CROWN. A band around the head to designate honor. There are three main types of crowns: the royal crown, the priestly crown, and the victor’s crown. Among the terms used for “crown” in the OT are Hebrew qodhqōth, a part of the human anatomy, the “crown” of the head (Deut.28.35; 2Sam.14.25); Hebrew zēr, that which encircles the head: a garland of flowers (Exod.25.11); Hebrew nezer, that which is a symbol of dedication to the priesthood; Hebrew ‘ătārâh, the customary term (1Chr.20.2; Prov.4.9). In the NT, Greek stephanos and diadēma are used. The first refers to a garland or chaplet such as worn by a victorious athlete—a figurative term used by Paul and John, symbolizing Christian triumph (2Tim.4.8; Rev.2.10). The diadem was a symbol of the power to rule.
Of special interest is the crown of thorns worn by Jesus (Gr. akanthinos stephanos, Matt.27.29; Mark.15.17; John.19.2). It is impossible to determine the particular variety of thorn used here; many words in the Bible are used for the thorny plants, and the Greek word is a generic, not a specific term.
Non-symbolic use of crown.
As used in Job 2:7 (of the top of Job’s head) and in Exodus 25:11, etc. (of a part of the ornamentation of the Ark of the Covenant), “crown” merely connotes something of a particular form or shape, with prob. no symbolic meaning.
Crown as a symbol of kingship.
In the OT this occurs both in connection with the theocratic rulers of Israel, and with the rulers of Gentile nations, with examples of the latter being Esther 1:11; 6:8. In Psalm 21:3 Jehovah is spoken of as placing a crown of fine gold upon the head of David, the theocratic king. In 2 Samuel 12:30 the crown of the Ammonite king of Rabbah, weighing a talent of gold and set with a precious stone, was taken from his head and placed on the head of David, king of Israel, as a symbol of sovereignty over the country and people of Ammon. In 2 Kings 11:12 (2 Chron 23:11) Jehoiada the high priest placed the royal crown upon the head of Joash, the seven-year old legitimate heir to the throne which had been usurped by Athaliah.
Man crowned as God’s image-bearer and vice-regent.
In Psalm 8:5 man as the representative of God in ruling all the created existences of the world is spoken of as crowned with glory and honor. The passage means that ideally this is man’s true position and function in God’s creation—he is crowned king to rule the world under God. While the Psalm speaks of man generically, though ideally, the NT (Heb 2:6-9) shows that the absolute and ultimate fulfillment of this truth is in Jesus Christ, the truly ideal and perfect Man.
Symbol of rule in the NT.
In the NT the term διάδημα, G1343, is used twice to mean a symbol of evil ruling powers, demonic or antichristian (Rev 12:3; 13:1) and once of Jesus Christ (19:12, “many diadems”). Though the significance of “diadem” is usually royal, or ruling power, it may be that in Revelation 19:12 this is combined with the idea of a crown of victory.
Christ’s crown of thorns.
Roman soldiers are said to have “plaited” a crown of thorns (Matt 27:29; Mark 15:17; John 19:2). What material or kind of tree or bush was used is unknown. The crown of thorns evidently served a double function as intended by the soldiers: to mock and humiliate Jesus with a travesty of royal honor, and to increase the physical torture which was inflicted upon Him. One cannot suppose that the crown of thorns was gently laid upon His head; it was doubtless forced down with a cruel violence which emphasized their contempt for Him.
The crown as symbol of victory.
In the NT the usual word for this is στέφανος. The background of the concept is the Gr. athletic contests, in which the victor was crowned with a garland or wreath of foliage. This crown had no intrinsic value; its value consisted solely in the honor of victory which it symbolized and recognized. This might be compared to a ribbon or medal given to the winner in an athletic contest today. This idea is lifted by the NT into the terminology of religion, and the crown became the symbol of victory over the forces and powers of evil. A crown was given to Christ (Rev 6:2), and the idea of victory in conflict is prominent: “...a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer.” Several texts speak of the Christian’s crown, as Revelation 2:10, “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life”; Revelation 3:11 “...hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown.” Near the end of his earthly life the Apostle Paul asserted that “the crown of righteousness” will be given to him by the Lord “on that Day,” and that the same will also be given to all faithful Christians (2 Tim 4:8). The “crown of life” and “crown of righteousness” are not to be thought of as separate or distinct glories to be received by the Christian at the Lord’s coming; rather, both signify absolute and total victory, the “crown of life” emphasizing the idea of victory over death, and the “crown of righteousness” stressing the idea of victory over sin.
HBD (1923), I, 529-531; J. D. Davis, Dictionary of the Bible (1924), 154, 155; ISBE (1929), II, 762, 763; L. Berkhof, Systematic-Theology (1949), 737; H. Bavinck, Our Reasonable Faith (1956), 567; NBD (1962), 280, 281.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
kroun: The word crown in the Old Testament is a translation of five different Hebrew words, and in the New Testament of two Greek words. These express the several meanings, and must be examined to ascertain the same.
1. In Hebrew:
The five Hebrew words are as follows:
(1) qodhqodh, from qadhadh;
(2) zer, from zarar;
(3) nezer, or nezer, both from nazar;
(4) aTarah, from `atar;
(5) kether, from kathar.
(5) Kether means a "circlet" or "a diadem." From kathar, meaning "to enclose": as a friend, "to crown"; as an enemy, "to besiege." Variously translated "beset round," "inclose round," "suffer," "compass about." Found in Es 1:11; 2:17, 6:8; "crowned," in Pr 14:18.
2. In Greek:
The two Greek words of the New Testament translated crown are:
(1) stephanos, from stepho, and
(2) diadema, from diadeo, "to bind round."
(2) Diadema is the word for "diadem," from dia (about) and deo (bound), i.e. something bound about the head. In the three places where it occurs (Re 12:3; 13:1; 19:12) both the Revised Version (British and American) and the American Standard Revised Version translation it not "crowns" but "diadems," thus making the proper distinction between stephanos and diadema, such as is not done either in the King James Version or the Septuagint (see Trench, Synonyms of the New Testament). According to Thayer the distinction was not observed in Hellenic Greek "Diadems" are on the dragon (Re 12:3), the beast (Re 13:1) and on the Rider of the White Horse, "the Faithful and True" (Re 19:12). In each case the "diadems" are symbolic of power to rule.
3. Use and Significance:
There are five uses of the crown as seen in the Scripture references studied, namely, decoration, consecration, coronation, exaltation, and remuneration. (1) Decoration.
The zer of Ex, as far as it was a crown at all, was for ornamentation, its position not seeming to indicate any utility purpose. These wavelet, gold moldings, used in the furnishings of the tabernacle of Moses, were placed about
(a) the table of shewbread (Ex 25:24; 37:11);
(b) the ark of the covenant (Ex 25:11; 37:2);
(c) the altar of incense (Ex 30:3,1; 37:26,27). The position of these crowns is a debated question among archaeologists. Their purpose other than decoration is not known. The encircling gold might signify gratitude, parity and enduring worth.
The nezer had a twofold use as the crown of consecration:
(a) It was placed as a frontlet on the miter of the high priest, being tied with a blue lace (Ex 39:30). The priestly crown was a flat piece of pure gold, bearing the inscription, "Holy to Yahweh," signifying the consecration of the priest as the representative of the people (Ex 29:6; Le 8:9).
(b) Likewise the Hebrew king (2Ki 11:12) was set apart by God in wearing on his head a royal nezer, whether of silk or gold we do not know. It was set with jewels (Zec 9:16) and was light enough to be taken into battle (2Sa 1:10).
The ordinary use of the crown. There were three kinds of kingly crowns used in coronation services:
(a) The nezer or consecration crown, above referred to, was the only one used in crowning Hebrew kings. What seems to be an exception is in the case of Joshua, who represented both priest and king (Zec 6:11 the American Revised Version, margin).
(b) The `aTarah, and
(c) the kether were used in crowning foreign monarchs.
No king but a Hebrew could wear a nezer--a "Holy to Yahweh" crown. It is recorded that David presumed to put on his own head the `atarah of King Malcam (2Sa 12:30 the American Revised Version, margin). The kether or jeweled turban was the crown of the Persian king and queen (Es 1:11; 2:17; 6:8).