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Morrish Bible Dictionary

Elders

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This term occurs first in Genesis 50:7 , where it applies to the Egyptians of the house of Pharaoh and to the elders of Egypt. In Numbers 22:7 we read also of the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian, so that the term was not confined to Israel. The word is saqen which implies 'aged man;' they were no doubt also men of repute, including heads of houses of each tribe, without having any official place such as was given to the seventy appointed by God to work with Moses: these were chosen from among the elders. Numbers 11:16,17,24,25 .

Elders would be found in every city, and could act in all matters of the common weal as the responsible members of the community. They could be called on any emergency. For instance, when a dead man was found in a field, and it was not known who had slain him, the elders of the city to which it was nearest, must assemble, and, with their hands over a heifer, beheaded for the occasion, must solemnly declare that they had no knowledge of the murder. The 'judges ' are here named as distinct from the elders. Deuteronomy 21:1-9 . In any ratification as to the redemption of an inheritance the elders were called together to be witnesses. Ruth 4:1-12 . The elders being heads of houses and related by blood to the people, Israel must have been in a dire condition when the elders were not honoured. Lamentations 4:16 ; Lamentations 5:12 .

In the N.T. the elders of Israel are often referred to and their traditions spoken of. Mark 7:3,5 . Such took a prominent part in the condemnation of the Lord, and are mentioned as distinct from the Sanhedrim. Matthew 26:59 . 'All the elders' in Matthew 27:1 would include the Sanhedrim: cf. also Acts 6:12 . The elders continued their opposition as long as there was any open testimony in Jerusalem. Acts 4:23 ; Acts 24:1 ; Acts 25:15 .

ELDER IN THE CHURCH. The word is πρεσβύτερος, and signifies 'aged person.' There were elders at Jerusalem, though we do not read of their appointment, Acts 11:30 ; Acts 15:2-23 ; Acts 21:18 ; but the choice of elders in the Gentile assemblies was by apostolic authority, either direct or delegated. Paul and Barnabas chose, or appointed, elders in every city. Acts 14:23 : cf. James 5:14 ; 1 Peter 5:1 . Titus was delegated by Paul to establish elders in every city in Crete. Titus 1:5 . In Titus 1:7 they are called bishops, or overseers; so in Acts 20 Paul called for the elders of Ephesus, to whom he said that the Holy Ghost had made them bishops, or overseers, showing that those appointed as elders and bishops were the same persons. Acts 20:28 . See BISHOP.

It is important to note the distinction between 'gift' and 'office.' The former is direct from the Lord; the latter by human appointment. Gift needed no human authority for its exercise, and was held in immediate responsibility to the Head. Elders were such by apostolic authority, direct or delegated. Their appointment was not to preach or teach (though if they took the lead well, and had the gift of teaching, they were worthy of double honour, 1 John 5:17 ), but 'to shepherd' the assembly of God, Acts 20:28 , and to maintain it in order in the locality where they lived. Their authority was over the unbroken local assembly. There can be now no such elders either in the source of their authority, or in the sphere of its exercise.

ELDERS IN HEAVEN. The four and twenty elders seen by John in heaven are frequently referred to in the Revelation. They were seen round about the throne, sitting on thrones (not seats), clothed in white raiment, with crowns of gold on their heads, and they worship God. Revelation 4:4,10 . In the O.T, when all was in order there were twenty-four courses of the priesthood, each course having an elder as head or chief, 1 Chronicles 24:7-18 ; and the elders in the Revelation being twenty-four in number may be in allusion to them. The elders in heaven have harps and golden vials full of odours, "which are the prayers of saints," showing that they act as priests, Revelation 5:8 ; and in Revelation 5:9 they celebrate redemption in a song. They are doubtless the redeemed, including both Old and New Testament saints. Revelation 7:11,13 ; Revelation 11:16 ; Revelation 14:3 ; Revelation 19:4 .


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Bibliography Information
Morrish, George. Entry for 'Elders '. Morrish Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/mbd/e/elders.html. 1897.

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