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Bible Dictionaries

Holman Bible Dictionary

Governor

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(guhv' er nuhr) Generally an appointed civil official charged with the oversight of a designated territory.

The King James Version uses governor to translate a variety of Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek terms. These terms represent a wide range of meanings that encompass almost every form of leadership or oversight. For example governor is used of city and tribal leaders ( Judges 5:9; 1 Kings 22:26 ), rulers (Psalm 22:28 ), temple officials (Jeremiah 20:1 ), managers of households (John 2:8; Galatians 4:2 ), and even pilots of ships (James 3:4 ). Recent versions of the Bible have translated the Hebrew word more specifically with words like ruler, leader, prince, commander, chief officer, master, manager, trustee, and ethnarch. This has allowed governor to be used to describe those officials serving under a rule who have administrative responsibility for assigned territories or projects. Generally the governor exercised both law enforcement and judicial functions as a representative of his superior.

Old Testament. The most widely used term for governor in the Old Testament is the Accadian loanword pechah . This word first occurs in Ezra and Nehemiah as a title for Tattenai (KJV Tatnai), the Persian administrator of the province “beyond the River” (Ezra 5:3 ). Tattenai's response to Darius' decree (Ezra 6:13 ) is indicative of the governor's allegiance to the king and responsiveness to the king's command.

The title also is used of Sheshbazzar (Ezra 5:14 ) to describe his appointment as “governor of the Jews” (Ezra 6:7 ). Cyrus had commissioned him to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem at the end of the Babylonian exile. Nehemiah described his appointment by Artaxerxes I as “governor in the land of Judah” (Nehemiah 5:14 ). The prophet Haggai addressed his message to “Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah” (Haggai 1:1 ). Pechah is used of other leaders in the Old Testament as well (see 2 Kings 18:24; 2 Kings 20:24; Isaiah 36:9 ).

New Testament. The Greek word hegemon and its derivatives predominate in the New Testament occurrences of governor . The term often is used to describe Roman officials who exercised the tax and military authority of the emperor. Quirinius (Luke 2:2 ), Pontius Pilate (Luke 3:1; Matthew 27:2 ), Felix (Acts 23:24 ), and Porcius Festus (Acts 24:27 ) are specifically named. Joseph's rule in Egypt also is classified as that of a governor (Acts 7:10 ). Because governors are sent by the king “to punish evildoers and for the praise of them that do well” (1 Peter 2:13-14 ), believers are to submit to their authority. Sent out by Christ, however, Christians will be brought before governors and kings for judgment. Faithfulness in such situations will bear witness for His sake (Matthew 10:18 ).

Michael Fink

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Governor'. Holman Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hbd/g/governor.html. 1991.

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