Officer

OFFICER. A holder of an official position. The word is used in a variety of senses: (1) one who has been set up over others (e.g., 1Kgs.4.27); (2) a eunuch, such as Eastern kings set in charge of their women and also of much of the routine business of the court (e.g., Esth.1.10); (3) a writer or clerk (e.g., Deut.20.9); (4) a police officer or bailiff (Luke.12.58); (5) originally an assistant or underruler (Matt.5.25).


OFFICER, in the various Eng. VSS is used to tr. a number of terms denoting civil, military, religious and noble officials. Since it is a Biblical principle that office is held by reason of function, the titles for the offices usually indicated the purpose in the social order for which the office was held.

The Heb. נָצַב, H5893, means to be “stationed,” “take a stand.” It is used in the OT often to designate “overseers” of both religious and military groups (1 Kings 4:5; 2 Chron 8:10).

The Heb. פְּקֻדָּה, H7213, and פָּקִיד, H7224, are derived from the common root meaning “care for,” “administer,” “to set on guard.” The noun formed from the Akkad. cognate in the status constructus, piqittu, means to “inspect troops,” “a military review.” It is used in the military sense of both Israelite and foreign officials (Gen 41:34; Num 31:14; Esth 2:3).

Another Heb. term, סָרִיס, H6247, is tr. “officer” (Gen, Kings, and Chron) but as “eunuch” elsewhere in the OT. It is used to describe officers of Israel, Babylon, Egypt, and Persia. In passages such as Isaiah 56:4 the word must be interpreted as eunuch for the sense of the text. It is doubtful, however, that this is its exclusive meaning. Various etymologies have been proposed, the most ingenious being to connect it with the Akkad. phrase, “ša resi (šarri),” “he on the head (of the king)” as in KB, 668, ad loc. and Zeitschrift für Assyriologie, VII:134; XXXIV:91ff. It is doubtful if this is the correct interpretation of the Akkad. and the initial segment of the Heb. term, סָר, H6233, may be related to Heb. שַׂר, H8569, “prince,” “ruler.” On the basis of the OT usage the term has the meaning “guard officer,” and as such could be applied to eunuchs also.

Frequently in the OT the Heb. שָׁטַר, H8853, is understood as “officers.” The term is derived from a root meaning “to write.” This officer was therefore primarily a scribe as indicated by Exodus 5:6-8. Apparently by extension it also was used for military commanders (Num 11:16, et al.).


In the NT two terms are tr. by “officer,” the Gr. word, πρακτωρ, is found only in Luke 12:58, although it was an ancient Gr. word going back to the 4th cent. b.c. It took on a new meaning in the Rom. empire when it was applied to tax collectors and other fiduciary officers of the courts. Apparently it is used in Luke in distinction to the judge of the court, therefore it means some sort of constable who follows the court’s direction. The word seems to refer to the officer of the debtor’s prison as the required sum is paid most likely to him.

The other NT term so tr. is the common Gr. ὑπηρέτης, G5677, meaning from 14th cent. onward, “assistant,” “helper,” “administrator” as actually directed by another. It is used in the LXX for many of the Heb. terms listed above and appears as a loan word in late rabbinic Heb. In the Eng. VSS it is supplied with various meanings (e.g. Matt 5:25 “officer” [KJV]; Luke 4:20 “minister” [KJV]; John 18:36 “servants,” and in Luke 1:2 “ministers” [KJV and RSV] in addition to “eyewitnesses”).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

of’-i-ser: In the King James Version the term is employed to render different words denoting various officials, domestic, civil and military, such as caric, "eunuch," "minister of state" (Ge 37:36); paqidh, "person in charge," "overseer" (Ge 41:34); necibh, "stationed," "garrison," "prefect" (1Ki 4:19); shoTer, "scribe" or "secretary" (perhaps arranger or organizer), then any official or overseer. In Es 9:3 for the King James Version "officers of the king" the Revised Version (British and American) has (more literal) "they that did the king’s business."

In the New Testament, "officer" generally corresponds to the Greek word huperetes, "servant," or any person in the employ of another. In Mt 5:25 the term evidently means "bailiff" or exactor of the fine imposed by the magistrate, and corresponds to praktor, used in Lu 12:58.