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AMBASSADOR. The OT has three Hebrew words that express the idea of “ambassador.” (1) Tzîr (e.g., Isa.18.2) probably denotes “going,” i.e., away from home in a foreign land; (2) mal’ākh (e.g., Isa.37.9, Isa.37.14; cf. Isa.37.36 where it is the Lord’s “angel” as his ambassador), meaning “messenger,” therefore one sent on higher authority; (3) lûts (2Chr.32.31), literally “interpreter” (e.g., Gen.42.23), i.e., one carrying an authorized understanding of his master’s mind and policy. The word ambassador(s) in the NT—e.g.,“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors” (2Cor.5.20) and “I am an ambassador in chains” (Eph.6.20)—is from presbeuein, “to be, work, or travel as an envoy or ambassador.” Today’s concept of an ambassador as a personal representative of sovereigns of state, living in foreign residence, is somewhat alien to the biblical concept of a messenger as ambassador.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

An ambassador is an official representative of a king or government, as of Pharaoh (Isa 30:4); of the princes of Babylon (2Ch 32:31); of Neco, king of Egypt (2Ch 35:21); of the messengers of peace sent by Hezekiah, king of Judah, to Sennacherib, king of Assyria (Isa 33:7). The same Hebrew term is used of the messengers sent by Jacob to Esau (Ge 32:3); by Moses to the king of Edom (Nu 20:14). For abundant illustration consult "Messenger" (mal’akh) in any concordance. See Concordance. The inhabitants of Gibeon made themselves pretended ambassadors to Joshua in order to secure by deceit the protection of a treaty ("covenant") (Jos 9:4).

In the New Testament the term is used in a figurative sense. As the imprisoned representative of Christ at Rome Paul calls himself "an ambassador in chains" (Eph 6:20); and in 2Co 5:20 includes, with himself, all ministers of the gospel, as "ambassadors .... on behalf of Christ," commissioned by Him as their sovereign Lord, with the ministry of reconciling the world to God. The Bible contains no finer characterization of the exalted and spiritual nature of the minister’s vocation as the representative of Jesus Christ, the King of kings, and Saviour of the world.

Dwight M. Pratt