(סֹפֵר, sopher, a writer; γραμματεύς), a word the early appearance of which in Heb. literature shows the antiquity of the art of writing. The name of Kirjath - Sepher ( "city of the book," Jos 15:15; Jg 1:12) may possibly connect itself with some early use of the title. In the song of Deborah (v, 14) the word appears to point to military functions of some kind. The "pen of the writer" of the A.V. has been thought to be the rod or sceptre of the commander numbering or marshalling his troops; but it may naturally signify only that those unused to warfare in the emergency exchanged the pen for the sword. The title appears with more distinctness in the early history of the monarchy. They must not be confounded, however, with the שֹׁטרִים, shoterim (likewise literally recorders) from whom they are expressly distinguished (2Ch 26:11), as the latter were rather inspectors than writers. SEE OFFICER. Three men are mentioned as successively filling the office of scribe under David and Solomon (2Sa 8:17; 2Sa 20:25; 1Ki 4:3, in this instance two simultaneously). Their functions are not specified, the high place assigned to them, side by side with the high priest and the captain of the host, implies power and honor. We may think of them as the king's secretaries, writing his letters, drawing up his decrees, managing his finances (comp. the work of the scribe under Joash, 2Ki 12:10). At a later period the word again connects itself with the act of numbering the military forces of the country (Jer 52:25, and probably Isa 33:18). Other associations, however, began to gather round it about the same period. The zeal of Hezekiah led him to foster the growth of a body of men whose work it was to transcribe old records, or to put in writing what had been handed down orally Pr 25:1). To this period accordingly belongs the new significance of the title. It no longer designates only an officer of the king's court, but a class, students and interpreters of but the law, boasting of their wisdom (Jer 8:8). SEE SCRIBES.
As in ancient times comparatively few could write, this was, ill fact, a learned profession. Such persons, evidently official characters, are frequently depicted on the Egyptian monuments, as that nation was proverbial for recording everything relating both to public and private life. On the Assyrian monuments they likewise appear, but less prominently, and only in the later sculptures (Layard, Nineveh, 2:146). In the East to- day professional letter-writers may be found in the streets plying their vocation in behalf of the uneducated. See Writing.