Guard | 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.


Herod Antipas ordered a member of his guard (σπεκουλατώρ) to bring to him the head of John the Baptist on a platter (Mark 6:27). Pilate told the Jews to make the tomb of Jesus secure with a guard of soldiers (κουστωδία, G3184)—undoubtedly, Temple police. In Acts 28:16 the clause, “the centurion delivered the prisoners to the captain of the guard” (στρατοπεδάρχης, G5134), found in the KJV, is not a part of the RSV text because of poor textual attestation.


R. de Vaux, Ancient Israel (1961).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)


(2) mishmar, "guard," a defense to a point of danger (Ne 4:22 f; Eze 38:7).

(3) mishma`ath, "guard" (2Sa 23:23, where the American Revised Version, margin and the Revised Version, margin have "council," the body over which Benaiah was set by David and whose functions were perhaps those of consultation)

(4) spekoulator, "guard" (Mr 6:27, "a man of Herod’s guard," where, as in one or two other cases, Mark, writing for Romans, simply transliterates the Latin speculator "a scout," "an executioner," as in loc.).

(5) stratopedarches, "captain of the guard" the King James Version, "captain of the praetorian guard" the Revised Version, margin, Ac 28:16. See Captain.

(6) (koustodia), "watch" the King James Version, "guard" the American Standard Revised Version and the Revised Version (British and American) (Mt 27:65,66; 28:11).

1. Royal Body-Guard:

An oriental monarch’s body-guard consisted of picked men attached to his person and ready to fulfill his pleasure in important and confidential concerns. At the courts of Egypt and Babylon the members of the guard were known as "slaughterers," "executioners" (Ge 37:36 King James Version margin, the American Revised Version, margin and the Revised Version, margin, where Potiphar is called their captain); 2Ki 25:8, where Nebuzaradan is called their captain (King James Version margin "chief marshal"). Whether it had ever been the function of the body-guard to kill meat for the royal table there is little directly to show; that they acted as executioners can be well understood. In Israel they were known as "the footmen" (1Sa 22:17 the King James Version, the American Revised Version, margin and the Revised Version, margin "runners") who acted as royal messengers or couriers from the time of Saul onward (2Ki 10:25; 11:6); and this designation connects them with the couriers of the kings of Persia (Es 3:13,15; 8:14, where our versions render "posts," though the Hebrew is ratsim).

2. Composed of Foreigners:

The men of the royal body-guard were usually foreigners like the janissaries of oriental monarchs down to modern times, who prefer to have around their persons warriors uninfluenced by family connection with the people of the land. Rameses II had such a body-guard whose commanders ranked with the great officers of the crown (Maspero, Struggle of the Nations, 766). David’s body-guard of 600, known also as the gibborim or "mighty men," consisted of Cherethites, Pelethites, and Gittites (2Sa 15:18; 20:23), and we read of Carites (2Ki 11:19), who may have been Carians or Cretans, as forming part of the guard at the coronation of King Jehoash.

3. Connection with the Temple:

That this guard had duties in connection with the temple as well as the king’s house seems clear. That they were employed as slaughterers of the sacrifices before the Levites were entrusted with the office is unlikely, inasmuch as this guard is not said to have been composed of "slaughterers" but of "runners." But they accompanied King Rehoboam when he visited the temple (1Ki 14:28), and to their captains were committed the shields of brass which took the place of the shields of gold which Solomon had hung up in the temple; Jehoiada employed their captains to put Athaliah to death and to exterminate the worshippers of Baal who had fled to the temple precincts (2Ki 11:4 ); the temple gate leading to the palace was called "the gate of the guard" (2Ki 11:19). At this time, and for this occasion, at least, the royal body-guard were the temple guards; and when Ezekiel drew up his plans for the temple which he conceived to replace the temple destroyed by Nebuchadrezzar, the "lodges" or "little chambers" were rooms for the accommodation of the temple guard (Eze 40:7,10,21,33, etc.).


Robertson Smith, OTJC, 262, and note.

T. Nicol.