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Bible Dictionaries

Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words

Minister, Serve

A. Verb.

Shârath (שָׁרַת, Strong's #8334), “to minister, serve, officiate.” This word is a common term in Hebrew usage, ancient and modern, in various verbal and noun forms. It occurs in ancient Phoenician, and some see it in ancient Ugaritic as well. Shârath is found just under 100 times in the Hebrew Old Testament. The first time it is used in the Hebrew Bible is in the story of Joseph as he becomes the slave of Potiphar: “And Joseph found grace in his sight, and he served [RSV, “attended”] him …” (Gen. 39:4).

As a term for serving or ministering, shârath is to be distinguished from the term for more menial serving, ‘abad, from which the word meaning “slave” or “servant” is derived. Shârath is characteristically used of “serving” done by royal household workers (2 Sam. 13:17; 1 Kings 10:5). In the manner of the modern “public servant” idea, the word is used in reference to court officials and royal servants (1 Chron. 27:1; 28:1; Esth. 1:10).

Elisha “ministered” to Elijah (1 Kings 19:21). Foreign kings are “to minister” to God’s people (Isa. 60:10).

This term is used most frequently as the special term for service in worship. The Levitical priests “stand before the Lord to minister unto him” (Deut. 10:8). They also are “to stand before the congregation to minister unto them” (Num. 16:9). In the post-exilic temple, the Levites who had earlier “ministered” in idolatry will not be allowed “to serve” as priests but rather as maintenance workers in the temple (Ezek. 44:11-14).

B. Noun.

Shârath (שָׁרַת, Strong's #8334), “minister; servant.” The noun form of the verb appears several times meaning “minister” or “servant.” As Moses’ right-hand man Joshua is referred to as “minister” (KJV), “servant” (RSV, JB, NASB), “assistant” (NEB), or “aide” (NAB) in Exod. 24:13. Angels are God’s “ministers … that do his pleasure” (Ps. 103:21; cf. Ps. 104:4).

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Bibliography Information
Vines, W. E., M. A. Entry for 'Minister, Serve'. Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words. 1940.

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