Staff (usually מִטֶּה, מִקֵּל, or שֶׁבֶט; άβδος; all designating a stick). The use of rods and staffs was as various with the ancient Israelites as with us. Men and animals were goaded with them (Ex 21:20 [comp. Sir. 33, 27]; Nu 22:27; 1Sa 17:43; 2Sa 7:14; Pr 10:13; Pr 13:24; Isa 9:3), SEE BASTINADO; fruit was beaten with them from the trees (Jg 6:11; Ru 2:17; Isa 28:27), especially olives (q.v.). Old and infirm people carried them as supports or for defense (Ex 21:19; Zec 8:4 [see the monograph of Canz, De Pedo Servatoris, Tub. 1750]), also travelers (Ge 32:10; Ex 12:11; 2Ki 4:29; Mt 10:10; Mr 6:8). SEE WALK. A baton, like a ring, was often a sign of rank (Ge 38:18,25; comp. Herod. 1, 19; Bonomi, Nineveh, p. 197); sometimes inscribed with the owner's name (Wilkinson, Anc. Egypt. 2, 347); and especially a badge of office (Ex 4:2 sq.; 7:9 sq.; Nu 20:8; Nu 21:18; Jg 5:14; 1Sa 14:27; Ps 110:2; Mic 7:14). SEE SCEPTER. The shepherd carried a staff, which he used not only as a support in climbing hills, but for the purpose of beating bushes and low brushwood in which the flocks strayed, and where, snakes and other reptiles abounded. It may also have been used for correcting the shepherd dogs and keeping them in subjection (Van Lennep, Bible Lands, p. 188). SEE SHEPHERD.

In Heb 11:21 it is cited as an example of faith that the dying Jacob "worshipped [leaning] upon the top of his staff" (προσεκύνησεν ἐπὶ τὸ ἄκρον τῆς άβδου αὑτοῦ), a statement which Romanists have sometimes appealed to as sanctioning the worship of images, on the pretense that the patriarch's staff bore a carved head (after the Vulg. adoravit fastigium baculi sui). These words are simply quoted from the Sept. at Ge 47:31, where the Greek translator has mistaken מַטָּה, bed, for מִטֶּה, staff, as is obvious from the parallel passage (49:33). The phrase merely indicates a reverential posture such as David assumed (1Ki 1:47). See Zeibich, De Jacobo ad Caput Scipionis Adorante (Ger. 1783). SEE JACOB.

Definition of staff

See also the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

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