Executioner (σπεκουλἀτωρ, for Lat. speculator, originally a scouet, afterwards a life- guardsman under the emperor), a member of the royal bodyguard adopted by Herod in imitation of the Romans (see Tacitus, Hist. 2:11; Suetonius, Claud. 35), and in accordance with Oriental despotisni, and enplooyed to execute his sanguinary orders (Mr 6:27). (See Smith's Dict. of Class. Antia. s.v. Spaculatores; Schwarz, De Speculatoribus vett. Romanorum, Altd. 1726.) SEE CHERETRITE.
In ancient times persons of the highest rank and station were employed to execute the sentence of the law. The office of Potiphar, in the Egyptian court, mentioned in Ge 37:36, is thought to have been "chief of the executioners," as in the margiuc of our version. SEE GUARD. This is still a high office in the East as a court office. Such executioners have nothing to do with carrying into effect the awards of the law in its ordinary course, but only with those of the king. It is there an office of great responsibility; and to insure its due and strict fulfillment, it is entrusted to an officer of the court, who has necessarily under his command a body of men whose duty it is to preserve the order and peace of the palace and its precincts, and to attend and guard the royal person on public occasions; and, under the direction of their chief, to inflict such punishment as the king awards upon those who incur his displeasure. Potiphar, therefore, in this sense might be called captain of the guard. He had his official residence at the public jail (Ge 40:3). Nebuzaradan (2Ki 25:8; Jer 39:9) and Arioch (Da 2:14) held the same office. That the "captain of the guard" himself occasionally performed the duty of an executioner appears from 1Ki 2:25,34. Nevertheless the post was one of high dignity, and something beyond the present position of the zabit of modern Egypt (comp. Lane, 1:163), with which Wilkinson (2:45) compares it. It is stillnot unusual for officers of high rank to inflict corporal punishment with their own hands (Wilkinson, 2:43). It does not appear that the Jews had public executioners, but the prince or general laid his commands on any of his attendants. Gideon commanded Jether, his eldest son, to execute his sentence on the kings of Midian; Saul ordered the footmen who stood around him, and were probably a chosen body of soldiers for the defense of his person, to put to death the priests of the Lord, and when they refused, Doeg, an Edomite, one of his principal officers executed, the command (1Sa 22:18). Long after the days of Saul, the reigning monarch commanded Benaiah, the chief captain of his armies, to perform the duty of putting Joab to death. Sometimes the chief magistrate executed the sentence of the law with his own hands; for when Jether shrank from the duty which his father required, Gideon, at that time the supreme magistrate in Israel, did not hesitate to do it himself. Thus also in Homer (Odyss. 21, fin.; 22, imit.) we read that the exasperated Ulysses commanded his son Telarnsachus to put to death the suitors of Penelope, which was immediately done. In condemnations under the Mosaic law, the congregation or assembly of people executed the criminal, but the witnesses commenced the work of death (Le 24:16; De 17:7; Joh 8:7; Ac 7:57-60). Executions in the East are often very prompt and arbitrary. In many cases, among the Turks and Persians, the suspicion is no sooner entertained, or the cause of offense given, than the fatal order is issued, the messenger of death hurries to the unsuspecting victim, shows his warrant, and executes his order that instant in silence and solitude (2Ki 6:32; Pr 16:14; Mr 6:27). SEE PUNISHMENT.