Charge, Commandments, Statutes, Law, Judgments, Testimonies, Ways and Precepts
Defined and Distinguished
1.1 Verbal, Plenary Inspiration. God inspired the very words (verbal inspiration) of the Old and New Testaments. He also inspired all the words (plenary inspiration) of the Old and New Testaments. Therefore, the words of the Bible really matter. As I read the Old Testament, I noticed the words “commandments,” “statutes,” “judgments,” and other terms. I reviewed some of the literature on these terms, but did not find satisfactory answers showing the basis for differentiating those terms, or not.
1.2 Abraham. My study began with the Book of Genesis, where I read in one verse that Abraham (long before the Law of Moses) obeyed the LORD and the LORD said that Abraham kept My charge (“מִשְׁמַרְתִּי”), My commandments (“מִצְוֺתַי”), My statutes (“חֻקּוֹתַי “) and My laws (“וְתוֹרֹתָי”) (Genesis 26:5). 1I did not devote time to distinguish different uses of the different terms in different times and different covenants. Times and covenants may be very important to understanding the different terms and the true semantic range. I did note in some instances how the terms remained the same over time. I wanted to know more about how those different terms related to one another and how they may mean different things (see also Deuteronomy 11:1). I searched out the Hebrew usage and the semantic range of different words and concepts. 2I am not a Hebrew scholar and must rely upon others to help me understand Hebrew morphology, syntax and grammar. I reviewed many occurrences of the different Hebrew words translated law, commandments, charge, statutes, judgments and precepts. By reviewing the different passages containing those words, I was able to detect ways to understand the differences between those words. I cannot say with high confidence my conclusions below are absolutely correct, but I have provided evidence for my conclusions that may allow you to make your own conclusions.
1.3 Translations. During my study, I reviewed different translations of passages concerning the terms known to Abraham and Moses, such as charge, commandments, and statutes. I noticed problems with many English translations. Some modern translators followed the errors of earlier translators in overlooking the distinctions between various Hebrew words related to law, commandments, etc. For example, Moses stayed on Mt. Sinai for forty days and forty nights; he did not eat bread or drink water. On that mountain, the LORD provided to Moses “the words of the covenant–the ten words” (“דִּבְרֵי הַבְּרִית–עֲשֶׂרֶת ,הַדְּבָרִים”) (my partial translation). 3See also Deuteronomy 4:13, the ten words (“עֲשֶׂרֶת ,הַדְּבָרִים”), which the LORD commanded (“צִוָּה”); see also Exodus 34:28 and Deuteronomy 10:4. Yet, modern translations refer to the “ten words” as the “ten commandments.” The Hebrew term for “the words” (“הַדְּבָרִים”) is not the same as the term for “the commandments” (“הַמִּצְוֺת”). Often modern translations combine different Hebrew words under the single term “commandments.” We should be careful to understand that the LORD “commanded” many things in the sense that He gave orders requiring obedience under the covenants He made with Israel, but the LORD also used the technical term “commandments” which carried special meaning. So, I decided to spend a little time reviewing the Old Testament material. I did not do an exhaustive study, and may have missed crucial evidence. If so, please send an email. Frequently I use my own translation of words and phrases below. At other times, I follow the New American Standard Bible.
In the study below, please take notice that the LORD frequently used the terms “My charge,” “My Law,” “My commandments,” “My statutes,” and “My judgments.” He revealed those things and owned them. He gave them to His covenant people, and required their love and obedience.
2.1 “My Charge” Defined. The basic meaning of the term “My charge” (“מִשְׁמַרְתִּי”) concerns guarding, keeping safe, and an obligation to keep safe and ready for the LORD’S use. Several uses of this term provide insight into how a charge from the LORD operates. As King David prepared to die, he commanded (“וַיְצַו”) Solomon his son: keep the charge (“שָׁמַרְתָּ אֶת-מִשְׁמֶרֶת”) of the LORD your God, to walk (“לָלֶכֶת”) in His ways (“בִּדְרָכָיו”), to keep His statutes (“לִשְׁמֹר חֻקֹּתָיו”), and His commandments (“מִצְוֺתָיו”), and His judgments (“וּמִשְׁפָּטָיו”) 4Some modern translations use the term “ordinances” to translate the Hebrew word “judgments” (“מִשְׁפָּטִים”). Because the term for judges (“שֹׁפְטִים”) and judgments (“מִשְׁפָּטִים”) related closely to one another in meaning and form, I prefer “judgments” rather than “ordinances” to translate the Hebrew terms. and His testimonies (“וְעֵדְוֺתָיו”), as written in the law of Moses (1 Kings 2:3).
2.2 “My Offerings.” In Numbers 18:8, the LORD said that He gave Aaron charge (“אֶת-מִשְׁמֶרֶת”) over “My offerings (“תְּרוּמֹתָי”). The LORD declared that “I have given” (“נָתַתִּי”) to Aaron all the offerings. The LORD gave them as a portion to Aaron and his sons as a perpetual allotment. But the LORD also imposed strict conditions upon the gift. He regulated who may eat what offerings, how they must be eaten, and the proper procedures related to those offerings. In essence, the LORD entrusted those holy offerings to Aaron, and imposed a duty upon Aaron to keep those offerings holy. Therefore, we see that “charge” means that the LORD gave a specific person a specific thing (often a holy thing), that came with a duty to guard it and keep it as the LORD commanded. This gift amounted to entrusting a precious and holy thing to a specific person to be guarded against corruption and used according to the LORD’S specific instructions.
2.3 In Charge. In Ezekiel 44:8, the LORD rebuked the house of Israel because the people had not kept charge (“מִשְׁמֶרֶת”) of My holy things (“קָדָשָׁי”), but set foreigners to keep charge (“לְשֹׁמְרֵי מִשְׁמַרְתִּי”) of My sanctuary. In this case, the holy charge entrusted to Israel had been ignored and transferred improperly by them to other people as they chose. The house of Israel violated the charge of the LORD concerning His holy things; they violated their duty to keep the holy things holy.
2.4 My Watch. Habbakuk described himself as a prophet standing on “My watch” (“עַל-מִשְׁמַרְתִּי”). Some translations render the prophet standing on his guard post (“עַל-מִשְׁמַרְתִּי”). a5See also Isaiah 21:8, where the lookout is stationed every night at my guard post (“עַל-מִשְׁמַרְתִּי”). In both cases, we see the similarity that Habbakuk was watching and guarding. Therefore, we learn that the term “My charge” (“מִשְׁמַרְתִּי”) includes a specific duty to keep watch and maintain vigilance.
2.5 Summary. The term “My charge” means that, within the covenant relationship, someone (usually the LORD) entrusted a holy item to a specific person or group for holy use as the LORD directed, while keeping it safe from corruption of all kinds.
3.1 “My Law” Defined. The term “law” means a general promise and plan of action from the LORD concerning a particular matter. The LORD requires His covenant people: (a) to have faith in His promises; and (b) to live according to His plans. So, with that general definition of the term “law” in mind, we can now continue in the same passage to see how the term “commandment” related to the term “law.” 6As we will see later, the law from the LORD has righteous statutes and judgments, and no other nation has such righteous laws as the law of Yahweh given to His people, Israel (Deuteronomy 4:8, properly translated; see also Leviticus 18:3).
3.2 Moses. Just as the LORD revealed law and commandments to Abraham, so the LORD revealed law and commandments to Moses (Deuteronomy 30:10; Joshua 22:5; 2 Kings 18:6; Deuteronomy 30:15; Nehemiah 1:7, 9:13).
3.3 Manna and Law. The story of the manna in the wilderness illustrates the concepts of “law” and “commandments.” The people of Israel were hungry and grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The LORD then told Moses that the LORD would rain bread from heaven. The LORD intended to test the people of Israel to see if they would walk “in His law (“בְּתוֹרָתִי”) or not” (my partial translation of Exodus 16:6). That “law” was broad: the LORD will rain manna and described the LORD’S general promise and plan. The LORD promised to provide daily manna, and they would gather a day’s portion every day, except on the sixth day they were to bring in twice as much as they gathered daily (Exodus 16:6). The particular matter at issue was the people’s hunger and grumbling, showing their lack of faith that the LORD would provide for them in the wilderness. The LORD intended to test the obedience of the people of Israel to the law of the LORD. We will see that the term “My commandments” provided specific guidance regarding the general law. The LORD revealed various laws. For example, the law of the grain offering (Leviticus 6:14); the law of the sin offering (Leviticus 6:25); the law of the guilt offering (Leviticus 7:1); the law for mothers (Leviticus 12:7); the law of leprosy (Leviticus 13:59); and the law of jealousy (Numbers 5:29).
3.4 Stand By. The LORD told Moses to stand by Him, so that the LORD may speak to Moses all the commandments (“הַמִּצְוָה”) and the statutes (“וְהַחֻקִּים”) and the judgments (“וְהַמִּשְׁפָּטִים”) which you shall teach them, that they may observe them in the land (Deuteronomy 5:31). Therefore, we should be careful to distinguish those terms from one another and also seek to understand what they mean.
3.5 The Reading of the Law. Moses wrote “this law” (“אֶת-הַתּוֹרָה הַזֹּאת”) and gave it to the priests, and to all the elders of Israel. They were to teach the law to the people and use it for the benefit of the people. The law was to be read in the presence of all the people, including the men, women, children, and the aliens (Deuteronomy 31:9; compare Nehemiah 8:1-18).
3.6 The King and the Scroll. In Deuteronomy 17:14-20, the LORD explained that after the people entered the promised land, the people would say: “I will set a king over me like all the nations who are around us” (Deuteronomy 17:14). The LORD then prescribed how to select that king and the special restraints on that king (Deuteronomy 17:15-18). The LORD did not direct the people to set up a king, but the people rejected the LORD as king and sought their own king (1 Samuel 8:7). The LORD also required every king to write out a copy of this law (“הַתּוֹרָה הַזֹּאת”) on a scroll 7The king wrote this law upon a scroll (“הַתּוֹרָה הַזֹּאת, עַל-סֵפֶר”); at times some translators mistakenly used the term “book” instead of “scroll” when describing “this law” (“בְּסֵפֶר הַתּוֹרָה הַזֹּאת”) (Deuteronomy 28:61). in the presence of the Levitical priests. The king must read that scroll all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, by carefully observing all of this law and these statutes (Deuteronomy 17:18-19; Joshua 1:8; compare also 2 Chronicles 23:11, Psalm 132:12, and Ezra 7:6). 8The king may have written out the entire law, but it is also possible that the phrase “this law” may mean just the king material described in Deuteronomy 17:14-17, to remind himself of the particular laws that apply specifically to kings. Other specific uses of the term “this law” refer to particular laws, like the law of burnt offerings, as described below. See also the two large stones with “this law” written upon them (Deuteronomy 27:2-3, 8).
3.7 Summary. The LORD revealed the law to both Abraham and Moses. By doing so, the LORD revealed to them His plans and purposes in the broadest terms, but He also required broad and comprehensive obedience. The laws helped His people in covenant relationship with Him to enjoy His blessing and avoid discipline from the LORD.
4.1 “My Commandments” Defined. The basic word for “My Commandments” (“מִצְוֺתַי”) relates to the verb “command” which means to order something done. The LORD said that His commandment was not too difficult for His people, nor out of reach; His commandment is not in heaven, nor beyond the sea. His commandment is very near His people, in their mouth and in their heart, that they may observe it (Deuteronomy 30:10-14; compare Jeremiah 31:33).As with many other terms associated with the obligations of the covenant, the LORD personalized His terms: My law, My commandments, My statutes, etc. The general term “command” carries the idea of compelling action. Frequently, in the Old Testament, the command came from the LORD and rested upon His covenant relationship with people. The commands help the people of the covenant remain in good relationship with the LORD. 9Keep in mind that the law generally showed how sinful people are, and how much they need a Savior (Romans 7; Hebrews 10). With each covenant (Abraham and Moses, for example), the LORD provided laws and commands. How does the term “commandment” relate to the term “law?”
4.2 Manna and Commandments. Let us return to the account of Moses. After receiving the Law of Manna, Moses then explained what the LORD commanded (“צִוָּה”) concerning the specific application of the Law of Manna (Exodus 16:8-21). Notice that the LORD revealed the specific commandment to Moses, who then communicated it to the people (Exodus 16:16). The people of Israel were to gather enough manna so that every person in the tent would have enough to eat. The LORD provided a specific commandment: you shall take an omer apiece, according to the number of persons each of you has in his tent. On the sixth day, they were to gather two omers per person. Notice that the commandment provided specific application of the law and quantified the amount as an “omer,” (about 2 quarts, a tenth of an ephah (Exodus 16:36). Therefore, in this passage, the term “My commandment” (“מִצְוֺתַי”) concerning the Law of Manna provided specifics about the application of “My law” (“תוֹרֹתָי”). In other words, the commandment was “gather an omer,” which specified the exact amount to obey the Law of Manna. 10See also Exodus 16:32.
4.3 Refuse. As the The LORD spoke with Moses concerning the manna, the LORD had stern words for Moses. In Exodus 16:28, the LORD confronted Moses: “How long do you refuse to keep My commandments (“מִצְוֺתַי”) and My law “? 11Some modern translations provide “My commandments and My instructions.” I believe the use of “My instructions” seriously misleads the reader and clouds the careful distinction the LORD used to differentiate law and commandment in that passage. Notice that the LORD distinguished “My commandments” from “My law.” The LORD required obedience to both the law and the commandment. General obedience to the law (collecting manna on six days) will not suffice if the people break the commandment (attempting to gather on the seventh day).
4.4 I Am the LORD. The Book of Leviticus also contains examples of commandments. In Leviticus 22:31, the LORD required the people “to keep (“וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם”) My commandments (“מִצְוֺתַי,”) and do them (“וַעֲשִׂיתֶם, אֹתָם”); I am the LORD.” The context here makes a difference. The LORD gave very specific commandments regarding very specific details containing animals offered for sacrifice. The level of detail includes a male without defects, such as blindness, eczema, scabs, overgrown, stunted, or other problems. Notice that people must “keep” the commandments, and “do them.” The commandments provided specific details about how to obey the law.
4.5 Tithe. The Book of Deuteronomy also provides examples of keeping the commandments of the LORD. For example, in Deuteronomy 26:13, the LORD commanded that the sacred portion of all increase of the land, a tithe, should be paid in the third year to the Levite, to the stranger, to the orphan and to the widow, that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied. That detailed direction to give to the Levite, the stranger, the orphan and the widow amounted to one of many specific commands. The general Law of Tithing came with specific commands regarding how the tithe related to specific groups (Levites, strangers, orphans, and widows). Furthermore, the LORD your God declared in Deuteronomy 26:16: “This day the LORD your God commands you to do these statutes and judgments. You shall therefore be careful to do them with all your heart and with all your soul.” So, how did the terms “statutes” and “judgments” relate to the terms “laws” and “commandments”? We will look at some verses in the next section.
4.6 Summary. The term “commandment” described the specific guidance given to keep the law and walk in a specific covenant.
5.1 My Statutes Defined. The statutes (“חֻקַּת”) of the LORD provided the divine basis for rendering judgments (“שְׁפָטִים”). As above, many nations had their own statutes, but Israel was not allowed to follow them (Leviticus 18:3). In 2 Kings 17:13, the LORD warned Israel and Judah through His prophets and every seer, saying: “Turn from your evil ways and keep (” וְשִׁמְרוּ”) “My commandments” (“מִצְוֺתַי”), “My Statutes” (“חֻקּוֹתַי,”) according to all the the law which I sent to you by the hand of My servant the prophets. In this verse, we see that “My commandments” and “My statutes” were both commanded by the prophets, the servants of the LORD (compare Zechariah 1:6). Both “My Commandments” and “My statutes” form subsets of the Law.
5.2 The LORD Does Judgment. At times, the LORD Himself does judgment upon a land and its gods. For example, the LORD said: against all the gods of Egypt “I will do judgment” (“אֶעֱשֶׂה שְׁפָטִים”); at the same time, the LORD smote all the first-born in the land of Egypt, both man and beast (Exodus 12:12). The LORD also promised that His covenant with Israel, given through Moses, would be a covenant of fearful power. He promised to perform miracles never seen on earth before and all the people among them will see the working of the LORD, for it is a fearful thing that I am going to perform (Exodus 34:10).
5.3 I Am the LORD. Against this background of the LORD Himself doing judgment, the Lord revealed statutes. The LORD promised His people: if they followed “My Statutes” and “My judgments,” they will live, because “I am the LORD” (Leviticus 18:4). The judgments do not originate from Moses or another human, but the LORD revealed His statutes, so that the human judges on earth would follow His divinely revealed statutes in rendering judgments (2 Chronicles 19:6; Exodus 22:8). As the people followed the statutes of the LORD, they lived.
5.4 Moses Judged. In Exodus 18:16, the LORD explained how judgment related to “My statutes” and “My laws.” Moses related the process for deciding disputes: after hearing the dispute, then Moses said: then I judge (“וְשָׁפַטְתִּי”) between a man and his neighbor and make known (“וְהוֹדַעְתִּי”) the statutes of God (“אֶת-חֻקֵּי הָאֱלֹהִים”) and His laws (“וְאֶת-תּוֹרֹתָיו”).” In this verse, we see the term “then I judge” (“וְשָׁפַטְתִּי”). The judgment rendered by Moses related directly to the statutes of God and the commandment of the LORD. In the case of dispute resolution between a man and his neighbor, the judgment of righteousness came from the revealed, divine statutes. We know already that the commandment of the LORD meant the specifics about the application of law, but commandments also related to duties in how to walk with the LORD. Statutes related to judging between a man and his neighbor and choosing the correct option. “My Statutes” embodied the revelation from the LORD that permitted a judge to enter a righteous judgment in resolving a conflict between a man and his neighbor.
5.5 Wine and Strong Drink. Leviticus 10:9 aids in understanding the meaning of “statute” (“חֻקַּת”). The LORD revealed to Moses that Aaron and his sons shall not drink wine or strong drink. The LORD indicated this decision was a statute forever (“חֻקַּת עוֹלָם”) throughout all your generations (“לְדֹרֹתֵיכֶם”); it applied only to Aaron and his sons, and not the general population of Israel. The LORD distinguished the requirements for Aaron and his sons from the general congregation of Israel. The concept of judgment and distinguishing between two parties often plays a key role with the concept of “statutes.” The LORD may disapprove of specific conduct (drinking wine and strong drink) for Aaron and his sons, but approve of the same conduct for the rest of the people.
5.6 Walk In My Statutes. In Leviticus 18:4, properly translated, 12Some modern translations render the Hebrew word “judgments” (“מִשְׁפָּטַי”) as instructions, but are not consistent in that use. Those same translations confuse the reader by failing to render consistent translations of the same word. I understand context may make a difference, but smoothing a translation or changing words may also cause new problems. the LORD emphasized that the LORD revealed “My Statutes” so that His people would walk in them. The LORD declared to His people: “You are to do (“תַּעֲשׂוּ”) My judgments (“מִשְׁפָּטַי”) and keep (“תִּשְׁמְרוּ”) My statutes (“חֻקֹּתַי”), to walk (“לָלֶכֶת”) in them: ‘I am the LORD your God'” (my translation). In this verse, we observe that “My judgments” (“מִשְׁפָּטַי”) are not the same as “My statutes” (“חֻקֹּתַי”). a13In Leviticus 18:26, properly translated, the LORD revealed: My statutes (“חֻקֹּתַי”) and My judgments (“מִשְׁפָּטַי”) apply to aliens and sojourners living with Israel.
5.7 Mingling. In Leviticus 19:19 Moses recorded the command of the LORD to keep “My Statutes” (“חֻקֹּתַי”): do not cross breed cattle, do not sow two kinds of seed in the same field, nor wear garments of two mingled materials. These statutes reflect the prohibitions of the LORD and His divine choices.
5.8 Statutes for Household Relationships. The vows in a household received special attention in Numbers 30. The LORD revealed the binding effect of certain vows upon females, and those vows differed by age and marital status. The LORD commanded to (“צִוָּה יְהוָה”) Moses those statutes (“הַחֻקִּים”) concerning the vows of females (Numbers 30:16).
5.9 Perpetual Statutes. The LORD also revealed a few perpetual statutes, indicating that they had specific, perpetual application.
5.9.1 Priesthood. Aaron and his sons shall have the priesthood by a perpetual statute (“לְחֻקַּת עוֹלָם”) (Exodus 29:9).
5.9.2 Day of Atonement. On the seventh month, the tenth day, the people were to humble their souls and both the natives and aliens were not to do any work. The people were to observe the Day of Atonement (“יוֹם הַכִּפֻּרִים”) as a perpetual statute (“לְחֻקַּת עוֹלָם”) (Leviticus 16:29, 34).
5.9.3 Priestly Trumpets. The LORD told Moses to make two trumpets of silver. The priestly sons of Aaron were to blow the trumpets for the purpose of summoning the people. If only one trumpet was blown, then the heads of he divisions of Israel were to assemble before Moses; if both were blown, then all the congregation would gather (Numbers 10:1-10). The priestly sons of Aaron were to blow the trumpets, and this was a perpetual statute (“לְחֻקַּת עוֹלָם”) throughout your generations (“לְדֹרֹתֵיכֶם”) (Numbers 10:8).
5.9.4 The Red Heifer. The LORD described a statute of the law (“חֻקַּת הַתּוֹרָה”) which the LORD commanded (“צִוָּה יְהוָה”) concerning the special offering of an unblemished, red heifer. The LORD gave very specific revelation concerning the animal, the sacrifice, the duty of the priests, and the aftermath of the sacrifice. The LORD called the entire matter a “perpetual statute” (“לְחֻקַּת עוֹלָם”) to the sons of Israel and to the alien that sojourned among them (Numbers 19:10, 21).
5.10 My Statutes, My Commandments, My Covenant. In Leviticus 26:15, the LORD revealed the relationship between the terms “My statutes” (“חֻקֹּתַי”) and “My judgments” (“מִשְׁפָּטַי”) and “My commandments” (“מִצְוֺתַי”), and “My Covenant” (“בְּרִיתִי”). The Lord said if the people rejected “My Statutes” and abhor “My judgments” so as not to carry out all “My commandments,” and so break “My Covenant” . . . .” In that verse, keeping the LORD’S statutes and judgments would enable the people to carry out His commandments. So, as the people kept the commandments, they also kept the covenant. Moses also said that He taught statutes (“חֻקִּים”) and judgments (“וּמִשְׁפָּטִים”) as the LORD God commanded me (“צִוַּנִי”) (Deuteronomy 4:5; 9:3).
5.11 Summary. The term “My Statutes” means, with the covenant relationship, the revelation of the LORD’S view of particular conduct, and disobeying that revelation results in the LORD’S displeasure.
6.1 “My Judgments” Defined. In the Old Testament, the judgment related directly to the act of judging. 14Likewise, the LORD has only one judgment for both strangers and natives, for I am the LORD your God (Leviticus 24:22). Abraham called upon The Judge of All the Earth (“הֲשֹׁפֵט כָּל-הָאָרֶץ”) to distinguish between the righteous (“צַדִּיק”) and wicked (“רָשָׁע”) when the LORD “will do judgment” (“יַעֲשֶׂה מִשְׁפָּט”) (my translation) (Genesis 18:25). a15In Genesis 18:25, the term “will do” occurs as a qal imperfect. Compare, for instance, Deuteronomy 10:17-18, where the LORD your God, the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe “does judgment” (“עֹשֶׂה מִשְׁפַּט”). The LORD “does judgment” (“עֹשֶׂה מִשְׁפַּט”–qal participle-masculine singular absolute) for the orphan and widow. Some translators render the term “judgment” as “justice,” but I prefer to keep a more linear meaning to the term for the sake of consistency. From Genesis 18:25, we learn that the Judge of All the Earth does judgment. The central concept associated with “My Judgments” relates to the LORD making a decision between two choices. Please keep in mind that the LORD does judgment. Judgment brings severe consequences when people, like Pharaoh, made their own evil choices, rejecting the judgment of the LORD.
6.2 Judges and Officers. The LORD directed the people of Israel: you will give to yourselves 16“תִּתֶּן-לְךָ”–qal imperfect second person masculine singular. judges (“שֹׁפְטִים”) and officers (“וְשֹׁטְרִים”) in their towns which the LORD their God will be giving 17The term “will be giving” (“נֹתֵן”) occurs as a qal participle masculine singular absolute. to them to be your judges (“לִשְׁבָטֶיךָ”). a18The term “for your judges” (“לִשְׁבָטֶיךָ”) occurs as noun common masculine plural construct with suffix “you” second person masculine singular. They shall judge (“וְשָׁפְטוּ”) the people (“אֶת-הָעָם”) with “righteous judgment” (“מִשְׁפַּט-צֶדֶק”) (Deuteronomy 16:18). Therefore, we know that both judges and officers do judgments. The LORD warned those judges and officers that they must not distort (“לֹא-תַטֶּה”) judgment (“מִשְׁפָּט”), by showing partiality, taking gifts which blind the eyes of the wise and pervert the words of the righteous (Deuteronomy 16:19).
6.3 Sodom and Gomorrah. In Genesis, Abraham heard that the LORD was about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. Upon hearing that news, Abraham became concerned about his nephew Lot, who lived in Sodom. Abraham knew that the LORD distinguished the “righteous” from the “wicked” when it came to doing judgment. I like the translation “doing judgment” because of the action the LORD was about to take against those evil cities. Abraham had a discussion with the LORD about His judgments. Abraham asked the LORD: “shall not the “Judge of all the earth” (“הֲשֹׁפֵט כָּל-הָאָרֶץ”) “not do judgment (“לֹא יַעֲשֶׂה מִשְׁפָּט”)?” The LORD does not have different judgments; the LORD only has perfect judgment. Therefore, the LORD does judgment. That passage illustrates that when the LORD does judgment as Judge of all the earth, He distinguished between the righteous and the wicked. Then the LORD does judgment upon the wicked.
6.4 Breastplate of Judgment. The LORD prescribed very specific ornaments for the high priest to wear. Those ornaments included the Breastplate of Judgment (Exodus 28:29). Aaron would carry the names of the children of Israel 19The names of the children of Israel may be names of the twelve tribes of Israel. in the breastplate of righteousness (“חֹשֶׁן הַמִּשְׁפָּט”) upon his heart, when he went into the holy place, for a memorial before the LORD continually. The Urim and Thumim were also placed (“נָתַתָּ”) in the breastplate of judgment (“מחֹשֶׁן הַמִּשְׁפָּט”). And Aaron shall carry (“וְנָשָׂא אַהֲרֹן”) the judgment (“שְׁמוֹת”) of the sons of Israel over his heart continually (Exodus 28:30; Leviticus 8:8).
6.5 Urim and Thumim. The Urim and Thumim guided the decisions of the people of Israel, particularly after Moses died. The LORD selected Joshua to succeed Moses. Although Joshua had the Spirit of the LORD in him, the LORD directed Joshua to stand before Eleazar the priest and he would inquire (“וְשָׁאַל”) for him by the judgment of the Urim (“בְּמִשְׁפַּט הָאוּרִים”) before the LORD (“לִפְנֵי יְהוָה”). At the command of Joshua, the people would go out, and by his command they would come in, even Joshua and the entire congregation (Numbers 27:21). Therefore, we see that the “judgment of Urim” was critical in the decisions of Israel as they went forth, especially in battle. Yet, the Urim and Thumim did not provide an answer for King Saul, as he confronted the army of the Philistines camped at Gilboa. 20Compare Deuteronomy 33:8. Saul then turned to a medium to inquire of her. Saul sought help from the dead prophet Samuel. 21Compare Isaiah 8:20: instead of consulting mediums and spiritists, they should have consulted their God: “to the law and to the testimony”. The LORD had turned away from Saul for the evil things Saul had done in forsaking the LORD. In the time of Ezra, the governor said that certain men should not eat of the most holy things, until a priest stood up with Urim and Thumim (Ezra 2:63; see also Nehemiah 7:65). These passages show us that the the LORD used Urim and Thumim to reveal His judgment between two choices or things.
6.6 Statutory Judgments. The LORD provided two specific statutory judgments.
6.6.1 The Statutory Judgment of Inheritance. The LORD provided that inheritance rights would benefit daughters, if the father had not sons. If the father had neither daughters nor sons, then benefits went to his brothers. If no brothers, then to his father’s brothers. The LORD described described that pattern of inheritance as a “statutory judgment” (“לְחֻקַּת מִשְׁפָּט”) to the sons of Israel (“לִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל”), just as the LORD commanded (“צִוָּה”) Moses (Numbers 27:11). The LORD construed the law of inheritance, by making a judgment about who exactly would receive the inheritance rights under different situations.
6.6.2 The Statutory Judgment of Blood Avengers. In Numbers 35:23. the LORD required the death penalty for murder. The LORD provided specific fact patterns that constituted murder. For example, if a man struck another man with an iron object, so that he died, he was a murderer (Numbers 35:16) Likewise, if a man struck another man with a stone in his hand, by which the other man will die, and the man died, he was a murder (Numbers 36:17). If the avenger (“גֹּאֵל”) met the murderer (“הָרֹצֵחַ”), then the avenger would have surely put the murderer to death (Numbers 35:19). But, if a man pushed another man suddenly, without enmity, or threw something at him without lying in wait, and was not his enemy or seeking his injury, then he was not the murderer (“הָרֹצֵחַ”), but the manslayer (“הָרֹצֵחַ”) (Numbers 35:20-233). And shall judge (“וְשָׁפְטוּ”) the congregation (“הָעֵדָה”) between the avenger and between the manslayer. The congregation had to deliver the manslayer out of the hand of the avenger, and restore him to his designated city of refuge, and the manslayer had to stay there until the high priest died (Numbers 35:25). And these things (“וְהָיוּ אֵלֶּה”) shall be to all the generations of Israel in all their dwellings “for a statute of judgment” (“לְחֻקַּת מִשְׁפָּט”). Again, the LORD revealed His choices about what acts constituted murder, so that the congregation would do judgment upon the murderer and confine the manslayer to the city of refuge.
6.7 Statutes and Judgments. The LORD directed His people to listen to the statutes and judgments (“אֶל-הַחֻקִּים וְאֶל-הַמִּשְׁפָּטִים”). The LORD said: I am teaching you to do (“אָנֹכִי מְלַמֵּד אֶתְכֶם, לַעֲשׂוֹת”) those statutes and judgments. Notice that the LORD taught statutes and judgment, and they must be done. Therefore, we learn that both statute and judgments consisted of revelations from the LORD, and they were things which described behaviors that must be done. (Deuteronomy 4:1). Likewise, the LORD directed His people: “you do” (“תַּעֲשׂוּ”) the Passover according to all of its statutes and according to all of its judgments (“כְּכָל-חֻקֹּתָיו וּכְכָל-מִשְׁפָּטָיו”)” (Numbers 9:3). As above, the LORD revealed the Law of the Passover, and also provided more specific guidance with its statutes and it judgments.
6.8 Temple Statutes. In Ezekiel 43:11, the LORD provided specific information regarding the millennial temple. He commanded that Ezekiel make known (“הוֹדַע”) to the people, if they were ashamed of their evil works, all the statutes (“כָּל-חֻקֹּתָיו”) for the temple and its laws (” וְכָל-תּוֹרֹתָו”) (Ezekiel 43:11). The LORD also provided specific statutes for the altar (Ezekiel 43:18).
6.9 Judges. The LORD directed the people of Israel: you will give to yourselves (“תִּתֶּן-לְךָ”)22The Hebrew term “give to yourselves” occurs as a qal imperfect second person masculine singular . judges (“שֹׁפְטִים”) and officers (“וְשֹׁטְרִים”) in their towns which the LORD will be giving (“נֹתֵן”)23The Hebrew term “giving” (“נֹתֵן”) occurs as qal participle masculine singular absolute. to you to be your judges (“לִשְׁבָטֶיךָ”); 24The Hebrew term occurs as a noun common masculine plural construct with suffix “you” second person masculine singular. and they shall judge (“וְשָׁפְטוּ”) the people (“אֶת-הָעָם”) with “righteous judgment” (“מִשְׁפַּט-צֶדֶק”).
6.10 Jerusalem and the Nations. In Ezekiel 5:6, Adonai LORD (“אֲדֹנָי יְהוִה”) indicted Jerusalem: she has rebelled against “My judgments” (“מִשְׁפָּטַי”) and acted more wickedly than the nations; she has rebelled against “My statutes” (“חֻקּוֹתַי”) more that the lands which surround her; for they have rejected “My judgments” and have not walked in “My Statutes.” Because of their evil ways, Adonai LORD said: I will do (“עָשִׂיתִי”) judgments (“מִשְׁפָּטִים”) upon Jerusalem before the eyes of all the nations (Ezekiel 5:8). Notice the people of Jerusalem have acted more wickedly that the nations which surround them as they rebelled against “My Statutes” and “My Judgments (Ezekiel 5:7). Notice also the people of Jerusalem did not even keep the “judgments of the nations “(“כְמִשְׁפְּטֵי הַגּוֹיִם”) surrounding them (compare 2 Chronicles 7:19).
6.11 Summary. The term “My judgments” means, within the covenant relationship, the decisions of the LORD concerning one or more particular options. The LORD does judgment, based upon His revealed decisions.
7.1 Testimonies Defined. In Exodus 31:18, the LORD finished speaking with Moses on Mr. Sinai. Then, before Moses left the presence of the LORD, the LORD gave to Moses two tablets of the testimony (“לֻחֹת הָעֵדֻת”), tablets of stone, written with the finger of God (see also Exodus 32:15-16 and Exodus 34:29). When we compare Deuteronomy 5:1, we see that Moses proclaimed the statutes and judgments to the people of Israel. Moses reminded the people that the LORD made a covenant with the people of Israel, a covenant which He had not made with their fathers. Moses reminded the people that at Horeb, the LORD spoke face to face with the people from the midst of the fire on the mountain. The LORD spoke to them the Ten Words, as recounted in Deuteronomy 5:6-21. The LORD spoke no more to the people and delivered to Moses two tablets containing the Ten Words (Deuteronomy 5:22). Then, the LORD dismissed the people, but told Moses to stand by Him on the mountain and the LORD spoke to Moses all the commandments and the statutes and the judgments which Moses should teach them to do (Deuteronomy 5:31-33). From this passage, we can discern that the law, statutes and judgments were spoken after the Ten Words. It appears that the Ten Words, written on the tablets, constituted the testimony (“הָעֵדֻת”) from the LORD. The testimony, written on the two stone tablets, provided ten general commandment described as the ten words. In order to provide more specific guidance for living, the LORD then gave further revelation to Moses in the form of law, statutes and judgments. Those revelations pertained to the covenant relationship established with the people at Mt. Sinai.
7.2 The Ark of the Testimony. In Exodus 25:16, the LORD told Moses to put the “testimony” (“הָעֵדֻת”) which the LORD would give Him into the ark (see also 1 Kings 8:9 and Hebrews 9:4). The scroll of the law, completed by Moses, and placed in the ark of the covenant, remained there as a witness against the people of Israel (Deuteronomy 31:24-30).
7.3 Law and Testimonies. In Deuteronomy 4:44-45, we read: “Now this is the law (“הַתּוֹרָה”) which Moses set before the sons of Israel; these are the testimonies (“הָעֵדֹת”) and the statutes (“וְהַחֻקִּים”) and the judgments (“וְהַמִּשְׁפָּטִים”) which Moses spoke to the sons of Israel, when they came out of Egypt” (see also Deuteronomy 6:17). This verse confirms that the testimonies have their own unique designation, and they related to the covenant established at Mt.Sinai.
7.4 Covenant and Testimonies. In Psalm 25:10, David declared: “All the paths of the LORD are loving-kindness and truth to those who keep His covenant and His testimonies (“וְעֵדֹתָיו”).”25See also 2 Chronicles 34:31. Likewise, in Psalm 78:5 the LORD set a testimony (“עֵדוּת”) in Jacob and a law (“וְתוֹרָה”) He appointed in Israel, that they should be taught to the following generations (see also Psalm 81:5 and Psalm 93:5). At times, the LORD described other covenants. Each covenant came with testimony, law, judgments and statutes, although they may have had overlaps between the new and old revelation.
7.5 Other Uses of the Term “Testimony.” At times, the word “testimony” may refer to human testimony in legal proceedings. For example, a man shall not be put to death on the testimony (“עֵד”) of a single witness (Numbers 35:30). Therefore, we must be careful to distinguish the meaning of the term testimony when applied to revelation from the LORD from other forms of testimony.
7.6 Summary. The term “testimony” means, within the covenant relationship, means first the two tablets of stone written by the finger of God, containing the ten words. In a wider sense, the term “testimony” means the revelation of God concerning prescribed and proscribed behaviors in a general sense.
8.1 “My Ways” Defined. The LORD revealed the vast differences between His ways and thoughts and human ways and thoughts: “For “My thoughts” (“מַחְשְׁבוֹתַי”) are not your thoughts, nor are your ways “My ways” (“דְּרָכָי”) declares the LORD” (Isaiah 55:8). The LORD continued: “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are “My ways” (“דְרָכַי”) higher than your ways and “My thoughts” than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:). Therefore, we learn that we would never know and understand the ways of the LORD unless He revealed them and explained them to us. The term “My Ways” described the LORD’S paths for living that are coordinate with His thoughts. His ways of doing things match perfectly with His thoughts. He never had a conflict between His thoughts and His ways, but they always remain in perfect, divine harmony. By faith, we learn His ways and His thoughts, and benefit from His revelation. As we follow His ways, we live supernatural lives, giving glory to the LORD.
8.2 Abraham and The Ways of the LORD. Long before Isaiah wrote about the ways of the LORD, the LORD explained His ways to Abraham. In Genesis 18:19, the LORD explained that He chose Abraham so that Abraham would command his children and his household 26Abraham’s household numbered three hundred and eighteen trained men able to bear the sword; they are not just children (Genesis 14:14). to keep the way of the LORD (“וְשָׁמְרוּ דֶּרֶךְ יְהוָה”) by doing (“לַעֲשׂוֹת”) righteousness “and judgment” . . . .” 27The translation of the term “and judgment” (“וּמִשְׁפָּט”) instead of the “justice” suits me because of the way the LORD used that term for judgment in connection with the term “to do” (“לַעֲשׂוֹת”). The term here “to do” (“לַעֲשׂוֹת”) occurs as a qal infinitive in construct with righteousness and judgment. While justice may fit the ideas here, so also does the concept of “do judgment” as explained in Section Six above. The LORD revealed to Abraham that He chose Abraham for a specific purpose: he must command (“יְצַוֶּה”) his children and his household to keep the way of the LORD. Abraham became the Father of the Jews, and many other nations (Genesis 12:1-3). The LORD intended for Abraham to command all of his offspring and his household to keep the way of the LORD, as a perpetual way of life under the covenant they enjoyed with the LORD.
8.3 The Song of David. In 2 Samuel 22:22, we read about the Song of David in the day that the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul: “For I have kept (“שָׁמַרְתִּי”) the ways of the LORD (“דַּרְכֵי יְהוָה”) and have not acted wickedly against my God.” David knew the ways of God, just as previous men of faith had known the ways of God.
8.4 The Royal Promise to Solomon. The Lord made a special promise to Solomon, confirming the same promise 282 Samuel 7:12-13. He made to David : “And if you walk in My ways (“וְאִם תֵּלֵךְ בִּדְרָכַי”), keeping (“לִשְׁמֹר”) 29 The term “keeping”(“לִשְׁמֹר”) occurs as Qal infinitive in construct with “My statutes” (“חֻקַּי”) and “My commandments (“וּמִצְוֺתַי”). “My statutes” (“חֻקַּי”) and “My commandments (“וּמִצְוֺתַי”) as your father David walked, then I will prolong your days” (1 Kings 3:14; see also 1 Kings 11:33 ,38; 2 Kings 17:13). Just as David knew the ways of the LORD and walked in them, so also Solomon would be blessed if he kept the covenant with the LORD (see Psalm 18). Notice that the LORD also required Solomon to keep My Statutes and My commandments, as He walked in the ways of the LORD.
8.5 The Eyes of Vanity. In Psalm 119:37, the Psalmist wrote: “Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity, and “revive me” (“חַיֵּנִי”) in “Your ways” (“בִּדְרָכֶךָ”). For the Psalmist, as he gazed at vanity, he turned to the LORD and asked the LORD to revive him in the LORD’S ways. This theme of revival plays an important role in Psalm 119, and here the Psalmist ties that revival with returning to the ways of the LORD. So, we see a clear contrast between looking at vanity, and walking in the ways of the LORD. When we sin, we stray from the ways of the LORD.
8.6 The Way of Your Precepts. In Psalm 119:27, the Psalmist prayed: LORD “make me understand” (“הֲבִינֵנִי”) 30The term “make me understand” (“הֲבִינֵנִי”) occurs in the Hiphil stem, here showing the causative nature of his prayer that the LORD would produce understanding. Without the LORD causing Him to understand the way of the LORD, the Psalm would not be able to meditate upon the wonders of the LORD. the “way” (“דֶּרֶךְ”) of “Your precepts” (“פִּקּוּדֶיךָ”). Without persistent prayer for the LORD to make us understand the way of the LORD, we will not meditate upon HIs wonders.
8.7 Summary. The terms “ways” , in the covenant relationship, means the general path for righteous living as the people of God travel through life. As the believer walks with the LORD, the believer does not stray from the path, even when evil forces tend to drive the believer off the path of righteousness.
9.1 Precepts Defined. The Psalmists spoke of the the “precepts of the LORD” (“פִּקּוּדֵי יְהוָה”). The word precepts, usually in the Hebrew form of “Your precepts” (“פִּקּוּדֶיךָ”), occurs only in the Psalms. 31The term for “precepts” occurs 27 times in the Psalms, and then only three times (Psalm 19:8, 103:18, and 111:7) outside of Psalm 119 (24 times). The root of this word occurs frequently in the Old Testament, and often conveys the idea of oversight from one in authority, causing a major change in the one bound to that person of authority for better or worse (e.g., the blessings and the curses of the covenant). It also speaks of the numbering for service and war (Exodus 38:21). In the context of the Psalms, as part of the covenant, the believer remembers the covenant and the precepts of the LORD oversee the life of the believer, and the believer becomes absorbed with those precepts through meditation, revival, obedience and many other interactions.
9.2 The Opening of Psalm 119. The Palmist composed an alphabetic acrostic in Psalm 119, meaning that he wrote each section of eight verses so that each section began with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet. In Psalm 119:1-8, the Psalmist used the following phrases: “in the law of the LORD” (“בְּתוֹרַת יְהוָה”), His testimonies (“עֵדֹתָיו”), “in His ways” (“בִּדְרָכָיו”), “your precepts” (“פִקֻּדֶיךָ”), “your statutes” (” חֻקֶּיךָ”), “your commandments” (“מִצְוֺתֶיךָ”), and “your judgments” (“מִשְׁפְּטֵי”). Therefore, I understand that all those terms form a significant part of Scripture.
9.3 Commanded Precepts. In Psalm 119:4, we read of the LORD: “You “commanded” (“צִוִּיתָה”) “your precepts” that “we should keep them diligently” (“לִשְׁמֹר מְאֹד”).” 32Some translators translated the word “commanded” (“צִוִּיתָה”) as “ordained,” but that translation makes it harder to understand the precision of Scripture and obfuscates the verbal inspiration of Scripture for English readers unfamiliar with the Hebrew original text. Notice that the “precepts” came from the command of the LORD. In a sense, they fall within the general category of commandments.
9.4 The Way of Your Precepts. In Psalm 119:27, the Psalmist requested: “make me understand (“הֲבִינֵנִי”) “the way of Your precepts” (“דֶּרֶךְ-פִּקּוּדֶיךָ”). The result of understanding the way of Your precepts was that he may meditate (“אָשִׂיחָה”) on “Your wondrous works” (“בְּנִפְלְאוֹתֶיךָ”) (see also Psalm 119:78). The Psalmist had strong emotional ties to the precepts of the LORD, and the Psalmist interacted with those precepts.
9.5 Precepts Rejoice the Heart. In Psalm 19:8, we observe that the “precepts of the Lord” (“פִּקּוּדֵי יְהוָה”) are right (“יְשָׁרִים”), rejoicing the heart (“מְשַׂמְּחֵי-לֵב”). From the Psalmist we learn that the LORD provided the precepts, and that they are right. The precepts also rejoice the heart. For the Psalmist, like others contemplating the revelation of the LORD, the precepts caused strong emotional reactions in him.
9.6 Precepts and Mercy. The Psalmist testified: “the mercy of the Lord (“וְחֶסֶד יְהוָה”) is eternally upon those who fear Him (“עַל-יְרֵאָיו”) and His righteousness (“וְצִדְקָתוֹ”) unto children’s children; to those who keep His covenant (“לְשֹׁמְרֵי בְרִיתוֹ”) and remember His precepts (“וּלְזֹכְרֵי פִקֻּדָיו”), to do them (“לַעֲשׂוֹתָם”) (Psalm 103-17-18). We learn here that the loving-kindness of the LORD is upon those who fear Him and His righteousness. Those people remember the precepts of the LORD, and do them. Notice the term “do them.” Precepts can be done, not only learned and remembered. They represent a divine command to take concrete action. Saved people remember the precepts and do them. Believers practice precepts because the loving-kindness and righteousness of the LORD keep believers for all generations.
9.7 Precepts Are Sure. In Psalm 111:7, we read: “The works of the LORD’S hands are truth (“אֱמֶת”) and judgment (“וּמִשְׁפָּט”). All His precepts (“כָּל-פִּקּוּדָיו”) are sure (“נֶאֱמָנִים”).” The Psalmist affirms that all the LORD’S precepts are sure, in the sense of trustworthy and reliable. 33In Nehemiah 13:13, certain men were considered reliable (“נֶאֱמָנִים”) to be in charge of the storehouses. In Proverbs 27:6, the wounds of a friend are faithful (“נֶאֱמָנִים”), as opposed to the deceitful kisses of an enemy. In Isaiah 8:2, the LORD considered Uriah and Zechariah to be faithful (“נֶאֱמָנִים”) witnesses.
9.8 Meditation and Precepts. In Psalm 119:78, the Psalmist described some elements of meditation: “May the proud (“זֵדִים”) be ashamed (“יֵבֹשׁוּ”), for they subvert me (“עִוְּתוּנִי”) with a lie (“כִּי-שֶׁקֶר”); but I shall mediate (“אָשִׂיחַ”) on Your precepts (“בְּפִקּוּדֶיךָ”).” Likewise, in Psalm 119:15, the Psalmist declared: “I will meditate (“אָשִׂיחָה”) on Your precepts (“בְּפִקּוּדֶיךָ”) and have respect (“וְאַבִּיטָה”) for Your ways (“אֹרְחֹתֶיךָ”). The Psalmist meditated on the precepts, especially when facing severe opposition. Notice that while the proud subverted the Psalmist with lies, he meditated upon the precepts of the LORD. As a way of life, the Psalmist meditated upon and respected the ways of the LORD. The precepts of the LORD formed a bulwark against lies and attacks by the proud and other wicked people.
9.9 Forsaking Precepts. The Psalmist examined the dangers of forsaking the precepts of the LORD: “The proud (“זֵדִים”) have dug pits for me and almost destroyed me (“כִּמְעַט–made few or little”), but I did not forsake your precepts (“לֹא-עָזַבְתִּי פִקֻּדֶיךָ”) (Psalm 119:85). Likewise, in Psalm 119:87, the Psalmist continued: “They almost (“כִּמְעַט”) destroyed me (“כִּלּוּנִי”) on earth, but as for me, I (“וַאֲנִי”) did not forsake (“לֹא-עָזַבְתִּי”) Your precepts (“פִקֻּדֶיךָ”).” The Psalmist continued this same theme in Psalm 119:110: “The wicked (“רְשָׁעִים”) have laid (“נָחַלְתִּי”) a snare (“פַּח”) for me, yet I have not gone astray (“לֹא תָעִיתִי”) from your precepts (“וּמִפִּקּוּדֶיךָ”).” Regarding the oppression of man, in Psalm 119:134 the Psalmist prayed: “Redeem me (“כָּל-אֹרַח שֶׁקֶר”) from the oppression of man (“מֵעֹשֶׁק אָדָם”), that I may keep (“וְאֶשְׁמְרָה”) Your precepts (“פִּקּוּדֶיךָ”).” As the Psalmist experienced oppression, he disclosed his feelings and stamina in Psalm 119:141: “I am small (“צָעִיר”) and despised (“וְנִבְזֶה”), yet I do not forget (“לֹא שָׁכָחְתִּי”) Your precepts (“פִּקֻּדֶיךָ”).” The wicked attacked the Psalmist, but even then he did not forsake the LORD’S precepts. In these verses we observe a very close connection between: (a) the onslaught of the wicked, seeking to destroy the Psalmist; and (b) the Palmist did not forsake the LORD’S precepts. Even when the Psalmist felt weak and small, he still did not forget the LORD’s precepts. Meditation upon the LORD’S precepts while under the fire of oppression caused the Psalmist not to forsake those precepts.
9.10 Revive and Precepts. At times, the Psalmist prayed that the LORD would revive him: “Behold, I long “for Your precepts” (“לְפִקֻּדֶיךָ”); “revive me” (“חַיֵּנִי”) “through Your righteousness” (“בְּצִדְקָתְךָ”) (Psalm 119:40). The Psalmist reflected upon the how the LORD revived him: “Forever (“לְעוֹלָם”), I will never forget (” לְעוֹלָם, לֹא-אֶשְׁכַּח”) your precepts (“פִּקּוּדֶיךָ”), for by them you have revived me (“חִיִּיתָנִי”)” (Psalm 119:93). The Psalmist also requested the LORD to revive him because he loved the precepts of the LORD: “Consider (“רְאֵה”) how I love (“אָהָבְתִּי”) Your precepts (“כִּי-פִקּוּדֶיךָ”); revive me (“חַיֵּנִי”), O LORD, according to your righteousness (“כְּחַסְדְּךָ”) (Psalm 119:159). The Psalmist highlighted the close connection between essential life and the precepts. The precepts of the LORD revived the Psalmist, and provided spiritual life and revival as he longed for the precepts of life. The Psalmist tied his request for the the LORD to revive him to the righteousness of the LORD. From time to time in the life of the believer, we need to be revived, in the sense of lifted up and renewed spiritually. According to the righteousness of the LORD, the Psalmist seeks for the LORD to revive him.
9.11 Save Me, I Sought Your Precepts. The Psalmist trusted in his relationship with the LORD: “I am yours (“לְךָ-אֲנִי”), save me (“הוֹשִׁיעֵנִי”); for I have sought (“דָרָשְׁתִּי”) your precepts (“פִקּוּדֶיךָ”) .(Psalm 119:4). When tough times came upon the Psalmist, so that he needed for the LORD to save him, he called out “I am yours, save me.” He explained that he sought the precepts of the LORD, and therefore his seeking of the precepts confirmed that he was the LORD’S child.
9.12 Understand and Precepts. Experience and age do not automatically mean you know the LORD and understand life: “I understand (“אֶתְבּוֹנָן”) more than the aged (“מִזְּקֵנִים”), because “I have guarded” (“נָצָרְתִּי”) Your precepts (“פִקּוּדֶיךָ”)” (Psalm 119:100). This verse provides the fulfillment of the Psalmist’s prayer that the LORD would make Him understand His precepts (Psalm 119:27).
9.13 The False Way and Precepts. The precepts provide understanding, and such understanding caused the Psalmist to hate every false way: “From Your precepts (“מִפִּקּוּדֶיךָ”) I get understanding (“אֶתְבּוֹנָן”); therefore, I hate (“שָׂנֵאתִי”) every false way (“כָּל-אֹרַח שָׁקֶר”)” (Psalm 119:104). Because the Psalmist esteemed right all the precepts of the LORD, and had gained understanding from those precepts, the Psalmist hated every false way: “Therefore I esteem right (“יִשָּׁרְתִּי”) all Your precepts (“כָּל-פִּקּוּדֵי”) concerning everything (“כֹל”); I hate (“שָׂנֵאתִי”) every false way (“כָּל-אֹרַח שֶׁקֶר”)” (Psalm 119:128). The Psalmist gained understanding from the precepts of the LORD that enabled the Psalmist to discern the false way, and to hate it and avoid it. When it comes to decisions in life, the Psalmist relied upon the precepts of the LORD for making big choices and avoiding false ways.
9.14 Testimonies and Precepts. Knowing the LORD knew all his ways, the Psalmist kept the precepts and testimonies of the LORD: “I keep (“שָׁמַרְתִּי”) Your precepts (“פִקּוּדֶיךָ”) and Your testimonies (“וְעֵדֹתֶיךָ”), for all my ways (“כָל-דְּרָכַי”) are before You (“נֶגְדֶּךָ”)” (Psalm 119:168). In this verse, we observe that Psalmist kept both the precepts of the LORD and the testimonies of the LORD. As above, the precepts provided very specific things to do in obedience to the LORD, as a way of life in the LORD, while the testimonies of the LORD provide general commandments for living.
9.15 Ready Help. The Psalmist counted upon the ready hand of the LORD to help him: “Let Your hand be ready (“תְּהִי-יָדְךָ”) to help me (“לְעָזְרֵנִי”), for I have chosen (“בָחָרְתִּי”) Your precepts (“פִקּוּדֶיךָ”)” (Psalm 119:173).
9.16 I Seek Your Precepts. Walking in liberty resulted from the Psalmist seeking the precepts of the LORD: “And I walk” (“וְאֶתְהַלְּכָה”) “in liberty” (“בָרְחָבָה”), for “I seek” (“דָרָשְׁתִּי”) “Your precepts” (“פִקֻּדֶיךָ”). (Psalm 119:45).
9.17 Keep Your Precepts. The Psalmist had spiritual companions: “I am a companion of all those who fear You, and of those who keep (“וּלְשֹׁמְרֵי”) your precepts (“פִּקּוּדֶיךָ”)”(Psalm 119:63).
9.18 The Proud and The Precepts. As above, during times of oppression, the Psalmist meditated upon the precepts of the LORD. The Psalmist also withstood the proud and their specific lies against him by obeying the precepts: “The proud (“זֵדִים”) have forged a lie against me; with all my heart I will obey (“אֶצֹּר”) Your precepts (“פִּקּוּדֶיךָ”)” (Psalm 119:69). The proud also subverted the Psalmist with their lies: “May the proud (“זֵדִים”) be ashamed (“יֵבֹשׁוּ”), for they subvert me (“עִוְּתוּנִי”) with a lie (“כִּי-שֶׁקֶר”); but I shall mediate (“אָשִׂיחַ”) on Your precepts (“בְּפִקּוּדֶיךָ”)” (Psalm 119:78). In the LORD, the Psalmist always triumphed through the precepts of the LORD.
9.19 Summary. The term “precepts”, within the covenant relationship, means the revelations of the LORD that describe all the things believers must do to understand the revelation of the LORD. As the believer understands and does the precepts of the LORD, the believer meditates upon those precepts, even in the midst of strong persecution, that makes the believer feel weak and small. The “precepts” help the believer to walk closely with the LORD, and stir strong emotions in the believer.
In this preliminary study, I learned many things about the relationship of several terms for Scripture. Yet, I hesitate to write a conclusion at all, because I know I have only begun here. I see the complexity of the words, and remember that LORD’S ways and thoughts are not my ways and thoughts, but I must rely upon His revelation, and trust that His anointing and the mind of Christ will help me learn from God, and love God will my heart, soul and mind, so that my actions may reflect His glorious love for all people. As always, the blessings above are from Him, and the errors all mine.
References │ Page Numbers Below Footnotes [ + ]
|1.||↑||I did not devote time to distinguish different uses of the different terms in different times and different covenants. Times and covenants may be very important to understanding the different terms and the true semantic range. I did note in some instances how the terms remained the same over time.|
|2.||↑||I am not a Hebrew scholar and must rely upon others to help me understand Hebrew morphology, syntax and grammar.|
|3.||↑||See also Deuteronomy 4:13, the ten words (“עֲשֶׂרֶת ,הַדְּבָרִים”), which the LORD commanded (“צִוָּה”); see also Exodus 34:28 and Deuteronomy 10:4.|
|4.||↑||Some modern translations use the term “ordinances” to translate the Hebrew word “judgments” (“מִשְׁפָּטִים”). Because the term for judges (“שֹׁפְטִים”) and judgments (“מִשְׁפָּטִים”) related closely to one another in meaning and form, I prefer “judgments” rather than “ordinances” to translate the Hebrew terms.|
|5.||↑||See also Isaiah 21:8, where the lookout is stationed every night at my guard post (“עַל-מִשְׁמַרְתִּי”).|
|6.||↑||As we will see later, the law from the LORD has righteous statutes and judgments, and no other nation has such righteous laws as the law of Yahweh given to His people, Israel (Deuteronomy 4:8, properly translated; see also Leviticus 18:3).|
|7.||↑||The king wrote this law upon a scroll (“הַתּוֹרָה הַזֹּאת, עַל-סֵפֶר”); at times some translators mistakenly used the term “book” instead of “scroll” when describing “this law” (“בְּסֵפֶר הַתּוֹרָה הַזֹּאת”) (Deuteronomy 28:61).|
|8.||↑||The king may have written out the entire law, but it is also possible that the phrase “this law” may mean just the king material described in Deuteronomy 17:14-17, to remind himself of the particular laws that apply specifically to kings. Other specific uses of the term “this law” refer to particular laws, like the law of burnt offerings, as described below.|
|9.||↑||Keep in mind that the law generally showed how sinful people are, and how much they need a Savior (Romans 7; Hebrews 10).|
|10.||↑||See also Exodus 16:32.|
|11.||↑||Some modern translations provide “My commandments and My instructions.” I believe the use of “My instructions” seriously misleads the reader and clouds the careful distinction the LORD used to differentiate law and commandment in that passage.|
|12.||↑||Some modern translations render the Hebrew word “judgments” (“מִשְׁפָּטַי”) as instructions, but are not consistent in that use. Those same translations confuse the reader by failing to render consistent translations of the same word. I understand context may make a difference, but smoothing a translation or changing words may also cause new problems.|
|13.||↑||In Leviticus 18:26, properly translated, the LORD revealed: My statutes (“חֻקֹּתַי”) and My judgments (“מִשְׁפָּטַי”) apply to aliens and sojourners living with Israel.|
|14.||↑||Likewise, the LORD has only one judgment for both strangers and natives, for I am the LORD your God (Leviticus 24:22).|
|15.||↑||In Genesis 18:25, the term “will do” occurs as a qal imperfect. Compare, for instance, Deuteronomy 10:17-18, where the LORD your God, the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe “does judgment” (“עֹשֶׂה מִשְׁפַּט”). The LORD “does judgment” (“עֹשֶׂה מִשְׁפַּט”–qal participle-masculine singular absolute) for the orphan and widow. Some translators render the term “judgment” as “justice,” but I prefer to keep a more linear meaning to the term for the sake of consistency. From Genesis 18:25, we learn that the Judge of All the Earth does judgment.|
|16.||↑||“תִּתֶּן-לְךָ”–qal imperfect second person masculine singular.|
|17.||↑||The term “will be giving” (“נֹתֵן”) occurs as a qal participle masculine singular absolute.|
|18.||↑||The term “for your judges” (“לִשְׁבָטֶיךָ”) occurs as noun common masculine plural construct with suffix “you” second person masculine singular.|
|19.||↑||The names of the children of Israel may be names of the twelve tribes of Israel.|
|20.||↑||Compare Deuteronomy 33:8.|
|21.||↑||Compare Isaiah 8:20: instead of consulting mediums and spiritists, they should have consulted their God: “to the law and to the testimony”.|
|22.||↑||The Hebrew term “give to yourselves” occurs as a qal imperfect second person masculine singular .|
|23.||↑||The Hebrew term “giving” (“נֹתֵן”) occurs as qal participle masculine singular absolute.|
|24.||↑||The Hebrew term occurs as a noun common masculine plural construct with suffix “you” second person masculine singular.|
|25.||↑||See also 2 Chronicles 34:31.|
|26.||↑||Abraham’s household numbered three hundred and eighteen trained men able to bear the sword; they are not just children (Genesis 14:14).|
|27.||↑||The translation of the term “and judgment” (“וּמִשְׁפָּט”) instead of the “justice” suits me because of the way the LORD used that term for judgment in connection with the term “to do” (“לַעֲשׂוֹת”). The term here “to do” (“לַעֲשׂוֹת”) occurs as a qal infinitive in construct with righteousness and judgment.|
|28.||↑||2 Samuel 7:12-13.|
|29.||↑||The term “keeping”(“לִשְׁמֹר”) occurs as Qal infinitive in construct with “My statutes” (“חֻקַּי”) and “My commandments (“וּמִצְוֺתַי”).|
|30.||↑||The term “make me understand” (“הֲבִינֵנִי”) occurs in the Hiphil stem, here showing the causative nature of his prayer that the LORD would produce understanding. Without the LORD causing Him to understand the way of the LORD, the Psalm would not be able to meditate upon the wonders of the LORD.|
|31.||↑||The term for “precepts” occurs 27 times in the Psalms, and then only three times (Psalm 19:8, 103:18, and 111:7) outside of Psalm 119 (24 times).|
|32.||↑||Some translators translated the word “commanded” (“צִוִּיתָה”) as “ordained,” but that translation makes it harder to understand the precision of Scripture and obfuscates the verbal inspiration of Scripture for English readers unfamiliar with the Hebrew original text.|
|33.||↑||In Nehemiah 13:13, certain men were considered reliable (“נֶאֱמָנִים”) to be in charge of the storehouses. In Proverbs 27:6, the wounds of a friend are faithful (“נֶאֱמָנִים”), as opposed to the deceitful kisses of an enemy. In Isaiah 8:2, the LORD considered Uriah and Zechariah to be faithful (“נֶאֱמָנִים”) witnesses.|