Close-range weapon. The Hebrew word chereb and the Greek word machaira designate either a dagger or a sword. The Hebrew word also designates an iron tool (“axes,”
Ezekiel 26:9) or a chisel (“tool,”
Exodus 20:25). In
Joshua 5:2, the word designates stone knives used in the circumcision of the people of Israel.
Archaeology has shown that different kinds of swords were used in the Ancient Near East. The sickle or curved sword was used throughout Mesopotamia, Egypt, and in Palestine. The earlier swords were straight, relatively short, and made of bronze. Ehud's sword was the two-edged short dagger; it measured about 18 inches (Judges 3:16). The sword used by the Israelites in the conquest of Canaan probably was the long-bladed, curved sword (Joshua 6:21).
The Sea Peoples introduced to Canaan the two-edged long sword made of iron. This type of iron sword was kept out of the hands of the Israelites by the Philistines for military and economic reasons until the times of David (1 Samuel 13:19). The Old Testament gives witness that in the wars between the Israelites and the Philistines, the Israelites did not possess this new weapon (1 Samuel 13:22). The sword was kept in a sheath (1 Samuel 17:51;
Matthew 26:52). It hung from a belt (1 Samuel 25:13) and was generally put on the left hip (2 Samuel 20:8).
There are many symbolic uses for the word sword in the Bible. The word was used as a metaphor for war (Jeremiah 14:15;
Matthew 10:34); the sword was an instrument of divine justice (Ezekiel 21:3;
Revelation 1:16). Rash words are compared to a sword that pierces (Proverbs 12:18); the tongue is like a sharp sword (Psalms 57:4); malicious words are “drawn swords” (Psalms 55:21). The Word of God is sharper than a “two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12); the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, is part of the Christian's armament in the fight against evil (Ephesians 6:17). See Arms and Armor.
Claude F. Mariottini