[from Heb., ma·shalʹ, “to rule have dominion over”; Gr., arʹkhon, “ruler,” high official].
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.” (1 Chron. 29:23) When Jesus Christ the “Son of David” appeared (Matt. 21:9; Luke 20:41), he was anointed, not with oil, but with holy spirit, to rule on a heavenly throne. (Acts 2:34-36) Under Jehovah, Jesus and his fellow heirs of the Kingdom constitute the government of the universe.—Rev. 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 “ruler of the authority of the air.” (John 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. (Matt. 4:8, 9) Satan gives these governments their authority. (Rev. 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; Dan. 10:13, 20) Their ruler is, of course, the Devil himself.—Matt. 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 seventy 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. (John 3:1) A presiding officer of the synagogue was called an arʹkhon. (Compare Matthew 9:18 and Mark 5:22.) The Law commanded respect for rulers. (Acts 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.—Luke 23:13, 35; 24:20; Acts 3:17; 13:27, 28.
Arʹkhon is also applied to civil magistrates and government officials in general. (Acts 16:19, 20; Rom. 13:3) The Hebrew word segha·nimʹ, translated “rulers” (AV), “deputies” (Ro), “deputy rulers” (NW) is used with reference to subordinate Jewish rulers under the Persian Empire (Neh. 2:16; 5:7), also of ones holding authority under the kings of Media, Assyria and Babylon.—Jer. 51:28; Ezek. 23:12, 23; see DEPUTY.
Rulers can bring prosperity and happiness to their subjects, or poverty and suffering. (Prov. 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.” (2 Sam. 23:3, 4) Such a ruler is Jesus Christ the Prince of Peace.—Isa. 9:6, 7.