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2 Samuel 23:37

Naharai the Beerothite, the armor-bearer of Joab son of Zeruiah,

What exactly does an armor-bearer do? How can he be a mighty man?

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While an ordinary foot soldier would often have to carry his own equipment and supplies, it was not uncommon for a man of higher rank to employ a servant to carry things for him.

A description of Israelite armor is given by James Moyer:

Armour included the helmet for the head, scale armour, coats of mail, the breastplate for the body and greaves to cover the shins. The foot soldier also carried a shield to cover any unprotected parts of his body. An armour-bearer or shield-bearer could also be employed to carry the soldier’s weapons and his shield.

"Mighty men" comes from the Hebrew גִּבּוֹר (gibbor), indicating one who was valiant, a champion, a hero (see Strong's 1368 here).

The descriptions of other men in this chapter who were referred to as such indicates that they had proven themselves to be effective, reliable, noteworthy soldiers. An armor bearer like Naharai would spend his time alongside a leader and could be a valuable "right-hand" man (e.g. Judges 9:54). As noted by Dottard, this included the role of bodyguard.

We do not know the detailed accomplishments of all of the mighty men in this chapter, but they were apparently trusted and effective in the responsibilities they were given.

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With only some relatively infrequent exceptions, most ancient armies consisted entirely of infantry. [Cavalry and chariots were occasionally used but very little in Israel.] Thus, the ancient armies were essentially skilled in hand-to-hand combat. [Yes, archers and slingers were sometimes used as well.]

Thus, Joab, as chief of the army would have been a skilled fighter and swordsman and had 10 "armour-bearers", 2 Sam 18:15. Naharai the Beerothite was possibly their leader.

As the name implies, an armour-bearer had two essential tasks:

  • to assist his master in fighting by carrying either extra weapons and a shield
  • to act as a body-guard for his master using the shield and other weapons in battle

Obviously, such men would need to be good soldiers in their own right. because Joab was the chief commander of the army, he was allocated 10 armor-bearers. In the middle ages, such a person might be called a "squire", usually to accompany a knight.

The Easton's Bible dictionary provides this explanation for "Armourbearer":

An officer selected by kings and generals because of his bravery, not only to bear their armour, but also to stand by them in the time of danger. They were the adjutants of our modern armies (Judges 9:54; 1 Samuel 14:7; 16:21; 31:6).

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2 Samuel 23 : [37] reveals an interesting scribal [correction] or "Ketiv-[Qere]" notation in the Masoretic Text to state the exact title : the "Tool-[Bearer]" | [Nose]-Klei (נשאי [נֹשֵׂ֕א] כְּלֵ֖י).

"Zelek the Ammonite, Naharai the Beerothite 'the Equipment-[Bearer]' of Joab son of Zeruiah" (צֶ֖לֶק הָעַמֹּנִ֑י (ס) נַחְרַי֙ הַבְּאֵ֣רֹתִ֔י נשאי [נֹשֵׂ֕א] כְּלֵ֖י יוֹאָ֥ב בֶּן־צְרֻיָֽה)

A "Ketiv-Qere" notation, the original Ketiv form of a word written was written as "נשאי" but the following Qere form "נֹשֵׂ֕א" is recited instead.

  • "Nose" (נֹשֵׂ֕א) in its corrected Qere form means "Bearer" or "Carrier", from the verb '[he] bore | "nasa" (נָשָׂא).
  • "Klei" (כְּלֵ֖י) refers to Tools like Equipment.

[https://www.sefaria.org/II_Samuel.23.37?lang=bi&with=Commentary&lang2=en]

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