STAFF ("shebeṭ," "maṭṭch," etc.):
Herodotus (i. 195) and Strabo (xvi. 746) assert that among the Babylonians every man carried a ring and a staff, which latter was decorated at the upper end with a carved representation of a flower or something similar. It seems to have been the universal custom among the ancient Hebrews also to carry a staff (comp. Gen. xxxviii. 18)—a custom which perhaps dates from the time when they lived the nomadic life of herdsmen. The staff was indispensable to the herdsman, for by means of it he kept his flock together (Ex. iv. 2; Lev. xxvii. 32; Ps. xxiii. 4; Micah vii. 14; Zech. ii. 7); the upper end of the long staff was bent, as Egyptian illustrations indicate. Nor was the staff to be despised as a weapon (Ps. xxiii. 4). Similarly, a long, perhaps straight, stick, with a goad at the end, was used by the peasants for driving and guiding the oxen before the plow, and also for breaking the clods behind it, as the peasants still use the stick to-day; this also was an effective weapon (Judges iii. 31; I Sam. xiii. 21, xvii. 43). Finally, the staff was indispensable to the wanderer, and a support to the weak and sick (Gen. xxxii. 10; Ex. xxi. 19; Zech. viii. 4). In the hands of the overseers it became an instrument of punishment, and therefore a badge of office (Isa. ix. 4, xxx. 31, et al.).