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Glossary of Bible Terms



  • Ab.

    After the Babylonian exile, the name of the 5th month of the Jewish sacred calendar and the 11th month of the secular calendar. It ran from mid-July to mid-August. It is not mentioned by name in the Bible; it is simply referred to as “the fifth month.” (Nu 33:38; Ezr 7:9)​—See App. B15.

  • Abib.

    The original name of the first month of the Jewish sacred calendar and the seventh month of the secular calendar. It means “Green Ears (of Grain)” and ran from mid-March to mid-April. After the Jews’ return from Babylon, it was called Nisan. (De 16:1)​—See App. B15.

  • Abyss.

    From the Greek word aʹbys·sos, meaning “exceedingly deep” or “unfathomable, boundless.” It is used in the Christian Greek Scriptures to refer to a place or condition of confinement. It includes the grave but is not limited to it.​—Lu 8:31; Ro 10:7; Re 20:3.

  • Achaia.

    In the Christian Greek Scriptures, the Roman province of southern Greece with its capital at Corinth. Achaia included all of the Peloponnese and the central part of continental Greece. (Ac 18:12)​—See App. B13.

  • Adar.

    After the Babylonian exile, the name of the 12th month of the Jewish sacred calendar and the 6th month of the secular calendar. It ran from mid-February to mid-March. (Es 3:7)​—See App. B15.

  • Adultery.

    Voluntary sexual intercourse by a married man or woman with someone other than his or her mate.​—Ex 20:14; Mt 5:27; 19:9.

  • Alabaster.

    The name of small perfume jars originally made of a stone found near Alabastron, Egypt. Such containers were usually made with a narrow neck that could be sealed to prevent any of the precious perfume from leaking. The stone itself also came to be known by the same name.​—Mr 14:3.

  • Alamoth.

    A musical term meaning “Maidens; Young Women,” probably alluding to the soprano voices of young women. It was likely used to indicate that a musical piece or accompaniment was to be executed at a high register.​—1Ch 15:20; Ps 46:Sup.

  • Alpha and Omega.

    Names of the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet; they are used together three times in Revelation as a title for God. In these contexts this expression means the same as “the first and the last” and “the beginning and the end.”​—Re 1:8; 21:6; 22:13.

  • Altar.

    A raised structure or platform made of dirt, rocks, a block of stone, or wood covered with metal on which sacrifices or incense were offered in worship. In the first room of the tabernacle and of the temple, there was a small “altar of gold” for offering incense. It was made of wood covered with gold. A larger “altar of copper” for burnt sacrifices was located outside in the courtyard. (Ex 27:1; 39:38, 39; Ge 8:20; 1Ki 6:20; 2Ch 4:1; Lu 1:11)​—See App. B5 and B8.

  • Amen.

    “So be it,” or “surely.” The word comes from the Hebrew root word ʼa·manʹ, which means “to be faithful, trustworthy.” “Amen” was said in agreement to an oath, a prayer, or a statement. In Revelation, it is used as a title for Jesus.​—De 27:26; 1Ch 16:36; Re 3:14.

  • Angels.

    From the Hebrew mal·ʼakhʹ and the Greek agʹge·los. Both words literally mean “messenger” but are rendered “angel” when referring to spirit messengers. (Ge 16:7; 32:3; Jas 2:25; Re 22:8) Angels are powerful spirit creatures, created by God long before the creation of mankind. They are also referred to in the Bible as “holy myriads,” “sons of God,” and “morning stars.” (De 33:2; Job 1:6; 38:7) They were not made with the ability to reproduce their own kind but were created individually. They number well over a hundred million. (Da 7:10) The Bible indicates that they have personal names and distinct personalities, yet they humbly refuse to receive worship, and most even avoid disclosing their names. (Ge 32:29; Lu 1:26; Re 22:8, 9) They have different ranks and are assigned a variety of roles, including serving before Jehovah’s throne, conveying his messages, intervening in behalf of Jehovah’s earthly servants, executing God’s judgments, and supporting the preaching of the good news. (2Ki 19:35; Ps 34:7; Lu 1:30, 31; Re 5:11; 14:6) In the future they will support Jesus in fighting the battle of Armageddon.​—Re 19:14, 15.

  • Anoint.

    The Hebrew word basically means “to smear with liquid.” Oil was applied to a person or an object to symbolize dedication to a special service. In the Christian Greek Scriptures, the word is also used of the pouring out of holy spirit on those chosen for the heavenly hope.​—Ex 28:41; 1Sa 16:13; 2Co 1:21.

  • Antichrist.

    The Greek term has a twofold meaning. It refers to that which is anti, or opposed to, Christ. It may also refer to a false Christ, one in the place of Christ. All people, organizations, or groups that falsely claim to represent Christ or claim to be the Messiah or that oppose Christ and his disciples can properly be called antichrists.​—1Jo 2:22.

  • Apostasy.

    This term in Greek (a·po·sta·siʹa) comes from a verb literally meaning “to stand away from.” The noun has the sense of “desertion, abandonment, or rebellion.” In the Christian Greek Scriptures, “apostasy” is used primarily with regard to those who defect from true worship.​—Pr 11:9; Ac 21:21; 2Th 2:3.

  • Apostle.

    The basic sense of the word is “one sent forth,” and it is used of Jesus and certain ones who were sent to serve others. Most frequently, it is used with regard to the disciples whom Jesus personally selected as a group of 12 appointed representatives.​—Mr 3:14; Ac 14:14.

  • Aram; Aramaeans.

    Descendants of Shem’s son Aram who mainly lived in regions from the Lebanon Mountains across to Mesopotamia and from the Taurus Mountains in the north down to Damascus and beyond in the south. This area, called Aram in Hebrew, was later referred to as Syria, and its inhabitants were referred to as Syrians.​—Ge 25:20; De 26:5; Ho 12:12.

  • Aramaic.

    A Semitic language closely related to Hebrew, using the same alphabet. It was originally spoken by the Aramaeans but later became the international language of trade and communication in the Assyrian and Babylonian empires. It was also the official administrative language of the Persian Empire. (Ezr 4:7) Parts of the books of Ezra, Jeremiah, and Daniel were written in Aramaic.​—Ezr 4:8–6:18; 7:12-26; Jer 10:11; Da 2:4b–7:28.

  • Archangel.

    Meaning “chief of the angels.” The prefix “arch” means “chief” or “principal.” This definition, coupled with the fact that “archangel” in the Bible is used only in the singular, indicates that there is just one archangel. The Bible gives the name of the archangel, identifying him as Michael.​—Da 12:1; Jude 9; Re 12:7.

  • Areopagus.

    A high hill in Athens, north-west of the Acropolis. It was also the name of the council (court) that held meetings there. Paul was brought to the Areopagus by Stoic and Epicurean philosophers to explain his beliefs.​—Ac 17:19.

  • Ark of the covenant.

    The chest made of acacia wood and overlaid with gold, which was kept in the Most Holy of the tabernacle and later in the Most Holy of the temple built by Solomon. It had a solid gold cover with two cherubs facing each other. Its principal contents were the two tablets of the Ten Commandments. (De 31:26; 1Ki 6:19; Heb 9:4)​—See App. B5 and B8.

  • Armageddon.

    From the Hebrew Har Meghid·dohnʹ, meaning “Mountain of Megiddo.” The word is associated with “the war of the great day of God the Almighty” in which “the kings of the entire inhabited earth” gather to wage war against Jehovah. (Re 16:14, 16; 19:11-21)​—See GREAT TRIBULATION.

  • Armor.

    The protective clothing worn by soldiers, namely, helmet, coat of mail, belt, shin guards, and shield.​—1Sa 31:9; Eph 6:13-17.

  • Aselgeia.​—


  • Ashtoreth.

    A Canaanite goddess of war and fertility, the wife of Baal.​—1Sa 7:3.

  • Asia.

    In the Christian Greek Scriptures, the name of the Roman province that included what is today the western part of Turkey, as well as some coastal islands, such as Samos and Patmos. The capital was Ephesus. (Ac 20:16; Re 1:4)​—See App. B13.

  • Assembly.

    A group of people gathered by appointment. In the Hebrew Scriptures, this word often refers to gatherings of the people of Israel at religious festivals or at events of great national significance.​—De 16:8; 1Ki 8:5.

  • Astrologer.

    A person who studies the movements of the sun, moon, and stars in order to predict future events.​—Da 2:27; Mt 2:1.

  • Atonement.

    In the Hebrew Scriptures, the concept was connected with sacrifices that were made to allow people to approach God and worship him. Under the Mosaic Law, sacrifices were made, particularly on the annual Day of Atonement, in order to effect reconciliation with God despite the sins of individuals and of the whole nation. Those sacrifices pointed to Jesus’ sacrifice, which completely atoned for mankind’s sins once for all time, giving people the opportunity to be reconciled to Jehovah.​—Le 5:10; 23:28; Col 1:20; Heb 9:12.

  • Azazel.

    A Hebrew name that possibly means “Goat That Disappears.” On the Day of Atonement, the goat designated for Azazel was sent into the wilderness, symbolically carrying off the nation’s sins of the past year.​—Le 16:8, 10.


  • Baal.

    A Canaanite god regarded as the owner of the sky and giver of rains and fertility. “Baal” was also used as a designation for local lesser gods. The Hebrew word means “Owner; Master.”​—1Ki 18:21; Ro 11:4.

  • Baptism; Baptize.

    The verb means “to immerse,” or dip under water. Jesus made baptism a requirement for his followers. The Scriptures also refer to John’s baptism, baptism with holy spirit, and baptism with fire, among others.​—Mt 3:11, 16; 28:19; Joh 3:23; 1Pe 3:21.

  • Bath.

    A liquid measure that is estimated to equal about 22 L (5.81 gal), according to archaeological findings of jar fragments bearing this name. Most of the other dry and liquid measures in the Bible are calculated in relation to the estimated volume of the bath measure. (1Ki 7:38; Eze 45:14)​—See App. B14.

  • Beelzebub.

    A designation applied to Satan, the prince, or ruler, of the demons. It is possibly an alteration of Baal-zebub, the Baal worshipped by the Philistines at Ekron.​—2Ki 1:3; Mt 12:24.

  • Brazen conduct.

    From the Greek a·selʹgei·a, a phrase pertaining to acts that are serious violations of God’s laws and that reflect a brazen or boldly contemptuous attitude; a spirit that betrays disrespect or even contempt for authority, laws, and standards. The expression does not refer to wrong conduct of a minor nature.​—Ga 5:19; 2Pe 2:7.

  • Breastpiece.

    The jewel-studded pouch worn by Israel’s high priest over his heart whenever he entered the Holy. It was called “the breastpiece of judgment” because it contained the Urim and the Thummim, which were used in revealing Jehovah’s judgments. (Ex 28:15-30)​—See App. B5.

  • Brother-in-law marriage.

    A custom, later incorporated into the Mosaic Law, whereby a man would marry the sonless widow of his deceased brother in order to produce children to carry on his brother’s line. Also known as levirate marriage.​—Ge 38:8; De 25:5.

  • Bul.

    The name of the eighth month of the Jewish sacred calendar and the second month of the secular calendar. It comes from a root meaning “yield; produce” and ran from mid-October to mid-November. (1Ki 6:38)​—See App. B15.

  • Burnt offering.

    An animal sacrifice that was burned on the altar as a total offering to God; no part of the animal (bull, ram, male goat, turtledove, or young pigeon) was kept by the worshipper.​—Ex 29:18; Le 6:9.


  • Cab.

    A dry measure of 1.22 L (1.11 dry qt), based on the estimated volume of the bath measure. (2Ki 6:25)​—See App. B14.

  • Caesar.

    A Roman family name that became a title for the Roman emperors. Augustus, Tiberius, and Claudius are mentioned by name in the Bible, and though Nero is not mentioned by name, it applies to him as well. “Caesar” is also used in the Christian Greek Scriptures to represent civil authority, or the State.​—Mr 12:17; Ac 25:12.

  • Canaan.

    A grandson of Noah, and the fourth son of Ham. The 11 tribes that descended from Canaan eventually inhabited the region along the eastern Mediterranean between Egypt and Syria. That area was called “the land of Canaan.” (Le 18:3; Ge 9:18; Ac 13:19)​—See App. B4.

  • Capital.

    The ornamental top of a column. Massive capitals topped the twin columns Jachin and Boaz, which stood in front of Solomon’s temple. (1Ki 7:16)​—See App. B8.

  • Cassia.

    A product from the cassia bark tree (Cinnamomum cassia), which is of the same family as the cinnamon tree. Cassia was used as a perfume and as an ingredient of the holy anointing oil.​—Ex 30:24; Ps 45:8; Eze 27:19.

  • Chaff.

    The husks that are separated from the edible portion of grain during threshing and winnowing. Chaff is used in figures of speech as a symbol of something worthless and undesirable.​—Ps 1:4; Mt 3:12.

  • Chaldea; Chaldeans.

    Originally the land and people occupying the delta area of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers; in time the terms were used for all of Babylonia and its people. “Chaldeans” also referred to an educated class of people who studied science, history, languages, and astronomy but who practiced magic and astrology as well.​—Ezr 5:12; Da 4:7; Ac 7:4.

  • Chariot.

    A two-wheeled, horse-drawn vehicle used primarily in war.​—Ex 14:23; Jg 4:13; Ac 8:28.

  • Chemosh.

    The chief god of the Moabites.​—1Ki 11:33.

  • Cherubs.

    Angels of high rank having special duties. They are different from seraphs.​—Ge 3:24; Ex 25:20; Isa 37:16; Heb 9:5.

  • Chief Agent.

    The Greek term basically means “Chief Leader.” It refers to the essential role of Jesus Christ in freeing faithful humans from the deadly effects of sin and in leading them to everlasting life.​—Ac 3:15; 5:31; Heb 2:10; 12:2.

  • Chief priest.

    An alternate term for “high priest” in the Hebrew Scriptures. In the Christian Greek Scriptures, the expression “chief priests” evidently denoted the principal men of the priesthood, possibly including any deposed high priests and the heads of the 24 priestly divisions.​—2Ch 26:20; Ezr 7:5; Mt 2:4; Mr 8:31.

  • Chislev.

    After the Jews’ return from Babylon, the name of the ninth month of the Jewish sacred calendar and the third month of the secular calendar. It ran from mid-November to mid-December. (Ne 1:1; Zec 7:1)​—See App. B15.

  • Christ.

    The title of Jesus, from the Greek word Khri·stosʹ, which is equivalent to the Hebrew word translated “Messiah,” or “Anointed One.”​—Mt 1:16; Joh 1:41.

  • Christian.

    A God-given name for the followers of Jesus Christ.​—Ac 11:26; 26:28.

  • Circumcision.

    The removal of the foreskin of the male genital organ. The procedure was made mandatory for Abraham and his descendants, but it is not a requirement for Christians. It is also used figuratively in a variety of contexts.​—Ge 17:10; 1Co 7:19; Php 3:3.

  • Cities of refuge.

    Levite cities where an unintentional manslayer could seek asylum from the avenger of blood. Six such cities, spread throughout the Promised Land, were appointed by Moses and later by Joshua, under Jehovah’s direction. Upon reaching a city of refuge, the fugitive stated his case to the elders at the city gate and was received hospitably. To prevent willful murderers from taking advantage of this provision, the asylum seeker had to stand trial in the city where the killing took place in order to prove his innocence. If proved innocent, he was returned to the city of refuge, where he had to stay within its boundaries for the rest of his life or until the death of the high priest.​—Nu 35:6, 11-15, 22-29; Jos 20:2-8.

  • City of David.

    The name given to the city of Jebus after David conquered it and built his royal residence there. It is also called Zion. It is the southeastern part as well as the oldest part of Jerusalem.​—2Sa 5:7; 1Ch 11:4, 5.

  • Clean.

    Biblically, this word refers not only to physical cleanliness but also to maintaining or restoring to a condition that is without blemish, spotless, and free from anything that soils, adulterates, or corrupts in a moral or spiritual way. Under the Mosaic Law, the word refers to being ceremonially clean.​—Le 10:10; Ps 51:7; Mt 8:2; 1Co 6:11.

  • Communion offering.

    A sacrifice presented to Jehovah as a request for peace with him. The worshipper and his household, the officiating priest, and the priests on duty all partook of it. Jehovah received, as it were, the pleasing smoke of the burning fat. The blood, representing the life, was also given to him. It was as if the priests and the worshippers sat at the meal together with Jehovah, signifying a peaceful relationship.​—Le 7:29, 32; De 27:7.

  • Conclusion of the system of things.

    The period of time leading up to the end of the system of things, or state of affairs, dominated by Satan. It runs concurrently with Christ’s presence. Under the direction of Jesus, angels will “separate the wicked from among the righteous” and destroy them. (Mt 13:40-42, 49) Jesus’ disciples were interested in the timing of that “conclusion.” (Mt 24:3) Before his return to heaven, he promised his followers that he would be with them until that time.​—Mt 28:20.

  • Concubine.

    A secondary wife who was often a slave girl.​—Ex 21:8; 2Sa 5:13; 1Ki 11:3.

  • Congregation.

    A group of people gathered together for a particular purpose or activity. In the Hebrew Scriptures, it generally refers to the nation of Israel. In the Christian Greek Scriptures, it refers to individual congregations of Christians but more often to the Christian congregation in general.​—1Ki 8:22; Ac 9:31; Ro 16:5.

  • Cor.

    A dry and a liquid measure. It equaled 220 L (58.1 gal/200 dry qt), based on the estimated volume of the bath measure. (1Ki 5:11)​—See App. B14.

  • Coral.

    A hard, stonelike substance that is formed from the skeletons of tiny sea animals. It is found in the ocean in a variety of colors, including red, white, and black. Corals were especially plentiful in the Red Sea. In Bible times, red coral was highly prized and was made into beads and other ornaments.​—Pr 8:11.

  • Cornerstone.

    A stone placed at the angle, or corner, of a building where two walls meet, important in joining and binding them together. The principal cornerstone was the foundation cornerstone; a particularly strong one was generally chosen for public buildings and city walls. The word is used in a figurative sense for the founding of the earth, and Jesus is spoken of as “the foundation cornerstone” of the Christian congregation, which is likened to a spiritual house.​—Eph 2:20; Job 38:6.

  • Courtyard.

    The fenced, open area surrounding the tabernacle, and later one of the walled, open-air yards around the main building of the temple. The altar of burnt offering was located in the courtyard of the tabernacle and in the inner courtyard of the temple. (See App. B5, B8, B11.) The Bible also mentions courtyards in connection with houses and palaces.​—Ex 8:13; 27:9; 1Ki 7:12; Es 4:11; Mt 26:3.

  • Covenant.

    A formal agreement, or contract, between God and humans or between two human parties to do or refrain from doing something. Sometimes only one party was responsible to carry out the terms (a unilateral covenant, which was essentially a promise). At other times both parties had terms to carry out (a bilateral covenant). Besides covenants made by God with humans, the Bible mentions covenants between men, tribes, nations, or groups of people. Among the covenants that have had a far-reaching effect are those that God made with Abraham, David, the nation of Israel (Law covenant), and the Israel of God (new covenant).​—Ge 9:11; 15:18; 21:27; Ex 24:7; 2Ch 21:7.

  • Cubit.

    A linear measure roughly the distance from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger. The Israelites commonly used a cubit of about 44.5 cm (17.5 in.), but they also used a larger cubit that was one handbreadth longer, about 51.8 cm (20.4 in.). (Ge 6:15; Lu 12:25)​—See App. B14.

  • Curse.

    To threaten or pronounce evil on someone or something. It is not to be confused with profanity or with violent anger. A curse is often a formal declaration of a pronouncement or prediction of evil, and when made by God or by an authorized person, it has a prophetic value and force.​—Ge 12:3; Nu 22:12; Ga 3:10.

  • Curtain.

    The beautifully woven piece of fabric embroidered with figures of cherubs that separated the Holy from the Most Holy in both the tabernacle and the temple. (Ex 26:31; 2Ch 3:14; Mt 27:51; Heb 9:3)​—See App. B5.


  • Dagon.

    A god of the Philistines. The etymology of the word is uncertain, but some scholars associate it with the Hebrew word dagh (fish).​—Jg 16:23; 1Sa 5:4.

  • Daric.

    A Persian gold coin weighing 8.4 g (0.27 oz t). (1Ch 29:7)​—See App. B14.

  • Day of Atonement.

    The most important holy day for the Israelites, also called Yom Kippur (from Hebrew yohm hak·kip·pu·rimʹ, “day of the coverings”), held on Ethanim 10. This was the only day of the year on which the high priest went into the Most Holy of the tabernacle and later of the temple. There he offered the blood of the sacrifices for his sins, the sins of the other Levites, and the sins of the people. It was a time of holy convention and fasting, and it was also a sabbath, a time to abstain from regular work.​—Le 23:27, 28.

  • Daystar.

    Similar in meaning to “morning star.” It is the last star to rise on the eastern horizon before the sun appears, thus heralding the dawn of a new day.​—Re 22:16; 2Pe 1:19.

  • Decapolis.

    A group of Greek cities, originally made up of ten cities (from Greek deʹka, meaning “ten,” and poʹlis, “city”). It was also the name for the region east of the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River, where most of these cities were located. They were centers of Hellenistic culture and trade. Jesus passed through this region, but there is no record of his having visited any of the cities. (Mt 4:25; Mr 5:20)​—See App. A7 and B10.

  • Dedication, holy sign of.

    A shining plate of pure gold engraved with the words, in Hebrew, “Holiness belongs to Jehovah.” It was put on the front of the turban of the high priest. (Ex 39:30)​—See App. B5.

  • Demons.

    Invisible, wicked spirit creatures having superhuman powers. Called “the sons of the true God” at Genesis 6:2 and “angels” at Jude 6, they were not created wicked; rather, they were angels who made themselves enemies of God by disobeying him in Noah’s day and joining in Satan’s rebellion against Jehovah.​—De 32:17; Lu 8:30; Ac 16:16; Jas 2:19.

  • Denarius.

    A Roman silver coin that weighed about 3.85 g (0.124 oz t) and bore an image of Caesar on one side. It was the daily wage of a laborer and was the “head tax” coin exacted by the Romans from the Jews. (Mt 22:17; Lu 20:24)​—See App. B14.

  • Devil.

    The descriptive name of Satan in the Christian Greek Scriptures, which means “Slanderer.” Satan was given the name Devil because he is the chief and foremost slanderer and false accuser of Jehovah, His good word, and His holy name.​—Mt 4:1; Joh 8:44; Re 12:9.

  • Director.

    As used in the Psalms, the Hebrew term seems to refer to one who in some way arranged songs and directed the singing of them, rehearsed and trained the Levite singers, and even led official performances. Other translations render this term “chief musician” or “musical director.”​—Ps 4:Sup; 5:Sup.

  • Dirge.

    A composition, lyrical or musical, expressing deep sorrow, such as the grief expressed because of the death of a friend or a loved one; a lamentation.​—2Sa 1:17; Ps 7:Sup.

  • Drachma.

    In the Christian Greek Scriptures, this word refers to a Greek silver coin, which at that time weighed 3.4 g (0.109 oz t). In the Hebrew Scriptures, there is reference to a gold drachma from the Persian period that is equated with the daric. (Ne 7:70; Mt 17:24)​—See App. B14.

  • Drink offering.

    An offering of wine that was poured out on the altar and presented along with most other offerings. Used figuratively by Paul to express his willingness to expend himself for fellow Christians.​—Nu 15:5, 7; Php 2:17.


  • Edom.

    Another name given to Esau, son of Isaac. The descendants of Esau (Edom) took over the area of Seir, the mountainous region between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of ‘Aqaba. It became known as Edom. (Ge 25:30; 36:8)​—See App. B3 and B4.

  • Elder; Older man.

    A man of mature age, but in the Scriptures, one who primarily holds a position of authority and responsibility in a community or a nation. The word is also used of heavenly creatures in the book of Revelation. The Greek word pre·sbyʹte·ros is translated “elder” when it refers to those responsible for taking the lead in the congregation.​—Ex 4:29; Pr 31:23; 1Ti 5:17; Re 4:4.

  • Elul.

    After the Babylonian exile, the name of the 6th month of the Jewish sacred calendar and the 12th month of the secular calendar. It ran from mid-August to mid-September. (Ne 6:15)​—See App. B15.

  • Ephah.

    A dry measure capacity and the container itself, used for measuring grains. It was equal to a liquid bath measure, so it amounted to 22 L (20 dry qt). (Ex 16:36; Eze 45:10)​—See App. B14.

  • Ephod.

    An apronlike garment worn by priests. The high priest wore a special ephod, on the front of which was mounted the breastpiece with 12 precious stones. (Ex 28:4, 6)​—See App. B5.

  • Ephraim.

    The name of Joseph’s second son; this name was subsequently applied to one of the tribes of Israel. After Israel was divided, Ephraim, as the most prominent tribe, came to represent the entire ten-tribe kingdom.​—Ge 41:52; Jer 7:15.

  • Epicurean philosophers.

    Followers of the Greek philosopher Epicurus (341-270 B.C.E.). Their philosophy centered on the idea that the pleasure of the individual was the ultimate goal in life.​—Ac 17:18.

  • Ethanim.

    The name of the seventh month of the Jewish sacred calendar and the first month of the secular calendar. It ran from mid-September to mid-October. After the Jews’ return from Babylon, it was called Tishri. (1Ki 8:2)​—See App. B15.

  • Ethiopia.

    An ancient nation south of Egypt. It included the southernmost part of modern-day Egypt and the northern half of modern-day Sudan. The expression is sometimes used for the Hebrew “Cush.”​—Es 1:1.

  • Eunuch.

    In a literal sense, a castrated male. Such men were often appointed in royal courts as attendants or caretakers of the queen and the concubines. The term also refers to a man who was, not a literal eunuch, but an official assigned to duties in the court of the king. It is used figuratively for a ‘eunuch for the Kingdom,’ one who exercises self-control so as to apply himself more fully to the service of God.​—Mt 19:12; Es 2:15; Ac 8:27.

  • Euphrates.

    The longest and most important river of southwest Asia, and one of the two major rivers in Mesopotamia. It is first mentioned at Genesis 2:14 as one of the four rivers of Eden. It is often called “the River.” (Ge 31:21) It was the northern boundary of Israel’s assigned territory. (Ge 15:18; Re 16:12)​—See App. B2.

  • Exile.

    Expulsion from one’s native land or home, often decreed by conquerors. The Hebrew word means “a departing.” The Israelites experienced two major exiles. The northern ten-tribe kingdom was taken into exile by the Assyrians, and later the southern two-tribe kingdom was taken into exile by the Babylonians. Remnants of both exiles were returned to their land under Cyrus, the Persian ruler.​—2Ki 17:6; 24:16; Ezr 6:21.

  • Extinguishers.

    Tools used in the tabernacle and temple, made of gold or copper. They may have been like scissors for trimming the lampwicks.​—2Ki 25:14.


  • Fast.

    Abstinence from all food for a limited period. The Israelites practiced fasting on the Day of Atonement, in times of distress, and when in need of divine guidance. The Jews established four annual fasts to mark calamitous events in their history. Fasting is not a requirement for Christians.​—Ezr 8:21; Isa 58:6; Lu 18:12.

  • Fathom.

    A linear unit for measuring the depth of water, equal to 1.8 m (6 ft). (Ac 27:28)​—See App. B14.

  • Festival of Booths.

    Also called the Festival of Tabernacles, or the Festival of Ingathering. It was held on Ethanim 15-21. It celebrated the harvest at the end of the agricultural year for Israel and was a time of rejoicing and thanksgiving for Jehovah’s blessings on their crops. During the days of the festival, people lived in booths, or rooflike shelters, to remind them of the Exodus from Egypt. It was one of the three festivals that males were required to go to Jerusalem to observe.​—Le 23:34; Ezr 3:4.

  • Festival of Dedication.

    The annual day of remembrance for the cleansing of the temple after its defilement by Antiochus Epiphanes. The celebration began on Chislev 25 and lasted for eight days.​—Joh 10:22.

  • Festival of Harvest; Festival of Weeks.​—


  • Festival of Unleavened Bread.

    The first of the three major annual festivals of the Israelites. It began on Nisan 15, the day after Passover, and continued for seven days. Only unleavened bread could be eaten, in remembrance of the Exodus from Egypt.​—Ex 23:15; Mr 14:1.

  • Fire holders.

    Utensils made of gold, silver, or copper, used at the tabernacle and the temple for burning incense and for removing coals from the sacrificial altar and burnt lampwicks from the golden lampstand. They were also called censers.​—Ex 37:23; 2Ch 26:19; Heb 9:4.

  • Firstborn.

    Primarily, the oldest son of a father (rather than the firstborn of the mother). In Bible times, the firstborn son held an honored position in the family and was given the headship of the household when the father died. The term also refers to the first male offspring of animals, at times called “firstlings.”​—Ex 11:5; 13:12; Ge 25:33; Col 1:15.

  • Firstfruits.

    The earliest fruits of a harvest season; the first results or products of anything. Jehovah required the nation of Israel to offer their firstfruits to him, whether it be of man, animal, or the fruitage of the ground. As a nation, the Israelites offered firstfruits to God at the Festival of Unleavened Bread and at Pentecost. The term “firstfruits” was also used figuratively of Christ and his anointed followers.​—1Co 15:23; Nu 15:21; Pr 3:9; Re 14:4.

  • Fornication.​—


  • Fortune-teller.

    An individual claiming ability to foretell future events. Magic-practicing priests, spiritistic diviners, astrologers, and others are listed in the Bible as such.​—Le 19:31; De 18:11; Ac 16:16.

  • Frankincense.

    Dried sap (gum resin) from trees and bushes of certain species of the genus Boswellia. When burned, it gave off a sweet-smelling fragrance. It was an ingredient of the holy incense used at the tabernacle and the temple. It also accompanied grain offerings and was placed on each row of the showbread inside the Holy.​—Ex 30:34-36; Le 2:1; 24:7; Mt 2:11.

  • Freeman; Freedman.

    During Roman rule, a “freeman” was one who was born free, possessing full rights of citizenship. In contrast, a “freedman” was one emancipated from slavery. Formal emancipation granted the freedman Roman citizenship, but he was not eligible for political office. Informal emancipation freed the individual from slavery but did not give full civil rights.​—1Co 7:22.

  • Furnace.

    A structure for smelting ore or melting metal; also used to fire pottery and other ceramic items. In Bible times, furnaces were made of brick or stone. A furnace for firing pottery and ceramics and for burning lime is also called a kiln.​—Ge 15:17; Da 3:17; Re 9:2.


  • Gehenna.

    The Greek name for the Valley of Hinnom, southwest of ancient Jerusalem. (Jer 7:31) It was prophetically spoken of as a place where dead bodies would be strewn. (Jer 7:32; 19:6) There is no evidence that animals or humans were thrown into Gehenna to be burned alive or tormented. So the place could not symbolize an invisible region where human souls are tormented eternally in literal fire. Rather, Gehenna was used by Jesus and his disciples to symbolize the eternal punishment of “second death,” that is, everlasting destruction, annihilation.​—Re 20:14; Mt 5:22; 10:28.

  • Gerah.

    A weight equivalent to 0.57 g (0.01835 oz t). It corresponded to 1/20 shekel. (Le 27:25)​—See App. B14.

  • Gifts of mercy.

    Gifts given to help someone in need. These are not directly mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures, but the Law gave specific directions to the Israelites about their obligations toward the poor.​—Mt 6:2.

  • Gilead.

    In a strict sense, the fertile area east of the Jordan River that extended north and south of the Valley of Jabbok. At times used for the entire Israelite territory east of the Jordan, where the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh lived. (Nu 32:1; Jos 12:2; 2Ki 10:33)​—See App. B4.

  • Gittith.

    A musical term of uncertain meaning, though it seems to be derived from the Hebrew word gath. Some believe that it may be a melody associated with songs related to wine making, since gath refers to a winepress.​—Ps 81:Sup.

  • Glean.

    To gather whatever portion of a crop the harvesters had intentionally or unintentionally left behind. The Mosaic Law directed the people not to reap the edges of their fields completely nor to take all the olives or grapes. It was the God-given right of the poor, the afflicted, the foreign resident, the fatherless child, and the widow to glean what was left after harvest.​—Ru 2:7.

  • Goad.

    A long rod with a sharp metal point, used by farmers to prod an animal. The goad is compared to the words of a wise person that move the listener to heed wise counsel. “Kicking against the goads” is drawn from the action of a stubborn bull that resists the prodding of the goad by kicking against it, resulting in injury to itself.​—Ac 26:14; Jg 3:31.

  • Godly devotion.

    Reverence, worship, and service to Jehovah God, with loyalty to his universal sovereignty.​—1Ti 4:8; 2Ti 3:12.

  • God’s Kingdom.

    The phrase used particularly of God’s sovereignty represented by the royal government of his Son, Christ Jesus.​—Mt 12:28; Lu 4:43; 1Co 15:50.

  • Good news, the.

    In the Christian Greek Scriptures, the good news of the Kingdom of God and of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ.​—Lu 4:18, 43; Ac 5:42; Re 14:6.

  • Grave.

    When lowercased, referring to an individual grave; when capitalized, the common grave of mankind, equivalent to the Hebrew “Sheol” and the Greek “Hades.” It is described in the Bible as a symbolic place or condition wherein all activity and consciousness cease.​—Ge 47:30; Ec 9:10; Ac 2:31.

  • Great tribulation.

    The Greek word for “tribulation” conveys the idea of distress or suffering resulting from the pressures of circumstances. Jesus spoke of an unprecedented “great tribulation” that would come upon Jerusalem and especially of one that would later befall mankind in connection with his future ‘coming with glory.’ (Mt 24:21, 29-31) Paul described this tribulation as a righteous act of God against “those who do not know God and those who do not obey the good news” about Jesus Christ. Revelation chapter 19 shows Jesus as the one leading heavenly armies against “the wild beast and the kings of the earth and their armies.” (2Th 1:6-8; Re 19:11-21) “A great crowd” is shown as surviving that tribulation. (Re 7:9, 14)​—See ARMAGEDDON.

  • Greek.

    The language spoken by the people of Greece; also, a native of Greece or one whose family originated there. In the Christian Greek Scriptures, the word also has a broader usage, referring to all non-Jewish peoples or to those who were influenced by Greek language and culture.​—Joe 3:6; Joh 12:20.

  • Guilt offering.

    A sacrifice for personal sins. It differed slightly from other sin offerings in that it was to satisfy or restore certain covenant rights that the repentant wrongdoer had lost because of a sin and to give him relief from the penalty.​—Le 7:37; 19:22; Isa 53:10.


  • Hades.

    A Greek word corresponding to the Hebrew word “Sheol.” It is translated “Grave” (capitalized), to distinguish it as the common grave of mankind.​—See GRAVE.

  • Hebrew.

    A designation first used for Abram (Abraham), distinguishing him from his Amorite neighbors. It was used thereafter to refer to Abraham’s descendants through his grandson Jacob as well as to their language. By the time of Jesus, the Hebrew language had come to include many Aramaic expressions and was the language spoken by Christ and his disciples.​—Ge 14:13; Ex 5:3; Ac 26:14.

  • Hermes.

    A Greek god, son of Zeus. In Lystra, Paul was mistakenly called Hermes in reference to that god’s supposed role as messenger of the gods and the god of skillful speech.​—Ac 14:12.

  • Herod.

    The family name of a dynasty that ruled over the Jews by appointment from Rome. Herod the Great was famous for rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem and for ordering the slaughter of children in an attempt to destroy Jesus. (Mt 2:16; Lu 1:5) Herod Archelaus and Herod Antipas, sons of Herod the Great, were appointed over sections of their father’s domain. (Mt 2:22) Antipas was a tetrarch, popularly referred to as “king,” who ruled during Christ’s three-and-a-half-year ministry and through the period up to Acts chapter 12. (Mr 6:14-17; Lu 3:1, 19, 20; 13:31, 32; 23:6-15; Ac 4:27; 13:1) After that, Herod Agrippa I, grandson of Herod the Great, was executed by God’s angel after ruling for a short time. (Ac 12:1-6, 18-23) His son, Herod Agrippa II, became ruler and reigned up to the time of the Jewish revolt against Rome.​—Ac 23:35; 25:13, 22-27; 26:1, 2, 19-32.

  • Herod, party followers of.

    Also known as Herodians. They were a party of nationalists who supported the political aims of the Herods in their rule under the Romans. Some of the Sadducees probably belonged to this party. The Herodians joined with the Pharisees to oppose Jesus.​—Mr 3:6.

  • Higgaion.

    A technical term of musical direction. As used at Psalm 9:16, the word may signify either a solemn, deep-toned harp interlude or a solemn pause conducive to meditation.

  • High place.

    A place of worship usually on top of a hill, a mountain, or a man-made platform. Although high places were sometimes used for the worship of God, they are most often associated with pagan worship of false gods.​—Nu 33:52; 1Ki 3:2; Jer 19:5.

  • High priest.

    Under the Mosaic Law, the principal priest who represented the people before God and supervised the other priests. Also called “the chief priest.” (2Ch 26:20; Ezr 7:5) He alone was allowed to enter the Most Holy, the innermost compartment of the tabernacle and later of the temple. He did so only on the annual Day of Atonement. The term “high priest” is also applied to Jesus Christ.​—Le 16:2, 17; 21:10; Mt 26:3; Heb 4:14.

  • Hin.

    A liquid measure and the container for that measure. It is equivalent to 3.67 L (7.75 pt), based on a statement by the historian Josephus that a hin equaled two Athenian choes. (Ex 29:40)​—See App. B14.

  • Holy; Holiness.

    A quality possessed inherently by Jehovah; a state of absolute moral purity and sacredness. (Ex 28:36; 1Sa 2:2; Pr 9:10; Isa 6:3) When referring to humans (Ex 19:6; 2Ki 4:9), animals (Nu 18:17), things (Ex 28:38; 30:25; Le 27:14), places (Ex 3:5; Isa 27:13), time periods (Ex 16:23; Le 25:12), and activities (Ex 36:4), the original Hebrew word conveys the thought of separateness, exclusiveness, or sanctification to the holy God; a state of being set aside for Jehovah’s service. In the Christian Greek Scriptures, the words rendered “holy” and “holiness” likewise denote separation to God. The words are also used to refer to purity in one’s personal conduct.​—Mr 6:20; 2Co 7:1; 1Pe 1:15, 16.

  • Holy, the.

    The first and larger compartment of the tabernacle or of the temple, as distinguished from the innermost compartment, the Most Holy. In the tabernacle, the Holy contained the golden lampstand, golden altar of incense, table of showbread, and golden utensils; in the temple, it contained the golden altar, ten golden lampstands, and ten tables of showbread. (Ex 26:33; Heb 9:2)​—See App. B5 and B8.

  • Holy spirit.

    The invisible energizing force that God puts into action to accomplish his will. It is holy because it comes from Jehovah, who is clean and righteous to the highest degree, and because it is God’s means to accomplish what is holy.​—Lu 1:35; Ac 1:8.

  • Homer.

    A dry measure corresponding to the cor. Based on the estimated volume of the bath measure, it equaled 220 L (200 dry qt). (Le 27:16)​—See App. B14.

  • Horeb; Mount Horeb.

    The mountainous region surrounding Mount Sinai. Another name for Mount Sinai. (Ex 3:1; De 5:2)​—See App. B3.

  • Horn.

    Referring to animal horns, which were used as drinking vessels, as vessels for oil, as containers for ink and cosmetics, and as musical or signaling instruments. (1Sa 16:1, 13; 1Ki 1:39; Eze 9:2) “Horn” is often used figuratively for strength, conquest, and victory.​—De 33:17; Mic 4:13; Zec 1:19.

  • Horns of the altar.

    Hornlike projections extending outward from the four corners of certain altars. (Le 8:15; 1Ki 2:28)​—See App. B5 and B8.

  • Hyssop.

    A plant with fine branches and leaves, used for sprinkling blood or water in cleansing ceremonies. It was possibly marjoram (Origanum maru; Origanum syriacum). As used at John 19:29, it may have been marjoram attached to a branch or durra, a variety of common sorghum (Sorghum vulgare), since this plant could have provided a stalk long enough to carry the sponge of sour wine to Jesus’ mouth.​—Ex 12:22; Ps 51:7.


  • Idol; Idolatry.

    An idol is an image, a representation of anything, real or imagined, that people may use in worship. Idolatry is the veneration, love, worship, or adoration of an idol.​—Ps 115:4; Ac 17:16; 1Co 10:14.

  • Illyricum.

    A Roman province northwest of Greece. Paul traveled this far in his ministry, but it is not stated whether he preached in Illyricum or merely up to it. (Ro 15:19)​—See App. B13.

  • Incense.

    A compound of aromatic gums and balsams that burns slowly, giving off a fragrant aroma. A special four-ingredient incense was made for use at the tabernacle and the temple. It was burned morning and night on the altar of incense in the Holy compartment, and on the Day of Atonement, it was burned inside the Most Holy compartment. It was symbolic of the acceptable prayers of God’s faithful servants. Its use was not required of Christians.​—Ex 30:34, 35; Le 16:13; Re 5:8.

  • Israel.

    The name God gave to Jacob. It came to refer to all his descendants collectively, at any one time. The descendants of Jacob’s 12 sons were often called the sons of Israel, the house of Israel, the people (men) of Israel, or the Israelites. Israel was also used as the name for the ten-tribe northern kingdom that broke away from the southern kingdom, and later as a term for anointed Christians, “the Israel of God.”​—Ga 6:16; Ge 32:28; 2Sa 7:23; Ro 9:6.


  • Jacob.

    A son of Isaac and Rebekah. God later gave him the name Israel, and he became the patriarch of the people of Israel (also called Israelites and later, Jews). He was the father of the 12 sons who, along with their descendants, made up the 12 tribes of the nation of Israel. The name Jacob continued to be used for the nation or people of Israel.​—Ge 32:28; Mt 22:32.

  • Jeduthun.

    A term of uncertain meaning appearing in the superscriptions of Psalms 39, 62, and 77. These superscriptions appear to be instructions for the performance of the psalm, perhaps identifying a style or a musical instrument. There was a Levitical musician named Jeduthun, so this performance style or instrument may have been associated with him or his sons.

  • Jehovah.

    The common English rendering of the Tetragrammaton (the four Hebrew letters for the personal name of God), which appears over 7,000 times in this translation.​—See App. A4 and A5.

  • Jew.

    A term used for a person of the tribe of Judah after the fall of the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel. (2Ki 16:6) After the Babylonian exile, it was used with regard to Israelites from various tribes who returned to Israel. (Ezr 4:12) Later, it was used throughout the world to distinguish Israelites from those of the Gentile nations. (Es 3:6) The term is also used figuratively by the apostle Paul when reasoning that nationality is of no consequence in the Christian congregation.​—Ro 2:28, 29; Ga 3:28.

  • Jubilee.

    Every 50th year, counting from Israel’s entry into the Promised Land. The land was to lie fallow during the Jubilee year, and Hebrew slaves were to be set free. Hereditary lands that had been sold were returned. The Jubilee was, in a sense, an entire year of festival, a year of liberty that restored the nation to the state it had enjoyed when God first established it.​—Le 25:10.

  • Judah.

    Jacob’s fourth son by his wife Leah. In his deathbed prophecy, Jacob foretold that a great and lasting ruler would come from Judah’s family line. Jesus, in his human existence, descended from Judah. The name Judah also refers to the tribe and later to the kingdom named after Judah. Described as the southern kingdom, Judah was made up of the Israelite tribes of Judah and Benjamin and included the priests and Levites. Judah occupied the southern part of the country that included Jerusalem and the temple.​—Ge 29:35; 49:10; 1Ki 4:20; Heb 7:14.

  • Judges.

    Men raised up by Jehovah to save his people prior to the period of Israel’s human kings.​—Jg 2:16.

  • Judgment Day.

    A specific day, or period, when particular groups, nations, or mankind in general are called to account by God. It may be a time when those judged to be deserving of death are executed, or the judgment may afford opportunity for some to be saved and gain everlasting life. Jesus Christ and his apostles pointed to a future “Judgment Day” involving not only the living but also those who died in the past.​—Mt 12:36.

  • Judgment seat.

    Usually a raised outdoor platform, approached by steps, from which seated officials could address the crowds and announce their decisions. The expressions “judgment seat of God” and “judgment seat of the Christ” are symbolic of Jehovah’s arrangement for judging mankind.​—Ro 14:10; 2Co 5:10; Joh 19:13.


  • Lake of fire.

    A symbolic place that “burns with fire and sulfur,” also described as “the second death.” Unrepentant sinners, the Devil, and even death and the Grave (or, Hades) are thrown into it. The inclusion of a spirit creature and also of death and Hades, all of which cannot be affected by fire, indicates that this lake is a symbol, not of everlasting torment, but of everlasting destruction.​—Re 19:20; 20:14, 15; 21:8.

  • Last days.

    This and similar expressions, such as “the final part of the days,” are used in Bible prophecy to refer to the time when historical events would reach a final climax. (Eze 38:16; Da 10:14; Ac 2:17) Depending on the nature of the prophecy, this may be a period covering just a few years or many. Most notably, the Bible uses this term regarding “the last days” of the present system of things, during Jesus’ invisible presence.​—2Ti 3:1; Jas 5:3; 2Pe 3:3.

  • Law.

    When it is capitalized, this word refers either to the Mosaic Law or to the first five books of the Bible. When it is lowercased, it may refer to individual laws of the Mosaic Law or a principle of law.​—Nu 15:16; De 4:8; Mt 7:12; Ga 3:24.

  • Lay hands on.

    Hands were laid on a person to appoint him to a special work or to designate him for a blessing, a healing, or a gift of the holy spirit. Sometimes hands were laid on animals before they were sacrificed.​—Ex 29:15; Nu 27:18; Ac 19:6; 1Ti 5:22.

  • Leaven.

    A substance added to dough or to liquids to cause fermentation; especially a portion of fermented dough preserved from a previous batch. Often used in the Bible as a symbol of sin and corruption, it is also used to indicate hidden, pervasive growth.​—Ex 12:20; Mt 13:33; Ga 5:9.

  • Lebanon Mountain range.

    One of the two mountain ranges forming the mountain system of the land of Lebanon. The Lebanon range is on the west, and the Anti-Lebanon range is on the east. A long, fertile valley separates the two ranges. The Lebanon range rises up almost directly from the Mediterranean coast, and its summits average between 1,800 and 2,100 m (6,000 and 7,000 ft) in elevation. In ancient times, Lebanon was covered with majestic cedars, which were highly prized by the surrounding nations. (De 1:7; Ps 29:6; 92:12)​—See App. B7.

  • Leprosy; Leper.

    A serious skin disease. In the Scriptures, leprosy is not restricted to the disease known by that name today, for it could affect not only humans but also clothing and houses. A person afflicted with leprosy is called a leper.​—Le 14:54; Lu 5:12.

  • Lepton.

    In the Christian Greek Scripture period, the smallest Jewish copper or bronze coin. Translated as “mite” in some Bible versions. (Mr 12:42; Lu 21:2; ftns.)​—See App. B14.

  • Levi; Levite.

    Jacob’s third son by his wife Leah; also the tribe named after him. His three sons became the founders of the three principal divisions of the Levites. At times, the term “Levites” applies to the whole tribe, but usually it excludes the priestly family of Aaron. The tribe of Levi did not receive an allotment of land in the Promised Land but was given 48 cities within the boundaries of land apportioned to the other tribes.​—De 10:8; 1Ch 6:1; Heb 7:11.

  • Leviathan.

    An animal usually associated with water, apparently some form of aquatic creature. At Job 3:8 and 41:1, it seems to refer to the crocodile or some other aquatic creature of great proportions and strength. At Psalm 104:26, it may be some type of whale. Elsewhere it is used figuratively and is not identifiable with any one animal.​—Ps 74:14; Isa 27:1.

  • Loaves of presentation.​—


  • Locusts.

    A variety of grasshoppers that migrate in great swarms. They were considered clean for food in the Mosaic Law. Large swarms that consume everything in their path, causing massive destruction, were regarded as a plague.​—Ex 10:14; Mt 3:4.

  • Log.

    The smallest liquid measure mentioned in the Bible. In the Jewish Talmud, it is described as 1/12 of a hin, so using that as a basis, the log would have a capacity of 0.31 L (0.66 pt). (Le 14:10)​—See App. B14.

  • Loom.

    A frame used for weaving threads or yarns into cloth.​—Ex 39:27.

  • Lord’s Evening Meal.

    A literal meal consisting of unleavened bread and wine as symbols of Christ’s body and blood; a memorial of Jesus’ death. Since this is an observance that Christians are Scripturally required to keep, it is also appropriately termed “the Memorial.”​—1Co 11:20, 23-26.

  • Lots.

    Pebbles or small bits of wood or stone that were used in making decisions. These were gathered into the folds of a garment or into a vessel and then shaken. The lot that fell out or was drawn out was the one chosen. This was often done prayerfully. The term “lot” is used both literally and figuratively with the meaning “share” or “portion.”​—Jos 14:2; Ps 16:5; Pr 16:33; Mt 27:35.

  • Loyal love.

    Most frequently rendered from the Hebrew word cheʹsedh, referring to love motivated by commitment, integrity, loyalty, and deep attachment. It is often used in connection with God’s love for humans, but it is also love shown between humans.​—Ex 34:6; Ru 3:10.


  • Macedonia.

    A region north of Greece that gained prominence under Alexander the Great and remained independent until conquered by the Romans. Macedonia was a Roman province when the apostle Paul made his first visit to Europe. Paul visited the area three times. (Ac 16:9)​—See App. B13.

  • Magistrates.

    Under the government of Babylon, police magistrates were civil officers in the jurisdictional districts who knew the law and had limited judicial authority. In Roman colonies, the civil magistrates were administrators of the government. Their duties included maintaining order, controlling finances, judging violators of the law, and ordering the carrying out of punishment.​—Da 3:2; Ac 16:20.

  • Mahalath.

    A term, evidently musical, found in the superscriptions of Psalms 53 and 88. It may be related to a Hebrew root verb meaning “grow weak; fall sick,” thereby suggesting a gloomy and sad tone, which would harmonize with the somber content of the two songs.

  • Malcam.

    Probably the same as Molech, the chief god of the Ammonites. (Zep 1:5)​—See MOLECH.

  • Manna.

    The main food of the Israelites during their 40 years in the wilderness. It was provided by Jehovah. It miraculously appeared on the ground under a layer of dew every morning except on the Sabbath. When the Israelites first saw it, they said, “What is it?” or, in Hebrew, “man huʼ?” (Ex 16:13-15, 35) In other contexts, it is referred to as “the grain of heaven” (Ps 78:24), “bread from heaven” (Ps 105:40), and “the bread of mighty ones” (Ps 78:25). Jesus also referred to manna in a figurative sense.​—Joh 6:49, 50.

  • Maskil.

    A Hebrew term of uncertain meaning in the superscriptions of 13 psalms. It possibly means “contemplative poem.” Some think that a word similar in form, translated ‘serve with discretion,’ may be related in meaning.​—2Ch 30:22; Ps 32:Sup.

  • Measuring reed.

    A measuring reed was six cubits long. Based on the common cubit, it measured 2.67 m (8.75 ft); based on the long cubit, it measured 3.11 m (10.2 ft). (Eze 40:3, 5; Re 11:1)​—See App. B14.

  • Medes; Media.

    A people descended from Japheth’s son Madai; they settled in the mountainous Iranian plateau that became the country of Media. The Medes joined with Babylon to defeat Assyria. At that time, Persia was a province under Media, but Cyrus revolted and Media was merged with Persia to form the Medo-Persian Empire that defeated the Neo-Babylonian Empire in 539 B.C.E. Medes were present in Jerusalem at Pentecost in 33 C.E. (Da 5:28, 31; Ac 2:9)​—See App. B9.

  • Mediator.

    One who intercedes between two parties in order to reconcile them. In the Scriptures, Moses and Jesus are the mediators of the Law covenant and the new covenant respectively.​—Ga 3:19; 1Ti 2:5.

  • Memorial tomb.

    A burial place in which the remains of a deceased person were placed. This term renders the Greek word mne·meiʹon, which comes from the verb “to remind,” suggesting that the person who has died is remembered.​—Joh 5:28, 29.

  • Merodach.

    The chief god of the city of Babylon. After the Babylonian king and lawmaker Hammurabi made Babylon the capital of Babylonia, Merodach (or, Marduk) grew in importance, finally displacing a number of the earlier gods and becoming the chief god of the Babylonian pantheon. In later periods, the name Merodach (or, Marduk) was replaced by the title “Belu” (“Owner”), and Merodach was commonly spoken of as Bel.​—Jer 50:2.

  • Messiah.

    A word derived from the Hebrew word for “anointed” or “anointed one.” “Christ” is the equivalent derived from the Greek.​—Da 9:25; Joh 1:41.

  • Miktam.

    A Hebrew word used in the superscriptions of six psalms (Ps 16, 56-60). It is a technical term of uncertain meaning, though it may be related to the word “inscription.”

  • Milcom.

    A god worshipped by the Ammonites, probably the same as the god Molech. (1Ki 11:5, 7) Near the close of his reign, Solomon built high places to this false god.​—See MOLECH.

  • Mildew.

    Any of many parasitic plant diseases caused by fungi. It has been suggested that the mildew mentioned in the Bible is black stem rust (Puccinia graminis).​—1Ki 8:37.

  • Mile.

    A measure of distance occurring only once in the original text of the Christian Greek Scriptures at Matthew 5:41, probably referring to the Roman mile that was equal to 1,479.5 m (4,854 ft). The three other occurrences of “mile” at Luke 24:13, John 6:19, and John 11:18 refer to statute miles converted from the ancient stadia of the original text.​—See App. B14.

  • Millstone.

    A round stone placed on top of a similar stone and used to grind grain into flour. A peg that was fitted into the center of the lower stone served as a pivot for the upper stone. In Bible times, hand mills operated by the women were used in most homes. Since a family’s daily bread depended on the hand mill, the Mosaic Law forbade confiscating it or its upper grindstone as security. Larger mills of a similar construction were turned by animals.​—De 24:6; Mr 9:42.

  • Mina.

    Also called maneh in Ezekiel. A unit both of weight and of monetary value. Based on archaeological evidence that a mina equaled 50 shekels, and a shekel weighed 11.4 g, the mina of the Hebrew Scriptures weighed 570 g (18.35 oz t). There may also have been a royal mina, as in the case of the cubit. In the Christian Greek Scriptures, a mina was equivalent to 100 drachmas. It weighed 340 g (10.9 oz t). Sixty minas equaled a talent. (Ezr 2:69; Lu 19:13)​—See App. B14.

  • Ministerial servant.

    A rendering of the Greek word di·aʹko·nos, which is often translated “minister” or “servant.” “Ministerial servant” refers to one who serves as an assistant to the body of elders in the congregation. He must meet Bible standards to qualify for this privilege of service.​—1Ti 3:8-10, 12.

  • Miracles; Powerful works.

    Actions or phenomena that surpass all powers known to humans and are attributed to a supernatural agency. Such expressions as “sign,” “portent,” and “wonder” are sometimes used synonymously in the Bible.​—Ex 4:21; Ac 4:22; Heb 2:4.

  • Molech.

    A god of the Ammonites; possibly the same as Malcam, Milcom, and Moloch. It may be a title rather than the name of a specific god. The Mosaic Law demanded the death penalty for anyone who sacrificed his children to Molech.​—Le 20:2; Jer 32:35; Ac 7:43.

  • Moloch.​—

    See MOLECH.

  • Morning star.​—

    See DAYSTAR.

  • Moses, Law of.

    The Law that Jehovah gave Israel through Moses in the wilderness of Sinai in 1513 B.C.E. The first five books of the Bible are often referred to as the Law.​—Jos 23:6; Lu 24:44.

  • Most Holy, the.

    The innermost room of the tabernacle and of the temple, where the ark of the covenant was kept; also called the Holy of Holies. According to the Mosaic Law, the only person allowed to enter the Most Holy was the high priest, and he could enter only on the annual Day of Atonement.​—Ex 26:33; Le 16:2, 17; 1Ki 6:16; Heb 9:3.

  • Mound.

    In Hebrew, “Millo,” from a root word meaning “fill.” The Septuagint translates it “citadel.” It was apparently a geographic or structural feature of the City of David, but its exact nature remains unknown.​—2Sa 5:9; 1Ki 11:27.

  • Mourning.

    The outward expression of grief over a death or some other calamity. In Bible times, it was customary to mourn for a period of time. In addition to weeping loudly, mourners wore special clothes, put ashes on their head, ripped their garments, and beat their chest. Professional mourners were sometimes invited to funerals.​—Ge 23:2; Es 4:3; Re 21:4.

  • Muth-labben.

    A term in the superscription of Psalm 9. Traditionally, it meant “concerning the death of the son.” Some suggest that it was the name or perhaps the opening words of a familiar melody to be used when singing this psalm.

  • Myrrh.

    An aromatic gum resin obtained from a variety of thorny shrubs or small trees of the genus Commiphora. Myrrh was one of the ingredients of the holy anointing oil. It was used to scent such things as garments or beds, and it was added to oil for massages and body lotions. Myrrh was also used to prepare bodies for burial.​—Ex 30:23; Pr 7:17; Joh 19:39.


  • Nard.

    A costly fragrant oil of light-reddish color, derived from the spikenard plant (Nardostachys jatamansi). Because it was expensive, nard was often mixed with inferior oils, and it was sometimes counterfeited. Notably, both Mark and John state that “genuine nard” was used on Jesus.​—Mr 14:3; Joh 12:3.

  • Nazarene.

    A name for Jesus, as one from the town of Nazareth. It is probably related to the Hebrew word used at Isaiah 11:1 for “sprout.” It was later applied to Jesus’ followers as well.​—Mt 2:23; Ac 24:5.

  • Nazirite.

    A word taken from the Hebrew for “One Singled Out,” “Dedicated One,” “Separated One.” There were two classes of Nazirites: those who volunteered and those who were appointed as such by God. A man or a woman could take a special vow to Jehovah to live as a Nazirite for a period of time. Those voluntarily taking the vow had three principal restrictions: they were to drink no alcohol nor eat any product of the grapevine, they were not to cut their hair, and they were not to touch a dead body. Those appointed by God as Nazirites remained such for life, and Jehovah specified the requirements for them.​—Nu 6:2-7; Jg 13:5.

  • Nehiloth.

    A term of uncertain meaning, occurring in the superscription of Psalm 5. Some believe that it refers to a wind instrument, linking it with a Hebrew root word related to cha·lilʹ (flute). However, it may designate a melody.

  • Nephilim.

    The violent hybrid sons who were the children of materialized angels and the daughters of men before the Flood.​—Ge 6:4.

  • Nethinim.

    Non-Israelite temple servants, or ministers. The Hebrew term literally means “Given Ones,” implying that they were given for temple service. Likely, many of the Nethinim were descendants of the Gibeonites, whom Joshua had constituted “gatherers of wood and drawers of water for the assembly and for Jehovah’s altar.”​—Jos 9:23, 27; 1Ch 9:2; Ezr 8:17.

  • New moon.

    The first day of each month of the Jewish calendar, which was observed as a day for gathering together, feasting, and offering special sacrifices. In later periods, the day became an important national festival, and people abstained from work.​—Nu 10:10; 2Ch 8:13; Col 2:16.

  • Nisan.

    After the Babylonian exile, the new name for Abib, the first month of the Jewish sacred calendar and the seventh month of the secular calendar. It ran from mid-March to mid-April. (Ne 2:1)​—See App. B15.


  • Oath.

    A sworn statement to certify that something is true, or a solemn promise that a person will or will not do a certain thing. It is frequently a vow made to a superior, especially to God. Jehovah reinforced his covenant with Abraham by a sworn oath.​—Ge 14:22; Heb 6:16, 17.

  • Omer.

    A dry measure equaling 2.2 L (2 dry qt), or a tenth of an ephah. (Ex 16:16, 18)​—See App. B14.

  • Onyx.

    A semiprecious stone, a hard variety of agate, or a banded form of chalcedony. The onyx has white layers alternating with black, brown, red, gray, or green layers. It was used in the special garments of the high priest.​—Ex 28:9, 12; 1Ch 29:2; Job 28:16.

  • Overseer.

    A man whose primary responsibility is to watch over and shepherd the congregation. The basic idea inherent in the Greek term e·piʹsko·pos is that of protective supervision. The terms “overseer” and “elder” (pre·sbyʹte·ros) refer to the same position in the Christian congregation, with “elder” indicating the mature qualities of the one so appointed, and “overseer” emphasizing the duties inherent in this appointment.​—Ac 20:28; 1Ti 3:2-7; 1Pe 5:2.


  • Papyrus.

    A reedlike aquatic plant used in making such things as baskets, containers, and boats. It was also used to make a writing material similar to paper and was used in many scrolls.​—Ex 2:3.

  • Paradise.

    A beautiful park, or parklike garden. The first such place was Eden, made by Jehovah for the first human pair. When speaking to one of the criminals next to him on the torture stake, Jesus indicated that the earth would become a paradise. At 2 Corinthians 12:4, the word evidently refers to a future paradise, and at Revelation 2:7, to a heavenly paradise.​—Ca 4:13; Lu 23:43.

  • Parchment.

    The skin of a sheep, goat, or calf prepared for use as writing material. It was more durable than papyrus and was used for scrolls of the Bible. The parchments that Paul requested Timothy to bring were possibly portions of the Hebrew Scriptures. Some of the Dead Sea Scrolls were written on parchment.​—2Ti 4:13.

  • Party followers of Herod.​—


  • Passover.

    An annual festival observed on the 14th day of Abib (later called Nisan) to commemorate the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt. It was observed by slaughtering and roasting a lamb (or goat), which was then eaten with bitter greens and unleavened bread.​—Ex 12:27; Joh 6:4; 1Co 5:7.

  • Pentecost.

    The second of the three major festivals that all Jewish males were required to celebrate in Jerusalem. Pentecost, meaning “Fiftieth (Day),” is the name used in the Christian Greek Scriptures for what is called the Festival of Harvest or Festival of Weeks in the Hebrew Scriptures. It was celebrated on the 50th day counted from Nisan 16.​—Ex 23:16; 34:22; Ac 2:1.

  • Persia; Persians.

    A land and a people regularly mentioned along with, and evidently related to, the Medes. In their early history, the Persians held only the southwestern part of the Iranian plateau. Under Cyrus the Great (who according to some ancient historians was born of a Persian father and a Median mother), the Persians became dominant over the Medes, though the empire continued to be dual. Cyrus conquered the Babylonian Empire in 539 B.C.E. and allowed the Jews in captivity to return to their homeland. The Persian Empire extended from the Indus River on the east to the Aegean Sea on the west. The Jews were under Persian rule until Alexander the Great defeated the Persians in 331 B.C.E. The Persian Empire was foreseen in a vision by Daniel, and it figures in the Bible books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther. (Ezr 1:1; Da 5:28)​—See App. B9.

  • Pestilence.

    Any rapidly spreading infectious disease capable of attaining epidemic proportions and of causing death. It is often related to the execution of divine judgment.​—Nu 14:12; Eze 38:22, 23; Am 4:10.

  • Pharaoh.

    A title given to the kings of Egypt. Five pharaohs are named in the Bible (Shishak, So, Tirhakah, Nechoh, and Hophra), but others are left anonymous, including those who had extensive dealings with Abraham, Moses, and Joseph.​—Ex 15:4; Ro 9:17.

  • Pharisees.

    A prominent religious sect of Judaism in the first century C.E. They were not of priestly descent, but they were strict observers of the Law in its smallest detail, and they elevated oral traditions to the same level. (Mt 23:23) They opposed any Greek cultural influence, and as scholars of the Law and the traditions, they had great authority over the people. (Mt 23:2-6) Some were also members of the Sanhedrin. They often opposed Jesus regarding Sabbath observance, traditions, and association with sinners and tax collectors. Some became Christians, including Saul of Tarsus.​—Mt 9:11; 12:14; Mr 7:5; Lu 6:2; Ac 26:5.

  • Philistia; Philistines.

    The land on the southern coast of Israel that came to be called Philistia. The immigrants from Crete who settled there were called Philistines. David subdued them, but they remained independent and were constant enemies of Israel. (Ex 13:17; 1Sa 17:4; Am 9:7)​—See App. B4.

  • Pillar.

    An upright structural support or column, or something resembling such a column. Some were set up to commemorate historic acts or events. Structural pillars were used in the temple and the royal structures built by Solomon. Pagan peoples set up sacred pillars in connection with their false religion, and the Israelites at times took up this practice. (Jg 16:29; 1Ki 7:21; 14:23)​—See CAPITAL.

  • Pim.

    A weight as well as the price charged by the Philistines for sharpening various metal implements. Several stone weights found in archaeological excavations in Israel bear the ancient Hebrew consonants of “pim”; their average weight is 7.8 g (0.2508 oz t), which would be approximately two thirds of a shekel.​—1Sa 13:20, 21.

  • Pledge.

    An object of personal property given by a debtor to his creditor as a guarantee of the future repayment of a loan. It was also called security. The Mosaic Law contained stipulations concerning pledges in order to protect the interests of poor and defenseless members of the nation.​—Ex 22:26; Eze 18:7.

  • Pomegranate.

    A fruit that is shaped like an apple, with a rosette or crown at one end. Crowded within the hard rind are small capsules full of juice, each containing a tiny pink or red seed. Pomegranate-shaped ornaments adorned the hem of the high priest’s blue sleeveless coat as well as the capitals of the pillars Jachin and Boaz in front of the temple.​—Ex 28:34; Nu 13:23; 1Ki 7:18.

  • Porneia.​—


  • Potter.

    A maker of earthenware pots, dishes, and other vessels. The Hebrew word for potter literally means “former.” The potter’s authority over the clay is often used to illustrate Jehovah’s sovereignty over individuals and nations.​—Isa 64:8; Ro 9:21.

  • Praetorian Guard.

    A group of Roman soldiers established as a bodyguard for the Roman emperor. The guard came to be a powerful political force in supporting or overthrowing an emperor.​—Php 1:13.

  • Prefect.

    An official lower in rank than a satrap in the Babylonian government. In the Bible, prefects were in a position of authority over the wise men in the Babylonian court. Prefects are also mentioned during the rule of King Darius the Mede.​—Da 2:48; 6:7.

  • Preparation.

    A name for the day before the Sabbath, during which the Jews made the necessary preparations. The day ended at sundown of what is today called Friday, at which time the Sabbath would begin. The Jewish day ran from evening to evening.​—Mr 15:42; Lu 23:54.

  • Presence.

    In some contexts in the Christian Greek Scriptures, this word describes the royal presence of Jesus Christ from the time of his invisible enthronement as Messianic King onward in the last days of this system of things. Christ’s presence is not simply a coming followed by a quick departure; rather, it covers a marked period of time.​—Mt 24:3.

  • Priest.

    A man who officially represented God to the people he served, instructing them about God and his laws. Priests also represented the people before God, offering sacrifices as well as interceding and pleading for the people. Before the Mosaic Law was instituted, the family head served as priest for his family. Under the Mosaic Law, the male members of the family of Aaron of the tribe of Levi made up the priesthood. The rest of the male Levites were their assistants. At the inauguration of the new covenant, spiritual Israel became a nation of priests, with Jesus Christ as High Priest.​—Ex 28:41; Heb 9:24; Re 5:10.

  • Proconsul.

    The principal governor of a province administered by the Roman Senate. He had judicial and military power, and although his actions were subject to review by the Senate, he wielded supreme authority in the province.​—Ac 13:7; 18:12.

  • Prophecy.

    An inspired message, whether a revelation of divine will or the proclamation of it. Prophecy may be an inspired moral teaching, an expression of a divine command or judgment, or a declaration of something to come.​—Eze 37:9, 10; Da 9:24; Mt 13:14; 2Pe 1:20, 21.

  • Prophet.

    One through whom divine purposes are made known. Prophets acted as spokesmen for God, conveying not only predictions but also Jehovah’s teachings, commands, and judgments.​—Am 3:7; 2Pe 1:21.

  • Propitiation.​—


  • Propitiatory cover.

    The cover of the ark of the covenant, before which the high priest spattered the blood of sin offerings on Atonement Day. The Hebrew term comes from a root verb meaning “to cover over (sin)” or perhaps “to wipe away (sin).” It was made of solid gold, with two cherubs, one mounted at each end. It is sometimes referred to simply as “the cover.” (Ex 25:17-22; 1Ch 28:11; Heb 9:5)​—See App. B5.

  • Proselyte.

    A convert. In the Scriptures, this refers to one who embraced Judaism, which in the case of a male involved getting circumcised.​—Mt 23:15; Ac 13:43.

  • Prostitute.

    A person who engages in sexual relations outside the marriage bond, especially for money. (The Greek word for “prostitute,” porʹne, comes from a root meaning “to sell.”) The term usually refers to a woman, although male prostitutes are also mentioned in the Bible. Prostitution was condemned in the Mosaic Law, and a prostitute’s wages were unacceptable as a contribution to Jehovah’s sanctuary, in contrast with the pagan practice of using temple prostitutes as a source of revenue. (De 23:17, 18; 1Ki 14:24) The Bible also uses the term figuratively, referring to people, nations, or organizations that engage in some form of idolatry while claiming to be worshippers of God. For example, the religious entity called “Babylon the Great” is described in Revelation as a prostitute because she has consorted with the rulers of this world for power and material gain.​—Re 17:1-5; 18:3; 1Ch 5:25.

  • Proverb.

    A wise saying or short story that teaches a lesson or expresses a profound truth in very few words. A Biblical proverb may take the form of a puzzling saying or a riddle. A proverb embodies a truth in expressive language, often metaphorically. Some sayings became common expressions of ridicule or contempt for certain people.​—Ec 12:9; 2Pe 2:22.

  • Psalm.

    A song of praise to God. Psalms were set to music and sung by worshippers, including in public worship of Jehovah God at his temple in Jerusalem.​—Lu 20:42; Ac 13:33; Jas 5:13.

  • Purim.

    The annual festival celebrated on the 14th and 15th of Adar. It commemorates the Jews’ deliverance from destruction in Queen Esther’s time. The non-Hebrew word pu·rimʹ means “lots.” The Festival of Purim, or Festival of Lots, was so named from the act of Haman in casting Pur (the Lot) to determine the day to carry out his extermination plot against the Jews.​—Es 3:7; 9:26.


  • Queen of Heaven.

    The title of a goddess worshipped by apostate Israelites in the days of Jeremiah. Some suggest that it refers to the Babylonian goddess Ishtar (Astarte). The name of her earlier Sumerian counterpart, Inanna, means “Queen of Heaven.” Besides being associated with the heavens, she was a fertility goddess. Astarte is also called “Lady of Heaven” in an Egyptian inscription.​—Jer 44:19.


  • Rahab.

    An expression used symbolically in the books of Job, Psalms, and Isaiah (not to be confused with the woman Rahab in the book of Joshua). In the book of Job, the context helps to identify Rahab as a sea monster; in other contexts this sea monster is used as a symbol for Egypt.​—Job 9:13; Ps 87:4; Isa 30:7; 51:9, 10.

  • Ransom.

    A price paid to provide a release from captivity, punishment, suffering, sin, or even an obligation. The price was not always monetary. (Isa 43:3) A ransom was required in a number of different situations. For example, all firstborn boys or male animals in Israel belonged to Jehovah, and a ransom, or redemption price, needed to be paid to release them from exclusive use in Jehovah’s service. (Nu 3:45, 46; 18:15, 16) If an unguarded, dangerous bull killed someone, a ransom was imposed on its owner in order to release him from the prescribed death sentence. (Ex 21:29, 30) However, no ransom was accepted for a willful murderer. (Nu 35:31) Most important, the Bible highlights the ransom that Christ paid by his sacrificial death in order to release obedient humankind from sin and death.​—Ps 49:7, 8; Mt 20:28; Eph 1:7.

  • Reed.

    A term used for numerous plants commonly growing in wet places. The plant intended in many cases is Arundo donax. (Job 8:11; Isa 42:3; Mt 27:29; Re 11:1)​—See MEASURING REED.

  • Repentance.

    In Biblical usage, a change of mind accompanied by heartfelt regret over a former way of life, wrong actions, or what one has failed to do. Genuine repentance produces fruitage, a changed course of action.​—Mt 3:8; Ac 3:19; 2Pe 3:9.

  • Resurrection.

    A rising up from death. The Greek word a·naʹsta·sis literally means “raising up; standing up.” Nine resurrections are mentioned in the Bible, including the resurrection of Jesus by Jehovah God. Although other resurrections were performed through Elijah, Elisha, Jesus, Peter, and Paul, these miracles are clearly attributed to God’s power. The earthly resurrection of “both the righteous and the unrighteous” is essential to God’s purpose. (Ac 24:15) The Bible also mentions a heavenly resurrection, termed “the earlier” or “the first” resurrection, involving the spirit-anointed brothers of Jesus.​—Php 3:11; Re 20:5, 6; Joh 5:28, 29; 11:25.

  • Righteousness.

    In the Scriptures, what is right according to God’s standard of right and wrong.​—Ge 15:6; De 6:25; Pr 11:4; Zep 2:3; Mt 6:33.


  • Sabbath.

    From a Hebrew word meaning “to rest; to cease.” It is the seventh day of the Jewish week (sunset Friday to sunset Saturday). Some other festive days in the year, as well as the 7th and 50th years, were also called sabbaths. On the Sabbath day, no work except priestly service in the sanctuary was to be done. In Sabbath years, the land was to lie uncultivated and fellow Hebrews were not pressed for repayment of debts. In the Mosaic Law, the restrictions for the Sabbath were reasonable, but religious leaders gradually added to them, so that by Jesus’ day they were hard for people to observe.​—Ex 20:8; Le 25:4; Lu 13:14-16; Col 2:16.

  • Sackcloth.

    A coarse cloth used in making sacks, or bags, such as those for containing grain. It was usually woven from dark-colored goat’s hair and was the traditional garment of mourning.​—Ge 37:34; Lu 10:13.

  • Sacred pillar.

    An upright pillar, usually of stone, and evidently a phallic symbol of Baal or of other false gods.​—Ex 23:24.

  • Sacred pole.

    The Hebrew word (ʼashe·rahʹ) refers to (1) a sacred pole representing Asherah, a Canaanite goddess of fertility, or (2) an image of the goddess Asherah herself. The poles apparently stood upright and were made, at least in part, of wood. They may have been uncarved poles, or even trees.​—De 16:21; Jg 6:26; 1Ki 15:13.

  • Sacred secret.

    An aspect of God’s purpose that originates with God, is withheld until his own time, and is revealed only to those whom he chooses to make it known.​—Mr 4:11; Col 1:26.

  • Sacred service.

    Ministry, or work, that is sacred, being directly related to one’s worship of God.​—Ro 12:1; Re 7:15.

  • Sacrifice.

    An offering presented to God as a token to express thanksgiving, to acknowledge guilt, and to restore good relations with him. Starting with Abel, humans offered various voluntary sacrifices, including animals, until the Mosaic Law covenant made them a requirement. Animal sacrifices were no longer needed after Jesus gave his own life as a perfect sacrifice, though Christians continue to offer spiritual sacrifices to God.​—Ge 4:4; Heb 13:15, 16; 1Jo 4:10.

  • Sadducees.

    A prominent religious sect of Judaism made up of wealthy aristocrats and priests who wielded great authority over the activities at the temple. They rejected the many oral traditions observed by the Pharisees as well as other Pharisaic beliefs. They did not believe in the resurrection or in the existence of angels. They opposed Jesus.​—Mt 16:1; Ac 23:8.

  • Samaria.

    The capital city of the northern ten-tribe kingdom of Israel for some 200 years, as well as the name of its entire territory. The city was built on a mountain of the same name. In Jesus’ time, Samaria was the name of a district that lay between Galilee in the north and Judea in the south. Jesus usually refrained from preaching in the region in his travels, but at times he passed through it and spoke to the inhabitants. Peter used the second figurative key of the Kingdom when the Samaritans received the holy spirit. (1Ki 16:24; Joh 4:7; Ac 8:14)​—See App. B10.

  • Samaritans.

    The term initially referred to the Israelites of the northern ten-tribe kingdom, but after the conquest of Samaria by the Assyrians in 740 B.C.E., it included the foreigners brought in by the Assyrians. In Jesus’ day, rather than having a racial or political connotation, the name usually referred to those who belonged to the religious sect that was located in the vicinity of ancient Shechem and Samaria. The sect’s adherents held certain beliefs that were distinctly different from those of Judaism.​—Joh 8:48.

  • Sanctuary.

    Generally, a place set apart for worship, a holy place. Most often, though, it designates either the tabernacle or the temple in Jerusalem. The term is also used of God’s dwelling place in the heavens.​—Ex 25:8, 9; 2Ki 10:25; 1Ch 28:10; Re 11:19.

  • Sanhedrin.

    The Jewish high court in Jerusalem. In Jesus’ day, it was made up of 71 members, including the high priest and others who had held the office of high priest, members of the high priestly families, elders, tribal and family heads, and scribes.​—Mr 15:1; Ac 5:34; 23:1, 6.

  • Satan.

    A Hebrew word meaning “Resister.” When used with the definite article in the original languages, it refers to Satan the Devil, God’s chief Adversary.​—Job 1:6; Mt 4:10; Re 12:9.

  • Satrap.

    A viceroy, or governor of a province, in the Babylonian and Persian empires. A satrap was appointed by the king as a chief ruler.​—Ezr 8:36; Da 6:1.

  • Scepter.

    A baton or rod carried by a ruler as an emblem of royal authority.​—Ge 49:10; Heb 1:8.

  • Scourge.

    In the Hebrew Scriptures, this term usually refers to a plague, a disease, or a calamity sent from Jehovah as punishment. In the Christian Greek Scriptures, it refers to beating or flogging with a whip that had knots or barbed ends.​—Nu 16:49; Joh 19:1.

  • Scribe.

    A copyist of the Hebrew Scriptures. By the time Jesus came to earth, it designated a class of men learned in the Law. They opposed Jesus.​—Ezr 7:6, ftn.; Mr 12:38, 39; 14:1.

  • Scripture(s).

    The sacred writings of God’s Word. This expression occurs only in the Christian Greek Scriptures.​—Lu 24:27; 2Ti 3:16.

  • Scroll.

    A long sheet of parchment or papyrus, with writing on one side, which was usually rolled around a stick. The Scriptures were written and copied on scrolls, the common book form during the period of Bible writing.​—Jer 36:4, 18, 23; Lu 4:17-20; 2Ti 4:13.

  • Seah.

    A dry measure. Basing the capacity on the corresponding liquid bath measure, it would equal 7.33 L (6.66 dry qt). (2Ki 7:1)​—See App. B14.

  • Seal.

    A device used to make an impression (usually on clay or wax) that showed ownership, authenticity, or agreement. Ancient seals consisted of a piece of hard material (stone, ivory, or wood) having engraved letters or designs in reverse. A seal is used figuratively for something stamped as authentic, or as a mark of possession, or as something that is hidden or secret.​—Ex 28:11; Ne 9:38; Re 5:1; 9:4.

  • Seal ring.

    A type of seal that was worn on the finger or on a cord, probably around the neck. Also called a signet ring, it was the symbol of authority of a ruler or an official. (Ge 41:42)​—See SEAL.

  • Sect.

    A body of people adhering to a doctrine or to a leader and following their own beliefs. It is used of the two prominent branches of Judaism, the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Non-Christians also called Christianity a “sect” or “the sect of the Nazarenes,” possibly viewing it as a breakaway from Judaism. Sects eventually developed in the Christian congregation; “the sect of Nicolaus” is mentioned specifically in Revelation.​—Ac 5:17; 15:5; 24:5; 28:22; Re 2:6; 2Pe 2:1.

  • Seer.

    A person enabled by God to discern the divine will, one whose eyes had been opened to see or understand things that were not evident to humans in general. The Hebrew word is drawn from a root word meaning “to see,” either literally or figuratively. A seer was a person consulted by others for wise counsel on problems encountered.​—1Sa 9:9.

  • Selah.

    A technical term for music or recitation found in Psalms and Habakkuk. It may mean a pause in the singing or in the music, or in both, for the purpose of silent meditation or to make the sentiment just expressed stand out. The Greek Septuagint rendering is di·aʹpsal·ma, defined as “a musical interlude.”​—Ps 3:4; Hab 3:3.

  • Seraphs.

    Spirit creatures stationed around Jehovah’s throne in the heavens. The Hebrew term sera·phimʹ literally means “burning ones.”​—Isa 6:2, 6.

  • Sexual immorality.

    From the Greek por·neiʹa, a general term for all unlawful sexual intercourse. It includes adultery, prostitution, sexual relations between unmarried individuals, homosexuality, and bestiality. It is used figuratively in Revelation with regard to a religious prostitute called “Babylon the Great” to describe her consorting with the rulers of this world for power and material gain. (Rev 14:8; 17:2; 18:3; Mt 5:32; Ac 15:29; Ga 5:19)​—See PROSTITUTE.

  • Shebat.

    After the Babylonian exile, the name of the 11th month of the Jewish sacred calendar and the 5th month of the secular calendar. It ran from mid-January to mid-February. (Zec 1:7)​—See App. B15.

  • Shekel.

    The basic Hebrew unit of weight and of monetary value. The weight equaled 11.4 g (0.403 oz; 0.367 oz t). The “shekel of the holy place” may have been an expression used to emphasize that the weight should be precise or that it should conform to a standard weight kept at the tabernacle. There may have been a royal shekel (different from the common shekel) or a standard weight kept at the royal palace.​—Ex 30:13.

  • Sheminith.

    A musical term literally meaning “the eighth” that may refer to a lower musical register, or mode. For instruments, the word probably pointed to those that produced the bass tones of the musical scale. For songs, it likely referred to musical accompaniment in a lower range and sung accordingly.​—1Ch 15:21; Ps 6:Sup; 12:Sup.

  • Sheol.

    A Hebrew word corresponding to the Greek word “Hades.” It is translated “Grave” (capitalized), to distinguish it as the common grave of mankind rather than an individual grave.​—Ge 37:35; Ps 16:10; Ac 2:31 (ftns.).

  • Showbread.

    Twelve loaves of bread that were placed in two stacks of six each on the table in the Holy compartment of the tabernacle and of the temple. Also called “layer bread” and “loaves of presentation.” This offering to God was replaced with fresh bread on each Sabbath. The bread that was removed was normally eaten only by the priests. (2Ch 2:4; Mt 12:4; Ex 25:30; Le 24:5-9; Heb 9:2)​—See App. B5.

  • Sign.

    An object, act, situation, or unusual display that has significance as an indicator of something else, present or future.​—Ge 9:12, 13; 2Ki 20:9; Mt 24:3; Re 1:1.

  • Sin offering.

    A sacrifice offered for unintentional sin committed because of weakness of the imperfect flesh. Various animal sacrifices, from bull to pigeon, were used, according to the position and circumstances of the one whose sin was being atoned for.​—Le 4:27, 29; Heb 10:8.

  • Sivan.

    After the Babylonian exile, the name of the third month of the Jewish sacred calendar and the ninth month of the secular calendar. It ran from mid-May to mid-June. (Es 8:9)​—See App. B15.

  • Sling.

    A leather strip or a woven band of such materials as animal sinews, rushes, or hair. The wide center part held the projectile, often a stone. One end of the sling was tied to the hand or wrist, while the other was held in the hand and released when the sling was swung. Ancient nations employed slingers in their armies.​—Jg 20:16; 1Sa 17:50.

  • Snuffers.

    Tools made of gold, possibly similar to tongs, that were used in the tabernacle and the temple to put out the flame on lamps.​—Ex 37:23.

  • Solomon’s Colonnade.

    In the temple in Jesus’ day, a covered passageway on the east of the outer courtyard, popularly believed to be a remnant from Solomon’s temple. There Jesus walked ‘in the wintertime,’ and there early Christians met for worship. (Joh 10:22, 23; Ac 5:12)​—See App. B11.

  • Song of the Ascents.

    The superscription of Psalms 120-134. Although there are various ideas on the meaning of the phrase, many believe that these 15 psalms were sung by joyful Israelite worshippers as they ‘ascended’ to Jerusalem, which was situated high in the mountains of Judah, in order to attend the three great annual festivals there.

  • Son of David.

    A phrase often applied to Jesus, emphasizing that he is the Heir of the Kingdom covenant that was to be fulfilled by someone in David’s lineage.​—Mt 12:23; 21:9.

  • Son of man.

    An expression found about 80 times in the Gospels. It applies to Jesus Christ and shows that by means of his fleshly birth, he became a human and was not simply a spirit creature with a materialized body. The phrase also indicates that Jesus would fulfill the prophecy recorded at Daniel 7:13, 14. In the Hebrew Scriptures, this expression was used for Ezekiel and Daniel, highlighting the difference between these mortal spokesmen and the divine Originator of their message.​—Eze 3:17; Da 8:17; Mt 19:28; 20:28.

  • Sons of Aaron.

    Descendants of Levi’s grandson Aaron, who was chosen as the first high priest under the Mosaic Law. The sons of Aaron performed the priestly duties at the tabernacle and at the temple.​—1Ch 23:28.

  • Sorcery.

    The use of power that is acknowledged to be from wicked spirits.​—2Ch 33:6.

  • Soul.

    The traditional rendering of the Hebrew word neʹphesh and the Greek word psy·kheʹ. In examining the way these terms are used in the Bible, it becomes evident that they basically refer to (1) people, (2) animals, or (3) the life that a person or an animal has. (Ge 1:20; 2:7; Nu 31:28; 1Pe 3:20; also ftns.) In contrast to the way that the term “soul” is used in many religious contexts, the Bible shows that both neʹphesh and psy·kheʹ, in connection with earthly creatures, refer to that which is material, tangible, visible, and mortal. In this translation, these original-language words have most often been rendered according to their meaning in each context, using such terms as “life,” “creature,” “person,” “one’s whole being,” or simply as a personal pronoun (for example, “I” for “my soul”). In most cases, footnotes give the alternative rendering “soul.” When the term “soul” is used, either in the main text or in footnotes, it should be understood in line with the above explanation. When referring to doing something with one’s whole soul, it means to do it with one’s whole being, wholeheartedly, or with one’s whole life. (De 6:5; Mt 22:37) In some contexts, these original-language words can be used to refer to the desire or appetite of a living creature. They can also refer to a dead person or a dead body.​—Nu 6:6; Pr 23:2; Isa 56:11; Hag 2:13.

  • Span.

    A linear measure approximately equal to the distance between the end of the thumb and the end of the little finger when the hand is spread out. Based on the cubit of 44.5 cm (17.5 in.), a span would be 22.2 cm (8.75 in.) in length. (Ex 28:16; 1Sa 17:4)​—See App. B14.

  • Spelt.

    An inferior kind of wheat (Triticum spelta), the kernels of which are not readily separated from the chaff.​—Ex 9:32.

  • Spirit.

    The Hebrew word ruʹach and the Greek word pneuʹma, often translated “spirit,” have a number of meanings. All of them refer to that which is invisible to human sight and gives evidence of force in motion. The Hebrew and Greek words are used with reference to (1) wind, (2) the active life-force in earthly creatures, (3) the impelling force that issues from a person’s figurative heart and causes him to say and do things in a certain way, (4) inspired expressions originating from an invisible source, (5) spirit persons, and (6) God’s active force, or holy spirit.​—Ex 35:21; Ps 104:29; Mt 12:43; Lu 11:13.

  • Spiritism.

    The belief that the spirits of dead humans survive the death of the physical body and that they can and do communicate with the living, especially through a person (a medium) particularly susceptible to their influence. The Greek word for “practice of spiritism” is phar·ma·kiʹa, which literally means “druggery.” This term came to be connected with spiritism because in ancient times, drugs were used when invoking the power of the demons in order to practice sorcery.​—Ga 5:20; Re 21:8.

  • Spirit medium.

    Someone who claims to talk with the dead.​—Le 20:27; De 18:10-12; 2Ki 21:6.

  • Spoil.

    Personal or household effects, livestock, or other items of value that are taken as plunder from a defeated enemy.​—Jos 7:21; 22:8; Heb 7:4.

  • Stake.

    An upright pole to which a victim was fastened. It was used in some nations for execution and/or for exposing a dead body as a warning to others or for public humiliation. The Assyrians, noted for their savage warfare, impaled captives by hanging their bodies atop pointed stakes that had been run up through the abdomen into the chest cavity of the victim. In Jewish law, though, those guilty of such heinous crimes as blasphemy or idolatry were first killed by stoning or by some other method, and then their dead bodies were hung on stakes, or trees, as warning examples to others. (De 21:22, 23; 2Sa 21:6, 9) The Romans sometimes simply tied a victim to the stake, in which case he might live for several days before he died from pain, thirst, hunger, and exposure to the sun. In other cases, such as the execution of Jesus, they nailed the hands and feet of the accused to a stake. (Lu 24:20; Joh 19:14-16; 20:25; Ac 2:23, 36)​—See TORTURE STAKE.

  • Stocks.

    An instrument of confinement for punishment. Some devices confined only the feet, while others kept the body in a distorted position, perhaps confining feet, hands, and neck.​—Jer 20:2; Ac 16:24.

  • Stoic philosophers.

    A Greek school of philosophers who believed that happiness consists of living in accord with reason and nature. The truly wise man, in their estimation, was indifferent to pain or pleasure.​—Ac 17:18.

  • Superscription.

    The heading at the beginning of a psalm that identifies the writer, gives background information, provides musical instructions, or indicates the use or purpose of the psalm.​—See the superscriptions of Psalms 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 30, 38, 60, 92, 102.

  • Synagogue.

    A word meaning “a bringing together; an assembly,” but in most scriptures, the building or place where Jews assembled for Scripture reading, instruction, preaching, and prayer. In Jesus’ day, each sizable town in Israel had a synagogue, and the larger cities had more than one.​—Lu 4:16; Ac 13:14, 15.

  • Syria; Syrians.​—


  • Syrtis.

    Two large shallow gulfs on the coast of Libya, North Africa, feared by ancient sailors because of the treacherous sandbanks that were constantly shifting as a result of the tides. (Ac 27:17)​—See App. B13.

  • System(s) of things.

    Rendering of the Greek word ai·onʹ when it refers to the current state of affairs or features that distinguish a certain period of time, epoch, or age. The Bible speaks of “the present system of things,” referring to the prevailing state of affairs in the world in general and the worldly way of life. (2Ti 4:10) By means of the Law covenant, God introduced a system of things that some might call the Israelite or Jewish epoch. By means of his ransom sacrifice, Jesus Christ was used by God to introduce a different system of things, one primarily involving the congregation of anointed Christians. This marked the beginning of a new epoch, characterized by the realities foreshadowed by the Law covenant. When in the plural, this phrase refers to the various systems of things, or prevailing states of affairs, that have existed or will exist.​—Mt 24:3; Mr 4:19; Ro 12:2; 1Co 10:11.


  • Tabernacle.

    A transportable tent of worship used by Israel after the Exodus from Egypt. It housed the ark of the covenant of Jehovah, which was representative of God’s presence, and served as a place of sacrifice and worship. It is also sometimes called “the tent of meeting.” It was a framework of wooden panels enclosed by linen coverings embroidered with cherubs. It was divided into two rooms, the first called the Holy, and the second, the Most Holy. (Jos 18:1; Ex 25:9)​—See App. B5.

  • Talent.

    The largest of the Hebrew units of weight and of monetary value. It weighed 34.2 kg (75.5 lb; 91.75 lb t; 1,101 oz t). A Greek talent was smaller, weighing about 20.4 kg (44.8 lb; 54.5 lb t; 654 oz t). (1Ch 22:14; Mt 18:24)​—See App. B14.

  • Tammuz.

    (1) The name of a deity over whom apostate Hebrew women in Jerusalem wept. It has been suggested that Tammuz was originally a king who was deified after his death. In Sumerian text, Tammuz is called Dumuzi and is identified as the consort or lover of the fertility goddess Inanna (the Babylonian Ishtar). (Eze 8:14) (2) After the Babylonian exile, the name of the fourth Jewish lunar month of the sacred calendar and the tenth month of the secular calendar. This month ran from mid-June to mid-July.​—See App. B15.

  • Tarshish, ships of.

    Initially a term used for ships that made trips to ancient Tarshish (modern-day Spain). It seems that the term eventually came to stand for large ships capable of long-distance travel. Solomon and Jehoshaphat utilized such ships for trade purposes.​—1Ki 9:26; 10:22; 22:48.

  • Tartarus.

    In the Christian Greek Scriptures, a prisonlike abased condition into which the disobedient angels of Noah’s day were cast. At 2 Peter 2:4, the use of the verb tar·ta·roʹo (to “cast into Tartarus”) does not signify that “the angels who sinned” were cast into the pagan mythological Tartarus (that is, an underground prison and place of darkness for the lesser gods). Rather, it indicates that they were abased by God from their heavenly place and privileges and were delivered over to a condition of deepest mental darkness respecting God’s bright purposes. Darkness also marks their own eventuality, which the Scriptures show is everlasting destruction along with their ruler, Satan the Devil. Therefore, Tartarus denotes the lowest condition of abasement for those rebellious angels. It is not the same as “the abyss” spoken of at Revelation 20:1-3.

  • Tebeth.

    After the Babylonian exile, the name of the tenth month of the Jewish sacred calendar and the fourth month of the secular calendar. It ran from mid-December to mid-January. It is generally referred to simply as “the tenth month.” (Es 2:16)​—See App. B15.

  • Temple.

    The permanent building in Jerusalem that replaced the portable tabernacle as the center of Israelite worship. The first temple was built by Solomon and was destroyed by the Babylonians. The second one was built by Zerubbabel after the return from Babylonian exile and was later rebuilt by Herod the Great. In the Scriptures, the temple was often simply called “the house of Jehovah.” (Ezr 1:3; 6:14, 15; 1Ch 29:1; 2Ch 2:4; Mt 24:1)​—See App. B8 and B11.

  • Tenth (tithe).

    A tenth part, or 10 percent, given or paid as a tribute, especially for religious purposes. It is also called a “tithe,” and giving it is called “tithing.” (Mal 3:10; De 26:12; Mt 23:23) Under the Mosaic Law, a tenth of the produce of the land and a tenth of the increase of the herds and flocks were given to the Levites yearly to support them. The Levites gave a tenth of this tenth to the Aaronic priesthood to support them. There were some additional tithes as well. Tithing is not required of Christians.

  • Tent of meeting.

    An expression applied both to the tent of Moses and to the sacred tabernacle originally erected in the wilderness.​—Ex 33:7; 39:32.

  • Teraphim.

    Family gods or idols, at times consulted for omens. (Eze 21:21) Some were the size and shape of a man, while others were much smaller. (Ge 31:34; 1Sa 19:13, 16) Archaeological findings in Mesopotamia indicate that possessing the teraphim images had a bearing on who would receive the family inheritance. (This may explain why Rachel took her father’s teraphim.) This does not seem to have been the case in Israel, although the idolatrous use of teraphim existed in the days of the judges as well as the kings, and they were included among the items destroyed by faithful King Josiah.​—Jg 17:5; 2Ki 23:24; Ho 3:4.

  • Testimony.

    “The Testimony” usually refers to the Ten Commandments as written on the two stone tablets given to Moses.​—Ex 31:18.

  • Thanksgiving offering.

    A communion offering intended to praise God for his provisions and loyal love. The flesh of the animal offering and both leavened and unleavened bread were eaten. The flesh had to be eaten the same day.​—2Ch 29:31.

  • Thresh; Threshing floor.

    The process of releasing grain from its stalk and chaff; the place where this work was done. Threshing was done by hand with a rod, or for larger quantities, with special equipment, such as threshing sledges or rollers, pulled by animals. The equipment ran over the grain that was spread on the threshing floor, a flat circular area usually at a high elevation exposed to wind.​—Le 26:5; Isa 41:15; Mt 3:12.

  • Tishri.​—

    See ETHANIM and App. B15.

  • Torture stake.

    The rendering of the Greek word stau·rosʹ, meaning an upright stake or pole, such as the one on which Jesus was executed. There is no evidence that the Greek word meant a cross, such as the pagans used as a religious symbol for many centuries before Christ. “Torture stake” conveys the full intent of the original word, since the word stau·rosʹ is also used to indicate the torture, suffering, and shame that Jesus’ followers would face. (Mt 16:24; Heb 12:2)​—See STAKE.

  • Transgress; Transgression.

    To overstep a stated law; the act of overstepping a law. It is synonymous with “sin” in the Bible.​—Ps 51:3; Ro 5:14.

  • Tree of life.

    A tree in the garden of Eden. The Bible does not indicate that it had inherent life-giving qualities in its fruit; instead, it represented God’s guarantee of everlasting life to those he would allow to eat of its fruit.​—Ge 2:9; 3:22.

  • Tree of the knowledge of good and bad.

    A tree in the garden of Eden that God used as a symbol of his right to set the standards for mankind as to what is “good” and what is “bad.”​—Ge 2:9, 17.

  • Tribute.

    Payment by one State or ruler to another as a mark of submission, in order to maintain peace or to gain protection. (2Ki 3:4; 18:14-16; 2Ch 17:11) The word is also used for a personal tax on individuals.​—Ne 5:4; Ro 13:7.

  • True God, the.

    A rendering of the Hebrew expression for “the God.” In many cases, this use of the definite article in Hebrew serves to distinguish Jehovah as the only true God in contrast to false gods. The rendering “the true God” carefully preserves the full meaning of the Hebrew expression in such contexts.​—Ge 5:22, 24; 46:3; De 4:39.

  • Trumpet.

    A wind instrument made of metal, used for signaling and for music. According to Numbers 10:2, Jehovah gave instructions for making two silver trumpets that would be used to sound specific signals for summoning the assembly, for breaking camp, or for proclaiming war. These likely were straight trumpets, unlike the curved “horns” that were actually made from animal horns. Trumpets of unspecified construction were also included among the musical instruments at the temple. The sound of trumpets often symbolically accompanies the proclamation of Jehovah’s judgments or other significant events of divine origin.​—2Ch 29:26; Ezr 3:10; 1Co 15:52; Re 8:7–11:15.

  • Turban.

    A cloth wrapped around the head and worn as a headdress. The high priest wore a turban of fine linen, with a gold plate tied to its front with a blue cord. The king wore a turban under his crown. Job used the expression figuratively when he likened his justice to a turban.​—Ex 28:36, 37; Job 29:14; Eze 21:26.


  • Unclean.

    May refer to being physically dirty or to breaking moral laws. In the Bible, though, the word often refers to what is not acceptable, or not clean, according to the Mosaic Law. (Le 5:2; 13:45; Mt 10:1; Ac 10:14; Eph 5:5)​—See CLEAN.

  • Undeserved kindness.

    A Greek word with the central idea of that which is agreeable and winsome. The word is often used to refer to a kind gift or a kind manner of giving. When referring to the undeserved kindness of God, the word describes a free gift given generously by God, with no expectation of repayment. Thus, it is an expression of God’s bounteous giving and generous love and kindness toward humans. The Greek term is also rendered by such expressions as “favor” and “kind gift.” It is given unearned and unmerited, motivated solely by the generosity of the giver.​—2Co 6:1; Eph 1:7.

  • Unleavened.

    Referring to bread that is made without leaven.​—De 16:3; Mr 14:12; 1Co 5:8.

  • Urim and Thummim.

    Objects used by the high priest in a manner similar to the use of lots to determine the divine will when questions of national importance needed an answer from Jehovah. The Urim and Thummim were put inside the high priest’s breastpiece when he entered the tabernacle. Their use seems to have ceased when the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem.​—Ex 28:30; Ne 7:65.


  • Vow.

    A solemn promise made to God to perform some act, make some offering or gift, enter some service, or abstain from certain things not unlawful in themselves. It carried the force of an oath.​—Nu 6:2; Ec 5:4; Mt 5:33.

  • Vow offering.

    A voluntary offering that accompanied certain vows.​—Le 23:38; 1Sa 1:21.


  • Wadi.

    The valley or bed of a stream that is usually dry except during the rainy season; the word may also refer to the stream itself. Some streams were fed by springs and were therefore perennial. The wadi is referred to as “valley” in some contexts.​—Ge 26:19; Nu 34:5; De 8:7; 1Ki 18:5; Job 6:15.

  • Warp.

    In weaving, the group of threads running the length of the fabric. The set of threads woven alternately over and under these at right angles across the cloth are the woof.​—Jg 16:13.

  • Watchman.

    One who guards against possible harm to people or property, often during the night, and who may sound an alarm in the face of threatened danger. Watchmen were often stationed on the city walls and towers to observe those approaching before they got close. A watchman in the military is usually called a guard or a sentry. Figuratively, prophets served as watchmen to the nation of Israel, warning of impending destruction.​—2Ki 9:20; Eze 3:17.

  • Wave offering.

    An offering in which the priest evidently placed his hands under the hands of the worshipper who was holding the sacrifice to be presented and waved them back and forth; or the priest himself waved the offering. This action represented a presenting of the sacrificial offerings to Jehovah.​—Le 7:30.

  • Way, the.

    An expression used figuratively in the Scriptures to refer to a mode of action or conduct that is either approved or disapproved by Jehovah. Those who became followers of Jesus Christ were spoken of as belonging to “The Way,” that is, they kept a way of life centered on faith in Jesus Christ, following his example.​—Ac 19:9.

  • Wicked one, the.

    A designation for Satan the Devil, who stands in opposition to God and his righteous standards.​—Mt 6:13; 1Jo 5:19.

  • Winepress.

    Usually two pits (vats) cut out of natural limestone, one higher than the other, and connected by a small channel. As the grapes were crushed in the upper pit, the juice flowed into the lower pit. The word is used figuratively for God’s judgment.​—Isa 5:2; Re 19:15.

  • Wineskin.

    A skin bottle made of the complete hide of an animal, such as a goat or a sheep, and used for holding wine. Wine was put into new wineskins, because as it ferments, it generates carbon dioxide gas that exerts pressure on the skin bottles. New skins expand; old, inflexible ones burst under the pressure.​—Jos 9:4; Mt 9:17.

  • Woof.

    In weaving, the set of threads running the width of the fabric. These were woven alternately over and under the warp, that is, the group of threads running the length of the fabric.​—Le 13:59.

  • Wormwood.

    Various woody plants having an intensely bitter taste and a strong aromatic odor. Wormwood is used figuratively in the Bible to describe the bitter effects of immorality, enslavement, injustice, and apostasy. At Revelation 8:11, “wormwood” denotes a bitter and poisonous substance, also called absinthe.​—De 29:18; Pr 5:4; Jer 9:15; Am 5:7.


  • Yoke.

    A bar borne upon a person’s shoulders, from each side of which loads were suspended, or a wooden bar or frame placed over the necks of two draft animals (usually cattle) when pulling a farm implement or a wagon. Because slaves often used yokes to carry heavy burdens, the yoke was used figuratively to represent enslavement or subjection to another person, as well as oppression and suffering. Removing or breaking the yoke signified liberation from bondage, oppression, and exploitation.​—Le 26:13; Mt 11:29, 30.


  • Zeus.

    The supreme god of the polytheistic Greeks. In Lystra, Barnabas was mistakenly identified as Zeus. Ancient inscriptions found near Lystra refer to “priests of Zeus” and “Zeus the sun-god.” The ship Paul traveled on from the island of Malta had the figurehead “Sons of Zeus,” that is, the twin brothers Castor and Pollux.​—Ac 14:12; 28:11.

  • Zion; Mount Zion.

    The name of the Jebusite fortress city of Jebus that was on the southeast hill of Jerusalem. After David captured it, he built his royal residence there, and it came to be called “the City of David.” (2Sa 5:7, 9) Zion became a mountain especially holy to Jehovah when David had the Ark transferred there. Later, the name included the temple area on Mount Moriah, and at times the entire city of Jerusalem. It is often used symbolically in the Christian Greek Scriptures.​—Ps 2:6; 1Pe 2:6; Re 14:1.

  • Ziv.

    The original name of the second month of the Jewish sacred calendar and the eighth month of the secular calendar. It ran from mid-April to mid-May. It is named Iyyar in the Jewish Talmud and other works dated after the Babylonian exile. (1Ki 6:37)​—See App. B15.