Real horses, as opposed to symbolic horses which we will deal with in a moment, were etched into the Hebraic mindset early on as representing the worldly power of Egypt and its armies.
Ex 15:1 (NIV) Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord: "I will sing to the Lord, for he is highly exalted. The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea."Horses are used in the main to represent a carnal strength, a trusting in flesh; relied on by the enemies of God to their peril. Along this line:
Dt 17:16a (NIV) The king, moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself.In the modern sense, a good equivalent for horses would be money. It is that which we put our confidence, our hope... outside of (or in competition with) the Lord.
Ps 20:7 (NIV) Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
Ps 33:17 (NIV) A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save.
Isa 31:1 (NIV) Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or seek help from the Lord.
Isa 30:16 (NIV) "You said, 'No, we will flee on horses.' Therefore you will flee! You said, 'We will ride off on swift horses.' Therefore your pursuers will be swift!"
Beyond "horses" in plural, a real, individual horse is used as a negative image of the spiritually dull person--along with the mule and donkey--as one who does not (or cannot) understand the will of the Lord.
Ps 32:9 (NIV) Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.In any case, the main text concerning horses in scripture was mentioned above, but here in a fuller context.
Pr 26:3 (NIV) A whip for the horse, a halter for the donkey, and a rod for the backs of fools!
Jer 8:6 (NIV) I have listened attentively, but they do not say what is right. No one repents of his wickedness, saying, "What have I done?" Each pursues his own course like a horse charging into battle.
Ps 20:6-8 (NRS) Now I know that the Lord will help his anointed; he will answer him from his holy heaven with mighty victories by his right hand. Some take pride in chariots, and some in horses, but our pride is in the name of the Lord our God. They will collapse and fall, but we shall rise and stand upright.Other interesting uses of horses in the Bible are when Elijah runs faster than Ahab's horse and chariot all the way to Jezreel(1Ki 18:46, Ps 147:10-11). Consider as well Haman's thought to glorify himself by riding a horse through the city in Ester 6, where the king bestows this honor on Mordecai instead. Also, Jesus rides into Jerusalem not on a horse (at least the first time) but on a donkey (Jn 12:14).
Spiritual, or heavenly horses represent judgment, and usually dramatic judgment for the sake of violent purification. The movie "Fellowship of the Rings" from "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy visually conveys this sense of dreadful horses rather well with the wraith-riders. They are a portent of bad things to come. In scripture, the symbolic horse generally represents a particular aspect or agent of punishment or plague. In Rev 6, we get a taste of things to come in terms of horses riding out with the first "seals".
In Rev 19:11-15, Jesus appears in ultimate judgment on a white horse with "His robe dipped in blood", a violent and fearsome image of God's ultimate purging wrath being poured out on rebellious mankind. The following verses should give the gist.
Zec 1:8 (NIV) During the night I had a vision--and there before me was a man riding a red horse! He was standing among the myrtle trees in a ravine. Behind him were red, brown and white horses. I asked, "What are these, my lord?" The angel who was talking with me answered, "I will show you what they are." Then the man standing among the myrtle trees explained, "They are the ones the Lord has sent to go throughout the earth." ...This is what the Lord Almighty says: 'I am very jealous for Jerusalem and Zion, but I am very angry with the nations that feel secure. I was only a little angry, but they added to the calamity.'" ...Then I looked up--and there before me were four horns! I asked the angel who was speaking to me, "What are these?" He answered me, "These are the horns that scattered Judah, Israel and Jerusalem."
Zec 14:12-20 (NIV) This is the plague with which the Lord will strike all the nations that fought against Jerusalem: Their flesh will rot while they are still standing on their feet, their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths. On that day men will be stricken by the Lord with great panic. Each man will seize the hand of another, and they will attack each other... A similar plague will strike the horses and mules, the camels and donkeys, and all the animals in those camps. Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the Lord Almighty... This will be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. On that day HOLY TO THE Lord will be inscribed on the bells of the horses, and the cooking pots in the Lord's house will be like the sacred bowls in front of the altar.
Rev 6:2-8 (NIV) I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest. When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, "Come!" Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other. To him was given a large sword. When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, "Come!" I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, "A quart of wheat for a day's wages, and three quarts of barley for a day's wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!" When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, "Come!" I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.
Rev 19:11-21 (NIV) I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. "He will rule them with an iron scepter." He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty... The rest of them were killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh.