Occupations and Professions

OCCUPATIONS AND PROFESSIONS.

Apothecary. See Perfumer.

Artificer. See Craftsman.

Author. The composer of a literary production; an authority on a statement or fact. Agur and Lemuel are referred to as having recorded “words” or “sayings” in the form of prophecy and wisdom (Prov.30.1; Prov.31.1).

Baker. A trade that occupied a special street in Jerusalem (Jer.37.21). The baking of bread is one of the chief household duties. But in the towns and principal villages, the larger oven of the regular baker is required (1Sam.8.13). The superiority of this bread is implied in the Arabic proverb, “Send your bread to the oven of the baker, though he should eat the half of it.”

The modern Oriental baker does not, as a rule, prepare the dough, but bakes what is sent to him. A common sight is the baker’s boy carrying on his head a tray of fresh bread for one house, and on his side a similar tray for another house. The dough is prepared by the house baker and sent to the public baker, who kneads it into flat cakes for his oven.

The Oriental oven is a long, low stone vault, with a stone pavement down the middle and a long narrow strip at each side for the firewood.

In addition to the home baker and the public baker, there was the royal baker, who baked for the king (Gen.40.1-Gen.40.22; Gen.41.10).

The Hebrews used large stone jars, open at the mouth, about three feet (one m.) high, with a fire inside for baking bread and cakes. As soon as the sides were sufficiently heated, the thin dough was applied to the outside, and the opening at the top was closed. Sometimes wood was used for heating, but more often thorns and occasionally dry dung were used (Ezek.4.12).

There were various kinds of ovens: (1) The bowl oven, the simplest form of oven, was used by ancients, and was made of clay, with a movable lid. The bowl was placed inverted on small stones, and thus heated with dry dung heaped over and around it. (2) The jar oven, heated by grass or stubble, dry twigs or thorns (see above). (3) The pit oven, partly in the ground and partly built up of clay and plastered throughout, narrowed toward the top. The fire was kindled inside the oven.

Barber. One whose trade possibly originated in connection with the shaving of the head as part of a vow (Num.6.18-Num.6.19). The instruments of his work were probably the razor, the basin, the mirror, and perhaps the scissors. He usually plied his trade in the open, on the street.

The word barber occurs only once in Scripture (Ezek.5.1). However, great attention was paid to the hair and beard among the ancients. The barber must have been a well-known tradesman.

Beggar. The beggar as a professional class was unknown during Mosaic times. The law of Moses made ample provision for the poor of the land. In imprecatory fashion, Ps.109.10 sets forth begging as the fate and punishment of the children of the wicked. As cities developed, begging became more prevalent. In the NT beggars appear with some frequency: the blind beggar (John.9.8-John.9.9); blind Bartimaeus (Mark.10.46-Mark.10.52); the beggar by the “Beautiful” gate of the temple (Acts.3.1-Acts.3.11); and perhaps most famous of all, Lazarus, the godly beggar who is presented in opposition to the ungodly rich man (Luke.16.19-Luke.16.31).

Begging is sometimes only a simple statement of poverty: “I am poor,” “I want a loaf of bread,” or “Give me the price of a loaf.” But occasionally the expressive gesture of bringing the forefinger across the teeth and holding it up was used as proof that absolutely no trace of food was there. Hunger brought “cleanness of teeth” (Amos.4.6; see niv footnote).

Some of the beggars posed as sent of God. “I am your guest! I am God’s guest! God will direct you! God will recompense you! God will preserve your children! God will prolong your days!” The beggars are thus the street-preachers of the East. Sometimes entire families beg for a meager living.

Butler. See Cupbearer.

Carpenter. A worker in wood; a builder. Joseph, the legal or foster father of Jesus, was a carpenter (Matt.13.55); so also was Jesus (Mark.6.3). The work of carpenters is often mentioned in the Bible (Gen.6.14; Exod.37.1-Exod.37.29; Isa.44.13). David employed Phoenician carpenters in building his palace (2Sam.5.11; 1Chr.14.1).

The chief work of the carpenter was making roofs, doors, window-shutters, lattice-squares, and divan frames for the houses; plows; and yokes. Hence, Jesus knew yokes, as well as the various aspects of farm life, and could say, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt.11.30).

Some of the tools used by the ancient Egyptians were the adze, saw, square, awl, hammer, and glue-pot (Exod.21.6; Jer.10.4). The adze was their favorite implement. In ripping a board with the saw, the carpenter sat on the board and sawed away from himself (Isa.44.13). In its broadest sense, carpentry included crafting in stone and metal, as well as in wood.

Chamberlain. An officer employed to look after the personal affairs of a sovereign. Potiphar seems to have had such an officer (Gen.39.1). A chamberlain was introduced into the court by Solomon and was sometimes referred to as “steward” (1Kgs.4.6; 1Kgs.16.9; 1Kgs.18.3) or “governor.”

His duties seem to have been to superintend the palace and attend to royal etiquette. This post later became one of special increased influence, including the right of introduction to the king. He thus became the chief minister.

Erastus, the “chamberlain” of the city of Corinth, was named by Paul in his salutation to the Roman Christians (Rom.16.23). His office was apparently that of director of public works.

Clerk. The clerk or “city clerk” (Acts.19.35) was likely the city recorder. He was probably a magistrate of considerable authority and influence. He may have been mayor or the chief sovereign of the city. The clerk is often mentioned in Ephesian inscriptions.

The clerk may have been literally a temple-keeper. This term, found on Ephesian coins struck about the time of Paul, originally signified a temple servant whose business it was to sweep out and decorate the temple. Ultimately this office grew to be an honorary title of towns in Asia Minor that were especially devoted to the service of any divinity and possessed a temple consecrated to that divinity.

Confectioner. A perfumer or apothecary. When the orange trees, violets, and roses were in bloom, the women, who performed this function in the OT, made scented waters that they kept in large, tightly sealed bottles for use in the summer as cooling syrup drinks. These were presented to guests in tumblers of brass on silver trays. The king’s confectioners (niv “perfumers”) would be occupied with the preparation and mixing of such flavoring essences (1Sam.8.13).

Coppersmith. More generally thought of as a worker in any kind of metal (2Tim.4.14). The coppersmiths had a particular way of smelting copper and iron. Their smelters were located so as to face the wind currents, thus using the natural winds to fan their fires sufficiently for smelting. King Solomon not only mined copper in the Arabah (south of the Dead Sea) and had it smelted at Ezion Geber, but he also enjoyed a thriving trade in this very useful metal (1Kgs.7.45).

Counselor. An adviser in any matter, particularly as the king’s state adviser (2Sam.15.12; 1Chr.27.33). His position usually ranked him among the chief men of the government (Ezra.4.5; Job.3.14; Job.12.17; Isa.19.11). In the NT the name probably refers to a member of the Sanhedrin (Mark.15.43; Luke.23.50).


Cupbearer. An officer of considerable responsibility who attended Eastern monarchs. This office is of very great antiquity, being mentioned in connection with the Egyptians, the Persians, the Assyrians, and the Jewish rulers. The cupbearer (sometimes called the butler in kjv) was required to taste of the foods and wines before serving them, as a pledge that they were not poisoned (Gen.40.1; Neh.1.11). The butlers enjoyed the esteem and confidence of their royal masters (1Kgs.10.5; 2Chr.9.4).

Diviner. One who obtains or seems to obtain secret knowledge, particularly of the future. He stands in contrast to the prophet of the Lord, since he was believed to be inspired by demon power, and the Lord’s prophet by the Spirit of God (Zech.10.2). Balaam was a heathen diviner but temporarily rose to the status of a bona-fide prophet of the Lord. He later advised Balak on a plan to destroy Israel (Num.22.1-Num.22.41-Num.25.1-Num.25.18; Num.31.15-Num.31.16). Though the diviner is classed with the prophet, this does not mean an endorsement of divination (1Sam.6.2; Jer.27.9; Dan.4.7).

Dyer. The practice of dyeing textiles was in existence even before the time of Abraham. Dyeing vats and clay looms that were used as weights have been found in Lachish.

The dyer obtained his dye from various sources. The crimson was obtained from a worm or grub that fed on the oak or other plants. Indigo was made from the rind of the pomegranate. Purple was made from the murex shellfish found on the beach at the city of Acre. It was also found along the Phoenician coast north of Acre. Luke tells of Lydia, “a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira” (Acts.16.14). Excavations have revealed that “a guild of dyers” existed in the vicinity of Thyatira.

Elder. Men of Israel who formed one of the three classes represented in the Sanhedrin. The scribes and priests formed the two other classes (Acts.5.21). The elders were considered chief men or magistrates (Ps.105.22). See Num.11.16-Num.11.30; Mark.14.43.

Engraver The OT and archaeology reveal a knowledge of engraving or carving among the Israelites. However, their knowledge was not developed as extensively nor as skillfully as among some of the neighboring countries, perhaps because of the command against worshiping graven images (Exod.20.4). Signet rings, engraved with a man’s seal or sign, were common (Gen.38.18; Esth.3.12; Jer.22.24). Each of the two onyx stones on the high priest’s shoulders was engraved with the names of six tribes, and his breatplate bore twelve stones, each engraved with the name of a tribe (Exod.28.9-Exod.28.21). Bezaleel and Aholiab were craftsmen in gold, silver, brass, stones, and wood (Exod.31.1-Exod.31.9; Exod.38.22-Exod.38.23). God gave them the skills to make the furnishings of the tabernacle. Not only did they carve and engrave, but they also taught these skills to others (Exod.35.30-Exod.35.35).

Farmer. Farming had its beginning with the first man, Adam. Cain tilled the soil, and Abel was a livestock farmer, perhaps a shepherd (Gen.4.1-Gen.4.26). The early farm implements were very crude. The plow was a simple affair, being made of wood and having an iron share, small and shaped like a sword. Donkeys and oxen were used to pull the light plow, which had only one handle, except in cases where human beings were used in place of oxen. See also Plowman.

When Israel entered the land of Canaan, farming took on a new aspect. Every seventh year, the farmers allowed the ground to remain idle. Whatever grew of itself was left to the poor, the stranger, and the beasts of the field (Lev.25.1-Lev.25.7). To the Hebrews, the terms “grain” and “corn” included almost every object of field culture. The farmers cultivated millet, spelt, various species of beans and peas, pepperwort, cummin, cucumbers, melons, flax, and perhaps cotton. Farming was practiced by Cain, Noah, Elisha, David, Uzziah, and Solomon. Farmers were also called husbandmen, tillers of the ground, and laborers, and they were subject to certain laws (Isa.28.24; Jer.14.4; Matt.13.3; Mark.12.1; Jas.5.7).

Fisher. The frequent allusions to the art of fishing in Scripture are in connection with the Sea of Galilee (Matt.4.18; Matt.13.48; Mark.1.16; Luke.5.2). Several methods of fishing were practiced. (1) The casting net was a common method used. The fisherman stood on the bank or waded breast-deep into the water, and skillfully threw the net, which he had arranged on his arm, into the water in front of him. It fell in the shape of a ring, and as the weights dragged it down, the net took the shape of a dome or cone and enclosed the fish. (2) The dragnet was used in herring and salmon fishing, with floats marking the location of the submerged nets. It was usually operated from boats. (3) Hooks or angles were occasionally used. Fish were speared on the Mediterranean coast, being attracted to the surface by a moving torch. Night fishing was very common, especially on the Sea of Galilee. In modern times Jewish fishing fleets operate along the Mediterranean coast and on the Sea of Galilee. Schools of fish are sometimes seen on the Sea of Galilee from the shore when the fishermen in the boat cannot see them (John.21.4-John.21.6).

Fuller. One who washes or bleaches clothing. This is one of the oldest arts and at an early period was comparatively perfect. Both men and women engaged in cleaning clothes and other materials. The work of the fuller may have been a subdivision of the dyers’ trade. However, it consisted chiefly in cleaning and bleaching garments. The cleansing was done by treading or stamping the garments with the feet or with rods or sticks in containers of water. Alkaline, potash, soda (kjv niter), and herbs were used in the washing and bleaching process.

The fullers discovered a singular art of bleaching cloth white by the aid of alkali, soap, putrid urine, fumes of sulphur, and the ashes of certain desert plants. Therefore, the fuller’s shop was located usually outside the city where offensive odors could be avoided, the cloth could be trampled clean in a running stream, and then spread out for drying. In Jerusalem the “fuller’s field” or the “washerman’s field” was located near the conduit of the upper pool, which was in all probability in the Kidron Valley between Gihon (the present Virgin’s Fountain) and the well En Rogel (2Kgs.18.17; Isa.7.3; Isa.36.2).

Gatekeeper. Often translated “porter” in KJV. The biblical porter was a gatekeeper and not a burden-bearer (2Sam.18.26; 1Chr.9.22). The Levites who had charge of the various entrances to the temple were called gatekeepers (1Chr.9.17; 1Chr.15.18; 2Chr.23.19). In some ver- sions the word used is “doorkeeper” (1Chr.15.23-1Chr.15.24). A gatekeeper was stationed at the city gates and among the shepherds, where he was responsible for guarding the doors of the sheepfold. In David’s time, the gatekeepers of the temple, who were also guards, numbered four thousand (1Chr.23.5).

Goldsmith. An artisan who works in gold. The furnishings of the tabernacle and the temple that were constructed of gold or overlaid with gold required skilled workmen (see, e.g., Exod.25.1-Exod.25.40). Goldsmiths were not above helping out in the reconstruction of the wall of Jerusalem after the Exile (Neh.3.8 Neh.3.31-Neh.3.32). Most often the word “goldsmith” in the NIV is used of those who craft idols from gold (Isa.40.19; Isa.41.7; Isa.46.6; Jer.10.9 et al.).

Herdsman. A tender of oxen, sheep, goats, and camels. The patriarchs were great herdsmen. The occupation was not inconsistent with state honors. David’s herdsmen were among his chief officers of state. In general, however, the herdsman was seldom the owner of the flock or herd that he tended (Gen.13.7; Gen.26.20; 1Sam.21.7; Amos.1.1; Amos.7.14).

The rich owners placed the herdsmen in charge of their herds. The herdsmen’s duty was to protect the herd from wild beasts, to keep them from straying, and to lead them to suitable pasture. The herdsmen usually carried a sharpened or metal-pointed goad and a small bag, or scrip, for provisions. Their dress consisted of a long cloak. Their food was very simple, and they usually lived on what they could find. Their wages were given them in products taken from the herd.

Hunter. The work of hunter or fowler was one of the earliest occupations. It was originally a means of support, but later became a source of recreation. It was held in very high repute and was engaged in by all classes, but more often by royalty (Gen.10.9; Gen.27.3, Gen.27.5; 1Sam.26.20; Job.38.39; Prov.6.5).

Three principal methods of hunting are mentioned in the Bible: (1) Shooting with bow and arrows (Exod.27.3). (2) Snaring by spring net and cage, especially for birds such as quail, partridge, and duck (Jer.5.27; Amos.3.5). (3) Pits covered with a net and brushwood for deer, foxes, wolves, bears, lions, etc. (Ps.35.7; Isa.24.18; Isa.42.22).

Husbandman. See Farmer.

Judge. The head of the house was considered the judge over his own household. With the enlargement of the human family, this power quite naturally passed to the heads of tribes and clans. After Israel came into the wilderness beyond Sinai, Moses found the responsibility of handling all the judicial matters too great. Taking the advice of his father-in-law Jethro, he was advised to choose “men who who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain” to handle these matters. There were to be judges over thousands and hundreds and fifties (Exod.18.19-Exod.18.26; Deut.1.16). After coming into Canaan, judges sat at the gates of the cities (Deut.16.18).

Lawyer. One who is conversant with the law. There were court lawyers and synagogue lawyers (Matt.22.35; Luke.7.30; Luke.10.25; Luke.11.45-Luke.11.46, Luke.11.52; Luke.14.3; Titus.3.13). The scribe functioned in the capacity of a lawyer in the pronouncement of legal decisions. (See Teacher of the Law.)

Magician. One who practices superstitious ceremonies to hurt or to benefit mankind. The Hebrews were forbidden to consult magicians (Gen.41.8; Exod.7.11, Exod.7.22; Dan.1.20; Dan.2.2; Dan.5.11; Acts.13.6, Acts.13.8). Magic is of two kinds— (1) natural, or scientific, and (2) supernatural, or spiritual. The first attributes its power to a deep, practical acquaintance with the power of nature. The second attributes its power to an acquaintance with celestial or infernal agencies.

There are many accounts of the use of magical art in the Scriptures. Before Israel left Egypt the magicians were called by Pharaoh to duplicate the works of God in changing a rod into a serpent and turning water into blood. They were sometimes classified with the “wise men.” In the interpretation of dreams and visions, the magicians and soothsayers were called. The Chaldeans were particularly famous as magicians.

Mason. A worker in stone. Certain villages were famous for their masons. The farmers were usually skillful in building low terrace walls of undressed stone for the fields and vineyards. But most buildings required a master mason.

The mason was acquainted with the proper kind of foundation. He knew how to lay the cornerstone. He knew how to select and lay the stones in the wall. His equipment consisted of the plumb line, the measuring reed, the leveling line, the hammer with the toothed edge for shaping stones, and a small basket for carrying off earth (2Kgs.12.12; 2Kgs.22.6; 1Chr.22.15; 2Chr.24.12; Ezra.3.7).

Merchant. A dealer in merchandise. Merchants bought goods from distant lands or from caravans and sold them to traders in the marketplaces. Many became wealthy. Sometimes merchants are spoken of appreciatively (2Chr.9.13-2Chr.9.14; Song.3.6), but sometimes merchants were dishonest (Hos.12.7), and, especially in the Book of Revelation, they are condemned for seeking only material gain (18:3, Hos.12.11, 15, Hos.12.13).

Musician. Since music was a very prominent art in biblical, especially OT, times and played such an important part in the life of Israel and in their religious exercises and festivities, there was a demand for those who were adept at playing instruments and in singing hymns and psalms (Ps.68.25). Hebrew music was primarily vocal, yet many of the psalms have signs indicating that they were to be accompanied by musical instruments (1Kgs.10.12; 2Chr.9.11; Rev.18.12). The “chief musician” occurs in the titles of fifty-four psalms. Asaph and his brothers were apparently the first to hold this position, and the office was probably hereditary in the family (1Chr.15.19; 2Chr.35.15). Among the instruments used by the Hebrews were the cymbal, harp, organ, pipe, psaltery, and trumpet. See separate article Music and Musical Instruments.

Nurse. One who looks after, tutors, or guides another, as in a period of inexperience or sickness. In ancient times the nurse had an honored position in a home, often as a nursemaid, or nanny (2Sam.4.4; 2Kgs.11.2). Most patriarchal families had a nurse or nurses. Rebekah’s nurse went with her to Canaan and was buried with great mourning (Gen.24.59; Gen.35.8). Foster fathers or mothers were sometimes referred to as nurses (Ruth.4.16; Isa.49.23).

Perfumer. A compounder of drugs, oils, and perfumes. KJV translates the word as “apothecary.” All large oriental towns had their perfumers’ street. Their stock included anything fragrant in the form of loose powder, compressed cake, or essences in spirit, oil, or fat, as well as seeds, leaves, and bark.


The frequent references in the OT to physicians and perfumers indicate the high esteem in which the professions were held (Gen.50.2; Jer.8.22; Luke.4.23).

Physician. One who understands and practices medicine in the art of healing. The priests and prophets were expected to have some knowledge of medicine. In the days of Moses there were midwives and regular physicians who attended the Israelites (Exod.1.19). They brought some knowledge of medicine with them from Egypt, whose physicians were renowned for their healing arts. In the early stages of medical practice, attention was more often confined to surgical aid and external applications. Even down to a comparatively late period, outward maladies appear to have been the chief subjects of medical treatment among the Hebrews, though they were not entirely without remedies for internal and even mental disorders.

The medicines prescribed were salves, particular balms, plaster and poultices, oil baths, mineral baths, etc. In Egypt the physicians also aided in carrying out the elaborate preparations connected with embalming a body (Gen.50.2). See also Diseases.

Plowman. The terms husbandmen and plowmen were used synonymously in the Scriptures. The plowman was a farmer in general. Where primitive methods of farming are still used in Palestine today the plow is lightly built, with the least possible skill or expense, and consists of two poles, which cross each other near the ground; the pole nearer the oxen is fastened to the yoke, while the other serves one end as the handle, the other as the plowshare (1Sam.13.20-1Sam.13.21; Isa.2.4). It is drawn by oxen, camels, cows, or heifers.

Porter. See Gatekeeper.

Potter. Although regarded as an inferior trade, the work of pottery making supplied a universal need. In antiquity, potters lived in settlements in the lower city of Jerusalem (Jer.18.2-Jer.18.4), in the neighborhood of Hebron and Beit Jibrin, where clay was plentiful and where the royal potteries probably were situated (1Chr.4.23).

There is a great demand for potters in the Middle East because copper vessels are expensive and leather bottles are not suitable for some purposes.

The maker of earthenware was one of the first manufacturers. The potter found the right kind of clay, prepared it by removing stones and other rough substances, shaped and made it into the vessel desired, baked it, and marketed it. If the vessel became marred in the shaping process, it was made over again into another vessel. When one broke after baking, it was discarded and thrown into the “potter’s field” (Matt.27.7, Matt.27.10). The Hebrew potter, sitting at his work, turned the clay, which had first been kneaded with his feet, into various kinds of vessels on his potting wheels, which were generally made of wood (Lam.4.2). See also Pottery.

Preacher. One who heralds or proclaims, usually by delivering a discourse on a text of Scripture. This method of presenting messages from God to man is as old as the human family. Noah is referred to as “a preacher of righteousness” (2Pet.2.5). The prophets were given the responsibility of delivering messages of truth in song and action, in accusation and rebuke, with pleading and exhortation, by prophecy and promise. The temple, the synagogue, and the church were designed chiefly as places where the profession of preaching was practiced, where human beings became the conveyors of God’s message.

Since the completion of the Bible, preaching has come to mean the exposition of the Word of God to believers or the declaration of the gospel message to unbelievers.

Priest. See separate article Priest, Priesthood.

Publican. See Tax Collector.

Rabbi. A title given by the Jews to the teachers of their law. It was also applied to Christ by his disciples and others (Matt.23.7-Matt.23.8; John.1.38, John.1.49). The term rabbi means “master” or “teacher” (John.20.16). The use of the term cannot be verified before the time of Christ.

Recorder. An officer of high rank in the Jewish state, exercising the functions not simply of an annalist, but of chancellor or president of the privy council (Isa.36.3, Isa.36.22). He was not only the grand custodian of the public records, but he also kept the responsible registry of the current transactions of government (2Sam.8.16; 2Sam.20.24; 2Kgs.18.18).

In David’s court, the recorder appears among the high officers of his household (2Sam.8.16; 2Sam.20.24). In Solomon’s court, the recorder is associated with the three secretaries and is mentioned last, probably as being their president (1Kgs.4.3).

Robber. One who engages in theft and plunder. Ishmael, the Bedouin, became a “wild donkey of a man” and a robber by trade (Gen.16.12). Among the nomad tribes of the East, it was considered a most worthy profession.

The Mosaic Law strictly forbids robbery; it is denounced in Proverbs and by the prophets. The prophet Hosea compares the apostate priests to robbers, bandits, and marauders (Hos.6.9, Hos.7.1). Robbery is often mentioned in the Bible, but never is it commended (Isa.61.8; Ezek.22.29; Luke.18.16; John.10.8).

Ruler. One who governs or assists in carrying on government. An honor often bestowed by kings on their subjects. Daniel was made ruler over the whole province of Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar for interpreting a dream, and again made third ruler of the kingdom after interpreting the writing on the wall at the time of Belshazzar’s great feast (Dan.2.10, Dan.2.38; Dan.5.7, Dan.5.16, Dan.5.29).

There was the ruler of the synagogue, the ruler of the treasures, or the chief treasurer, and the high priest who was considered the “ruler of the house of God” (1Chr.9.11; Mic.3.1, Mic.3.9; Luke.8.49).

Sailor. One whose occupation is navigation, or the operation of ships, particularly one who manipulates a ship with sails (1Kgs.9.27; John.1.5, John.1.7; Rev.18.17).

Saleswoman. A woman who sells merchandise. Lydia, the “dealer in purple cloth” from Thyatira was a convert of the apostle Paul at Philippi (Acts.16.14-Acts.16.15, Acts.16.40).

Schoolmaster. One who exercises careful supervision over scholars, educating them, forming their manners, etc. Such a person was considered stern and severe. The Mosaic Law, likened to a “schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ” (Gal.3.24 kjv), awakens a consciousness of sin and prepares a person to accept Christ.

Scribe. A person employed to handle correspondence and to keep accounts. They were given a high place alongside the high priest. Hezekiah set up a body of men whose work it was to transcribe old records, or to put in writing what had been handed down orally (Prov.25.1). The scribe became known as a student and an interpreter of the law (Neh.8.1-Neh.8.13; Jer.36.26).

In the time of Christ, the scribes had attained great influence and power as a class and were regarded with much respect. They were given the best places at feasts and the chief seats in the synagogues (Matt.23.5; Luke.14.7).

Seer. One who is considered able to foresee things or events; a prophet (1Sam.9.9). Samuel identified himself as a seer (1Sam.10.19). Often kings and rulers had their own personal seers to assist them in decision making, especially when the future seemed unclear (2Sam.24.11; 2Chr.29.25; 2Chr.35.15).

Senator. See Elder.

Sergeant. A Roman lictor or officer who attended the chief magistrates when they appeared in public, and who inflicted the punishment that had been pronounced (Acts.16.35, Acts.16.38 kjv; niv “officers”). They were literally “rod-holders.”

Servant. Applied to anyone under the authority of another, implying that not all servants were domestics or slaves. In some passages of Scripture, the word properly means “young man” or “minister.” It is applied to the relation of men to others occupying high position, as Eliezer, whose place in the household of Abraham compared with that of a prime minister (Gen.15.2; Gen.24.2; Prov.14.35; John.18.20).

Sheepmaster. One who is both a shepherd and the owner of the sheep (2Kgs.3.4 kjv, mof; niv raised sheep). In some areas, the sheepmaster is one who owns a superior kind of sheep.

Sheepshearer. When the wool of the sheep is long and ready to “harvest,” a sheep-shearing time is announced, and it is a great time of rejoicing (Gen.38.12; 2Sam.13.23-2Sam.13.24). This festival is usually marked by revelry and merry-making (Gen.31.19).

Shepherd. One employed in tending, feeding, and guarding the sheep. Abel, Rachel, and David were all keepers of sheep. The shepherd’s equipment consisted of a bag made of goat’s skin with legs tied, in which food and other articles were placed; a sling for protection against wild animals; a rod (stick) about thirty inches (seventy-seven cm.) in length with a knob on one end; a staff, usually with a crook on one end; a flute made of reeds for entertainment and for calming the sheep; and a cloak to use as bedding at night. Sheep would learn to recognize the voice of their master (Gen.46.32; 1Sam.17.20; John.10.3-John.10.4). Metaphorically, God is pictured as the shepherd of his flock (Gen.48.15; John.10.1-John.10.42; Rev.7.17).

Silversmith. A worker in silver, the most famous example of which was Demetrius the silversmith, whose business was interfered with by the evangelistic work of the apostle Paul (Judg.17.4; Prov.25.4; Acts.19.24).

Singer. A trained or professional vocalist. Hebrew music was primarily vocal. Barzillai mentioned the “voices of men and women singers” (2Sam.19.35). Solomon was a composer of songs (1Kgs.4.32). David’s trained choir numbered 288 members (1Chr.25.7).

Slave. A person held in bondage to another, having no freedom of action, his person and service being wholly under the control of his master or owner. Jewish slaves were of two classes—Hebrew and non-Hebrew—and both were protected by law. Hebrew slaves became such through poverty or debt, through theft and inability to repay, or in case of females, through being sold by their parents as maidservants. The slavery of Hebrews was the mildest form of bondservice (Exod.21.20-Exod.21.32; Deut.21.14; Jer.34.8-Jer.34.16).

At the time of Christ, slavery was established throughout the world and considered even by the wisest people as a normal state of society. But Christianity, by teaching the common creation and redemption of mankind and enjoining the law of kindness and love to all, instructed believers how to live under slavery and then provided principles that have been used as the basis for emancipation and the ultimate extinction of the whole institution (1Cor.12.13; Gal.3.28; Col.3.11; Rev.19.18).

Slave Driver. One whose duty is to assign tasks; an overseer or bond master. Pharaoh appointed slave drivers over the Hebrews to make their work hard and wearisome. He hoped by such oppression to break down their physical strength and thereby to reduce their numerical growth and also to crush their hope of ever gaining their liberty (Exod.1.11; Exod.3.7; Exod.5.6, Exod.5.10, Exod.5.13-Exod.5.14).

Smith. A workman in stone, wood, or metal. The first smith mentioned in Scripture is Tubal-Cain (Gen.4.22). So necessary was the trade of the smith in ancient warfare that conquerors removed the smiths from a vanquished nation to more certainly disable it (Isa.44.12; Isa.54.16; Jer.24.1).

Soldier. One who engages in military service and receives pay for his services. In the earlier times, every man above the age of twenty was a soldier (Num.1.3); and each tribe formed a regiment, with its own banner and its own leader (Num.2.2; Num.10.14). Up until the time of David, the army consisted entirely of infantry (1Sam.4.10; 1Sam.15.4), the use of horses having been restrained by divine command (Deut.17.16).

The Jews had experienced the great advantages found in the use of chariots, both in their contests with the Canaanites and at a later period with the Syrians, and hence they eventually attached much importance to them (1Kgs.22.1-1Kgs.22.53; 2Kgs.9.1-2Kgs.9.37; 1Chr.19.6-1Chr.19.7).

Soothsayer. See Magician.

Sorcerer. One who practices the arts of the magicians and astrologers, by which he pretends to foretell events with the assistance of evil spirits (Isa.47.9, Isa.47.12; Acts.8.9, Acts.8.11). In its broader sense, a sorcerer is one who practices in the whole field of divinatory occultism (Exod.7.11; Exod.22.18; Jer.27.9).

Spinner. A person who uses the distaff and the spindle in the making of thread from wool, flax, or cotton (Prov.31.19; Matt.6.28).

Steward. One to whose care is committed the management of the household (Gen.43.19; Luke.16.1). The term is also applied to ministers (1Cor.4.1 kjv) and to Christians (1Pet.4.10 kjv). The meaning of the word is different in Gen.15.2, where NIV has this description: “the one who will inherit my estate.”

Tanner. One who is skilled in dressing and preserving hides or skins of animals. Among the ancient Jews, ceremonial uncleanness was attached to the occupation of the tanner, and hence he was obliged to do his work outside the town. The tanneries of Joppa are now on the shore south of the city, where possibly the “house of Simon” was located (Acts.9.43; Acts.10.6, Acts.10.32).

Taskmaster. See SLAVE DRIVER.

Tax Collector. A tax collector of Roman revenue. Of these there appear to have been two classes: (1) the “chief tax collector,” of whom Zacchaeus is an example (Luke.19.2), and (2) the ordinary publican, the lowest class of the servants engaged in the collecting of revenue and of whom Levi (later the apostle Matthew) is an example (Matt.9.11).

The publicans or tax collectors were hated for being the instruments through which the subjection of the Jews to the Roman emperor was perpetuated. They looked at the paying of tribute as a virtual acknowledgment of the emperor’s sovereignty. Tax collectors were noted for imposing more taxes than were required so that they might more quickly enrich themselves. The publicans of the NT were regarded as traitors and apostates, defiled by their frequent contacts with pagans, and willing tools of the oppressor. Hence, they were classed with sinners, harlots, and pagans (Matt.9.11; Matt.21.31; Mark.2.16; Luke.5.27-Luke.5.30).

Teacher. One who imparts instruction, and communicates knowledge of religious truth or other matters. “Teachers” are mentioned among the those having divine gifts in Eph.4.11, where Paul seems to reckon teaching among the extraordinary gifts of God and uses no mark of distinction or separation between “apostles,” with which he begins, and “teachers” with which he ends. “Teacher” doubtlessly refers to the well- informed persons to whom inquiring Christian converts might have recourse for removing their doubts and difficulties concerning Christian observances, the sacraments, and other rituals, and for receiving from Scripture and demonstration that “this is the very Christ,” that the things relating to the Messiah have been accomplished in Jesus (Ezra.7.1-Ezra.7.28; Matt.23.1-Matt.23.39; Heb.5.12).

Teacher of the Law. Gamaliel was such a person (Acts.5.34). As teacher of the law, he kept and handed down the sacred laws as received from Mount Sinai. He was the thirty-fifth receiver of the traditions. This term may also have applied to the scribe in his practical administration of the law in the pronouncement of legal decisions.

Tentmaker. One skilled in making tents from hair, wool, or skins. The early patriarchs largely lived in tents and were skilled in the art of tentmaking. In NT times it was the custom to teach every Jewish boy some trade. Jesus was a carpenter, and Paul was a tentmaker. Paul practiced his trade in company with Aquila at Corinth (Acts.18.1-Acts.18.3).

Tetrarch. A ruler over a fourth part of a kingdom or province in the Roman Empire. Locally, his authority was similar to that of a king, and the title of king was often given to him (Matt.14.1; Luke.3.1; Acts.13.1).

Tiller. See Farmer; Plowman.

Treasurer. An important officer in Middle East courts, probably having charge of the receipts and disbursements of the public treasury (Ezra.1.8; Ezra.7.21; Isa.22.15; Dan.3.2-Dan.3.3). This title was given to the officer of state, was considered superior to all others, and was sometimes filled by the heir to the throne (2Chr.26.21).

Watchman. One whose duty was to stand in the tower on the walls or at the gates of the city. He also patrolled the streets, and, besides protecting the city and its inhabitants from violence, he was required to call out the hours of the night (2Sam.18.24-2Sam.18.27; Song.5.7; Isa.21.11-Isa.21.12). God’s prophets were also his “watchmen” to warn his people (Isa.21.6 kjv; niv “lookout”).

Weaver. One who is skilled in the making of cloth or rugs from spun thread or string. The Israelites probably perfected the art of weaving while in Egypt, though they no doubt made progress in it from their own resources, even before they entered Egypt. Weaving, for the most part, was done by women. The fibrous materials woven were usually linen, flax, and wool (Exod.35.35; Lev.13.48; 1Chr.11.23; Isa.38.12).

Witch. A “knowing or wise one.” Witch was the name given to the woman and wizard the name given to the man who practiced “witchcraft.” There was an apparent communication with demons and a pretended conversation with the spirits of the dead by means of which future events were revealed, diseases cured, and evil spirits driven away. The woman of Endor to whom Saul went for help is called a medium in NIV (1Sam.28.1-1Sam.28.25). Witchcraft was severely denounced (Lev.20.6; 2Kgs.9.22; Gal.5.20). See also Sorcerer.

Writer. The knowledge of writing was possessed by the Hebrews at a very early period. The materials on which they wrote were of various kinds. Tables of stone, metal, plaster, skins, paper made from bulrushes, and fine parchment were used. The pens were also different, to correspond with the writing material (Judg.5.14; Ps.45.1; Ezek.9.2). The prophets were often told by the Lord to write and may be considered writers (Rev.1.11; Rev.21.5).——HPH