Most, if not all, of the Hebrew and Greek words so rendered in the A. V. are either of an indefinite character, or are synonymous terms for functionaries known under other and more specific names. They are the following:
1. סָרַיס, saris (Ge 37:36; Ge 39:1; Ge 40:2). The word usually designates a eunuch; and probably it ought always to be so understood. It is no valid objection to this that Potiphar had a wife, for eunuchs are not all strangers to the sexual passion, and sometimes live in matrimony (Ecclesiasticus 20:4; Mishna, Jebamoth, 8:4; Juvenal, Sat. 1:22; Terence, Eun. 4:3, 23; Chardin, Voyages, 3:397). SEE EUNUCH.
2. שֹׁטֵר, shoter, part. of שָׁטִר, to cut, to grave, properly a writer (Sept. γραμματεύς), and, from the use of writing in judicial administration, a magistrate or praecet. It is used of the officers who were set over the Israelites in Egypt (Exodus v. 6-19); of the officers who were appointed along with the elders to administer the public affairs of the Israelites (Nu 11:16; De 20:5,8-9; De 29:10; De 31:28; Jos 1:10; Jos 3:2; Jos 8:33, etc.); of magistrates in the cities and towns of Palestine (De 16:18; Sept. γραμματοεισαγωγεῖς; 1Ch 23:4; 1Ch 26:29; 2Ch 19:11; Pr 6:7 [A. V. "overseer"], etc.); and apparently also of a military chief (2Ch 26:11 [A. V. "ruler"]). See below.
3. נַצָּב, nitstsab, part. Niph. of נָצִב, to set orplace,a praefect or director (1Ki 4:5,7; 1Ki 5:18 [A.V.'16]; 9:23, etc.); and נצַיב, netsib (1Ki 4:7,19). SEE GOVERNOR.
4. רִב, rab (Es 1:8; Da 1:3 [A. V. "master"]); Sept. οἰκόνομος. SEE RAB.
5. פָּקַיד, pakid, from פָּקִד, to visit, Hiph. to set over, an overseer or magistrate (Ge 41:34, Sept. τοπάρχης; Jg 9:28, Sept. ἐπίσκοπος; Es 2:3, Sept. κωμάρχης; 2Ch 24:11, Sept. προστάτης); and פּקֻדָּה, pekuddah, properly office, but used collectively for a body of officers (Isa 60:17, Sept. ἄρχοντας; also 2Ch 24:11 [A. V. "office"], Sept. προστάτας).
6. עֹשֵׂי הִמּלָאכָה, "those who did the business," marg. A.V., Sept. γραμματεῖς (Es 9:3). SEE MONARCHY, HEBREW.
In the N.T. the words translated "officer" are both employed of legal functionaries. They are: 1. ὑπηρέτης, a word of general significance, denoting one who renders service of any kind; it is used, with this rendering, of a functionary whose duty it was to apprehend offenders, or to exact legal penalties from those who had incurred them (Mt 5:25 [for which Luke uses πράκτωρ, 12:58]; Joh 7:32,46; Joh 18:3,12; Ac 5:22); a messenger or bailiff; like the Roman viator or lictor. Josephus uses the word ὑπηρέτης of an officer two of whom, being Levites, were attached to each magistrate (Ant. 4:8, 14); but it is probable that these were rather clerks or assessors of the court than servants of the class above described. The Mishna also mentions the crier and other officials, but whether these answered to the officers of Josephus and the N.T. cannot be determined. Selden, from Maimonides, mentions the high estimation in which such officials were held (Sanhedr. 4:4; 6:1; Selden, De Synedr. 2:13, 11). 2. The πράκτωρ was properly the exactor of the penalty assigned by the judge, and so the word is correctly used by Luke (Lu 12:58). There were at Athens officers bearing this name, whose business it was to register and collect fines imposed by courts of justice; and "deliver to the officer" means, give in the name of the debtor to the officer of the court (Demosthenes [or Dinarchus] c. Theocr. p. 1218, Reiske; Smith, Dict. of Antiq. "Practores," "Hyperetes;" Jul. Poll. 8:114;
Demosth. c. Arist. p. 778; AEsch. c. Timarch. p. 5; Grotius, on Lu 12:58). SEE PUNISHMENT.
The most usual and specific of the above Hebrew words is shoterim' (שֹׁטרַים), which is best explained as the participle of an old verb, shatar' (שָׁטִר), that still appears in the Arabic, meaning to engrave, to mark upon anything; hence to write, and from the common use of scribes in the East, and especially in Egypt (see Wilkinson, Anc.' Egypt. 2:176 sq., Harper's ed.), in all matters of agency, superintendence, and public business, the word naturally passes into the more general meaning of agent or officer (comp. Hengstenberg, Pentat. 1:449 sq.). In English, and other Western languages, words of kindred signification originally have acquired the same latitude of meaning. SEE CLERK; SEE WRITING. These scribes or officers first appear in Egypt as Hebrews appointed to supervise the task of their brethren, and made responsible for its full completion (Ex 5:6,14-15,19). Those only were adapted to this task who, by their skill in writing, were competent to keep lists and tables of persons and their work. Their duties are well illustrated by many groups on the extant Egyptian monuments, in which the scribe is seen registering the workmen engaged in various employments (see Wilkinson, Anc. Egypt. 2:282 sq.). The elders of the people, while in the wilderness, were appointed officers (Nu 11:16; De 29:10; De 31:28), and at the exode each tribe had its own "officers" (De 1:15; comp. 20:5), who, under Joshua, were the medium of communication between the commander-in-chief and their respective tribes (Jos 1:10; Jos 3:2), and at different times several classes of functionaries are enumerated, the officers (שֹׁטרַים) being generally the last mentioned (Jos 8:33; Jos 23:2; Jos 24:1). The law indeed had already ordained (De 16:18) that on the settlement in the promised land "officers and judges" should be appointed in every city; and David seems to have appointed them from among the Levites (1Ch 23:4; 1Ch 26:29; comp. 2Ch 19:11). Other "officers" are mentioned under David (1Ch 27:1) as engaged in the services of the court, perhaps a kind of chamberlains; but in connection with the army (2Ch 26:11) not only scribes (סֹפרַים SEE SCRIBE ), but also rulers or officers (שֹׁטרַים) were employed. None of these, however, are mentioned in the books of Kings. It is clear that although in these passages the Hebrew term shoterim' in no case refers to mere subordinates engaged in menial duties, as lictors, beadles, etc. (the view of Fuller, Misc. Sacr. 3:19; Selden, De Synedr. 1:15), yet officers of various kinds are denoted by it, especially those whose duties required the keeping of registers and tables. It answers well, accordingly, to the Greek term for a scribe, γραμματεύς, and to the English word clerk (comp. Wachsmuth, Hellen. Alterthumnsk. 1:829 sq.). It cannot, however, be proved that these officers among the Hebrews had the peculiar charge of the genealogical tables (as Michaelis, Mos. R. p. 281; Jahn, Archaeol. II, 1:62; Hengstenberg, ut sup.), although this duty accords well with the proper meaning of the term. Scribes must, of course, have enrolled the army; but it remains uncertain whether these enlisting officers were permanently connected with the army. SEE CENSUS; SEE SECRETARY.