Hannibal and his war elephants had crossed the Alps into Italy. He was leading a force of 90,000 infantry and 12,000 cavalry—not to mention the elephants! All of Italy was in peril. In Rome the senators debated what to do about the invasion. The wisest plan seemed to be to wait and let Hannibal wear himself out fighting his way down the peninsula.
Flaminius, however, was not persuaded. As co-ruler of the Roman republic, he was simply not going to let Hannibal and his elephants bring the war that close to the imperial city. So he commanded the tribunes to prepare the army of Rome to march, and he himself would courageously lead them forth. As he sprang upon his horse, however, “for no apparent reason, and unaccountably, the animal was seized with quivering fright” and poor Flaminius was thrown unceremoniously to the ground.
The Greek word for that horse being “seized with fright” was pturo (PTUR oh). Another way to translate it is that the horse got “spooked.” This same word is found in the New Testament, in Philippians 1:28. There the Philippian believers, facing the same kind of persecution Paul had endured, were told to stand firm, without “being frightened” (“spooked”}in any way by those who opposed them.
We can learn a lesson from skittish horses, which usually get frightened by things that can’t actually hurt them. Likewise, we get “spooked” too easy, and for no apparent reason. If God is for us, who can be against us? If we are empowered by the strength of his might, whom then should we fear? When we can face the enemy without fear, Paul said, it is proof that they are losing and we are being saved.