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Bible Dictionaries

Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words

Law

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A. Noun.

Tôrâh (תֹּרָה, Strong's #8451), “law; direction; instruction.” This noun occurs 220 times in the Hebrew Old Testament.

In the wisdom literature, where the noun does not appear with a definite article, tôrâh signifies primarily “direction, teaching, instruction”: “The law of the wise is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death” (Prov. 13:14), and “Receive, I pray thee, the law from his mouth, and lay up his words in thine heart” (Job 22:22). The “instruction” of the sages of Israel, who were charged with the education of the young, was intended to cultivate in the young a fear of the Lord so that they might live in accordance with God’s expectations. The sage was a father to his pupils: “Whoso keepeth the law is a wise son: but he that is a companion of riotous men shameth his father” (Prov. 28:7; cf. 3:1; 4:2; 7:2). The natural father might also instruct his son in wise living, even as a Godfearing woman was an example of kind “instruction”: “She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness” (Prov. 31:26).

The “instruction” given by God to Moses and the Israelites became known as “the law” or “the direction” (ha-tôrâh), and quite frequently as “the Law of the Lord”: “Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord” (Ps. 119:1), or “the Law of God”: “Also day by day, from the first day unto the last day, [Ezra] read in the book of the law of God” (Neh. 8:18), and also as “the Law of [given through] Moses”: “Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel …” (Mal. 4:4). The word can refer to the whole of the “law”: “For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children” (Ps. 78:5), or to particulars: “And this is the law which Moses set before the children of Israel …” (Deut. 4:44).

God had communicated the “law” that Israel might observe and live: “And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?” (Deut. 4:8). The king was instructed to have a copy of the “law” prepared for him at his coronation (Deut. 17:18). The priests were charged with the study and teaching of, as well as the jurisprudence based upon, the “law” (Jer. 18:18). Because of rampant apostasy the last days of Judah were times when there were no teaching priests (2 Chron. 15:3); in fact, in Josiah’s days the “law” (whether the whole Torah, or a book or a part) was recovered: “And Hilkiah … said to Shaphan the scribe, I have found the book of the law in the house of the Lord” (2 Chron. 34:15).

The prophets called Israel to repeat by returning to the tôrâh (“instruction”) of God (Isa. 1:10). Jeremiah prophesied concerning God’s new dealing with His people in terms of the New Covenant, in which God’s law is to be internalized, God’s people would willingly obey Him: “But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jer. 31:33). The last prophet of the Old Testament reminded the priests of their obligations (Mal. 2) and challenged God’s people to remember the “law” of Moses in preparation for the coming Messiah (Mal. 4:4).

The Septuagint gives the following translations: nomos (“law; rule”); nomimos (“conformable to law; lawful”); entole (“command[ment]; order”); and prostagma (“order; commandment; injunction”).

B. Verb.

Yârâh (יָרָא, Strong's #3384), “to throw, cast, direct, teach, instruct.” The noun yârâh is derived from this root. The meaning “to cast” appears in Gen. 31:51: “And Laban said to Jacob, Behold this heap, and behold this pillar, which I have cast betwixt me and thee.” Yârâh means “to teach” in 1 Sam. 12:23: “… but I will teach you the good and the right way.”

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Bibliography Information
Vines, W. E., M. A. Entry for 'Law'. Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/vot/l/law.html. 1940.

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