A rod or mace used by a sovereign as a symbol of royal authority. The Hebrew shebheT is the ordinary word for rod or club, and is used of an ordinary rod (compare 2 Samuel 7:14), of the shepherd's crook (Psalms 23:4), scribe's baton or marshal's staff (Judges 5:14), as well as of the symbol of royalty. Its symbolism may be connected with the use of the shebheT for protection (2 Samuel 23:21; Psalms 23:4) or for punishment (Isaiah 10:24; 30:31). It is used with reference to the royal line descended from Judah (Genesis 49:10), and figuratively of sovereignty in general and possibly of conquest (Numbers 24:17, in Israel; Isaiah 14:5, in Babylonia; Amos 1:5,8, in Syria, among Philistines; Zechariah 10:11, in Egypt), the disappearance or cutting off of him that holdeth the scepter being tantamount to loss of national independence. The kingship of Yahweh is spoken of as a scepter (Psalms 45:6 (Hebrew verse 7) quoted in Hebrews 1:8). The manner of using the scepter by an oriental monarch is suggested in the act of Ahasuerus, who holds it out to Esther as a mark of favor. The subject touches the top of it, perhaps simply as an act of homage or possibly to indicate a desire to be heard. The scepter of Ahasuerus is spoken of as "golden" (Esther 5:2), but it is probable that scepters were ordinarily made of straight branches (maTeh) of certain kinds of vines (Ezekiel 19:11,14).
It is sometimes difficult to determine whether the word shebheT is used in figurative passages in the sense of scepter or merely in the ordinary sense of staff (e.g. Psalms 125:3, the King James Version "rod," the Revised Version (British and American) and the American Standard Revised Version "sceptre" (of the wicked); Psalms 2:9, "rod of iron"; Proverbs 22:8, "rod of his wrath"). Another word, mechoqeq, literally, "prescribing" (person or thing), formerly translated uniformly "lawgiver," is now generally taken, on the basis of parallelism, to mean "sceptre" in four poetic passages (Genesis 49:10, "ruler's staff" to avoid repetition; Numbers 21:18; Psalms 60:7; 108:8).
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