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Bible Dictionaries
Elder; Aged

Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words

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Zâqên (זָקֵן, Strong's #2204, זָקֵן, Strong's #2205), “old man; old woman; elder; old.” Zâqên occurs 174 times in the Hebrew Old Testament as a noun or as an adjective. The first occurrence is in Gen. 18:11: “Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.” In Gen. 19:4, the word “old” is used as an antonym of “young”: “But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young [na’ar “young man”], all the people from every quarter” (cf. Josh. 6:21). A similar usage of zâqên and “young” appears in other Bible references: “But [Rehoboam] forsook the counsel of the old men, which they had given him, and consulted with the young men [yeled, “boy; child”] that were grown up with him …” (1 Kings 12:8). “Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance, both young men [bachur] and old together: for I will turn their mourning into joy, and will comfort them, and make them rejoice from their sorrow” (Jer. 31:13). The “old man” is described as being advanced in days (Gen. 18:11), as being satisfied with life or full of years. A feminine form of zâqên refers to an “old woman” (zâqênah). The word zâqên has a more specialized use with the sense of “elder” (more than 100 times). The “elder” was recognized by the people for his gifts of leadership, wisdom, and justice. He was set apart to administer justice, settle disputes, and guide the people of his charge. Elders are also known as officers (shotrim), heads of the tribes, and judges; notice the parallel usage: “Joshua called for all Israel, and for their elders and for their heads, and for their judges, and for their officers, and said unto them; I am old and stricken in age …” (Josh. 23:2). The “elders” were consulted by the king, but the king could determine his own course of action (1 Kings 12:8). In a given city, the governing council was made up of the “elders,” who were charged with the well-being of the town: “And Samuel did that which the Lord spake, and came to Bethlehem. And the elders of the town trembled at his coming, and said, Comest thou peaceably?” (1 Sam. 16:4). The elders met in session by the city gate (Ezek. 8:1). The place of meeting became known as the “seat” or “council” (KJV, “assembly”) of the elders (Ps. 107:32).

The Septuagint gives the following translations: presbutera (“man of old; elder; presbyter”), presbutes (“old man; aged man”), gerousia (“council of elders”). The KJV gives various translations of zâqên “old; elder; old man; ancient.” Note that the KJV distinguishes between “elder” and “ancient”; whenever the word zâqên does not apply to age or to rule, the KJV uses the word “ancient.”

Zâqên means “beard.” The word zâqên refers to a “beard” in Ps. 133:2: “It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments.…” The association of “old age” with a “beard” can be made, but should not be stressed. The verb zâqên (“to be old”) comes from this noun.

Bibliography Information
Vines, W. E., M. A. Entry for 'Elder; Aged'. Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​vot/​e/elder-aged.html. 1940.
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