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The Israelites marched out of Egypt in military order. Each tribe formed a battalion, with its own banner and leader (Num. 2:2; 10:14).

In war, the army was divided into thousands and hundreds under their various captains (Num. 31:14), and also into families (Num. 2:34; 2 Chr. 25:5; 26:12).

From the time they entered the land of Canaan until the time of the kings, the Israelites made little progress in military affairs, although they were 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 (1 Sam. 13:2; 14:52; 24:2). David also had a band of soldiers around him (1 Sam. 23:13; 25:13). To this band, he later added the Cherethites and the Pelethites (2 Sam. 15:18; 20:7).

At first, the army consisted only of infantry (1 Sam. 4:10; 15:4), since the use of horses was prohibited (Deut. 17:16); but chariots and horses were later added (2 Sam. 8:4; 1 Kings 10:26, 28-29; 1 Kings 9:19).

In 1 Kings 9:22, a list of the various military ranks is provided. The equipment and maintenance of the army were at the public expense (2 Sam. 17:28-29; 1 Kings 4:27; 10:16-17; Judg. 20:10).

At the Exodus, the number of males above twenty years old, capable of bearing arms, was 600,000 (Exodus 12:37). In David’s time, it increased to 1,300,000 (2 Sam. 24:9).