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The Elders

Elder is from an old Anglo-Saxon word, eldra, meaning older, with a practical meaning of more experienced. It's used to translate a number of original words of the Scriptures, such as the Hebrew word (pronounced) gaw-dole, meaning greater (in any sense, whether age, stature, dignity etc.) and the Greek word (pronounced) pres-ber-teer-os, meaning older, or senior. While "elder" was commonly used for an older sibling, or a parent, during Bible History it was also a political and/or religious office held by responsible individuals.

The Elders

Elder Just prior to the Exodus, while Moses was still with Jethro, The Lord sent Moses back to Egypt to speak to the elders of Israel and tell them that their deliverance was at hand:

"Go and gather the elders of Israel together, and say to them, 'The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, "I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt; and I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt, to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey." (Exodus 3:16-17 RSV)

Seventy of the elders of Israel accompanied Moses part-way up Mount Sinai when he returned to receive the tables of stone (see also What Did The Ten Commandments Look Like?) on which were written The Ten Commandments (see also The Ten Commandments Now?), that had been earlier spoken by The Lord - they were spoken in Exodus 20, but the stone tablets were not written until Exodus 24, after the people agreed to the Covenant (i.e. Exodus 20:1, 24:3, 24:12):

"And Moses took the blood and threw it upon the people, and said, "Behold the blood of the covenant which The Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words."

"Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel; and there was under His feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. And He did not lay His hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank."

"The Lord said to Moses, "Come up to me on the mountain, and wait there; and I will give you the tables of stone, with the Law and the Commandment, which I have written for their instruction." So Moses rose with his servant Joshua, and Moses went up into the mountain of God" (Exodus 24:8-13 RSV)

When Moses became overworked in his leadership responsibilities, telling The Lord, "I am not able to carry all these people alone, the burden is too heavy for me" (Numbers 11:14 RSV), The Lord instructed him to choose seventy of the elders of Israel to assist him. To insure that they be good leaders, they too were given a measure of The Spirit Of God:

"And The Lord said to Moses, "Gather for Me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them; and bring them to the tent of meeting, and let them take their stand there with you. And I will come down and talk with you there; and I will take some of the Spirit which is upon you and put it upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, that you may not bear it yourself alone." (Numbers 11:16-17 RSV)

In later years, the elders held various offices of responsibility:

"You shall appoint judges and officers in all your towns which The Lord your God gives you, according to your tribes; and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment." (Deuteronomy 16:18 RSV)

Jesus Christ, a Jew (see Hate Jews?), was rejected by the elders of the Jews and accused of breaking God's Law, which He absolutely did not (see Did Jesus Break The Law?):

"Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, "Why do your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat." He answered them, "And why do you transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?" (Matthew 15:1-3 RSV)

"From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised." (Matthew 16:21 RSV)

"the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, and took counsel together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill Him." (Matthew 26:3 RSV)

"When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put Him to death; and they bound Him and led Him away and delivered Him to Pilate the governor" (Matthew 27:1-2 RSV)

The appointed elders of the Christian church served in a more religious, than political, way:

"When they had preached the Gospel [see Godspell] to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the Kingdom of God. And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they believed." (Acts 14:21-23 RSV)

"When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders" (Acts 15:4 RSV)

"Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching; for the scripture says, "You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain," and, "The laborer deserves his wages." (1 Timothy 5:17-18 RSV)

Fact Finder: Are there twenty-four spiritual elders at the Throne in heaven?
Revelation 4:4,10


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