It's written in this Torah portion that a king isn't allowed to acquire any horses for himself, because it will cause people to go to Egypt and buy them, and it is forbidden to return to Egypt.

Rashi to that verse (Devarim 17:16), from Sanhedrin 21b, says that 1) the horses come specifically from Egypt, so it would violate a mitzvah to return there so we "don't see them again" (Shemos 14:13) (even though all of the Egyptians of that time were supposedly wiped out at the splitting of the sea, but that's a separate question) and 2) it's ok for him to acquire horses necessary for his army's chariots.

The question arises:

If he's not allowed to get horses for himself because it will cause someone to return to Egypt (thus violating a mitzvah) to buy the horses, since that's the only source of horses from Eretz Yisroel according to Rashi and the Gemara, then how is he supposed to buy horses for his army?

  • 4
    Perhaps, I'm missing the cause and affect suggested by your question. The verse says that he shouldn't have an ABUNDANCE of horses, not that he shouldn't have any horses at all.
    – DanF
    Aug 19, 2015 at 17:00
  • The Gemara in Sanhedrin 21b says that he can't have even one house for himself
    – user8832
    Aug 19, 2015 at 17:02
  • But the qUestion is: where did he get the horses for his chariots?
    – user8832
    Aug 19, 2015 at 17:04
  • Where did the idea that " all of the Egyptians of that time were supposedly wiped out at the splitting of the sea" come from??
    – WhyEnBe
    Aug 19, 2015 at 17:05
  • I don't remember the exact source. I thought I read it in brochos, near the 20s (or it might have been in a shir by Rabbi Elimelech Silverberg (Torah Gems)). Whichever source it is, it said that while the chariots were drowned in the sea, all the other Egyptians, back in Egypt, were killed at the same time. It was definitely somewhere, but if it was in the shir it may have been quoted from the Zohar, so it may not be entirely literal (but that's a separate question, since I'm not too sure on the source. Regardless, this question assumes that perhaps they weren't all wiped out).
    – user8832
    Aug 19, 2015 at 17:11

1 Answer 1


It's not that horses were exclusive to Egypt. Rather, Egypt was the source of the best and most sophisticatedly bred horses and would constantly look towards egypt to maintain his menagerie. A king with many horses make himself dependent on Egypt just as a country with many cars would be dependent on Saudi Arabia or Iran vayimach shemam. Sources: Little midrash says.

  • So then 1) where DID the king get the horses for his army and 2) why did the Torah give the reason about not returning to Egypt to the prohibition of a king having any horses for himself? If there are other places to get horses, then the king should be allowed to have his own!
    – user8832
    Aug 19, 2015 at 17:39
  • The hardcore horse enthusiasts go to Egypt. The king is allowed to have horses in moderation, but if he has too many, he may proceed to become a hardcore horse enthusiast and look towards Egypt. Aug 19, 2015 at 21:21
  • The gemara in Sanhedrin 21b seems to be pretty clear that the king isn't even allowed to buy 1 horse for himself (although I believe it says later on that people can give him horses as gifts, although I'm not positive).
    – user8832
    Aug 19, 2015 at 21:33

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