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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible


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OFFICER . By this somewhat indefinite expression are rendered some eight or ten different Heb. and Gr. words, several of which seem to have had an equally wide application. Of the Heb. words the commonest is shôtçr , from a root which in Assyrian means ‘to write.’ The shôtçr , accordingly, was originally, it would seem, a subordinate official attached to the higher military, civil, and judicial officers of the State for secretarial purposes (see Driver’s summary of their duties in his Com. on Deuteronomy 1:15 ). In the narrative of the oppression of the Hebrews in Egypt, the ‘officers’ are the Hebrew subordinates of the Egyptian taskmasters (see Exodus 5:14 ); one of their duties, it may be assumed, was to keep account of the tale of bricks made by each of their compatriots.

In Genesis 37:36 and elsewhere ‘officer’ is the tr. [Note: translate or translation.] of the usual word for ‘ eunuch ’ (wh. see), but, as Genesis 39:1 shows, the original ( sârîs ) must here signify, more generally, a court official. Still another word, rendered ‘officer’ in 1 Kings 4:5 ; 1 Kings 4:7 etc., denotes the heads of the twelve administrative districts into which Solomon divided his kingdom, corresponding some what to the ‘collectors’ in our Indian administration.

In NT ‘officer’ is, with one exception (Luke 12:58 ), the tr. [Note: translate or translation.] of a Gr. word of equally wide application. In the account of our Lord’s betrayal and capture the ‘officers’ are members of the Temple police ( John 7:32 etc.), as also in the account of the imprisonment of Peter and John ( Acts 5:22 ; Acts 5:26 ; cf. Acts 4:1 ). The same word is elsewhere rendered ‘minister,’ either in the more general sense of ‘attendant’ (so Acts 13:6 RV [Note: Revised Version.] ), or in the special sense of the ‘minister’ (RV [Note: Revised Version.] ‘attendant’) or officer of the Jewish synagogue ( Luke 4:20 ), for whom see Synagogue.

A. R. S. Kennedy.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Officer'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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