A person who exercises authority or control; a sovereign. The Hebrew verb ma·shalʹ has the meaning “rule, dominate”; the Greek term arʹkhon is translated “ruler.”—See CITY RULERS.
The kings of the line of David on the throne of Israel ruled as representatives of Jehovah, their real, invisible King. They were, therefore, said to be God’s anointed, sitting on “Jehovah’s throne.” (1Ch 29:23) When Jesus Christ “the Son of David” appeared (Mt 21:9; Lu 20:41), he was anointed, not with oil, but with holy spirit, to rule on a heavenly throne. (Ac 2:34-36) Under Jehovah, Jesus and his fellow heirs of the Kingdom constitute the government of the universe.—Re 14:1, 4; 20:4, 6; 22:5.
Satan the Devil and his demons are also rulers. He is spoken of as “the ruler of this world” and “the ruler of the authority of the air.” (Joh 12:31; 14:30; Eph 2:2) That all the governments of this world are under his power is indicated by his offering them to Jesus Christ at the price of an act of worship. (Mt 4:8, 9) Satan gives these governments their authority. (Re 13:2) Within his organization the demons also exercise ruling power. They are referred to as “the world rulers of this darkness” who have exercised authority over the world powers of history, as, for example, the invisible ‘princes’ over Persia and Greece. (Eph 6:12; Da 10:13, 20) Their ruler is, of course, the Devil himself.—Mt 12:24.
In the days of Jesus’ earthly ministry, Palestine was under the dual rule of the Roman Empire and the Jewish rulers, the chief body of the latter being the Great Sanhedrin, a council of 70 elders to which the Roman government granted limited authority over Jewish affairs. It is to the Jewish rulers that reference is made at John 7:26, 48; Nicodemus was one of these. (Joh 3:1) A presiding officer of the synagogue was called an arʹkhon. (Compare Mt 9:18 and Mr 5:22.) The Law commanded respect for rulers. (Ac 23:5) However, the Jewish rulers became corrupt and are mentioned as the ones on whom the chief blame rested for Jesus Christ’s death.—Lu 23:13, 35; 24:20; Ac 3:17; 13:27, 28.
Arʹkhon is also applied to civil magistrates and government officials in general. (Ac 16:19, 20; Ro 13:3) The Hebrew word segha·nimʹ, translated “rulers” (KJ), “deputies” (Ro), “deputy rulers” (NW), is used with reference to subordinate Jewish rulers under the Persian Empire (Ne 2:16; 5:7), also of ones holding authority under the kings of Media, Assyria, and Babylon.—Jer 51:28; Eze 23:12, 23; see DEPUTY.
Rulers can bring prosperity and happiness, or poverty and suffering, to their subjects. (Pr 28:15; 29:2) David quotes Jehovah God as saying: “When one ruling over mankind is righteous, ruling in the fear of God, then it is as the light of morning, when the sun shines forth, a morning without clouds.” (2Sa 23:3, 4) Such a ruler is Jesus Christ the Prince of Peace.—Isa 9:6, 7.