I am a bit confused by the reference of ‘horses’ and ‘horsemen’, ‘bows’ and ‘arrows’ in Yechezkel 38 and 39. It certainly would be a greater miracle than the one described if mankind were reduced to using these weapons of war again before the final battle!

I understand that these may be figures of speech, but why were these terms used instead of other, less confusing, neutral ones (like ‘weapons’ or ‘vehicles’)?

Many thanks.

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    How vivid a picture is painted by "humans in unspecified vehicles with unspecified weaponry engage in some sort of confrontation"?
    – Double AA
    Feb 25 at 14:47
  • @DoubleAA - true, yes, I did think of that - and it had to be understood for two thousand years before the invention of muskets etc. Point taken.
    – Tom W
    Feb 25 at 15:10

2 Answers 2


The same language can be found in Zechariah 9:10

And I will cut off the chariots from Ephraim, and the horses from Jerusalem; and the bow of war shall be cut off. And he shall speak peace to the nations, and his rule shall be from the sea to the west and from the river to the ends of the earth.

As explicitly stated, the bow is a "bow of war" and these languages are allegories to the attitude that will be predominant during God and Magog.

One verse prior to this, in Zechariah 9:9

Be exceedingly happy, O daughter of Zion; Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem. Behold! Your king shall come to you. He is just and victorious; humble, and riding a donkey and a foal, the offspring of [one of] she-donkeys.

Rashi comments that the donkey is a "symbol of humility".

I heard from Rabbi Tovia Singer that in terms of war, horses were used to charge into battle, denoting the haughty attitude nations would have to rush into battle to overcome their enemies and demonstrate their greatness. Unlike the Messiah, who will be "riding on a donkey", he will have an attitude enveloped with humility in rebuking the nations for their haughtiness.

The removal of the chariots and horses in Jerusalem is the removal of this behavior from not only the haughty nations, but haughty people. Rashi also comments in Zechariah 9:10 that the chariots will be removed "for they will not need them".

Zephaniah 3:9 expresses the state of the people after Gog and Magog:

For then I will convert the peoples to a pure language that all of them call in the name of the Lord, to worship Him of one accord.

These same teachings can be read into Ezekiel's prophecies in chapters 38 and 39.

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    Many thanks for this. Much cleared up for me :) Just wondering if you think the ‘burning of the weapons’ in Yehezkel 39 is likewise symbolic, and what it might symbolise?
    – Tom W
    Feb 25 at 13:32
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    @TomW Could very well be. I personally think it is more literal as Isaiah 2:4 also speaks about turning implements of weapons into plowshares and pruning hooks. These verses strongly indicate that since war will no longer be a thing, implements of war will be remanufactured to have a use.
    – Bpotential
    Feb 25 at 14:39
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    Thank you - understood. I’ll tick this answer if nothing else comes in before Shabbos. Blessings :)
    – Tom W
    Feb 25 at 14:43

In "Man and G-d, Chapter 1, The Knowlegde Of G-d" Rabbi Eliezer Berkovits writes:

Another passage, dealing also with the theme of Israel’s future redemption tells of the prophetic vision of the feast of G-d on the mountains of Israel. The birds of prey and the beasts of the field are invited to feed on “the flesh of the mighty” and to drink “the blood of the princes.” They are promised that they will be filled at G-d’s table “with horses and horsemen, with mighty men, and with all men of war.” The two passages are rather different in tone. The one draws the idyllic picture of restoration and rebirth, the other speaks of wrath and judgment. The first describes the impact that G-d’s redemptive act on behalf of Israel has on the nations. In the second example, on the other hand, the stress is on the significance for Israel of G-d’s judgment over the nations. G-d’s providential intervention in history is a revelation that He is G-d when the providential act is for the sake of Israel and is viewed by the nations.

R' Eliezer Berkovits explains "horsemen" as "the flesh of the mighty". Similary, this is also taught in Sefer HaIkkarim (Maamar 3:24:8):

“He delighteth not in the strength of the horse,” alludes to His will, and the meaning is that His will is not in favor of horsemen or of men of stature and strong arm. But “The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear Him, in those that wait for His mercy;” for G-d saves not with valor and strength.

Similary, R' Eliezer Berkovits explains somewhere else that in "that day" there will be a time of trial:

In that terrible time of trial and suspense, while the “horsemen” of the enemy “fly as a vulture that hasteth to devour”, while they “gather captives as the sand”, “scoff at kings and princes”, “deride every stronghold”, in that time the just will live by his faith.

So, it seems that "the horsemen" are the mighty ones....

However, the Gemara (Sanhedrin 96a) writes:

when I compensate Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who ran before Me like horses

On this, Rabbi Zave Rudman explains:

The efforts of the Avos to serve HaShem are compared to the racing of a horse before its master.

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