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EBD: Governor
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Governor [EBD]

(1.) Heb. nagid, a prominent, conspicuous person, whatever his capacity: as, chief of the royal palace (2 Chr. 28:7; comp. 1 Kings 4:6), chief of the temple (1 Chr. 9:11; Jer. 20:1), the leader of the Aaronites (1 Chr. 12:27), keeper of the sacred treasury (26:24), captain of the army (13:1), the king (1 Sam. 9:16), the Messiah (Dan. 9:25).

(2.) Heb. nasi, raised; exalted. Used to denote the chiefs of families (Num. 3:24, 30, 32, 35); also of tribes (2:3; 7:2; 3:32). These dignities appear to have been elective, not hereditary.

(3.) Heb. pakid, an officer or magistrate. It is used of the delegate of the high priest (2 Chr. 24:11), the Levites (Neh. 11:22), a military commander (2 Kings 25:19), Joseph's officers in Egypt (Gen. 41:34).

(4.) Heb. shallit, one who has power, who rules (Gen. 42:6; Ezra 4:20; Eccl. 8:8; Dan. 2:15; 5:29).

(5.) Heb. aluph, literally one put over a thousand, i.e., a clan or a subdivision of a tribe. Used of the "dukes" of Edom (Gen. 36), and of the Jewish chiefs (Zech. 9:7).

(6.) Heb. moshel, one who rules, holds dominion. Used of many classes of rulers (Gen. 3:16; 24:2; 45:8; Ps. 105:20); of the Messiah (Micah 5:2); of God (1 Chr. 29:12; Ps. 103:19).

(7.) Heb. sar, a ruler or chief; a word of very general use. It is used of the chief baker of Pharaoh (Gen. 40:16); of the chief butler (40:2, etc. See also Gen. 47:6; Ex. 1:11; Dan. 1:7; Judg. 10:18; 1 Kings 22:26; 20:15; 2 Kings 1:9; 2 Sam. 24:2). It is used also of angels, guardian angels (Dan. 10:13, 20, 21; 12:1; 10:13; 8:25).

(8.) Pehah, whence pasha, i.e., friend of the king; adjutant; governor of a province (2 Kings 18:24; Isa. 36:9; Jer. 51: 57; Ezek. 23:6, 23; Dan. 3:2; Esther 3: 12), or a perfect (Neh. 3:7; 5:14; Ezra 5:3; Hag. 1:1). This is a foreign word, Assyrian, which was early adopted into the Hebrew idiom (1 Kings 10:15).

(9.) The Chaldean word segan is applied to the governors of the Babylonian satrapies (Dan. 3:2, 27; 6:7); the prefects over the Magi (2:48). The corresponding Hebrew word segan is used of provincial rulers (Jer. 51:23, 28, 57); also of chiefs and rulers of the people of Jerusalem (Ezra 9:2; Neh. 2:16; 4:14, 19; 5:7, 17; 7:5; 12:40).

In the New Testament there are also different Greek words rendered thus.

(1.) Meaning an ethnarch (2 Cor. 11:32), which was an office distinct from military command, with considerable latitude of application.

(2.) The procurator of Judea under the Romans (Matt. 27:2). (Comp. Luke 2:2, where the verb from which the Greek word so rendered is derived is used.)

(3.) Steward (Gal. 4:2).

(4.) Governor of the feast (John 2:9), who appears here to have been merely an intimate friend of the bridegroom, and to have presided at the marriage banquet in his stead.

(5.) A director, i.e., helmsman; Lat. gubernator, (James 3:4).


In the Authorized Version this one English word is the representative of no less than ten Hebrew and four Greek words.
  1. The chief of a tribe or family.
  2. A ruler in his capacity of lawgiver and dispenser of justice.
  3. A ruler consider especially as having power over the property and persons of his subjects. (Genesis 24:2; Joshua 12:2; Psalms 100:20) The "governors of the people," in (2 Chronicles 23:20) appear to have been the king?s body-guard; cf. (2 Kings 11:19)
  4. A prominent personage, whatever his capacity. It is applied to a king as the military and civil chief of his people, (2 Samuel 5:2; 6:21; 1 Chronicles 29:22) to the general of an army, (2 Chronicles 32:21) and to the head of a tribe. (2 Chronicles 19:11) It denotes an officer of high rank in the palace, the lord high chamberlain. (2 Chronicles 28:7) It is applied in (1 Kings 10:15) to the petty chieftains who were tributary to Solomon, (2 Chronicles 9:14) to the military commander of the Syrians, (1 Kings 20:24) the Assyrians, (2 Kings 18:24; 23:8) the Chaldeans, (Jeremiah 51:23) and the Medes. (Jeremiah 51:38) Under the Persian viceroys, during the Babylonian captivity, the land of the Hebrews appears to have been portioned out among "governors" (pachoth) inferior in rank to the satraps, (Ezra 8:30) like the other provinces which were under the dominion of the Persian king. (Nehemiah 2:7,9) It is impossible to determine the precise limits of their authority or the functions which they had to perform. It appears from (Ezra 6:8) that these governors were intrusted with the collection of the king?s taxes; and from (Nehemiah 5:18; 12:26) that they were supported by a contribution levied upon the people, which was technically termed "the bread of the governor" comp. (Ezra 4:14) They were probably assisted in discharging their official duties by A council. (Ezra 4:7; 6:6) The "governor" beyond the river had a judgment-seat beyond Jerusalem, from which probably he administered justice when making a progress through his province. (Nehemiah 3:7) At the time of Christ Judea was a Roman province, governed by a procurator (governor) appointed by Rome.


GOVERNOR - guv'-er-ner: The word "governor" is employed in English Versions of the Bible in rendering a great variety of Hebrew and Greek words. In certain cases strict consistency is neither observed nor possible.

1. In the Old Testament:

In the rendering of Hebrew terms account has naturally been taken of the translations offered in Septuagint, which, being the work of different hands, is both uneven in quality and inconsistent. But there are inherent difficulties which can never be entirely overcome. First and most important, there is the difficulty arising from our ignorance of many details of the government of the oriental nations to which the terms apply. Hardly less is the embarrassment occasioned by the vague employment of words in indiscriminate reference to persons of superior rank and somehow exercising authority. There is consequently much confusion in the use of titles such as "deputy," "duke," "judge," "lawgiver," "overseer" "prince" "ruler" etc. for which the student may consult the special articles.

(1) alluwph or `alluph, "governor" (the Revised Version (British and American) "chieftain") in Judah (Zec 9:7; 12:5 f).

(2) choqeq (Jdg 5:9; 5:14, the King James Version margin"or lawgivers"). The word is variously rendered with "ruler" or "lawgiver" in English Versions of the Bible of Gen 49:10; Dt 33:21; Isa 33:22.

(3) moshel, participle of mashal, "to be master," "to rule" (Gen 45:26, the Revised Version (British and American) "ruler").

(4) nasi' (2 Ch 1:2, the Revised Version (British and American) "prince").

(5) caghan (Dan 3:2 f; Jer 51:23, the Revised Version, margin "or lieutenants"; 51:28,57; Ezek 23:6,12,23). The same word is rendered "rulers" or "deputies" (Isa 41:25; Ezr 9:2; Neh 2:16; 5:7; 7:5; 12:40).

(6) pechah, is variously used: (a) of the military governor of a province among the Assyrians (Isa 36:9); (b) among the Chaldees (Ezek 23:6,23; Jer 51:23,18,57); (c) among the Persians (Est 3:12; 8:9; 9:3); (d) of the governor-general of the province beyond the River (Euphrates) (Ezr 8:36; Neh 2:7:9); (e) of Nehemiah as subordinate "governor in the land of Judah" under him (Neh 5:14 ff); (f) of Zerubbabel as "governor of Judah" (Hag 1:1,14; 2:2,21); (g) of Solomon's governors (1 Ki 10:15; 20:24 (in Syria)).

(7) paqidh (Jer 20:1, the Revised Version (British and American) "chief officer"). Elsewhere it is rendered "overseer" or "officer" (compare Gen 41:34; 2 Ki 25:19; Neh 11:9,22).

(8) sar "governor of the city" (1 Ki 22:26). Elsewhere commonly rendered "prince."

(9) shalliT (Gen 42:6). Elsewhere rendered "ruler" or "captain."

(10) tirshatha' the Revised Version (British and American) "the governor," the King James Version "the Tirshatha" (Ezr 2:63; Neh 7:70).


2. In the New Testament:

The word "governor" in English Versions of the Bible represents an almost equal variety of Greek words. Here again the usage is for the most part lax and untechnical; but since reference is chiefly had to officers of the Roman imperial administration, concerning which we possess ample information, no embarrassment is thereby occasioned. The words chiefly in use for "governor" are derived from root ag-, "drive," "lead":

(1) hegeomai, "lead" (Mt 2:6; of Joseph as grand vizier of Egypt, Acts 7:10).

(2) hegemon, "leader" (Mt 10:18; 1 Pet 2:14; of Pilate, Mt 27:2,11,14,15,21,27; of Felix, Acts 23:24,26,33; of Festus, Acts 24:1,10; 26:30).

(3) hegemoneuo, "function as leader" (Lk 2:2; of Pilate, Lk 3:1).

To these are added terms of more specific meaning:

(4) ethnarches, "ethnarch" or "ruler of a nation" (2 Cor 11:32).


(5) euthuno "direct," "guide" (Jas 3:4). Here the Revised Version (British and American) properly render it "steersman."

(6) architriklinos, "president of a banquet" (Jn 2:8 f, the American Standard Revised Version "ruler of the feast ").

(7) oikonomos, "steward," "manager of a household or estate" (Gal 4:2, the Revised Version (British and American) "stewards").

It is thus seen that in the New Testament "governor" in the political sense occurs chiefly in reference to the Roman procurators of Judea--Pilate, Felix, and Festus. See PILATE; FELIX; FESTUS. It remains for us here to speak briefly of the government of Roman provinces.

Latin provincia signifies a magistrate's sphere of duty or authority, either (a) judicially or legally, defining the scope of his competence, or (b) geographically, designating the territorial limits within which he may exercise authority. It is in the latter sense that we are now considering the word. When, in the 3rd century BC, Rome began to rule conquered lands outside Italy, each territory was set under the authority of a single magistrate, and hence came to be called a "province." Conquered territories left under the rule of native princes or kings were not so designated, although their government was practically directed by Rome. At first provinces were governed by proconsuls or proprietors (i.e. ex-consuls or ex- praetors); but with the steady multiplication of provinces various expedients became necessary in order to provide governors of suitable rank and dignity. Thus, the number of praetors was largely augmented, and the term of possible service as governor was extended. Under Augustus the provinces were parceled out between the emperor and the senate, the former reserving for himself such as seemed to require the maintenance of a considerable armed force. In these the emperor was himself proconsul. Early in the Empire imperial provinces of a different type appear, in which the emperor, regarded as sovereign proprietor, governs by a viceroy (praefectus) or steward (procurator). In some of these, tributary kings or princes ruled with the emperor's representative--a legatus or a procurator--by their side, much as England now rules Egypt. Among the provinces so ruled were Egypt and Judea, partly, no doubt, because of their strategic position, partly because of the temper of their inhabitants.

William Arthur Heidel

Also see definition of "Governor" in Word Study

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