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Good Evening, Mr History,

A battle mentioned in the Bible says Sisera with 900 war chariots provided by King Jabin fought against an army led by Barak.

The war chariots had scythes that were 1 metre (3 feet) long. How many people could be killed or injured if 900 chariots rushed against a badly armed army of 10,000?


(In the Bible, chapters 4 and 5 in Judges tell of a battle between the "many troops" and 900 "iron chariots" of King Jabin of the city of Hazor in Canaan, led by the military commander Sisera, and a force of 10,000 Israelites under the direction of the prophetess Deborah and of Barak from Kedesh-naphtah.—Editor)

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Dear SW,

There were far too many engagements involving war chariots to generalize about their effectiveness. In the case of the Biblical battle between Deborah and Barak’s Israelites on one side and Sisera’s Canaanites on the other, a combination of the book’s commentary and an examination of the likely site suggests how that 900-chariot force was neutralized. When the Old Testament refers to Deborah winning by “keeping the faith,” it may refer to an “act of God” similar to that which destroyed Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea. As reconstructed by archaeologists in the account below, as Sisera moved on Deborah’s force near Mount Tabor, a second force of Israelite militia near Mount Ephraim made a demonstration that convinced Sisera to turn to engage that threat instead. Deborah and Barak then moved to catch Sisera’s army at the  Kishon River, just in time for a rain storm that caused it to flood and bog down Canaanite chariot and infantry alike in a sea of mud. The result was a bloody rout for the Canaanites, climaxing when Sisera abandoned his chariot and fled on foot to take shelter in Jael’s tent, only to get a tent peg in the head, courtesy of the second member of the “weaker sex” in a row that he’d underestimated.



Jon Guttman
Research Director
World History Group
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