Governor | Free Online Biblical Library

If you like our 14,000 Articles library, you'll love our Courses tailor-made for all stages of church life:

Courses cover a wide range of Bible, Theology and Ministry.


GOVERNOR. One who governs a land for a supreme ruler to whom he is subordinate. This word is the translation of a large variety of Hebrew and Greek words and is used as a title for someone who held one of a number of official governmental positions. For example, Joseph, the prime minister of Egypt, was called its governor (Gen.42.6); Gedaliah, left in Judah to rule the conquered Jews after the destruction of Jerusalem, was called governor (Jer.41.2). In the NT the term occurs chiefly in reference to the Roman procurators of Judea—Pilate, Felix, and Festus. In the first century a.d., Roman provinces were of two kinds: imperial and senatorial. The first were ruled by procurators appointed by the emperor; the second, by proconsuls appointed by the senate. Judea was an imperial province. Pontius Pilate was the fifth governor of Judea; Felix, the eleventh; and Festus, the twelfth. Procurators were directly responsible to the emperor for their actions and ruled for as long as he willed.

The Gr. words tr. “governor” are sometimes used with technical accuracy, sometimes somewhat loosely. ̔Ηγέομαι, and its derivatives are the words most frequently used, usually for Rom. subordinate rulers.

The KJV sometimes uses the word “governor” in an obsolete sense. In the account of the marriage at Cana, “the governor of the feast” and “the ruler of the feast” (John 2:8, 9 KJV) are the same person. He was the ἀρχιτρίκλινος, G804, the steward, whose duty it was to take care of all the banquet arrangements—the tables, seating, food, etc. In Galatians 4:1, 2 “tutors and governors” is better tr. in the RSV as “guardians and trustees.” The word “governor” in James 3:4 refers to the pilot or steersman of a ship; the RSV has “pilot.”


J. Finegan, Light from the Ancient Past (1959).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

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 (Jud 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 Ge 49:10; De 33:21; Isa 33:22.

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

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

(6) pechah, is variously used:

(a) of the military governor of a province among the Assyrians (Isa 36:9);

(b) among the Chaldees (Eze 23:6,23; Jer 51:23,18,57);

(c) among the Persians (Es 3:12; 8:9; 9:3);

(d) of the governor-general of the province beyond the River (Euphrates) (Ezr 8:36; Ne 2:7,9);

(e) of Nehemiah as subordinate "governor in the land of Judah" under him (Ne 5:14 );

(f) of Zerubbabel as "governor of Judah" (Hag 1:1,14; 2:2,21); (g) of Solomon’s governors (1Ki 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 Ge 41:34; 2Ki 25:19; Ne 11:9,22).

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

(9) shalliT (Ge 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; Ne 7:70).

See Tirshatha.

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, Ac 7:10).

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

To these are added terms of more specific meaning:

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

See Government, 6, 7.

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

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

(7) oikonomos, "steward," "manager of a household or estate" (Ga 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.