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Governor

Various words are sometimes translated in Bible as “governor.” In the Old Testament:

  1. Hebrew: nagid—a prominent, conspicuous person, whatever his capacity: as, chief of the royal palace (2 Chronicles 28:7; compare 1 Kings 4:6), chief of the temple (1 Chronicles 9:11; Jeremiah 20:1), the leader of the Aaronites (1 Chronicles 12:27), keeper of the sacred treasury (26:24), captain of the army (13:1), the king (1 Samuel 9:16), the Messiah (Dan. 9:25).

  2. Hebrew: nasi—raised; exalted. Used to denote the chiefs of families (Numbers 3:24, 30, 32, 35); also of tribes (2:3; 7:2; 3:32). These dignities appear to have been elective, not hereditary.

  3. Hebrew: pakid—an officer or magistrate. It is used of the delegate of the high priest (2 Chronicles 24:11), the Levites (Neh. 11:22), a military commander (2 Kings 25:19), Joseph’s officers in Egypt (Genesis 41:34).

  4. Hebrew: shallit—one who has power, who rules (Genesis 42:6; Ezra 4:20; Eccl. 8:8; Dan. 2:15; 5:29).

  5. Hebrew: aluph—literally one put over a thousand, i.e., a clan or a subdivision of a tribe. Used of the “dukes” of Edom (Genesis 36), and of the Jewish chiefs (Zechariah 9:7).

  6. Hebrew: moshel—one who rules, holds dominion. Used of many classes of rulers (Genesis 3:16; 24:2; 45:8; Psalms 105:20); of the Messiah (Micah 5:2); of God (1 Chronicles 29:12; Psalms 103:19).

  7. Hebrew: sar—a ruler or chief; a word of very general use. It is used of the chief baker of Pharaoh (Genesis 40:16); of the chief butler (40:2, etc. See also: Genesis 47:6; Exodus 1:11; Dan. 1:7; Judges 10:18; 1 Kings 22:26; 20:15; 2 Kings 1:9; 2 Samuel 24:2). It is used also of angels, guardian angels (Dan. 10:13, 20-21; 12:1; 10:13; 8:25).

  8. Hebrew: Pehah, whence pasha, i.e., friend of the king; adjutant; governor of a province (2 Kings 18:24; Isaiah 36:9; Jeremiah 51:57; Ezek. 23:6, 23; Dan. 3:2; Esther 3:12), or a prefect (Neh. 3:7; 5:14; Ezra 5:3; Hag. 1:1). This is a foreign word, Assyrian, which was early adopted into the Hebrew idiom (1 Kings 10:15).

  9. The Chaldean word segan is applied to the governors of the Babylonian satrapies (Dan. 3:2, 27; 6:7); the prefects over the Magi (2:48). The corresponding Hebrew word segan is used of provincial rulers (Jeremiah 51:23, 28, 57); also of chiefs and rulers of the people of Jerusalem (Ezra 9:2; Neh. 2:16; 4:14, 19; 5:7, 17; 7:5; 12:40).

In the New Testament there are also different Greek words sometimes translated as “governor”:

  1. Meaning an ethnarch (2 Corinthians 11:32), which was an office distinct from military command, with considerable latitude of application.

  2. The procurator of Judea under the Romans (Matthew 27:2). (Compare Luke 2:2, where the verb from which the Greek word so rendered is derived is used.) See: Quirinius/Cyrenius—When did the Luke 2 census occur?

  3. Steward (Galatians 4:2).

  4. Governor of the feast (John 2:9), who appears here to have been merely an intimate friend of the bridegroom, and to have presided at the marriage banquet in his stead.

  5. Latin: gubernator—a director, i.e., helmsman (James 3:4).