29 So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah went up to Ramoth-gilead. 30 And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, I will disguise myself, and enter into the battle; but put thou on thy robes. And the king of Israel disguised himself, and went into the battle. 31 But the king of Syria commanded his thirty and two captains that had rule over his chariots, saying,…
Note the bolded sentence. This is what I was saying that the “32 kings” and the “32 captains” are the same guys. “Kings” here seems to mean “commanders of high rank”, the equivalent of colonels or brigadier generals.
And these bad boys have “rule over his chariots”. So, maybe they have their own very expensive chariots. That’s 32 chariots for the field commanders. And maybe some of their lieutenants have hand-me-down chariots too. But not whole divisions of chariots the way the Egyptians would have had. Instead it’s maybe 64 or so chariots spread around the infantry battle array.
This is just an impression based more on what I’ve read about Egyptian and Assyrian battle order than anything I’ve been able to find about Levantine armies, but my sense of it this:
* Chariots are really expensive to acquire and maintain and not all that effective in this hill country. They are more status machines than effective armament, given the conditions. In hilly terrain, archers who have been trained from birth to shoot accurately (to bring home deer or gazelle) would be far more effective arrayed in clusters in battle (or hidden in ambush).
* But chariots are not yet obsolete. Not entirely. In some situations those chariots would still be effective or Ahab wouldn’t have had 2000 of them to bring to the party at Quarquar. Every self-respecting kingdom has to have them just b/c the other guy has them too. It’s a declining arms race. They’re kind of like battleships were in the Second World War. After Pearl it was evident to every navy in the world battleships were no longer the primary naval capital weapon, but every country with a navy continued to build them till the war was over. Instead of using them to duel with other battleships as they were intended, they were instead used to defend the much more important air craft carrier.
* Ben-Hadad has to have an effective standing army. He’s wedged between Assyria with it’s own large, dangerous standing army and the NK which is a growing power in its own right. So BH is no slouch. His guys are trained and effective. But his tactics are mostly geared for the flat-country terrain that composes his kingdom and that of his most dangerous adversary, the Assyrians.
* Even tho Omri and later Ahab maintain chariots, they have to have a more versatile army. They fight in the hills and mountains of the Levant against Phillistines, Moabites and, occasionally, Judeans. So they devote enough time and training to chariots to be ready for threats like the Assyrians or BH, but they don’t gear their tactics so much to flat terrain styled fighting. Maybe they’re beginning to perfect cavalry tactics. Using horsemen to scout and form small raiding parties and such.
Don’t know. Can’t vouch for most of that. Just impressions about how a small kingdom like the NK might have still been an effective player nestled between the giants of their time. Whatever they were doing, it worked for a while. The Omirides get honorable mention on enough foreign chronicles that we know they were a force to be reckoned with.