Abarim Publications' online Biblical Hebrew Dictionary
The verb שבט (shabat) means to smite, beat or slay and is widely attested in the Semitic language area with similar meanings. In the Hebrew of the Bible this verb is not used but two derivatives remain:
- The masculine noun שבט (shebet), meaning rod or staff: a very common item that served as weapon to travelers, and which was used by agrarian cultures to beat their grains (Isaiah 28:27) and herd their cattle (Psalm 23:4). Later the staff evolved into the scepter, a symbol of authority (Judges 5:14), which in turn made it a tribal totem (Genesis 49:16). In Psalm 23:4 this word occurs together with משענת (mish'enet), staff.
- The feminine noun שרביט (sharbit), which is the Aramaic equivalent of the previous, meaning scepter (Esther 4:11, 5:2, 8:4 only).