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The meaning of Ancients in the Bible
(From International Standard Bible Encyclopedia)

an-shents: This word (except in one instance) renders the Hebrew word zeqenim, (pl of zaqen), which should always be translated "old men" or "elders." The Hebrew word never has the connotation which "ancients" has in modern English. The words "I understand more than the ancients" (Psalms 119:100 the King James Version) do not mean that the Psalmist claims greater wisdom than his distant forbears but than his contemporaries with all their age and experience. In the parallel clause "teachers" is the corresponding word. In such phrases as "ancients of the people" (Jeremiah 19:1 the King James Version), "ancients of the house of Israel" (Ezekiel 8:12), "elders" would obviously be the correct rendering, as in the Revised Version (British and American). Even in Isaiah 24:23 ("before his ancients gloriously" the English Revised Version) "elders" is the right translation (American Revised Version). The writer probably alludes to the Sinaitic; theophany witnessed by the "seventy .... elders" (Exodus 24:9-18) Generally speaking the word suggests the experience, insight and practical acquaintance with life which age ought to bring with it (Psalms 119:100; Ezekiel 7:26). In one instance (I Samuel 24:13) "ancients" is the right rendering for the Hebrew word qadhmonim, which means "men of former times."

Thomas Lewis


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