its citizenry. The implications are even more dire when such a government would prefer to disarm its citizens. God had earlier commanded that when Israel should have a king, he was not to “...multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses...” (DEU 17:16). Mind that this commandment was expressly for the king---HE specifically was not to multiply horses to himself. Whereas King David added horses (see our text), when his son, Solomon, became king, he truly multiplied them: “...forty thousand stalls of horses for his chariots...” (1KI 4:26). Mind that this was in direct violation of DEU 17:16. It was also inconsistent with God's promise that he would have peace in his days (1CH 22:9), so why amass warhorses? Solomon also failed DEU 17:17, “Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away...” inasmuch as “...he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart” to serve other gods (1KI 11:2-3). Although Solomon was a very wise man (1KI 4:29-32), he lived a voluptuous life (even by his own admission in the Book of Ecclesiastes). Somebody had to purchase and support all those horses and wives so should we be shocked to read that Solomon was also a heavy taxer? When his son, Rehoboam, took power, the people begged him to ease the burden that Solomon had laid upon them (1KI 12:1-4). Sure, wealth flowed in during Solomon's reign, but not so much to the people as to the capital city, the seat of government: “And the king made silver and gold at Jerusalem as plenteous as stones...” (2CH 1:15). Solomon's reign was Israel's golden age of power. Jerusalem was the virtual capital of the world. As a matter of interest, Solomon has another very unique distinction: his record in the Bible has the only other place outside of the description of the totalitarian empire of the beast in REV 13:18 where the phrase, “six hundred threescore and six” appears: “Now the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year was six hundred threescore and six talents of gold” (1KI 10:14 c/w 2CH 9:13). Wise Solomon, silver, gold, Jerusalem, military superpower status: that's quite a combination to at least think about in view of “Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six” (REV 13:18).

But let us return to the horses. Israel's first king, Saul, promptly solidified his power with horses, horsemen and chariots to create a standing professional army (1SAM 8:11-12). This was a departure from the essence of Israel's prior 450 year history (ACT 13:19-21) during which a ready civilian militia could be called up for times of national conflict. With King Saul, Israel suddenly found themselves getting more than they bargained for: a national leader who took the people and their wealth by force for his own grand designs (1SAM 8:10-18). And with all that military power, who was going to resist tyranny in Israel, especially since the citizens were then in a state of disarmament (1SAM 13:19-22)? In fact, it seems that Israel's citizens already had a penchant for being short on arms when they abandoned God and His ways for gods of their own choosing: “They chose new gods; then was war in the gates: was there a shield or spear seen among forty thousand in Israel?” (JDG 5:8). God's commandment in DEU 17:16 for the king to not multiply horses unto himself, and His commandment in JOS 11:6 to hough the enemy's horses and burn their chariots were, among other things, effective preventatives to government tyranny over the citizens.

A contrast: Before Israel got “king fever” and ended up with King Saul's reign, Israel was ruled by a series of judges during a season when the LORD their God was their king (1SAM 12:11-12). Those judges were said to have ridden on asses, not horses (JDG 5:10; JDG 12:14). The ass is a lowly creature compared to the horse and, although a beast of burden, it has not the capacity for speed and warfare like the horse. When Messiah appeared, He came to execute judgment, and He did (JOH 9:39; JOH 12:31, etc.): He was a judge. Accordingly, when He came into Jerusalem in His humility, He rode upon an ass (MAT 21:5). Following His crucifixion, burial, resurrection and ascension back to heaven, He received David's throne (ACT 2:29-36) and was “...crowned with glory and honour...” (HEB 2:9 c/w REV 5:12-13), a priest and King after the order of Melchisedec (HEB 6:20; HEB 7:1-2). And He got a nice horse to ride upon also. When He reveals Himself as both Judge and King, He will be on it:

(Revelation 19:11) And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.
(Revelation 19:16) And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.

Christ is the only pure King with multiplied horses Who will never tyrannize His citizens: His yoke is easy and His burden is light (MAT 11:28-30), unlike Solomon. Truly “...a greater than Solomon is here” (MAT 12:42).