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The Arrow Project/Dr. Yehiam Sorek

Dr. Yehiam Sorek

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There is an interesting verse embedded in the book of Lamentations, which at this point I am extracting it, literally, out of context, and its language: "Through his bow and steady as a target of pressure" (Lamentations 19:XNUMX). And by the way, the word matra is indeed written in the alphabet at the end. Perhaps with Aramaic influence.
This verse may well teach us, in the right perspective, a chapter in the laws of body culture during the biblical period.
There is no doubt about it, because the origin of the revelations of body culture in the ancient period is folded in the world of the warriors. And as a reminder: not once or twice in my articles I emphasized the sentence: the source of sporting activity is found in military-combat activity, and that sport is nothing but the sublimation of the use of weapons. And to the point of our discussion - the skill in using the weapons, when one of the types of weapons that required great and highest skill was the bow.
The bow was first assembled from a simple flexible tree, stretched by a string, which was strengthened over time by links, until finally they invented and developed the compound bow, which is a clever combination of wood and horn, which considerably increased the shooting range.
The military bow was popularized by the Hyksos (Hyksos) tribes in the middle of the second millennium BC (the generation of the biblical "ancestors"), especially in Egypt.
The use of the bow among the Hebrew tribes was limited in the beginning, and stemmed from the sporadic, unorganized, non-"state" and even geophysical nature of the Hebrew-Canaanite war environment. Its beginning, it seems, although in embryonic dimensions, is rooted in the growth of the institution of the monarchy, the organization of the army, its training, the acquisition of fighting skills and all environmental influence, mainly from Egypt on the one hand and the desert warriors on the other.
The bow and the skill of using it appears in general as a weapon of Jonathan the prince, son of Saul. Jonathan, who wants to secretly inform David what Saul's answer is, gives him his encrypted plan: "And I am the three arrows, a light of a hunter, to send to my target" (20 Samuel XNUMX:XNUMX). He sends his boy, carrying his tools, to find the arrows and to meet with David.
It seems that this case characterizes a type of occupation, one that was common in that period (late XNUMXnd millennium BC), among royal and aristocracy circles. It's about shooting arrows at a target as training on the one hand and personal and social fun on the other. It was customary to shoot the first arrows in order to test the efficiency of the bow and the stability of the hand, otherwise it would be difficult for Jonathan's boy to understand how Jonathan missed the target three times. Either way, there is no doubt that the situation before us is interesting.
It seems that Jonathan was skilled in the use of the bow, because David laments about him after his death, after the tragic battle against the Philistines in the Gilboa Mountains (1006 BCE) in this language: "Jonathan's bow did not draw back" (22 Samuel 24:XNUMX). This image is probably taken from the characterization of the experienced, strong archer, who has a stable stance and a firm and precise pull of the arrow on the stretched string. With this method, we will be able to understand Jacob's blessing to Joseph: "And he sat down with his bow" (Genesis Matt XNUMX).
A very interesting command was heard in the mouth of the lamenting David. He demands: "Teach the children of Judah a bow" (18 Samuel 3:XNUMX). It seems that David was influenced by the very wounding of Saul by the Philistine archers (XNUMX Samuel XNUMX:XNUMX). However, due to the fact that the Israelites were not skilled in using the bow as usual, the Bible takes care to highlight King Saul's fears of the Philistine archers (ibid.).
David's decree is very important for our case due to the fact that it instructs the learning and teaching of the use of the bow and arrow, and later we will dwell on this case. In any case: whether there was someone (David, if at all, or someone else) who said and ordered this, or whether this is the opinion and assumption of the author (or the group of authors), before us is a professional approach that symbolizes the transition from the "judicial" period to the "royal" one . Not only is it about an organizational, political and administrative transition. The transition to the days of the monarchy conveys, as is customary in other kingdoms, a new policy, a policy of occupation, and in this context it is very interesting to examine the criticism of the biblical author towards the institution of the monarchy, under the well-known title "The King's Judgment", and in the context of the occupation (and to the readers of the "supporters" - do not jump Ali: The biblical author had, and at least in this context, more liberal, leftist positions. The transition from small kings ("judges") to more stately ones ("kings") and with it the policy of occupation, required the building of a professional army, including units of sword pullers, javelins and spearmen, and the "steep-track" weapon warriors - archers and slingers, and you have David's comment in Constellation the required historical
David was not only handsome to demand, but also handsome to fulfill, and even before his lamentation he made sure that his army would also be decorated with excellent bows. It was in approximately 1007 BCE, as the Bible testifies: "And those who came to David at Ziklag, another stop from Saul ben-Kish, and how brave the helpers of the war, carrying bows on their right and throwing stones on their left (the archers were the warriors from the far range, and therefore they worked together with the slings, the stone slingers) and arrows with a bow from my brother Saul of Benjamin" (1 Chronicles 2:XNUMX-XNUMX).
The excellence of the members of the tribe of Benjamin as skilled and excellent archers stands out even later in the period, which teaches about the assimilation of a professional, sectoral-geographical fighting tradition. King Asa of Judah (867-908 BC) had two hundred and eighty thousand "shield-bearers and archers from Benjamin" (Ibid., II 7:851) and in the army of Jehoshaphat King of Judah (867-17 BC) there were two hundred thousand "bowmen" ” from Benjamin (ibid. XNUMX:XNUMX). The numbers are obviously greatly exaggerated, and there is a research assumption, which has something to rely on, because the word "thousand" indicates the beginning of the word "man", and is drawn accordingly. Both two hundred and eighty archers and two hundred are certainly a reasonable number, relatively speaking, of a fighting force. Also take into account the limited size of the kingdom: the Jerusalem of Jehoshaphat's time was about the size of three existing neighborhoods within it, and the number of its inhabitants, in light of the archaeological data, reached no more than three thousand souls.
In any case, we have evidence of the creation of professional frameworks in the army, in accordance with the political-military policy of the royal leadership. It should be noted that the use of the bow spread with the introduction of the iron vehicle - the chariot - when the use of melee weapons, such as the bow and slingshot, minimized the possibilities of internal combat.
We will end with the biblical verse from the book of Lamentations: "Through his bow and set me up as a target for pressure" (Lamentations 12:12), and in the book taken from the book of Job: "And set me up for him for a target" (Job XNUMX:XNUMX).
So much for the biblical evidence regarding shooting bows on one side and shooting arrows at a target on the other, while highlighting the skill of the archers in the Judean armies after the order, the instruction-guideline, of David: "Teach the children of Judah a bow".
Let us now examine these veils in the perspective of the sources known to us from Egypt. Well, the use of the compound bow required a lot of training to develop the muscles, to place the feet and to coil the arrow while treading (see in general Yigal Yedin's book, The Theory of War in the Biblical Lands, 139, p. 57). To this end, special ranges were established, where trainers stood behind the trainees and corrected their posture and direction. All this so that the bow does not become a "bow of archery" (Isaiah 9:XNUMX) and that "his arrows like a learned hero will not return empty" (Jeremiah XNUMX:XNUMX) as the Bible says.
At first we practiced a normal bow, and only as the trainee progressed did he start practicing a complex bow. The right hand holding the bow was wrapped in a special forehead, made of leather, which protected it from the strong blow of the string when the arrow flew from it.
The targets were made of a rectangular wooden board, placed on top of a pole. Special targets, in which they sought to demonstrate the power of the compound bow, with its high penetrating power, were made of raw copper plates.
There is no doubt about it, that the excellent archers, those who fought under the banner of the kings of Judah, acquired their skill after training in shooting arrows at a target like the Egyptian archers. The biblical testimony about Jonathan shooting arrows at a target seems to have had precedents in the period before his time as well. However, the first appearance of this testimony during the time of Jonathan serves as the starting point in the biblical historical timeline, since it then spread and became widespread among the royal and aristocracy circles mainly, and later also among the archer units, such as those of the Benjaminites, who until then were known, as the story of the concubine's act on the hill, as the skilled Shooting with sling stones: "All this hits the hair with a stone and will not miss" (Judges 16:XNUMX). At that time they were also known as archers, and their professional skill dates back to the biblical days of David.
David's decree concerning the necessity of the instruction to use the bow ("to teach the children of Yehuda a bow"), alongside the testimony of Jonathan shooting arrows at the target, brings before us the image of the trainers, the professional instructors, who instructed their apprentices, as we know from both the Egyptian and the Assyrian testimonies.
The picture is perfected by the verse from the book of Lamentations: "Through his bow and steady as an object of pressure". Namely, shooting arrows at a fixed target, such as the vertical targets in ancient Egypt.
Furthermore, the mention of the verse in the book of Lamentations, not in the actual military context, but as a symbol, as an image, as a metaphor, points to the explosiveness of the phenomenon among the public, since the biblical author would not have found any point in bringing to the attention of the readers an image that does not align with their knowledge.
And to close the circle of the beginning of the discussed list: physical activity, sports, derives from combat, military activity, which becomes obsolete and slowly loses its original (military) foundations. The biblical period constitutes, therefore, a kind of historical timeline, in which a gradual process of the adoption of bows and its development and the creation of the basis for the next, later stage of sport archery takes place.

A compilation of Dr. Yechiam Sorek's articles on the Hidan site

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