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Officer

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

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Most, if not all, of the Hebrew and Greek words so rendered in the A. V. are either of an indefinite character, or are synonymous terms for functionaries known under other and more specific names. They are the following:

1. סָרַיס , saris (Genesis 37:36; Genesis 39:1; Genesis 40:2). The word usually designates a eunuch; and probably it ought always to be so understood. It is no valid objection to this that Potiphar had a wife, for eunuchs are not all strangers to the sexual passion, and sometimes live in matrimony (Sirach 20:4; Mishna, Jebamoth, 8:4; Juvenal, Sat. 1:22; Terence, Eun. 4:3, 23; Chardin, Voyages, 3:397). (See EUNUCH).

2. שֹׁטֵר, shoter, part. of שָׁטִר, to cut, to grave, properly a writer (Sept. γραμματεύς ), and, from the use of writing in judicial administration, a magistrate or praecet. It is used of the officers who were set over the Israelites in Egypt (Exodus v. 6-19); of the officers who were appointed along with the elders to administer the public affairs of the Israelites (Numbers 11:16; Deuteronomy 20:5; Deuteronomy 20:8-9; Deuteronomy 29:10; Deuteronomy 31:28; Joshua 1:10; Joshua 3:2; Joshua 8:33, etc.); of magistrates in the cities and towns of Palestine (Deuteronomy 16:18; Sept. γραμματοεισαγωγεῖς; 1 Chronicles 23:4; 1 Chronicles 26:29; 2 Chronicles 19:11; Proverbs 6:7 [A. V. "overseer"], etc.); and apparently also of a military chief (2 Chronicles 26:11 [A. V. "ruler"]). See below.

3. נַצָּב, nitstsab, part. Niph. of נָצִב, to set orplace,a praefect or director (1 Kings 4:5; 1 Kings 4:7; 5:30 [A.V. 1 Kings 5:16]; 1 Kings 9:23, etc.); and נְצַיב, netsib (1 Kings 4:7; 1 Kings 4:19). (See GOVERNOR).

4. רִב, rab (Esther 1:8; Daniel 1:3 [A. V. "master"]); Sept. οἰκόνομος. (See RAB).

5. פָּקַיד , pakid, from פָּקִד, to visit, Hiph. to set over, an overseer or magistrate (Genesis 41:34, Sept. τοπάρχης; Judges 9:28, Sept. ἐπίσκοπος ; Esther 2:3, Sept. κωμάρχης; 2 Chronicles 24:11, Sept. προστάτης ); and פְּקֻדָּה, pekuddah, properly office, but used collectively for a body of officers (Isaiah 60:17, Sept. ἄρχοντας; also 2 Chronicles 24:11 [A. V. "office"], Sept. προστάτας ).

6. עֹשֵׂי הִמְּלָאכָה, "those who did the business," marg. A.V., Sept. γραμματεῖς (Esther 9:3). (See MONARCHY, HEBREW).

In the N.T. the words translated "officer" are both employed of legal functionaries. They are: 1. ὑπηρέτης, a word of general significance, denoting one who renders service of any kind; it is used, with this rendering, of a functionary whose duty it was to apprehend offenders, or to exact legal penalties from those who had incurred them (Matthew 5:25 [for which Luke uses πράκτωρ , 12:58]; John 7:32; John 7:46; John 18:3; John 18:12; Acts 5:22); a messenger or bailiff; like the Roman viator or lictor. Josephus uses the word ὑπηρέτης of an officer two of whom, being Levites, were attached to each magistrate (Ant. 4:8, 14); but it is probable that these were rather clerks or assessors of the court than servants of the class above described. The Mishna also mentions the crier and other officials, but whether these answered to the officers of Josephus and the N.T. cannot be determined. Selden, from Maimonides, mentions the high estimation in which such officials were held (Sanhedr. 4:4; 6:1; Selden, De Synedr. 2:13, 11). 2. The πράκτωρ was properly the exactor of the penalty assigned by the judge, and so the word is correctly used by Luke (Luke 12:58). There were at Athens officers bearing this name, whose business it was to register and collect fines imposed by courts of justice; and "deliver to the officer" means, give in the name of the debtor to the officer of the court (Demosthenes [or Dinarchus] c. Theocr. p. 1218, Reiske; Smith, Dict. of Antiq. "Practores," "Hyperetes;" Jul. Poll. 8:114; Demosth. c. Arist. p. 778; AEsch. c. Timarch. p. 5; Grotius, on Luke 12:58). (See PUNISHMENT).

The most usual and specific of the above Hebrew words is shoterim' (שֹׁטְרַים ), which is best explained as the participle of an old verb, shatar' (שָׁטִר ), that still appears in the Arabic, meaning to engrave, to mark upon anything; hence to write, and from the common use of scribes in the East, and especially in Egypt (see Wilkinson, Anc.' Egypt. 2:176 sq., Harper's ed.), in all matters of agency, superintendence, and public business, the word naturally passes into the more general meaning of agent or officer (comp. Hengstenberg, Pentat. 1:449 sq.). In English, and other Western languages, words of kindred signification originally have acquired the same latitude of meaning. (See CLERK); (See WRITING). These scribes or officers first appear in Egypt as Hebrews appointed to supervise the task of their brethren, and made responsible for its full completion (Exodus 5:6; Exodus 5:14-15; Exodus 5:19). Those only were adapted to this task who, by their skill in writing, were competent to keep lists and tables of persons and their work. Their duties are well illustrated by many groups on the extant Egyptian monuments, in which the scribe is seen registering the workmen engaged in various employments (see Wilkinson, Anc. Egypt. 2:282 sq.). The elders of the people, while in the wilderness, were appointed officers (Numbers 11:16; Deuteronomy 29:10; Deuteronomy 31:28), and at the exode each tribe had its own "officers" (Deuteronomy 1:15; comp. 20:5), who, under Joshua, were the medium of communication between the commander-in-chief and their respective tribes (Joshua 1:10; Joshua 3:2), and at different times several classes of functionaries are enumerated, the officers (שֹׁטְרַים ) being generally the last mentioned (Joshua 8:33; Joshua 23:2; Joshua 24:1). The law indeed had already ordained (Deuteronomy 16:18) that on the settlement in the promised land "officers and judges" should be appointed in every city; and David seems to have appointed them from among the Levites (1 Chronicles 23:4; 1 Chronicles 26:29; comp. 2 Chronicles 19:11). Other "officers" are mentioned under David (1 Chronicles 27:1) as engaged in the services of the court, perhaps a kind of chamberlains; but in connection with the army (2 Chronicles 26:11) not only scribes ( סֹפְרַים (See SCRIBE) ), but also rulers or officers (שֹׁטְרַים ) were employed. None of these, however, are mentioned in the books of Kings. It is clear that although in these passages the Hebrew term shoterim' in no case refers to mere subordinates engaged in menial duties, as lictors, beadles, etc. (the view of Fuller, Misc. Sacr. 3:19; Selden, De Synedr. 1:15), yet officers of various kinds are denoted by it, especially those whose duties required the keeping of registers and tables. It answers well, accordingly, to the Greek term for a scribe, γραμματεύς, and to the English word clerk (comp. Wachsmuth, Hellen. Alterthumnsk. 1:829 sq.). It cannot, however, be proved that these officers among the Hebrews had the peculiar charge of the genealogical tables (as Michaelis, Mos. R. p. 281; Jahn, Archaeol. II, 1:62; Hengstenberg, ut sup.), although this duty accords well with the proper meaning of the term. Scribes must, of course, have enrolled the army; but it remains uncertain whether these enlisting officers were permanently connected with the army. (See CENSUS); (See SECRETARY).

Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Officer'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​o/officer.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
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