Prophetic Hebrew Words of Warfare :: By Mark A. Becker

I’d like to begin our study by asking a question: “Beings the Bible was written thousands of years ago and offers a multitude of future prophecy, what Hebrew words would one expect to be used of modern-day warfare machinery such as jeeps, trucks, and tanks, and aerial weaponry such as helicopters, planes, jets, and drone technology?”

This is the question that we are addressing in this article. The Hebrew word most associated with rapid and powerful battlefield endowment is the word translated “horse.” For it was the horse that gave many armies an advantage on the battlefield. Could it be that the Hebrew word for “horse” has a greater scope of definition that could signify something else within modern-day warfare?

The reason I even came to this inquiry is because I noticed that horses were almost universally mentioned for warfare in prophecy regardless of whether the prophetic war was near to the prophet, which would make sense, or distant in end-time prophecy, which wouldn’t make sense.

My articles, Possibilities: The Ezekiel 38 Invasion and Possibilities: The Ezekiel 39 Aftermath, were the catalysts for this thought process as I noticed that the Gog/Magog invasion of Israel in Ezekiel 38 & 39 – which should clearly be fought with modern weaponry – mentioned horses and horsemen, which certainly should not be the case. Additionally, the last section in Ezekiel 39 deals with the aftermath of the battle at Christ’s Second Coming – commonly referred to as Armageddon (The Valley of Jehoshaphat and ‘Armageddon’) – and mentions horses, which will be the case (please see The Mark of the Beasts for why this is).

Therefore, I just had to do an investigation into this Hebrew word to see if there was something unique about its definition that could shed light on this obvious difficulty.

Here’s one of the verses in Ezekiel 38, keeping in mind that this is a modern-day battle, that caught my eye:

“And thou shalt come from thy place out of the north parts, thou, and many people with thee, all of them riding upon horses, a great company, and a mighty army” Ezekiel 38:15. (emphasis mine)


The Hebrew word for “horses” is 5483 סוּס סוּס “cuwc” and means a swallow, swift (type of bird). It can also mean crane, horseback, or cuc {soos}; from an unused root meaning to skip (properly, for joy); a horse (as leaping); also a swallow (from its rapid flight)crane, horse ((-back, -hoof)). Compare parash. (emphasis mine) [Definitions] (emphasis mine)

As we can see, this word most often translated as “horses” is a rather mysterious word, with the main thrust of its definition being that of something swift.

What I found fascinating – yet not really surprising as I was somewhat expecting this – is that while the word can mean horse, the word’s primary definition applies to bird flight or rapid flight and to skip. And notice the סוּס, which has an appearance like an airplane and/or a side-view of a vehicle! This answers many questions in regard to Bible prophecy, especially end-time prophecy and modern-day warfare. When I think of rapid flight and to skip, I think of motor vehicles, jeeps, trucks, tanks, and an array of aerial vehicles. These vehicles – land and aerial – will also contain the fuel for Israel to burn for seven years from the enemy’s weapons (Ezekiel 39:9).

In past warfare, the horse was mightily feared in battle and therefore warranted the translation from this Hebrew word. But this is not the case today and should, due to context, be applied to motor vehicles and aerial weaponry on the modern battlefield with regard to future prophetic Scripture.

It really doesn’t surprise me that translations from before a hundred or so years ago never rendered these future prophetic verses as anything other than horses, but what about modern translations? My next step was to see if any translators ever picked up on the idea that this word can also be translated – in modern vernacular – as jeeps, trucks, and tanks, or helicopters, planes, jets, and drones.

The closest I found, although probably not intentional, was the New Living Translation:

“You will come from your homeland in the distant north with your vast cavalry and your mighty army.”

What I found interesting about the word “cavalry” was its second definition in Merriam-Webster: an army component moving in motor vehicles or helicopters and assigned to combat missions that require great mobility.

This is what I was looking for, albeit a rather flimsy example. The fact is, when we are dealing with modern warfare in future prophecy, should we expect modern translators to offer a modern translation? Just because we think we should expect an appropriate modern-day translation, we shouldn’t be surprised when we don’t get it because most translators aren’t steeped in prophecy and are unable to project the proper prophetic definition. Nor should we ever really expect, or desire, this to happen.

But, for the Bible student and teacher, when we are studying the prophetic passages, I believe we are in our right to point out to others that this could very well be a proper translation in regard to modern-day warfare. How else were the inspired prophets of God to relate to the reader of the past a picture of future warfare they had no way of conveying within their language? But thankfully, God’s Holy Spirit used this amazing Hebrew word that is flexible in meaning and can be translated into modern-day language describing these modern-day technologies!

‘Horsemen’ and ‘Chariots’

With all of this in mind, we should be able to anticipate the same outcome regarding the Hebrew word translated “horsemen.”

“And I will turn thee back, and put hooks into thy jaws, and I will bring thee forth, and all thine army, horses and horsemen, all of them clothed with all sorts of armour, even a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords” Ezekiel 38:4. (emphasis mine)

The Hebrew word for “horsemen” is 6571 פָרָשׁ “parash” and means a steed (as stretched out to a vehicle, not single nor for mounting (compare cuwc)); also (by implication) a driver (in a chariot), i.e. (collectively) cavalry — horseman. (emphasis mine)

There’s that word cavalry again! But notice the focus on the “driver” of the “horse” or “chariot” – which we have already determined that in modern warfare can easily apply to modern technologies. Therefore, in past warfare, where horses, chariots, and their riders were the predominant forces of armies, we should just as well be able to apply the driver to the “vehicle” in modern terms to modern warfare. In fact, when considering the typology of these Hebrew words of past warfare, we should note that chariots couldn’t move unless powered by horses. Is it any wonder that we apply the term “horsepower” to vehicles today?

These swift and fast-moving land and aerial vehicles – represented by the Hebrew word “cuwc” – have drivers and, in the case of troops in large trucks, many men inside. Aerial representation on a modern-day battlefield is certainly prominent in our day and age. I fully expect, from the descriptions of this attack in Ezekiel 38 and 39, ground-troops and an aerial assault, with the definition and imagery of the Hebrew word “cuwc” depicting the swift and rapid flight of a bird that focuses our attention on the aerial aspect of this campaign and the speed to which this assault will be carried out.

Also, in my investigation, I discovered that the same flexibility in definitions can also apply to the Hebrew word for “chariots,” which is 7393 רֶכֶב “rekeb” and can be defined and translated as chariot, upper millstone, multitude, and wagon. Note, especially, multitude and wagon, as these words can easily be applied to modern-day warfare as well.

Modern-Day Weaponry

To help bring this study to completion, we should take a look at the rest of Ezekiel 38:4 and offer up some additional, final thoughts.

“And I will turn thee back, and put hooks into thy jaws, and I will bring thee forth, and all thine army, horses and horsemen, all of them clothed with all sorts of armour, even a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swordsEzekiel 38:4. (emphasis mine)

Let’s see if the Hebrew words for “armour,” “bucklers,” “shields,” and “swords” afford us any leeway as our other Hebrew words have. Remember, there would be no Hebrew words available to describe modern-day weaponry.

The Hebrew word for “armour” is actually an addition to the text supplied by the King James translators to the Hebrew word “rab,” which means “great.” Therefore, there is no word in the original text for armor in this verse.

The Hebrew word for “buckler” is 3793 צִנָּה “tsinnah” and means buckler, cold, hook, shield, target. Feminine of tsen; a hook (as pointed); also a (large) shield (as if guarding by prickliness); also cold (as piercing) — buckler, cold, hook, shield, target. (emphasis mine)

The Hebrew word for buckler can certainly denote armor on the individual but, when considering modern-day warfare, can also be applied to many other items in the weaponry toolbox we see today.

The Hebrew word for “shield” is 4043 מָגֵן “magen” or “maginnah” and means armed, buckler, defense, ruler, scale, shield. Also (in plural) feminine maginnah {meg-in-naw’}; from ganan; a shield (i.e., The small one or buckler); figuratively, a protector; also the scaly hide of the crocodile.

As we can see, the Hebrew word for shield, as buckler, is quite versatile in meaning and can certainly denote armor on vehicles – tanks, trucks, jeeps, etc. – in modern-day warfare. The definitions of “armed, defense, ruler, and scale,” are apt descriptions for numerous terminologies on the battlefield today. As a matter of fact, next-generation armor is being inspired by animal scales!

The Hebrew word for “swords” is 2719 חֶרֶב “chereb” and means axe, dagger, knife, mattock, sword, tool. (emphasis mine)

No doubt, as the sword was the epitome of fighting “tools” in Biblical times, this word could be applicable to many offensive weapons, including guns, mortars, shoulder-fired missiles, etc., in the modern vernacular. After all, what other word would be used in describing weapons unknown in ancient times? The Lord, in describing modern warfare through His prophets, would have to use language they were familiar with for weapons they could never be familiar with.

In Revelation 13:12 and 13:14, we read that the Antichrist receives a fatal wound by a sword and comes alive again. This, too, should necessarily be representative of a modern-day weapon as there would have been no Greek word for a gun other than the word for the weapon of choice in the times in which they lived, and that would have been – like in the Hebrew – a “sword.”


I think we have shown that the Prophets of God in Israel used versatile Hebrew words that can be applied equally – yet in different ways depending on the context of near or future prophecy – to ancient and modern-day warfare on the battlefield.

I’m under no illusion that new translations will adopt these features of differing definitions to differing wars of Bible Prophecy – as translators aren’t in the business of prophecy interpretation – but I’m hopeful that this study will be very helpful to the Bible student and Bible teacher in their own studies. Just because English translations translate the Hebrew words to “horses” and “horsemen” doesn’t mean that they are always horses and horsemen concerning future prophecy and modern-day warfare. Our logic and everyday experience confirm this truth, and, thank the Lord, the Hebrew words are flexible enough in meaning to come to these needful conclusions. Again, the Hebrew language would necessarily be void of the proper words to use when prophesying future warfare using modern-day technologies.

May the Lord grant us wisdom in our studies when these translations should and shouldn’t be used as, again, the context should always have the last word. This is where understanding, to the best of our ability and with the guiding of the Holy Spirit, is so important.

Love, grace, mercy, and shalom in Messiah Yeshua, and Maranatha!


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