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Bible Encyclopedias

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia


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rōōl´er .

1. In the Old Testament:

(1) משל , mōshēl , "ruler," "prince," "master" (tyrant), applied to Joseph in Egypt ( Genesis 45:8; compare Psalm 105:21 ); to the Philistines (Judges 15:11 ); to David's descendants, the future kings of Israel (2 Chronicles 7:18; compare Jeremiah 33:26 ); to Pharaoh (Psalm 105:20 ); to a wicked prince, a tyrant (Proverbs 28:15; compare Isaiah 14:5; Isaiah 49:7 ); to theocratic king, the Messiah (Micah 5:2 ); it is often used in general (Proverbs 6:7; Proverbs 23:1; Proverbs 29:12; Ecclesiastes 10:4; Isaiah 16:1 , etc.).

(2) נגיד , nāghı̄dh , "leader," "noble" (nobles), "prince." In a number of instances the Revised Version (British and American) renders it "prince," where the King James Version has ruler ( 1 Samuel 25:30; 2 Samuel 6:21; 1 Kings 1:35 , etc.). It is used of Azrikam having charge of the palace of King Ahaz (2 Chronicles 28:7 , "governor" of the house, the King James Version); of Azariah (Seraiah, Nehemiah 11:11 ), who is called the "ruler of the house of God" (1 Chronicles 9:11; compare 2 Chronicles 31:13 ); he was the leader of a division or group of priests. In 2 Chronicles 35:8 the names of three others are given (Hilkiah, Zechariah and Jehiel).

(3) נשׂיא , nāsı̄' , "prince" (so Numbers 13:2 , the King James Version "ruler"); generally speaking, the nāsı̄' is one of the public authorities (Exodus 22:28 ); the rulers of the congregation (Exodus 16:22; compare Exodus 34:31 ); "The rulers brought the onyx stones" (Exodus 35:27 ), as it was to be expected from men of their social standing and financial ability: "when a ruler (the head of a tribe or tribal division) sinneth" (Leviticus 4:22 ).

(4) סגן , ṣāghān , the representative of a king or a prince; a vice-regent; a governor; then, in the times of Ezra and Nehemiah, a leader or principal of the people of Jerusalem under the general supervision of these two men. The English Versions of the Bible renders it "ruler" ( Ezekiel 23:12 , Ezekiel 23:23 ), "deputy" (Jeremiah 51:23 , Jeremiah 51:28 , Jeremiah 51:57 ), and, in most cases, "ruler" with "deputy" in margin (Ezra 9:2; Nehemiah 2:16; Nehemiah 4:14 , Nehemiah 4:19; Nehemiah 5:7 , Nehemiah 5:17; Nehemiah 7:5; Nehemiah 12:40; Nehemiah 13:11; Isaiah 41:25; Ezekiel 23:6 ) always used in plural

(5) קצין , ḳācı̄n , "a judge" or "magistrate" ( Isaiah 1:10; Isaiah 3:6 , Isaiah 3:7; Isaiah 22:3; Micah 3:1 , Micah 3:9 ); "a military chief" (Joshua 10:24 ).

(6) רדה , rōdheh , one having dominion: "There is little Benjamin their ruler" ( Psalm 68:27 ); the meaning is obscure; still we may point to the facts that Saul, the first one to conquer the heathen (1 Samuel 14:47 f), came of this the smallest of all the tribes, and that within its boundaries the temple of Yahweh was erected.

(7) רוזן , rōzēn , a "dignitary," a "prince." "The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against Yahweh" ( Psalm 2:2 ); in the New Testament the word is rendered árchontes (Acts 4:26 ).

(8) שׂר , sar , "chief," "head"; prince, king; a nobleman having judicial or other power; a royal officer. The Revised Version (British and American) renders it frequently "prince": "rulers over my cattle" ("head-shepherds," Genesis 47:6 ); "rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds," etc. (Exodus 18:21 ); they had to be men of good character because they were endowed with judicial power (Exodus 18:22 ); in Deuteronomy 1:15 the rendering of English Versions of the Bible is captains," etc.; they were military leaders. "Zebul the ruler of the city" (of Shechem, Judges 9:30 ), meaning "governor" (compare 1 Kings 22:26; 2 Kings 23:8 ); "rulers (or captains; compare 1 Kings 16:9 ) of his (Solomon's) chariots" (1 Kings 9:22 ); the rulers of Jezreel (2 Kings 10:1 ) were, presumably, the ruler of the palace of the king and the ruler of the city of Samaria (compare 2 Kings 10:5 ). It is difficult to explain why they should be called the rulers of Jezreel; both Septuagint and Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) omit the word; "the rulers of the substance which was king David's" (1 Chronicles 27:31 ) overseers of the royal domain; "The rulers were behind all the house of Judah" (Nehemiah 4:16 ), the officers were ready to assume active command in case of an attack.

(9), (10) שׁלטון , shilṭōn , "a commander," "an officer": "the rulers of the provinces" ( Daniel 3:2 f); שלּיט , shallı̄ṭ , "a person in power," "a potentate" (Daniel 2:10 ); there seems to be little doubt that the Aramaic term is used as an adjective (compare the Revised Version margin); in Daniel 5:7 occurs the verb shelaṭ , "to have dominion," "he shall rule as the third in rank" (compare Daniel 5:16 , Daniel 5:29 ).

(11) מגן , māghēn , "shield": "Her rulers (shields) dearly love shame" ( Hosea 4:18 ). Perhaps we ought to read (with Septuagint) migge'ōnām , "their glory," and to translate it "they love shame more than their glory"; they would rather have a good (!) time than a good name.

2. In the Apocrypha:

(1) ἄρχων , árchōn , used of the "rulers" of the Spartans ( 1 Maccabees 14:20 ) and, in a general sense, of the priest Mattathias (1 Maccabees 2:17 ). the King James Version has the word also in a general sense in Sirach 41:18 (the Revised Version (British and American) "mighty man").

(2) ὴγούμενος , hēgoúmenos , "one leading the way." A quite general term, Sirach 10:2 (ruler of a city); 17:17 (of Gentile nations); 46:18 (of the Tyrians). Also 2:17 the King James Version (the Revised Version (British and American) "he that ruleth"), and Sirach 32:1 the Revised Version (British and American) ("ruler of a feast ," the King James Version "master").

(3) οἱ μεγιστάνες , hoi megistánes , a rare word found only in the plural, for "rulers of the congregation" ( Sirach 33:18 ). The same word in Mark 6:21 is translated "lords."

(4) 2 Maccabees 4:27 the King James Version for ἐπάρχος , epárchos (the Revised Version (British and American) "governor").

(5) The King James Version inserts the word without Greek equivalent in 1 Maccabees 6:14; 11:57; 2 Maccabees 13:2 .

3. In the New Testament:

(1) ἄρχων , árchōn , "a person in authority," "a magistrate" "a judge," "a prince"; a councilor, a member of the supreme council of the Jews; a man of influence. "There came a ruler" ( Matthew 9:18 ), meaning a ruler of the synagogue (compare Mark 5:22; Luke 8:41 ); see (2) below; "one of the rulers of the Pharisees" (Luke 14:1 ), perhaps a member of the Jewish council belonging, at the same time, to the Pharisees, or, more probably, one of the leading Pharisees; "the chief priests and the rulers" (Luke 23:13 , Luke 23:15; Luke 24:20; compare John 3:1; John 7:26 , John 7:48; John 12:42; Acts 3:17; Acts 4:5 , Acts 4:8; Acts 13:27; Acts 14:5 ); the rulers were, with the chief priests and the scribes, members of the Sanhedrin, either of two councils of the Jews (the Great and the Lesser); they were lay-members (elders); "before the rulers" (Acts 16:19 ), the police magistrates (praetores , "praetors") of the city of Philippi; "Thou shalt not speak evil of a ruler of thy people" (Acts 23:5; compare Exodus 22:28 , nāsı̄' ; see 1, (3) above), a magistrate, a person in authority (compare Acts 7:27 , Acts 7:35; Romans 13:3 , the public authorities); "the rulers of this world" (1 Corinthians 2:6 , 1 Corinthians 2:8 ), persons being mentally superior to their fellow-men, and so having great influence in shaping their opinions and directing their actions.

(2) ἀρχισυνάγωγος , archisunágōgos , "ruler of the synagogue." He was the presiding officer of a board of elders, who had charge of the synagogue. Sometimes they, also, were given the same name (compare "one of the rulers of the synagogue," Mark 5:22 , Mark 5:35; Luke 8:41 , Luke 8:49; in Matthew 9:18 Jairus is simply called archōn ); the ruler mentioned in Luke 13:14 was, of course, the president of the board (compare Acts 18:17 , Sosthenes), while in Acts 13:15 the phrase "rulers of the synagogue" simply signifies the board. It was a deliberative body, but at the same time responsible for the maintenance of good order in the synagogue and the orthodoxy of its members; having, therefore, disciplinary power, they were authorized to reprimand, and even to excommunicate, the guilty ones (compare John 9:22; John 12:42; John 16:2 ).

(3) αρχιτρίκλινος , architrı́klinos , the ruler ("steward," the Revised Version margin) of the feast ( John 2:8 , John 2:9 ). See separate article.

(4) κοσμοκράτωρ , kosmokrátōr , a "world-ruler" ( Ephesians 6:12 ). The angels of the devil (Matthew 25:41; Matthew 12:45 ) or Satan, the prince of this world (John 12:31 ), participate in his power; they are his tools, their sphere of action being "this darkness," i.e. the morally corrupt state of our present existence.

(5) πολιτάρχης , politárches ; the prefect of a city ( Acts 17:6 , Acts 17:8 ). Luke being the only one of the Biblical authors to hand down to us this word, it is a noteworthy fact that, in relatively modern times, a Greek inscription Was discovered containing this very word and, moreover, having reference to the city of Thessalonica (AJT , 1898, II, 598-643). Here it was where Paul and Silas preached the gospel so successfully that the Jews, "being moved with jealousy," caused Jason and certain brethren to be dragged before the rulers of the city (epı́ toús politárchas ). These magistrates suffered themselves to be made the tools of the unscrupulous Jews by demanding and getting security from Jason and the rest.

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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Ruler'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. 1915.

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