Aaron Chambers is a professor and administrator at Tabor Adelaide.
Technology by Aaron Chalmers: When horses and chariots were new
In the world of ancient Israel horses and chariots were a relatively new military technology, having made their debut in Egypt and the Hittite kingdom during the mid-second millennium BC. Overall, however, the OT displays an ambivalent, if not openly hostile, attitude towards them. Why? Is the OT simply anti-technology? Or is there more at work?
Perhaps the main and best-known reason for this negative perspective is the potential for idolatry which such technology embodies. All too often, Israel was tempted to place its trust in such force of arms, rather than the Lord himself who had promised to protect and deliver the people (cf. Ps 20: 7 and Isa 31: 1).
How is technology idolatrous? How is it oppressive? How is it liberating? What are you doing to make technology a force for freedom?
Walter Brueggemann, however, has suggested another possible reason for the OT’s antagonistic stance towards such military accouterment based on a sociological reading of the text of the OT. He argues that horses and chariots were characteristically connected with Canaanite (and Israelite) inequitable and exploitative royal power and thus “symbolize and embody oppression. They function only to impose harsh control on some by others…horse and chariot are tools of domination” (“Revelation and Violence: A Study in Contextualization,” in A Social Reading of the Old Testament, p. 300, 303).
This recognition of the social dimensions of technology and, in particular, its potential for use as a tool of oppression raises important considerations for how we approach technology.
In addition to considering how such developments might impact our relationship with God (the issue of idolatry), we also need to consider how it could impact our relationship with our neighbor (the issue of oppression), and especially the potential social costs that might be involved. Of course, the wonderful thing about many recent technological developments (e.g. the internet, lap-tops, smart phones and social media) is that they have the potential to democratize information, thereby helping to liberate rather than oppress people as well as subverting attempts at domination by others.