Bible Encyclopedias

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

Sceptre; Scepter

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sep´tẽr ( שׁבט , shēbheṭ , שׁרביט , sharbhı̄ṭ , expanded form in Esther 4:11; Esther 5:2; Esther 8:4; ῥάβδος , rhábdos (Additions to Esther 15:11; Hebrews 1:8 ), σκῆπτρος , skḗptros ): A rod or mace used by a sovereign as a symbol of royal authority. The Hebrew shēbheṭ is the ordinary word for rod or club, and is used of an ordinary rod (compare 2 Samuel 7:14 ), of the shepherd's crook (Psalm 23:4 ), scribe's baton or marshal's staff (Judges 5:14 ), as well as of the symbol of royalty. Its symbolism may be connected with the use of the shēbheṭ for protection (2 Samuel 23:21; Psalm 23:4 ) or for punishment (Isaiah 10:24; Isaiah 30:31 ). It is used with reference to the royal line descended from Judah (Genesis 49:10 ), and figuratively of sovereignty in general and possibly of conquest ( Numbers 24:17 , in Israel; Isaiah 14:5 , in Babylonia; Amos 1:5 , Amos 1:8 , in Syria, among Philistines; Zechariah 10:11 , in Egypt), the disappearance or cutting off of him that holdeth the scepter being tantamount to loss of national independence. The kingship of Yahweh is spoken of as a scepter (Psalm 45:6 (Hebrew verse 7) quoted in Hebrews 1:8 ). The manner of using the scepter by an oriental monarch is suggested in the act of Ahasuerus, who holds it out to Esther as a mark of favor. The subject touches the top of it, perhaps simply as an act of homage or possibly to indicate a desire to be heard. The scepter of Ahasuerus is spoken of as "golden" (Esther 5:2 ), but it is probable that scepters were ordinarily made of straight branches (maṭeh ) of certain kinds of vines (Ezekiel 19:11 , Ezekiel 19:14 ).

It is sometimes difficult to determine whether the word shēbheṭ is used in figurative passages in the sense of scepter or merely in the ordinary sense of staff (e.g. Psalm 125:3 , the King James Version "rod," the Revised Version (British and American) and the American Standard Revised Version "sceptre" (of the wicked); Psalm 2:9 , "rod of iron"; Proverbs 22:8 , "rod of his wrath"). Another word, meḥōḳēḳ , literally, "prescribing" (person or thing), formerly translated uniformly "lawgiver," is now generally taken, on the basis of parallelism, to mean "sceptre" in four poetic passages (Genesis 49:10 , "ruler's staff" to avoid repetition; Numbers 21:18; Psalm 60:7; Psalm 108:8 ).

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

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