Horse make their appearance in Scripture as early as Genesis 47:17, where they are mentioned among the possessions the Egyptians handed over to Joseph in exchange for food to survive the seven-year famine. An earlier reference to horses may be found in God’s words to Job about the wonders of creation that humans cannot duplicate: Can you give strength to a horse or dress its neck with a flowing mane? Can you make it leap like a locust, when its snorting causes terror? It paws in strength and finds joy in its power. It charges into battle.
It laughs at fear, is afraid of noting, and doesn’t back away from swords. A quiver of arrows rattles on it along with the flashing spear and javelin. Anxious and excited, the horse eats up the ground and doesn’t trust the sound of the ram’s horn.
As often as the horn sounds, the horse says, “Aha!” and it smells the battle far away- the thundering orders of the captains and the battle cries. (Job 39:19-25)
Horses are thus a symbol of God’s creative power, an example of the beauty and strength of his creatures.
STRENGTH AND HUMAN INGENUITY
Mounted warriors occasionally had a role to play, but in biblical warfare, horses were primarily used to draw chariots into battle. Because of that military connection, horses are symbols of might that God says are not to be trusted above him: “Some rely on chariots and others on horses, but we will boast in the name of the LORD our God” (Ps 20:7). That is why Israelite kings were forbidden to amass an army of horses (Deut 17:16; 20:1).
The Lord’s superiority over all humans strength is symbolized by the fact that he will destroy the horses of his enemies (Jer 50:37; Mic 5:10; Hag 2:22; Zech 10:5; 12:4; 14:15). In his final rule over the earth, war-horses will disappear because there will be no need for them during his eternal reign of peace (Zech 9:10).
Much like today, horsepower was considered both a luxury of the wealthy and a military necessity. King David gained many horses as a result of his victories in war. King Solomon collected horses and built lavish housing for them (2 Chron 1:16; 9:24-28), though he was merely projecting military power, since his father had left him harem, were indications that wisdom alone, without continual fear of the Lord, will not prevent a person from drifting into a life that loses its central purpose.
Apart from Revelation, the only other clear mention of horse in the New Testament is James 3:3 (though Acts 23 records that Paul may well have ridden on horseback to travel from Jerusalem to Caesarea, the first leg of his journey to Rome). James uses the ability to direct a horse by means of a bit and bridle to symbolize the way controlling the tongue of a human being has a way of controlling the rest of the person. The picture is both humorous and truthful.
ROLE IN THE FINAL JUDGMENT
The most famous horses in the Bible are the horses of Revelation. These are all warhorses, and they signal the final war, the ending of history as we know it on this side of eternity. Four of them appear in John’s vision in Revelation 6. Each horse is a different color (white, red, black, and pale), and each one symbolizes a form of judgment and disaster that falls on the earth at the close of history. These horse and their riders are known as the four horsemen of the Apocalypse who “kill people using wars, famines plagues, and the wild animals on the earth” (Rev 6:8). But a fifth horse, also white-and followed by a huge herd of white horses-appears in Revelation 19:11-16. This is one of the truly majestic descriptions of Jesus Christ in his glory:
I saw heaven standing open. There was a white horse, and its rider is named Faithful and True. With integrity he judges and wages war. His eyes are flames of fire. On his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him, but only he knows what it is. He wears clothes dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God.
The armies of heaven, wearing pure, white linen, follow him on white horses. A sharp sword comes out of his mouth to defeat the nations. He will rule them with an iron scepter and tread the winepress of the fierce anger of God Almighty. On his clothes and his thigh he has a name written: King of kings and Lord of lords.
This horse is a continuation of imagery introduced in the Old Testament where God is a warrior with supernatural horsepower: “You march with your horses into the sea, into the mighty raging waters” (Hab 3:15).