kup'-bar-er (mashqeh, "one giving drink"; oinochoos): An officer of high rank at ancient oriental courts, whose duty it was to serve the wine at the king's table. On account of the constant fear of plots and intrigues, a person must be regarded as thoroughly trustworthy to hold this position. He must guard against poison in the king's cup, and was sometimes required to swallow some of the wine before serving it. His confidential relations with the king often endeared him to his sovereign and also gave him a position of great influence. This officer is first mentioned in Scripture in Ge 40:1 ff, where the Hebrew word elsewhere translated "cupbearer" is rendered "butler." The phrase "chief of the butlers" (Ge 40:2) accords with the fact that there were often a number of such officials under one as chief (compare Xen. Hellen. vii.1, 38). Nehemiah (compare 1:11) was cupbearer to Artaxerxes Longimanus, and was held in high esteem by him, as the record shows. His financial ability (Ne 5:8,10,14,17) would indicate that the office was a lucrative one. Cupbearers are mentioned further in 1Ki 10:5; 2Ch 9:4, where they, among other evidences of royal splendor, are stated to have impressed the queen of Sheba with Solomon's glory. The title Rabshakeh (Isa 36:2), once thought to mean "chief of the cupbearers," is now given a different derivation and explained as "chief of the officers," or "princes" (BDB under the word). See further on cupbearers Herod. iii.34; Xen. Cyrop. i.3, 8, 9; Josephus, Ant, XVI, viii, 1; Tobit 1:22.
Benjamin Reno Downer