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

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Entry for 'HIRE'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". 1915.