Q: #152. What is an armorbearer? What are their requirements?
By: Steve Shirley
A: The word "armorbearer" (Hebrew words: bearer = "nacah" [to lift up or carry] armor = "kliy" [weapons]) is used 18 times in the Old Testament. An armorbearer was simply someone who carried the weapons their masters would need in battle. He would stay by his master's side during the fight, and sometimes had the duty of "finishing off" those who had been wounded, but not killed.
Only four men are shown with armorbearers in the Bible: Abimelech, Jonathan, Joab, and Goliath (although there were certainly many more). Sadly, in two of the four instances, the armorbearers were asked by their masters to help them commit suicide:
Abimelech asked his armorbearer to kill him after a woman dropped a millstone onto his head from a tower, "crushing his skull." He did not want it to be said " A woman slew (killed) him" (Judg 9:54).
King Saul also asked his armorbearer to help him commit suicide after being "wounded by the archers" in battle. He did not want his enemies to "abuse him." His armorbearer was afraid to do that, so "Saul took a sword, and fell upon it. When his armorbearer saw that Saul was dead, he fell likewise upon his sword, and died with him" (1 Sam 31:4-6)(1 Chr 10:4-5).
The requirements for being an armorbearer were simply loyalty and love for their master, and bravery in battle.
Jonathan's armorbearer showed all three of these traits (1 Sam 14:6-14).
Joab's armorbearer was named "Naharai the Beerothite," and he was actually one of David's thirty "mighty men of valor" (2 Sam 23:24,37)(1 Chr 11:26,39).
David was also King Saul's armorbearer at one time. He loved Saul greatly and found favor in Saul's sight (1 Sam 16:21-22).
Goliath's armorbearer was actually called a "shield-bearer." He had the task of walking in front of Goliath with his shield to protect him (1 Sam 17:7,41). (He should have held it higher.)
Once chariots were invented, armorbearers were no longer needed in battle.
Some people today use the word "armorbearer" to describe someone who comes along side their boss or spiritual leader, helping and supporting them (i.e. "carrying the load") in their "daily battle in the workplace."