(1) The art of using the arcus, or bow and arrow for hunting and in battle is of great antiquity. It is mentioned in
Genesis 21:20, as well as in the Iliad and the Odyssey, and depicted on Egyptian monuments and in Assyrian sculptures. The Philistines excelled in the art, which led David to order that special training in it be given to the Hebrews (2 Samuel 1:18). It was an important art throughout the world in Biblical times (see Genesis 27:3; Isaiah 22:6; 49:2; Psalms 127:4). The Benjamites among the Hebrews were noted as archers (Judges 20), and archers constituted much of the fighting strength, and played no mean part in the victories, of the world-famed Greek and Roman armies.
(2) The bow was common to civil (Genesis 21:20) and military life (Zechariah 9:10), and vies with the spear in importance and antiquity. It was usually made of tough, elastic, seasoned wood, and often mounted with bronze (see
Psalms 18:34 Revised Version (British and American); compare Job 20:24). But horn, too, was used for bows by the ancients, some with double curves being evidently modeled after the horns of oxen. The bow-string was commonly ox-gut and the arrows were of reed, or light wood tipped with flint, bronze, or iron.
(3) The battle bows, such as are mentioned in Zechariah 9:10; 10:4, must have been of great size, since they required to be strung by pressing the foot on the lower end, while the upper end was bent down to receive the string into a notch; hence the expression "to tread (= string) the bow," and "bowtreaders," for archers (Jeremiah 50:14,29 Hebrew). The arrows, "the sons of his quiver" (Lamentations 3:13 margin, the Revised Version (British and American) "shafts"), were ordinarily, of course, carried in the quiver, which was either placed on the back or slung on the left side, secured by a belt over the right shoulder (HDB). The day of gunpowder and firearms, of course, was not yet.
George B. Eager