Two entirely different words are translated "hire" in the Old Testament:
(1) The most frequent one is sakhar, verb sakhar, and verbal adjective sakhir.
(a) As a verb it means "to hire" for a wage, either money or something else; in this sense it is used with regard to ordinary laborers (1 Samuel 2:5; 2 Chronicles 24:12), or mercenary soldiers (2 Samuel 10:6; 2 Kings 7:6; 1 Chronicles 19:6; 2 Chronicles 25:6), or a goldsmith (Isaiah 46:6), or a band of loose followers (Judges 9:4), or a false priest (Judges 18:4), or Balaam (Deuteronomy 23:4; Nehemiah 13:2), or hostile counselors (Ezra 4:5), or false prophets (Nehemiah 6:12). As a verbal adjective it refers to things (Exodus 22:15; Isaiah 7:20)or men (Leviticus 19:13; Jeremiah 46:21).
(b) As a noun it denotes the wage in money, or something else, paid to workmen for their services (Genesis 30:32; 31:8; Deuteronomy 24:15; 1 Kings 5:6; Zechariah 8:10), or the rent or hire paid for a thing (Exodus 22:15), or a work-beast (Zechariah 8:10). In Genesis 30:16 Leah hires from Rachel the privilege of having Jacob with her again, and her conception and the subsequent birth of a son, she calls her hire or wage from the Lord for the gift of her slave girl to Jacob as a concubine (Genesis 30:18).
(2) The other word translated hire is 'ethnan, once 'ethnan. It is rather a gift (from root nathan, "to give") than a wage earned by labor, and is used uniformly in a bad sense. It is the gift made to a harlot (Deuteronomy 23:18), or, reversing the usual custom, made by the harlot nation (Ezekiel 16:31,41). It was also used metaphorically of the gifts made by Israelites to idols, since this was regarded as spiritual harlotry (Isaiah 23:17; Micah 1:7; compare also Hosea 8:9).
In the English New Testament the word occurs once as a verb and 3 times as a noun as the translation of misthos, and its verbal form. In Matthew 20:1,8 and James 5:4 it refers to the hiring of ordinary field laborers for a daily wage. In Luke 10:7 it signifies the stipend which is due the laborer in the spiritual work of the kingdom of God. It is a wage, earned by toil, as that of other laborers. The word is very significant here and absolutely negatives the idea, all too prevalent, that money received by the spiritual toiler is a gift. It is rather a wage, the reward of real toil.
William Joseph McGlothlin
These files are public domain.