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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]

Although this word occurs twice ( 2 Corinthians 5:20 and  Ephesians 6:20) in the English Versionof the NT, the corresponding Greek noun (πρεσβευτής) occurs nowhere. Instead, we find the verb πρεσβεύω, ‘to be an ambassador,’ while the cognate collective noun (Revised Version‘ambassage’) is used in  Luke 14:32;  Luke 19:14.*[Note: πρεσβεύω and πρεσβευτής were the recognized terms in the Greek East for the Legate of the Roman Empire (Deissmann, Light from the Ancient East2, 1911, p. 379).]

In the OT the idea behind the words translated ‘ambassador’ (generally mal’âkh ) is that of going or being sent, and of this the etymological equivalent in the NT is not ‘ambassador’ but ‘apostle’ (ἀπόστολος, ‘one sent forth’); but both the OT terms and the NT ἀπόστολος have to be understood in the light of use and contest rather than of derivation. In this way they acquire a richer content, of which the chief component ideas are the bearing of a message, the dealing, in a representative character, with those to whom one is sent, and the solemn investiture, before starting out, with a delegated authority sufficient for the task (cf.  Galatians 1:15-17).

The representative character of ambassadorship is emphasized by the repeated ὑπέρ, ‘on behalf of,’ in  2 Corinthians 5:20, with the added ‘as though God were intreating by us.’ The same preposition (ὑπέρ) occurs in  Ephesians 6:20; thus πρεσβεύω is never found in the NT without it. So also in  Luke 14:32;  Luke 19:14 the context shows that the πρεσβεία is representative.

There is no very marked difference between ‘ambassador’ and ‘apostle.’ πρεσβεύω, having πρέσβυς (‘aged’) as its stem, does suggest a certain special dignity and gravity, based on the ancient idea of the vastly superior wisdom brought by ripeness of years. Probably, however, St. Paul was not thinking of age at all, for πρεσβεύω had lived a life of its own long enough to be independent of its antecedents. His tone of dignity and of pride springs not so much from his metaphor as direct from his vividly realized relation to God: ὑπέρ is more emphatic than πρεσβεύω. It is in exactly the same tone that he claims the title ‘apostle’ (see, e.g. ,  Galatians 1:1,  1 Corinthians 9:1;  1 Corinthians 15:9-10); cf.  Galatians 1:15 f., where his ‘separation to preach’ expresses the same thought in yet another form. Nevertheless, his is a humble pride, for only grace has put him in his lofty position (cf.  1 Corinthians 15:9 f.). Moreover, his commission is not to lord it over others, but to ‘beseech’ them; nay, God Himself only ‘intreats’ ( 2 Corinthians 5:20). It is He who seeks ‘arrangements for peace’ with men (cf.  Luke 14:32). On the πρεσβύτης of  Philemon 1:9 (Authorized Versionand Revised Version‘the aged,’ Revised Version margin ‘an ambassador’) see articleAged.

C. H. Watkins.

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [2]

Stands for two Hebrew words: Malahch , "messenger," and Tzeer , "ambassador." Israel's commanded isolation rendered embassies an infrequent occurrence; they were mere nuncios rather than plenipotentiaries. The earliest instances occur in the case of Edom, Moab, and the Amorites ( Numbers 20:14;  Numbers 21:21). Gibeon feigned an ambassage ( Joshua 9:4). The ambassador's person was regarded as inviolable ( 2 Samuel 10:2-5;  2 Samuel 12:26-31).

Men of high rank usually; as Sennacherib sent his chief captain, Chief cupbearer, and chief eunuch, Tartan, Rabsaris, Rabshakeh, whom Hezekiah's chief men of the kingdom, Eliakim over the household, Shebna the secretary, and Joab the recorder, met ( 2 Kings 18:17-18;  Isaiah 30:4;  Isaiah 33:7; compare  Isaiah 18:2). Once in New Testament, "we are ambassadors for Christ" ( 2 Corinthians 5:20); treating with men "in Christ's stead": God "beseeching," and His ambassadors "praying" men to be reconciled to God. Majesty, faithfulness, yet withal tenderness, are implied. Our part is to send prayers, as our ambassage, to meet God's ambassadors, desiring His conditions of peace ( Luke 14:32;  Isaiah 27:5).

Morrish Bible Dictionary [3]

There are three Hebrew words thus translated, signifying 'an interpreter,' 'a messenger.' They were not, as in modern times, residents in foreign lands, but were officers sent from one sovereign to another with any message of importance, or to negotiate matters of mutual interest. The men from Gibeon pretended to be ambassadors come from a distance to make an alliance with Israel.  Joshua 9:4 . Ambassadors came from Babylon to visit Hezekiah,  2 Chronicles 32:31; and from the king of Egypt to Josiah.  2 Chronicles 35:21 . Such persons represented the kings who sent them, and, whatever the message, were usually treated with due respect. David severely resented the insult offered to the messengers sent by him in kindness to Hanun, king of the children of Ammon.  2 Samuel 10:1-14 . In  2 Samuel 9 the kindness of God was accepted; here kindness was rejected. In the N.T. the apostles were ambassadors for Christ to a guilty world, to beseech their hearers to be reconciled to God.   2 Corinthians 5:20;  Ephesians 6:20; and judgement will fall on those who obey not the gospel.  2 Thessalonians 1:8;  1 Peter 4:17 .

Easton's Bible Dictionary [4]

Tsir   Joshua 9:4 Proverbs 13:17 Isaiah 18:2 Jeremiah 49:14 Obadiah 1:1 Melits   2 Chronicles 32:31 Malak   2 Chronicles 35:21 Isaiah 30:4 33:7 Ezekiel 17:15 2 Corinthians 5:20 Ephesians 6:20

The Hebrews on various occasions and for various purposes had recourse to the services of ambassadors, e.g., to contract alliances ( Joshua 9:4 ), to solicit favours ( Numbers 20:14 ), to remonstrate when wrong was done ( Judges 11:12 ), to condole with a young king on the death of his father ( 2 Samuel 10:2 ), and to congratulate a king on his accession to the throne ( 1 Kings 5:1 ).

To do injury to an ambassador was to insult the king who sent him ( 2 Samuel 10:5 ).

Smith's Bible Dictionary [5]

Ambassador. A person of high rank employed by a government to represent it and transact its business at the seat of government of some other power. The earliest examples of ambassadors employed occur in  Numbers 20:14;  Numbers 21:21;  Judges 11:7-19, afterwards in that of the fraudulent Gibeonites,  Joshua 9:4, etc., and in the instances of civic strife mentioned,  Judges 11:12, and  Judges 20:12.

Ambassadors are found to have been employed not only on occasions of hostile challenge or insolent menace,  1 Kings 20:2;  1 Kings 20:6;  2 Kings 14:8, but of friendly compliment, of request for alliance or other aid, of submissive deprecation and of curious inquiry.  2 Kings 14:8;  2 Kings 16:7;  2 Kings 18:14;  2 Chronicles 32:31. Ministers are called ambassadors of Christ .

Holman Bible Dictionary [6]

 Joshua 9:4 2 Chronicles 32:31 2 Chronicles 35:21 Proverbs 13:17 Isaiah 30:4 Isaiah 33:7 Isaiah 57:9 Jeremiah 49:14 Obadiah 1:1 Ezekiel 17:15

Paul saw himself even in prison as an ambassador sent by the divine King to proclaim salvation through Christ to the world ( Ephesians 6:20; compare  2 Corinthians 5:20 ).

Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types [7]

 2 Corinthians 5:20 (a) This title is given to those Christians who carry GOD's message to a lost and hostile world. It probably does not apply to all believers for many of GOD's children are afraid to become His messengers, and they keep the good news to themselves The true ambassador comes out boldly for his king and for his country.

 Ephesians 6:20 (a) Paul used the title in this passage because he was representing Heaven on earth. He carried the King's message to the rebels who were bent on killing him. He was GOD's representative to bring to men the Word of his Lord both for their salvation and their condemnation.

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [8]

a messenger sent by a sovereign, to transact affairs of great moment. Ministers of the Gospel are called ambassadors, because, in the name of Jesus Christ the King of kings, they declare his will to men, and propose the terms of their reconciliation to God,  2 Corinthians 5:20;  Ephesians 6:20 . Eliakim, Shebna, and Josh, the servants of king Hezekiah, were called "ambassadors of peace." In their master's name they earnestly solicited a peace from the Assyrian monarch, but were made "to weep bitterly" with the disappointment and refusal,  Isaiah 33:7 .

King James Dictionary [9]

AMBAS'SADOR, n. This is the more common orthography but good authors write also embassador and as the orthography of embassy is established, it would be better to write embassador. See Embassador.

Webster's Dictionary [10]

(n.) Alt. of Embassador

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [11]

a public minister sent from one sovereign prince, as a representative of his person, to another. At Athens ambassadors mounted the pulpit of the public orators, and there acquainted the people with their errand. At Rome they were introduced to the senate, and there delivered their commissions (Smith's Dict. of Class. Antiq. s.v. Legatus).

In the Old Testament, the word צַיר , Tsir, one who goes on an Errand, is thus rendered in  Joshua 9:4;  Proverbs 13:17;  Isaiah 18:2;  Jeremiah 49:14;  Obadiah 1:1; and this translation is used for מֵלַיוֹ , Melits', An Interpreter, in 2 Chronicles 22:31; also for מִלְאָךְ , Malac', Messenger, in  2 Chronicles 35:21;  Isaiah 30:4;  Isaiah 33:7;  Ezekiel 17:15. Ministers of the Gospel in the New Testament are said to be ambassadors ( Πρεσβεύω ) , because they are appointed by God to declare his will to amen, and to promote a spiritual alliance with Him ( 2 Corinthians 5:20;  Ephesians 6:20). (See Alliance). The relations of the Hebrew with foreign nations were too limited to afford much occasion for the services of ambassadors. Still, the long course of their history affords some examples of the employment of such functionaries, which enable us to discover the position which they were considered to occupy. Of ambassadors resident at a foreign court they had, of course, no notion, all the embassies of which we read being "extraordinary," or for special services and occasions, such as to congratulate a king on his accession or victories, or to condole with him in his troubles ( 2 Samuel 8:15;  2 Samuel 10:2;  1 Kings 5:1), to remonstrate in the case of wrong ( Judges 11:12), to solicit favors ( Numbers 20:14), or to contract alliances ( Joshua 9:3 sq.;  1 Maccabees 8:17).

The notion that the ambassador represented the person of the sovereign who sent him, or the dignity of the state from which he came, did not exist in ancient times in the same sense as now. He was a highly distinguished and privileged messenger, and his dignity ( 2 Samuel 10:1-5) was rather that of our heralds than of our ambassadors. It may have been owing, in some degree, to the proximity of all the nations with which the Israelites had intercourse that their ambassadors were intrusted with few, if any, discretionary powers, and could not go beyond the letter of their instructions. In general, their duty was limited to the delivering of a message and the receiving of an answer; and if this answer was such as required a rejoinder, they returned for fresh instructions, unless they had been authorized how to act or speak in case such an answer should be given.

The largest act performed by ambassadors appears to have been the treaty of alliance contracted with the Gibeonites (Joshua 9), who were supposed to have come from "a far country;" and the treaty which they contracted was in agreement with the instructions with which they professed to be furnished. In allowing for the effect of proximity, it must be remembered that the ancient ambassadors of other nations, even to countries distant from their own, generally adhered to the letter of their instructions, and were reluctant to act on their own discretion. Generals of armies must not, however, be confounded with ambassadors in this respect. The precept given in  Deuteronomy 20:10, seems to imply some such agency; rather, however, that of a mere nuncio, often bearing a letter ( 2 Kings 5:5;  2 Kings 19:14), than of a legate empowered to treat. The inviolability of such an officer's person may perhaps be inferred from the only recorded infraction of it being followed with unusual severities toward the vanquished, probably designed as a condign chastisement of that offense ( 2 Samuel 10:2-5; comp. 12:26-31). The earliest examples of ambassadors employed occur in the cases of Edom, Moab, and the Amorites ( Numbers 20:14;  Numbers 21:21;  Judges 11:17-19), afterward in that of the fraudulent Gibeonites ( Joshua 9:4, etc.), and in the instances of civil strife mentioned in  Judges 11:12;  Judges 20:12 (see Cunaeus De Rep. Hebr. 2, 20, with notes by Nicolaus in Ugolini Thesaur. 3, 771-774). They are mentioned more frequently during and after the contact of the great adjacent monarchies of Syria, Babylon, etc., with those of Judah and Israel, e.g. in the invasion of Sennacherib. They were usually men of high rank, as in that case the chief captain, the chief cup-bearer, and chief of the eunuchs were deputed, and were met by delegates of similar dignity from Hezekiah ( 2 Kings 18:17-18; see also  Isaiah 30:4). Ambassadors are found to have been employed, not only on occasions of hostile challenge or insolent menace ( 2 Kings 14:8;  1 Kings 20:2;  1 Kings 20:6), but of friendly compliment, of request for alliance or other aid, of submissive deprecation, and of curious inquiry ( 2 Kings 14:8;  2 Kings 16:7;  2 Kings 18:14;  2 Chronicles 32:31). The dispatch of ambassadors with urgent haste is introduced as a token of national grandeur in the obscure prophecy in  Isaiah 18:2. (See Messenger).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [12]

am - bas´a - dor ( מלאך , mal'ākh , "messenger"; לוּץ , 'lūc , "interpreter"; ציר , cı̄r , "to go"; hence a messenger; πρεσβεύω , presbeúō , "to act as an ambassador," literally, to be older): An ambassador is an official representative of a king or government, as of Pharaoh ( Isaiah 30:4 ); of the princes of Babylon ( 2 Chronicles 32:31 ); of Neco, king of Egypt ( 2 Chronicles 35:21 ); of the messengers of peace sent by Hezekiah, king of Judah, to Sennacherib, king of Assyria ( Isaiah 33:7 ). The same Hebrew term is used of the messengers sent by Jacob to Esau ( Genesis 32:3 ); by Moses to the king of Edom ( Numbers 20:14 ). For abundant illustration consult "Messenger" (מלאך , mal'ākh ) in any concordance. See Concordance . The inhabitants of Gibeon made themselves pretended ambassadors to Joshua in order to secure by deceit the protection of a treaty ("covenant") ( Joshua 9:4 ).

In the New Testament the term is used in a figurative sense. As the imprisoned representative of Christ at Rome Paul calls himself "an ambassador in chains" ( Ephesians 6:20 ); and in  2 Corinthians 5:20 includes, with himself, all ministers of the gospel, as "ambassadors ... on behalf of Christ," commissioned by Him as their sovereign Lord, with the ministry of reconciling the world to God. The Bible contains no finer characterization of the exalted and spiritual nature of the minister's vocation as the representative of Jesus Christ, the King of kings, and Saviour of the world.

The Nuttall Encyclopedia [13]

"an honest man sent to lie abroad for the commonwealth" ( Wotton ).