Old A fine description of the decrepitude of old age is contained in Ec 12:5 sq., The ancient Hebrews, in obedience to a natural feeling, and because of their superior moral discipline, entertained the highest regard for the aged (Job 12:12; Job 15:10); and this sentiment still prevails throughout the East (Rosenmüller, Morgenland, 2:208 sq.; Descript. de 'Egypte,. 18:174 sq.), as it did among all ancient nations (Homer, I. 23:788; Isocr. A rop. p. 354,355; Diog. Laert. 1:3, 2; 8:1, 19; Herod. 2:80; Juvenal, Sat. 13:54; Aul. Gell. 2:15; Strabo, 11:503; Justin, 3:3, 9; Doughteei Analect. 1:84; see C. Kretzschmar, De Senectute Priscis Ionorata [Dresd. 1784]), although in Europe, as the power of.education has increased, and the circumstances of life have become more complicated. the honor given to age has decreased. (But comp. Ebert, Ueberliefer, 2:1, p. 90 sq.) The young were accustomed to rise and give place modestly, whenever an old person approached (Le 19:32; AElian, Anim. 6:61. Herod. ut sup.; comp. also Job 29:8; Otho, Lex. Rabbin. — p. 686). Want of reverence for the aged was severely rebuked (De 28:50; La 5:12; Wisd. 2:10), and moralists often inculcated peculiar, obligations to the old (Pr 23:22; Sirach 3:13; 6:35; 8:7; 32:13). The Essenes were especially zealous in their regard for the old (Philo, Opp. 2:459, 633). The salutation "father" was frequently addressed to aged men among the Hebrews, as also among the Greeks and Romans (comp. Heindorf, On Horat. Sat. 2:1, 12); but it appears in the Bible rather as an expression of respect, or as applied to holy men (2
Kings 6:21; 13:14). From the earliest times the Hebrews chose their officers and judges from the old men of the nation. While yet in Egypt they had elders to represent the people (Ex 3:16; Ex 4:29; Ex 12:21; comp. 17:5; 18:12), and Moses himself appointed a college of seventy "elders" (Nu 6:16; but comp. Ex 24:1,9) to aid him in ruling. From this time the Israelites always had "elders," sometimes of the whole nation (Jos 7:6; Jos 23:2; 1Sa 4:3; 1Sa 8:4; 2Sa 3:17; 2Sa 5:3; 2Sa 17:4; 1Ki 8:1,3; Jer 19:1; Jer 29:1), sometimes of single tribes (De 31:28; 2Sa 19:11; 2Ch 34:29), who however were distinct from the princes and officers of tribes and provinces (De 29:10; Jg 11:5), and sometimes only of cities (De 19:12; De 21:3,6; De 22:15; 1Sa 11:3; 1Sa 16:4; 1Ki 21:8,11; Ezr 10:14; Ezr 2 Maccabees 14:37; comp. Jg 8:14). In the ceremonial order of sacrifice, also, they were representatives of the people for certain purposes (Le 4:15; Le 9:1). The elders of the city formed a council, with judicial and police authority (De 22:15 sq.; 25:7 sq.; Ru 4:2 sq.; Judith 10:7), which held its sessions at the gates (Job 29:7). Yet other judges .are sometimes mentioned (Ezr 10:14; comp. Susan. 5; and SEE JUDGE ). The elders of the people and of the tribes were the constitutional representatives of the people under the kings (1Ki 8:1; 1Ki 20:7; 2 Kings 28:1). They still retained their functions during the Captivity (Eze 14:1; Eze 20:7), and after the restoration to Palestine were the medium of communication between the people and their foreign rulers (Ezr 5:9; Ezr 6:7), and even until the time of the Maccabees were a tribunal of general resort in the internal affairs of the nation (Ezr 6:14; Ezr 10:8; Ezr 1 Maccabees 12:6, 35; 13:36; 14:9). It does not appear, however, that the "elders" were always in reality the oldest men; superior ability and personal influence were qualifications for this position, even apart from advanced age, so that gradually the word elder (זָקֵן zaken) passed into a mere title, belonging of course to the office (comp. Philo, Opp. 1:393), just as the word γέρων in the Grecian states (as in Sparta, Wachsmuth, Hel. Alt. 1:463), senator in Rome, and elder in the Protestant churches (comp. Gesen. Thesaur. p. 427 sq.). In the New Testament the elders of the people (Mt 26:47; Lu 7:3; called "the senate of the children of Israel" [γερπισία τῶν υἱῶν Ι᾿σραήλ], Ac 5:21) usually appear as composing, in connection with the high-priests and scribes. the Jewish Sanhedrim (Mt 26:3,47; Mt 27:1 sq.; Mr 14:43; Mr 15:1; Lu 22:66; Ac 4:5; Ac 5:21). SEE SANHEDRIM. After the model of the Jewish synagogue, at the head of which stood the elders, the apostles appointed elders also in the several churches (called the "presbytery," 1Ti 4:14; see Ac 11:30; Ac 14:23; Ac 15:2 sq.; 16:4). SEE AGE; SEE ELDERS; SEE PRESBYTERY.