The Israelites marched out of Egypt in military order (Ex 13:18, "harnessed;" marg., "five in a rank"). Each tribe formed a battalion, with its own banner and leader (Nu 2:2; 10:14). In war the army was divided into thousands and hundreds under their several captains (Nu 31:14), and also into families (Nu 2:34; 2Ch 25:5; 26:12). From the time of their entering the land of Canaan to the time of the kings, the Israelites made little progress in military affairs, although often engaged in warfare. The kings introduced the custom of maintaining a bodyguard (the Gibborim; i.e., "heroes"), and thus the nucleus of a standing army was formed. Saul had an army of 3,000 select warriors (1Sa 13:2; 14:52; 24:2). David also had a band of soldiers around him (1Sa 23:13; 25:13). To this band he afterwards added the Cherethites and the Pelethites (2Sa 15:18; 20:7). At first the army consisted only of infantry (1Sa 4:10; 15:4), as the use of horses was prohibited (De 17:16); but chariots and horses were afterwards added (2Sa 8:4; 1Ki 10:26,28-29; 9:19). In 1Ki 9:22 there is given a list of the various gradations of rank held by those who composed the army. The equipment and maintenance of the army were at the public expense (2Sa 17:28-29; 1Ki 4:27; 10:16-17; Jg 20:10). At the Exodus the number of males above twenty years capable of bearing arms was 600,000 (Ex 12:37). In David's time it mounted to the number of 1,300,000 (2Sa 24:9).
In Israel's, at the Exodus, every man above 20 was a soldier (Nu 1:3); each tribe a battalion, with its own banner and leader (Nu 2:2; 10:5-6,14). Their positions in camp and on march were accurately fixed. The whole host moved according to preappointed alarms on the trumpet. So (Ex 13:18) they "went up harnessed" (margin five in a rank; chamushim, from chameesh, "five"; or from chomesh, "the loins," with the loins girt), prepared for the march, not fleeing away as fugitives. Five was a number regarded as inauspicious by the Egyptians, but honored by Israel; witness the five books of the pentateuch, the Jubilee of fifty years. Manetho describes the Israelites as 250,000 lepers, five X fifty thousand. The exactness of their martial order is implied in Balaam's metaphors (Nu 24:6).
The "scribe of the host" made the conscription and chose the officers when needful (De 20:5-9; 2Ki 25:19; 2Ch 26:11). The army was divided into thousands and hundreds with captains over each; the family too was respected in the army organization, as being the unit in the Jewish polity (Nu 2:34; 31:14). Before the time of the kings their tactics were of a loose desultory kind; but the kings established a body guard, the first step toward a standing army. Saul had 3000 picked men (1Sa 13:2; 14:52; 24:2). David had 600 before his accession (1Sa 23:13); after it he added the Cherethites and Pelethites and Gittites (2Sa 8:18; 15:18), and veteran guards (shalishim, "captains," 1Ch 12:18; 23/15'>Eze 23:15,23, "princes," "great lords") whose "chief" was about David's person as adjutant. He called out also monthly a regiment of national militia, twelve regiments in all, under officers (1Ch 27:1).
A "captain of the host," or commander in chief, led the army in time of war; as Abner under Saul, Joab under David. Judaea and the northern kingdom Israel being hilly, were little suited for chariots and horsemen, except in the plains of Esdraelon and Philistia, and toward Egypt and Syria. Moreover, God had forbidden the multiplication of horses (De 17:16). But their own unfaithfulness exposed them to the enemy's powerful chariots; so they too longed to have similar ones (Jos 17:16; 11:9; Jg 1:19; 4:2; 1Sa 13:5). David reserved 100 from the Syrian spoils (2Sa 8:4). Solomon afterward largely increased the number from Egypt (1Ki 10:26-29; 9:19); in all 1400 chariots, 12000 horsemen. The grades in the army appear in 1Ki 9:22, "men of war" (privates), servants (subalterns), princes (captains), captains (staff officers), rulers of chariots and horsemen (cavalry officers).
The body guard was permanently maintained (1Ki 14:28), the militia only exceptionally called out. The Syrians reduced the cavalry to a mere fragment in Jehoahaz's reign. Jotham in Judah had a large cavalry force (Isa 2:7), but it was much brought down in Hezekiah's reign, so that the Jews, in violation of God's prohibition (De 17:16), looked to Egypt for horses and chariots (Isa 31:1; 36:9; Ps 20:7). In action the army was often in three divisions (Jg 7:16; 1Sa 11:11; 2Sa 18:2). Jehoshaphat divided his into five bodies (answering to the five geographical divisions then), but virtually Judah's heavy armed men formed the main army, the two light armed divisions of Benjamin the subsidiary bodies. At the Exodus the number of soldiers was 600,000 (Ex 12:37), at the borders of Canaan 601,730; under David, 1,300,000 men capable of service, namely, 800,000 for Israel, 500,000 for Judah (2Sa 24:9), but in 1Ch 21:5-6 it is 1,570,000; namely, 1,100,000 for Israel, and 470,000 for Judah.
The discrepancy is due to the census having been broken off (1Ch 27:24). The militia (1Ch 27:1, etc.), 288,000, was probably included in Chronicles, not in Samuel. The exact census was not entered in the annals of the kingdom (1Ch 27:24); hence the amount is given in round and not exact numbers. Levi and Benjamin were not reckoned, the latter owing to Joab's repugnance to the census (1Ch 21:6). Jehoshaphat's army was 1,160,000 (2Ch 17:14-18). John Hyrcanus first introduced mercenaries. The Roman army was divided into legions, each under six tribunes ("chief captains," chiliarchs, Ac 21:31), who commanded in turn. The legion had 10 cohorts ("bands," speira, Ac 10:1), the cohort into three maniples, the maniple into two centuries (each 100 men originally), commanded by a centurion (Ac 10:1-22; Mt 8:5).
The "Italian band" or cohort consisted of volunteers from Italy, perhaps the procurator's body guard. "Augustus' band" or cohort (Ac 27:1) were either volunteers from Sebaste, or a cohort similar to "the Augustan legion." Caesarea was the Roman head quarters in Palestine. The ordinary guard was a quaternion of four soldiers, answering to the four watches of the night, and relieving each other every three hours (Ac 12:4; Joh 19:23). Two watched outside a prisoner's door, two inside (Ac 12:6). "The captain of the guard" (Ac 28:16) was probably commander of the Praetorian guards, to whom prisoners from the provinces were committed. The "spearmen" (dexiolabi; Ac 23:23) were light armed body guards, literally "protecting the right side," or else "grasping the weapon with the right hand."
1. In default of a strong central authority; an army in the sense of a permanently organized and disciplined body of troops was an impossibility among the Hebrews before the establishment of the monarchy. The bands that followed a Gideon or a Jephthah were hastily improvised levies from his own and neighbouring clans, whose members returned with their share of the spoil to their ordinary occupations when the fray was at an end. The first step towards a more permanent arrangement was taken by Saul in his operations against the Philistines (1Sa 13:2; cf. 1Sa 14:52). David, however, was the first to establish the nucleus of a standing army, by retaining as a permanent bodyguard 600 'mighty men' (their official title) who had gathered round him in his exile (1Sa 23:13; 30:9; 2Sa 10:7; 16:6). To these were added the mercenary corps of the Cherethites and Pelethites (wh. see), and a company of 600 Gittites (2Sa 15:18). Apart from these, David's armies were raised by levy as before, but now from the whole nation, hence the technical use of 'the people' in the sense of 'the army' (2Sa 20:12 and often). Solomon's organization of his kingdom into administrative districts (1Ki 4:7 ff.) doubtless included matters of army administration (cf. 1Ki 4:28; 9:19; 10:26).
2. The organization of the Hebrew army was by units of thousands, originally associated with the civil divisions of the same name, with subdivisions of hundreds, fifties, and tens (1Sa 8:12; 17:18; 22:7; 2Ki 1:9 ff; 2Ki 11:4), an arrangement which continued into the Maccab
It must be remembered that Israel were the hosts of Jehovah, keeping His charge and fighting His battles. Ex 12:41; Jos 5:14. It appears that all who reached the age of twenty years were contemplated as able to bear arms, Nu 1:3; and they marched and encamped in 4 divisions of 3 tribes each, with a captain over every tribe. The subdivisions were into thousands and hundreds, Nu 31:14, and into families. Jos 7:17. There were also trumpet calls, Nu 10:9 (cf. 1Co 14:8), and all the appearance of careful organisation. Until the time of the kings this natural or tribal organisation seems to have been usual, but in the time of Saul there was a body guard, 1Sa 13:2, and a captain of the host, 1Sa 17:55. In David's days those heroes who were with him in the cave of Adullam formed the nucleus of his 'mighty men.' 2Sa 23:8-39. They were devoted to the service of God's king. David afterwards organised a monthly militia of 24,000 man under 12 captains. 1Ch 27:1-15.
The general gradation of ranks was into privates; 'men of war;' officers; Solomon's 'servants;' captains or 'princes;' and others variously described as head captains, or knights or staff officers; with rulers of his chariots and his horsemen. 1Ki 9:22. It may be noticed that horses having been forbidden, De 17:16, it was not until Solomon's time that this was organised, though David had reserved horses for a hundred chariots from the spoil of the Syrians. 2Sa 8:4. Solomon, trading with Egypt, 1Ki 10:28-29, enlarged their number until the force amounted to 1,400 chariots, and 12,000 horsemen, 1Ki 10:26; 2Ch 1:14. Every able man being a soldier gave David the immense army of 1,570,000 men that 'drew sword.' 1Ch 21:5. After the division, Judah under Abijah had an army of 400,000 'valiant men,' and Israel at the same time of 800,000 'chosen men.' Afterwards Asa had 580,000 'mighty men of valour;' and Jehoshaphat, who had waxed great exceedingly, had as many as 1,160,000 men, besides those left in the fenced cities. 2Ch 17:14-19.
In the N.T. a few references are made to the Roman army. A 'Legion' was a body that contained within itself all the gradations of the army. It might be called under the empire, in round numbers, a force of not more than 6,000 men. Every legion at times contained 10 cohorts of 600 each; every cohort 3 maniples of 200; and every maniple 2 centuries of 100: hence the name of centurion or commander of 100 men, as found in Ac 10:1,22, etc. Each legion was presided over by 6 chiefs, ?????????, each commanding 1,000 men, mostly translated 'chief captain,' as in Ac 21:31-37, etc.: it is 'high captain' in Mr 6:21; and 'captain' in Joh 18:12; Re 19:18. A cohort, ??????, is translated 'band' in Ac 10:1; 21:31, etc. A 'quaternion' embraced 4 soldiers. Ac 12:4.
The head quarters of the Roman troops was at Caesarea, with a cohort at Jerusalem; but at the time of the feast, when, alas, the mutinous disposition of the Jews was sure to appear, additional troops were present in the city but without their standards of the eagle, etc., which were especially obnoxious to the Jews. Though the Romans were God's rod to punish them, their stiff necks could not bow, nor receive the punishment as from Jehovah.
I. JEWISH ARMY.--Every man above 20 years of age was a soldier,
each tribe formed a regiment, with its own banner and its own leader
their positions in the camp or on the march were accurately fixed, Numb. 2; the whole army started and stopped at a given signal,
thus they came up out of Egypt ready for the fight.
On the approach of an enemy a conscription was made from the general body, under the direction of a muster-master,
De 20:5; 2Ki 25:19
by whom also the officers were appointed.
The army had then divided into thousands and hundreds under their respective captains,
and still further into families.
With the king arose the custom of maintaining a body-guard, which formed the nucleus of a standing army, and David's band of 600,
he retained after he became king, and added the CHERETHITES and PELETHITES.
David further organized a national militia, divided into twelve regiments under their respective officers, each of which was called out for one month in the year.
... It does not appear that the system established by David was maintained by the kings of Judah; but in Israel the proximity of the hostile kingdom of Syria necessitated the maintenance of a standing army. The maintenance and equipment of the soldiers at the public expense dated from the establishment of a standing army. It is doubtful whether the soldier ever received pay even under the kings. II. ROMAN ARMY.--The Roman army was divided into legions, the number of which varied considerably (from 3000 to 6000), each under six tribuni ("chief captains,")
See Roman empire
who commanded by turns. The legion was subdivided into ten cohorts ("band,")
the cohort into three maniples, and the maniple into two centuries, containing originally 100 men, as the name implies, but subsequently from 50 to 100 men, according to the strength of the legion. There were thus 60 centuries in a legion, each under the command of a centurion.
In addition to the legionary cohorts, independent cohorts of volunteers served under the Roman standards. One of these cohorts was named the Italian,
as consisting of volunteers from Italy. The headquarters of the Roman forces in Judea were at Caesarea.