prins: This word occurs quite frequently in our English Bible, mostly in the Old Testament. While it is never used to denote royal parentage (compare 1Ch 29:24), it often indicates actual royal or ruling power, together with royal dignity and authority. As a rule, the name is given to human beings; in a few instances it is applied to God and Christ, the angels and the devil.
In Mt 2:6 the word rendered "princes" might be translated "princely cities"; at least, this seems to be implied. Here the term hegemon, "leader," "ruler," "prince," is used, undoubtedly to hint at the fact that Bethlehem was the native city of a great prince. In the other New Testament passages the word archon, "a potentate," "a person in authority," "a magistrate," occurs most frequently (compare Mt 9:34; 12:24; 20:25 (the Revised Version (British and American) "ruler"); Mr 3:22; Joh 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; 1Co 2:6,8 the King James Version; Eph 2:2; Re 1:5 (the Revised Version (British and American) "ruler")). In most of these instances the term "prince" refers to the devil.
In Ac 3:15; 5:31, the word archegos, "leader," is employed referring to Christ as the author of life and salvation (compare Heb 12:2, where the term archegos is rendered "author" (Revised Version) or "captain" (Revised Version margin)).
The Old Testament contains a number of different words mostly rendered "prince" or "princes" in the English Versions of the Bible.
(1) sar: In Jos 5:14 the mysterious armed stranger seen by Joshua near Jericho calls himself the "prince of the host of Yahweh": a high military title applied to a superhuman being. In Isa 9:6, the name is given to the child representing the future Messiah. The term "Prince of Peace" denotes the eminent position and the peaceful reign of the Messianic king: the highest human title in its most ideal sense. Da 8:11: here, again, as in Jos 5:14, occurs the phrase "prince of the host." In Da 8:25 "the prince of princes" refers to God Himself: the highest human title in its absolute sense applied to God. Da 10:21: "Michael your prince." Michael the archangel is here called the prince of the Jewish people. He is the princely representative of God's people in the sight of God, a royal title suggesting high power and alliance with God in the great struggle going on between Him and the powers of darkness. Da 12:1: here Michael is called "the great prince" who standeth for the children of Israel; supplementing Da 10:21. In Da 10:13: "the prince of the kingdom of Persia" (compare Da 10:20, "the prince of Persia," "the prince of Greece"), the expression is used in the same general sense as in Da 10:21. Each individual nation is represented as guided by a spiritual being that may or may not be an ally of God in His combat with the devil. In the majority of cases, though, the term sar is applied (a) to men exercising royal or ruling power: Pr 8:16: "By me princes (margin "or rulers") rule" Isa 32:1: "Behold, a king shall reign in righteousness, and princes shall rule in justice." Judicial power is included (compare Ex 2:14: "Who made thee a prince and a judge over us?" and Ps 148:11: "princes and all judges of the earth"). In some passages the word sar, having been rendered "prince," stands for "chief"; so Jg 7:25: "They took the two princes of Midian" (compare Jg 8:14; 1Sa 29:4; 2Sa 10:3, etc.). (b) To royal officers of a high rank: Ge 12:15: "the princes of Pharaoh" (compare 2Ki 24:14: "Jerus and all the princes"; 1Ch 29:24; 2Ch 24:23; Jer 36:21; 52:10; Ho 5:10, etc.). "Ambassadors" (Jer 36:14); "governors" (1Ki 20:14: "By the young men (margin "or, servants") of the princes of the provinces"; compare Es 1:3,14, "the seven princes"); "the chief of the eunuchs" (Da 1:7); a "quartermaster" (Jer 51:59: "Seraiah was chief chamberlain" (margin "or, quartermaster")). The King James Version renders it "a quiet prince," i.e. a prince having rest, instead of procuring rest (sar menuchah, "a sar of rest"). In post-exilic times: Ezr 9:1: "The princes drew near unto me." They were the political leaders of the people (compare Ezr 10:8: "the princes and the elders"; Ne 9:38: "our princes, our Levites, and our priests"; Ne 11:1: "The princes of the people dwelt in Jerus"; Ne 12:31: "the princes of Judah"). Of course, they were all subject to the authority of the Persian kings. (c) To the priesthood: 1Ch 24:5: "princes of the sanctuary, and princes of God" (of Isa 43:28). (d) On account of great achievements: 2Sa 3:38: "Know ye not that there is a prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel?"--an honorary title. Generally speaking, a prince is a wealthy man (compare Job 34:19: "That respecteth not the persons of princes, nor regardeth the rich more than the poor"), and he is a prominent man embodying true, although mortal, manhood (compare Ps 82:7: "Nevertheless ye shall die like men, and fall like one of the princes).
(2) nasi': usually derived from nasa', "to lift," hence, "exalted"; otherwise: a "speaker." (a) An honorary title (compare Ge 23:6: "Thou art a prince of God among us." The distinction is conferred upon Abraham by the children of Heth). (b) A name given to the heads of the Israelite tribes, families and fathers' houses: Nu 3:24: "the prince of the fathers' house of the Gershonites" (compare Nu 3:30,35); Nu 3:32: "Eleazar .... shall be prince of the princes of the Levites, and have the oversight of them that keep the charge of the sanctuary"; Nu 4:34: "the princes of the congregation." They seem to be identical with the "rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens" (compare Ex 18:21; Nu 16:2). Nu 7:2: "the princes of Israel, the heads of their fathers' houses .... the princes of the tribes" (compare Nu 17:2,6; 34:18; Jos 22:14; 1Ch 4:38). (c) Equivalent to chief or king: Ge 17:20: "Twelve princes shall he beget" (compare Ge 25:16); Ge 34:2: "Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the land"; Nu 25:18: "Cozbi, the daughter of the prince of Midian" (compare Jos 13:21); 1Ki 11:34: "I will make him prince all the days of his life." This was said of Solomon, which shows the term equivalent to king. Of special interest is the use of the word nasi' in Ezekiel. The name is given to the Jewish king (compare 1Ki 12:10: "This burden concerneth the prince in Jerusalem"). Then, again, it is applied to the future theocratic king (compare 34:24; 37:25, etc., and especially chapters 45; 46). It is also used of foreign potentates and high officers (compare 26:16: "the princes of the sea"; 28:2: "the prince of Tyre"; 30:13: "a prince from the land of Egypt"); 32:29: "Edom, her kings and all her princes"; and, likewise, of high Jewish officers (21:12). (d) A title bestowed upon Sheshbazzar (Ezr 1:8).
(3) nadhibh: 1Sa 2:8: "To make them sit with princes" (compare Ps 113:8). The original meaning of the term is willing or obliging; then generous ("liberal"; compare Pr 19:6: "Many will entreat the favor of the liberal man"; yet, it might safely be rendered here "prince", margin) or noble-minded; a gentleman, a nobleman, a person of rank, a prince. Job 12:21: "He poureth contempt upon princes" (compare Ps 107:40); Job 21:28: "Where is the house of the prince? And where is the tent wherein the wicked dwelt?" The context here suggests the thought of a wicked prince, a tyrant. Ps 47:9: "The princes of the peoples are gathered together" (compare Ps 118:9; 146:3; Pr 17:7; 25:7; Song 7:1).
(4) naghidh: According to Gesenius, this term denotes originally either a high-minded person (compare the preceding word, nadhibh) or a speaker, a spokesman; then a prince, a king. 1Sa 13:14: "Yahweh hath appointed him to be prince over his people" (compare 2Sa 5:2: "Thou shalt be prince (the Revised Version margin "leader") over Israel"; 2Sa 6:21; 7:8; 1Ki 1:35; 14:7; 16:2; Job 29:9; 31:37; Ps 76:12; Pr 28:16; Eze 28:2: "prince of Tyre"; Da 9:25: "the anointed one, the prince," the King James Version the "Messiah the Prince"; Da 9:26: "the prince that shall come" (the Roman emperor?); Da 11:22: "the prince of the covenant" (either a high priest or some Egyptian king, Ptolemeus Philometor?).
(5), (6) razon, and rozen, "a high official," "a prince," usually associated with the word "king" or "judge." Pr 14:28: "In the multitude of people is the king's glory; but in the want of people is the destruction of the prince" (razon); Jg 5:3: "Hear, O ye kings; give ear, O ye princes" (rozenim); Pr 8:15: "By me kings reign, and princes (rozenim) decree justice" (compare Pr 31:4; Hab 1:10); Isa 40:23: "that bringeth princes (rozenim) to nothing; that maketh the judges of the earth as vanity."
(7) nacikh, derived from nacakh, "to install a king" (compare Ps 2:6); hence, a prince: Jos 13:21: "the princes of Sihon" (compare Ps 83:11); Eze 32:30: "the princes of the north"; Mic 5:5: the Revised Version (British and American) "principal men," the Revised Version margin "princes among men"; Da 11:8: the Revised Version (British and American) "molten images," the Revised Version margin "princes."
(8) qatsin, "a judge," "a military leader," "a prince"; Da 11:18: "A prince (the Revised Version margin "captain") shall cause the reproach .... to cease" (probably a Roman consul; a Roman general?).
(9) shalish: The usual explanation, "one of the three men on a war-chariot" is highly improbable; Gesenius suggests that it is a loan-word, and renders it "hero." Eze 23:15: "All of them princes to look upon" ("picked men," Gesenius).
(10) chashmannim: Ps 68:31: "Princes shall come out of Egypt." Septuagint renders it presbeis, "ambassadors," Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) legati. But the meaning is uncertain.
See also GOVERNOR, 1, (8).