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NAVE: Captain
EBD: Captain
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Captain [EBD]

(1.) Heb. sar (1 Sam. 22:2; 2 Sam. 23:19). Rendered "chief," Gen. 40:2; 41:9; rendered also "prince," Dan. 1:7; "ruler," Judg. 9:30; "governor,' 1 Kings 22:26. This same Hebrew word denotes a military captain (Ex. 18:21; 2 Kings 1:9; Deut. 1:15; 1 Sam. 18:13, etc.), the "captain of the body-guard" (Gen. 37:36; 39:1; 41:10; Jer. 40:1), or, as the word may be rendered, "chief of the executioners" (marg.). The officers of the king's body-guard frequently acted as executioners. Nebuzar-adan (Jer. 39:13) and Arioch (Dan. 2:14) held this office in Babylon.

The "captain of the guard" mentioned in Acts 28:16 was the Praetorian prefect, the commander of the Praetorian troops.

(2.) Another word (Heb. katsin) so translated denotes sometimes a military (Josh. 10:24; Judg. 11:6, 11; Isa. 22:3 "rulers;" Dan. 11:18) and sometimes a civil command, a judge, magistrate, Arab. kady, (Isa. 1:10; 3:6; Micah 3:1, 9).

(3.) It is also the rendering of a Hebrew word (shalish) meaning "a third man," or "one of three." The LXX. render in plural by tristatai; i.e., "soldiers fighting from chariots," so called because each war-chariot contained three men, one of whom acted as charioteer while the other two fought (Ex. 14:7; 15:4; 1 Kings 9:22; comp. 2 Kings 9:25). This word is used also to denote the king's body-guard (2 Kings 10:25; 1 Chr. 12:18; 2 Chr. 11:11) or aides-de-camp.

(4.) The "captain of the temple" mentioned in Acts 4:1 and 5:24 was not a military officer, but superintendent of the guard of priests and Levites who kept watch in the temple by night. (Comp. "the ruler of the house of God," 1 Chr. 9:11; 2 Chr. 31:13; Neh. 11:11.)

(5.) The Captain of our salvation is a name given to our Lord (Heb. 2:10), because he is the author and source of our salvation, the head of his people, whom he is conducting to glory. The "captain of the Lord's host" (Josh. 5:14, 15) is the name given to that mysterious person who manifested himself to Abraham (Gen. 12:7), and to Moses in the bush (Ex. 3:2, 6, etc.) the Angel of the covenant. (See ANGEL.)

Captain [NAVE]

Commander-in-chief of an army, Deut. 20:9; Judg. 4:2; 1 Sam. 14:50; 1 Kin. 2:35; 16:16; 1 Chr. 27:34.
Of the tribes, Num. 2.
Of thousands, Num. 31:48; 1 Sam. 17:18; 1 Chr. 28:1.
Of hundreds, 2 Kin. 11:15.
See: Centurion.
Of fifties, 2 Kin. 1:9; Isa. 3:3.
Of the guard, Gen. 37:36; 2 Kin. 25:8.
Of the ward, Jer. 37:13.
Signifying any commander, as 1 Sam. 9:16; 22:2; 2 Kin. 20:5; leader, 1 Chr. 11:21; 12:34; 2 Chr. 17:14-19; John 18:12.
David's captains, or chief heroes, 2 Sam. 23; 1 Chr. 11, 12.
King appoints, 1 Sam. 18:13; 2 Sam. 17:25; 18:1.
Angel of the Lord, called, Josh. 5:14; 2 Chr. 13:12.
Christ called, Heb. 2:10.
See: Armies.


  1. As a purely military title, "captain" answers to sar in the Hebrew army and tribune in the Roman. The captain of the guard in (Acts 28:16) was probably the prefectus pratorio .
  2. Katsin , occasionally rendered captain, applies Sometimes to a military, (Joshua 10:24; Judges 11:6,11; Isaiah 22:3; Daniel 11:18) sometimes to a civil command, e.g. (Isaiah 1:10; 3:6)
  3. The captain of the temple, mentioned (Luke 22:4; Acts 4:1; 5:24) superintended the guard of priests and Levites who kept watch by night in the temple.


CAPTAIN - kap'-tin: In the King James Version there are no fewer than 13 Hebrew words, and 4 different Greek words, which are rendered by this one English word. In the Revised Version (British and American) some of these are rendered by other English words, and so we find for "captain": "marshal" (Jer 27; Nah 3:17), "prince" (1 Sam 9:16), "governor" (Jer 51:23,18), while in the case of one of these Hebrew words a different construction is found altogether (Jer 13:21).

1. In the Old Testament:

Of Hebrew words in the Old Testament rendered by "captain" (1) the most frequent is sar, which denotes "a military commander," whether of thousands or hundreds or fifties (Nu 31:48; 1 Sam 8:12 and many other places). Sar is the chief officer of any department, civil and religious, as well as military--captain of the guard the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American), chief of the executioners the Revised Version, margin (Gen 37:36); chief butler (Gen 40:9); chief baker (Gen 40:16); chief of a district (Neh 3:15); chiefs of tribes (Naphtali; Zebulun, Ps 68:27); chiefs over gangs of slaves (Ex 1:11); chiefs of the priests and the Levites (Ezr 8:29). (2) rabh, later Hebrew for chief of the executioners or captain of the guard, a title always given to Nebuzar-adan (2 Ki 25:8 ff; Jer 39:9 ff) and to Arioch (Dan 2:14). Compare also Rab-mag, chief of the magicians (Jer 39:13), and Ashpenaz, chief of the eunuchs (Dan 1:3). (3) ro'sh, "head" over a host (Israel in the wilderness, Nu 14:4), over tribes (Dt 29:10, where the Revised Version (British and American) renders "heads"), over thousands (1 Ch 12:20). Abijah, king of Judah, before joining battle against Jeroboam, claimed "God himself is with us for our captain" the King James Version, "with us at our head" the Revised Version (British and American) (2 Ch 13:12). (4) shalish, originally the third man in the chariot, who, when the chief occupant was the king, or commander-in-chief, was of the rank of captain (2 Ki 7:2; 9:25), the term "third man" being generalized to mean "a captain" in 2 Ki 10:25; 2 Ch 8:9, where "chief of his captains" combines (1) and (4). (5) naghidh, leader by Divine appointment: of Saul (1 Sam 9:16, "captain," the King James Version, "prince" the Revised Version (British and American) 1 Sam 10:1); of David (2 Sam 5:2); of Hezekiah (2 Ki 20:5); with a charge in connection with the temple (2 Ch 31:13). It is the word used of Messiah "the prince" (Dan 9:25), who is also Prince of the Covenant (11:22). (6) nasi', rendered "captain" in the King James Version Nu 2:3,5,7 only, there in the Revised Version (British and American) and in other places, both the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American), rendered "prince." In 1 Ch 7:40 "chief of the princes" combines (3) and (6). (7) pechah, is found almost entirely in a foreign title denoting "governor," and belongs to the later history of Israel (Neh 2:7,9; Ezr 8:36; Hag 1:1), rendered "captain" in exclusively foreign associations (1 Ki 20:24; 2 Ki 18:24; Dan 3:27 f). (8) qatsin (from root of qadi, Arabic for "judge"), denotes "dictator," almost "usurper," and is found in "rulers of Sodom" the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American), "judges of Sodom" the Revised Version, margin (Isa 1:10), used of Jephthah in sense of "captain" the King James Version, "chief" the Revised Version (British and American) (Jdg 11:6), found combined with (3), "head and captain" (King James Version, "head and chief" the Revised Version (British and American) Jdg 11:11). In Josh 10:24 it denotes commanders of troops, the King James Version "captains of the men of war," the Revised Version (British and American) "chiefs of the men of war." (9) kar, in Ezek 21:22 "to set captains" the King James Version, is translated "to set battering rams" the Revised Version (British and American). (10) ba`al, only once in "captain of the ward" (Jer 37:13). (11) Tiphcar, a dignitary belonging to an oriental court, in the King James Version rendered "captain," in the Revised Version (British and American) "marshal" (Nah 3:17; Jer 51:27). (12) shalliT, in Dan 2:15 of Arioch, the king's captain; in Eccl 8:8 "having power over," and in 7:19 used of "mighty men" (the Revised Version (British and American) "rulers").

2. In the New Testament:

Of Greek words rendered by "captain" in New Testament there are the following: (1) archegos, rendered "captain" in Hebrew 2:10 the King James Version but relegated to the margin in the Revised Version (British and American), where "author" (of their salvation) is preferred, this being the rendering of Hebrew 12:2 the King James Version and the Revised Version (British and American), "author" (and finisher of our faith), "captain" being still retained in the Revised Version, margin. Compare Acts 3:15 and 5:31, where the same Greek word is rendered "Prince," the Revised Version, margin of the former passage giving "Author." In the Risen and Ascended Christ the various conceptions thus expressed are found to blend. (2) chiliarchos, the Latin tribunus militum of which there were six to a legion, commanding the six cohorts of which it was composed. In its lit. acceptation it would be "commander of a thousand," and it is so used in Acts 22:28 where it designates the commander of the Roman garrison in Jerusalem, consisting of a cohort, and is rendered "chief captain" (Jn 18:12; Acts 21:31; 22:24; 24:22). It is used more vaguely in the sense of "military officer" in Mk 6:21; Rev 6:15; 19:18. (3) strategos, used only by Luke in the New Testament, and almost exclusively of (a) officials in charge of the Temple (Lk 22:4,52; Acts 4:1; 5:24,26). The captain of the Temple had the superintendence of the Levites and priests who were on guard in and around the Temple, and under him were strategoi, who were also captains of the Temple police, although they took their instruction from him as their head. He was not only a priest, but second in dignity only to the high priest himself; (b) the exception to Luke's general usage is where the word is used of the chief authorities in civil affairs at Philippi; where "the magistrates," as the word is rendered (Acts 16:20 f), called themselves "praetors" (strategoi). In the case of Paul and Silas they placed themselves in peril of removal from their office by ordering them to be beaten, being Romans and uncondemned. (4) stratopedarches, the captain of the guard to whom Julius of the Augustan band (according to the Textus Receptus of the New Testament, Acts 28:16) delivered Paul and his fellow-prisoners. The word has disappeared from the Revised Version (British and American), but the passage in which it occurs has attestation which satisfies Blass, Sir William Ramsay, and other scholars. It was supposed that this was the captain of the Praetorian guard, but Mommsen and Ramsay believe him to be the princeps peregrinorum castrorum.


T. Nicol.

Also see definition of "Captain" in Word Study

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