Also see: Bondservant, slave | Mary and Martha

SERVE, SERVANT in scriptures [BibleGateway Search - Serve] [BibleGateway Search - Servant]

Cross Reference Bible links
Jesus and later, Paul and Peter, instructed his disciples to serve each other:
Mark 10:42-45, John 13:12-17, Romans 12:6-7, Romans 14:17-20a, Galatians 5:6-13, Colossians 3:23-24, 1 Peter 4:9-11

SERVANT, SERVICE, SERVE [Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology]

The words "servant, " "service, " and "serve, " in various forms, occur well over 1, 100 times in the New International Version. People are servants of other human beings or servants of God.

In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for servant, ebed, contains at least two key ingredients: action (the servant as "worker") and obedience. Servants belonged to other people (Gen 24:35; Exod 21:21), and performed a variety of work.

Many persons in the Old Testament are called "servants, " among them Abraham (Gen 26:24), Jacob (Gen 32:4), Joshua (Jos 24:29), Ruth (Ru 3:9), Hannah (1 Sam 1:11), Samuel (1 Sam 3:9), Jesse (1 Sam 17:58), Uriah the Hittite (2 Sam 11:21), Joab (2 Sam 14:20), Isaiah (Isa 20:3), Daniel (Da 9:17), Ben-Hadad of Aram (1 Kings 20:32), and Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon (Jer 25:9). Moses is designated as such about forty times and David more than fifty.

The Book of Isaiah contains the "servant Songs" (42:1-4; 49:1-6; 50:4-9; 52:13-53:12). In them the servant may represent Israel as a whole; Israel after the Spirit; or the mediator of salvation (the Messiah of Israel). Many personal qualities are attributed to the Servant. While often called "Israel, " the Servant appears to represent some great individual. Like David, he will rule and establish justice on earth (42:1, 4). But he will also suffer. The suffering, death, and new life of the Servant become exemplified in the New Testament in Christ

(Isa 52:13Acts 3:13;
Isa 61:1Acts 4:27;
Isa 53:7-8Acts 8:32-33;
Isa 53:4-5, 7, 91 Peter 2:22-24).

In the New Testament, doulos is frequently used to designate a master's slave (one bound to him), but also a follower of Christ (a "bondslave" of Christ). The term points to a relation of absolute dependence, in which the master and the servant stand on opposite sides—the former having a full claim, the latter having a full commitment. The servant can exercise no will or initiative on his or her own.

Doulos is applied to several Old Testament worthies, including Moses (Rev 15:3) and the prophets (Rev 10:7). Paul (Titus 1:1) and James (1:1) both refer to themselves as servants of God; Paul also calls himself the "servant of Christ" (Rom 1:1; Php 1:1).

Christ took upon himself the "form of a servant" (Php 2:7). Believers have moved from being slaves to sin to become slaves of righteousness (Rom 6:17-18).

Another common New Testament term, diakonos, derives from a verb meaning "to wait at table, " "to serve." As the Son of man, Jesus "did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Matt 20:28; Mark 10:45).

The diakonos gives hospitality (Matt 8:15), distributes food (Acts 6:1), sets a table (John 12:2), does the work of a deacon (1 Tim 3:10), or exercises spiritual gifts (1 Peter 4:10-11). In the New Testament, the idea of "serving at table" is expanded to encompass "the service of the saints" (1 Cor 16:15). Paul regarded the collection of money for the church in Jerusalem as a "service" (2 Cor 8:4; 9:11-13), along with preaching and ministering in spiritual things.

One striking modification of usage from the Old Testament to the New is the occurrence of the word groups latreia and leitourgia. While the primary use in the Old Testament was cultic, describing the service of the priests and Levites in the sanctuary, the New Testament use is rarely so. The New Testament describes Christ as the High Priest "who serves in the [heavenly] sanctuary" (Heb 8:10). But more often it describes the worship of one's heart (Acts 24:14b), of serving in the preaching of the gospel (Rom 1:9), of those who "worship by the Spirit of God" (Php 3:3).

Walter M. Dunnett

SERVICE [Holman Bible Dictionary]

Work done for other people or for God and the worship of God. Jacob worked for Laban seven years for each of his wives (Genesis 29:15-30). Service could be slave labor (Exodus 5:11; Leviticus 25:39; 1 Kings 12:4; Isaiah 14:3; compare Lamentations 1:3), farm work (1 Chronicles 27:26), or daily labor on the job (Psalms 104:23). It could be service of earthly kingdoms (2 Chronicles 12:8; compare 1 Chronicles 26:30), of God's place of worship (Exodus 30:16; compare Numbers 4:47; 1 Chronicles 23:24), of God's ministers (Ezra 8:20), and of God (Joshua 22:27). Not only people do service; God also does service (Isaiah 28:21). Even righteousness has a service (Isaiah 32:17).

Service at its best is worship. This involves the service of Temple vessels (1 Chronicles 9:28), of worship actions (2 Chronicles 35:10; compare Exodus 12:25-26), of bringing offerings (Joshua 22:27), of priestly work (Numbers 8:11). Interestingly, the Old Testament never ascribes service to other gods.

The New Testament similarly speaks of forced service (Matthew 27:32), sacrificial living (Romans 12:1; Philippians 2:17 with a play on words also indicating an offering), slave labor done for Christ's sake (Ephesians 6:7; Colossians 3:22; compare Philippians 2:30), worship (Romans 9:4; Hebrews 12:28), offerings (Romans 15:31; 2 Corinthians 9:12), and personal ministry (Romans 12:7; 1 Timothy 1:12; 2 Timothy 4:11). Hebrews 1:14 talks of the ministry of angels. Being in an army is also service (2 Timothy 2:4), and those who persecute Christ's followers think they do service for God (John 16:2).


sur'-vant ('ebhedh; doulos):

A very common word with a variety of meanings, all implying a greater or less degree of inferiority and want of freedom:

(1) The most frequent usage is as the equivalent of "slave" (which see), with its various shades in position (Genesis 9:25; 24:9; Exodus 21:5; Matthew 10:24; Luke 17:7, and often); but also a hired workman where "hired servant" translates Hebrew and Greek expressions which differ from the above.

(2) An attendant in the service of someone, as Joshua was the "servant" the Revised Version (British and American) "minister" of Moses (Numbers 11:28).

(3) As a 'term of respectful self-depreciation referring to one's self, "thy servant." or "your servant" is used in place of the personal pronoun of the first person:

(a) in the presence of superiors (Genesis 19:2; 32:18, and often);
(b) in addressing the Supreme Being (1 Samuel 3:9; Psalms 19:11; 27:9; Luke 2:29, and often).

(4) Officials of every grade are called the "servants" of kings, princes, etc. (1 Samuel 29:3; 2 Samuel 16:1; 1 Kings 11:26; Proverbs 14:35, and often).

(5) The position of a king in relation to his people (1 Kings 12:7).

(6) One who is distinguished as obedient and faithful to God or Christ (Joshua 1:2; 2 Kings 8:19; Daniel 6:20; Colossians 4:12; 2 Timothy 2:24). (7) One who is enslaved by sin (John 8:34).

William Joseph Mcglothlin



Six Hebrew, two Aramaic and four Greek words are so rendered.

1. In the Old Testament:

In the Old Testament the word most used for "service" is

(1) `abhodhah, from `abhadh, which is the general word, meaning "to work" and so "to serve," "to till," also "to enslave." The noun means "bondage," "labor," "ministering," "service," "tillage," "work," "use." The word is used in describing work in the fields (Exodus 1:14, et al.), work in the tabernacle (Exodus 27:19, et al.), sanctuary service (Numbers 7:9), service of Yahweh (Numbers 8:11), Levitical or priestly service (Numbers 8:22), kingly service (1 Chronicles 26:30), etc. Reference is made to instruments, wood vessels, cattle, herbs, shekels for the service in the house of Yahweh.

(2) `Abhadh itself is translated "service" in Numbers 8:15; 18:23; Jeremiah 22:13.

(3) Seradh means "stitching," i.e. piercing with a needle; it occurs only 4 times, and in each case in the Revised Version (British and American) instead of "service" is translated "finely wrought garments" (Exodus 31:10; 35:19; 39:1,41).

(4) Sharath means primarily "to attend" as a servant or worshipper, and to contribute to or render service, wait on, and thence service; occurs only 3 times (Exodus 35:19; 39:1,41 the King James Version) and in the American Standard Revised Version is rendered "for ministering."

(5) Tsabha' is found 7 times, used in the same connection each time, and refers to those numbered for service in the tent of meeting. Its primary root meaning refers to service for war, campaign, hardship (Numbers 4:30,35,39,43; 8:24).

(6) Yadh means literally, an "open hand, indicating direction, power, and so ministry as in 1 Chronicles 6:31, where David appoints certain ones to have direction of the music, translated in 1 Chronicles 29:5, the Revised Version (British and American) not service, but "himself."

(7) `Abhidhah means "business," "labor," "affairs"; Ezra 6:18 is the only place where it is found.

(8) Polchan, from root meaning "to worship," "minister to," and so in Ezra 7:19 vessels given for service.

2. In the New Testament:

The following are the uses in the New Testament:

(1) Diakonia, from root meaning "to run on errands," and so attendance, aid as a servant, ministry, relief, and hence, service; compare English word "deacon"; Paul: "that I might minister unto you" (2 Corinthians 11:8); also found in Romans 15:31 ("ministration") and Revelation 2:19 ("ministry").

(2) Douleuo, literally, "to be a slave," in bondage, service (Galatians 4:8, "bondage"; Eph 6:7, "service"; 1Ti 6:2, "serve").

(3) Latreia, from root meaning "to render religious homage," menial service to God, and so worship (John 16:2, "service"; Ro 9:4, "service"; Ro 12:1, "spiritual service"; Heb 9:1, "service"; 9:6, "services").

(4) Leitourgia, from root "to perform religious or charitable functions," worship, relieve, obey, minister, and hence, a public function, priestly or charitable (liturgy) (2 Corinthians 9:12, "service"; also in Philippians 2:17,30).


William Edward Raffety

SERVE, SERVANT [Thompson Chain Reference]

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