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Bible Dictionaries

Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words

Reign

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Mâlak (מָלַךְ, 4427), “to reign, be king (or queen).” This root appears in most Semitic languages, although it means “advice” and “counsel” in Akkadian (and biblical Aramaic) and “own” exclusively in Ethiopic (and old South Arabic). In the Northwest Semitic dialects the root has a common meaning. The verbal form occurs in every period of Hebrew and about 350 times in the Bible.

Basically the word means to fill the functions of ruler over someone. To hold such a position was to function as the commander-in-chief of the army, the chief executive of the group, and to be an important, if not central, religious figure. The king was the head of his people and, therefore, in battle were the king to be killed, his army would disperse until a new king could be chosen. The first appearance of mâlak is in Gen. 36:31: “And these are the kings that reigned in the land of Edom, before there reigned any king over the children of Israel.” The king “reigned” as the earthly representative of the god (or God) who was recognized as the real king. Thus, he was considered to be god’s (God’s) son. This same idea recurs in Israel (Ps. 2:6). In Israel, too, God was the King: “The Lord shall reign for ever and ever” (Exod. 15:18). That the word can also be used of what a queen does when she “reigns” proves that it refers to the function of anyone in the office of king: “And he was with her hid in the house of the Lord six years. And Athaliah did reign over the land” (2 Kings 11:3).

Mâlak can also be used of the idea “to become king”—someone was made, or made himself, a king: “And Bela died, and Jobab the son of Zerah of Bozrah reigned in his stead” (Gen. 36:33). This verb can be used of the assumption of a kingly reign, or of “beginning to reign”: “Saul reigned one year; and when he had reigned two years over Israel …” (1 Sam. 13:1; cf. Prov. 30:22). Finally, the verb is used of receiving the title of queen (or king) whether or not one receives any political or military power. So it was said: “And let the maiden which pleaseth the king be queen instead of Vashti” (Esth. 2:4).

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Bibliography Information
Vines, W. E., M. A. Entry for 'Reign'. Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/vot/r/reign.html. 1940.

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