Summary: Study deals with the fear of Ephraim and Manasseh faced with chariots of iron in their conquest of Canaan with applications to the Christian’s life.
A Bible Study by
Charles W. Holt
CHALLENGED BY CHARIOTS OF IRON(Part 1 of 3)
Scripture reading: Jeremiah 12:4
Scripture Text: Joshua 17:14-18
The expression, "chariots of iron" is very descriptive. Its symbolic importance will be heightened when we place it within the actual context of scripture. This colorful phrase provides an excellent canvas to paint a vivid comparison (as any good metaphor does) between temptations, trials, and afflictions "such as are common with every man," (1 Cor. 10:13) and others that are best described as a, "great trial of affliction (2 Cor. 8:2); or what Paul describes as, "stripes above measure" (2 Cor. 11:23). They may be compared as "running with footmen" trials versus "contending with horses" trials," described in our text. Used thus as a metaphor, for the purpose of comparison and contrast, it provides a strong backbone to support the creation of a study dealing with the reality of possible failure and loss even while one is secure in the knowledge that God "is able," perhaps even "willing," to provide the resources necessary for handling the extra tough situations of life.
Reality of scripture and the reality of our own personal experiences teach us that despite God’s ability and willingness to help us, we fail; and we re miserable because of it. Perhaps even wracked by guilt. Compounding the problem is when we suffer from the good intentions of well-meaning friends to set us straight. They feel duty bound to bombard us with Bible verse that rebuke our "lack of faith," or otherwise make us feel like dirt. At such a time one is likely to feel an iron chariot has mauled them.
The first mention of a chariot in the Bible comes when Joseph is elevated and honored in his newly found second-only-to-Pharaoh position of power. Pharaoh issues him State Chariot number two (Gen. 41:40,43), Pharaoh’s being number one. Years later, when his father comes to Egypt, Joseph went out to meet him in his own chariot. Later, they form part of the funeral procession of Jacob (Gen. 50:9). When the Israelites fled Egypt they were pursued by 600 war-chariots. While Egypt had chariots, the Canaanites had chariots, and the Philistines had up to 30,000 chariots, they were never used by the Israelites until the time of King David—several hundred years later into their history. I mention these facts in order to show that the possession of war-chariots created a superior military advantage against those who did not possess them. Israel, led by Moses, did not come out of Egypt on wheels—they walked. With the Lord’s help and a lot of trial and error, they became capable foot soldiers. Clearly, the cards were stacked against an Army of footmen who must contend with a foe riding to war in chariots. The Lord through the Prophet Jeremiah expresses this principle. He said,
"If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? And if in the land of peace, wherein thou trustest, they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan" (Jer. 12:4).
One can see here the contrast between a foot soldier and a horse-soldier. There is really no match between them. The horse-soldier has a distinct advantage riding in his chariot. Through Jeremiah, the Lord wants His people to see that some problems are like contending with footmen while others are like contending with horse drawn chariots. If you can’t handle "footmen size problems "how will you deal with" chariot size problems? This, in essence, is the theme of our study.
CHARIOTS OF IRON
Contending with a normal war-chariot calls for courage and strategy unlike that of any other battle plan. Bring in "chariots of iron" and the odds against your winning are staggering. This was Israel’s problem when they came into Canaan. They were foot soldiers. They had learned by various earlier campaigns how to fight hand-to-hand, spear to spear. When confronted with "chariots of iron" they were at a loss. They had no experience against this kind of war machine. Ephraim and Manesseh would soon be tested with this fearsome apparatus. It made them feel they were at a distinct disadvantage. They were overwhelmed by the problem. Chariots of iron problems have that effect.
The Israelites, and especially Ephraim and Manesseh, faced them when they got into the Promised Land. Yes, the land of Canaan was "flowing with milk and honey," but that’s not all. In the fine print, that apparently most didn’t take the time to read, it also flowed with swarms of "mad as hornets" Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, Jebusites, Hittites, not to mention the sons of Anak who were the giants in the land. If an Israelite wanted to be cynical he could have said, "Thanks, God, for dumping us in a place where everybody would love nothing better than skinning me alive! O God, for some reason, these people didn’t get the message that we are the new tenants and they should have packed their bags long ago and left for parts unknown." It was not to be.