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The Use of the Word as a Title in the Old Testament

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image of Vetus Testamentum

Many societies have used the word "head" metaphorically to describe the position of the leading figure in a society or in some smaller group, and this title usually has a vague and imprecise meaning. To be intelligible it needs to be given some known context or some further definition. For example, if we are schoolmasters, we may among ourselves refer to "the Head", but outside school, unless we are speaking to people who know the context of our work, we have to refer to "the Headmaster" to be fully understood. And even when the context of the headship is known, the title "head" by itself tells us nothing definite about the position of the person so described. We know nothing, for example, about the means of his appointment, the tenure of his office, or the scope of his powers. Thus the word "head" can often be used in a general sense of some position or office for which there is in fact an official or more descriptive title. In the Old Testament, however, the title is not always so vaguely used. Although the word "head" in Hebrew as in English has a natural ambiguity on many occasions, we can at least show that in the Old Testament the word is used of a person's position only in certain well defined spheres. And because the title "head" in the Old Testament has a fairly limited reference, the details of appointment, tenure of office or position, and scope of powers, though sometimes unknown to us, may not have been so generally unknown in ancient Israel.

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