Term used by the English Bible versions as an approximate rendering of a number of Hebrew words. The leaders of the Levites are called "chiefs" (), Num. iii. 24, 30), although elsewhere the same word is rendered "prince" (Num. vii. 18). From the fact that on the day of the dedication of the Tabernacle every chief gave exactly the same donation to the service, it can be inferred that the chiefs were here representing the tribes, and were not giving of themselves only. The tribes, furthermore, were divided into several sections, and the leader of each section (as, for example, the leader of the Gershon branch of the tribe of Levi) was called "nasi" also; and the leader of the whole tribe was called "the chief of the chiefs" (Num. iii. 24, 32). The authority of the "nasi" was very great, and marked respect was to be shown him (Ex. xxii. 27, A. V. 28).
In the days of royalty the rights and privileges, as well as the name, were absorbed by the king (I Kings xi. 34), and later by Zerubbabel (Ezra i. 8). A fuller phrase, "nesi ha-areẓ," occurs in Gen. xxxiv. 2. In the early stages the chiefs helped the central authority. They assisted in counting the Levites (Num. iv. 34).
Other terms for "chief" are: (1) "Pinnat kol ha'am" (corner-stone of the people: Judges xx. 2; I Sam. xiv. 38); and the reference here, too, is to the tribe and family representatives. (2) "Ba'al," applied to the priest, not in the sense of an officer, but as one standing out preeminent. (3) "'Attud" (Isa. xiv. 9); but such a rendering only loosely corresponds to the original. (4) "Rosh" is rendered "chief" seventy-eight times, and is used almost interchangeably with "nasi." It stands for the head of a family (Ex. vi. 14, 25), and for larger tribal sections (I Kings viii. 1; Num. xxxii. 38), and is applied to the high priest (II Chron. xix. 11, xxiv. 6). In the New Testament "chief" is the rendering for ἀρχώ (Luke xi. 15), and for πρῶτος (Matt. xx. 27; Luke xix. 47). An officer termed the "Asiarch" (chief of Asia) is mentioned in Acts xix. 31.