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Bible Dictionaries
Statute, Ordinance

Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words

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A. Nouns.

Chôq (חֹק, Strong's #2706), “statute; prescription; rule; law; regulation.” This noun is derived from the verb haqaq, “to cut in, determine, decree.” Chôq occurs 127 times in biblical Hebrew.

The first usage of hoq is in Gen. 47:22: “Only the land of the priests bought he not; for the priests had a portion [chôq] assigned them of Pharaoh.…” This word is frequent in Deuteronomy and Psalms and rare in the historical books and in the prophets. The meaning of chôq in the first occurrence (Gen. 47:22) differs from the basic meaning of “statute.” It has the sense of something allotted or apportioned. A proverb speaks about “the food that is my portion” (Prov. 30:8, NASB; KlV, “food convenient for me”; literally, “food of my prescription or portion”). Job recognized in his suffering that God does what is appointed for him: “For he performeth the thing that is appointed for me [literally, “he will perform my Law”] …” (23:14). The “portion” may be something that is due to a person as an allowance or payment. The Egyptian priests received their income from Pharaoh (Gen. 47:22), even as God permitted a part of the sacrifice to be enjoyed by the priests: “And it shall be Aaron’s and his sons’ [as their portion] for ever from the children of Israel: for it is a heave offering …” (Exod. 29:28).

The word chôq also signifies “law,” or “statute.” In a general sense it refers to the “laws” of nature like rain: “When he made a decree for the rain, and a way for the lightning of the thunder” (Job 28:26; cf. Jer. 5:22); and the celestial bodies: “He hath also stablished them for ever and ever: he hath made a decree which shall not pass” (Ps. 148:6 cf). “Thus saith the Lord, which giveth the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and of the stars for a light by night, which divideth the sea when the waves thereof roar; The Lord of hosts is his name: If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the Lord, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me for ever” (Jer. 31:35-36). Moreover, the word chôq denotes a “law” promulgated in a country: “And Joseph made it a law over the land of Egypt unto this day, that Pharaoh should have the fifth part; except the land of the priests only, which became not Pharaoh’s” (Gen. 47:26).

Finally, and most important, the “law” given by God is also referred to as a chôq: “When they have a matter, they come unto me; and I judge between one and another, and I do make them know the statutes [chôq] of God, and his laws [torah]” (Exod. 18:16). The word’s synonyms are mitswah, “commandment”; mishpat, “judgment”; berit, “covenant”; torah, “law”; and ‘edut, “testimony.” It is not easy to distinguish between these synonyms, as they are often found in conjunction with each other: “Ye shall diligently keep the commandments [mitswah] of the Lord your God, and his testimonies [‘edah], and his statutes [chôq], which he hath commanded thee” (Deut. 6:17).

Chûqqâh (חֻקָּה, Strong's #2708), “statute; regulation; prescription; term.” This noun occurs about 104 times.

Chûqqâh is found for the first time in God’s words of commendation about Abraham to Isaac: “Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments [mitswah], my statutes [chuqqah], and my laws [torah]” (Gen. 26:5), together with its synonyms mishmeret, mitswah, and torah. The primary use of chûqqâh is in the Pentateuch, especially in Leviticus and Numbers. It is extemely rare in the poetical books and in the prophetic writings (except for Jeremiah and Ezekiel).

The meaning of “fixed” is similar to the usage of choq, in the sense of the laws of nature: “Thus saith the Lord; If my covenant be not with day and night, and if I have not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth” (Jer. 33:25; cf. Job 38:33). Even as the Israelites had a period of rainfall from October to April, there was a fixed period of harvest (from April to June): “Neither say they in their heart, Let us now fear the Lord our God, that giveth rain, both the former and the latter, in his season: he reserveth unto us the appointed weeks of the harvest” (Jer. 5:24). ln addition to regularity of nature, the word chûqqâh signifies regular payment to the priests: “Which the Lord commanded to be given them of the children of Israel, in the day that he anointed them, by a statute for ever throughout their generations” (Lev. 7:36).

In non-religious usage, the word  $%% refers to the customs of the nations: “After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do: and after the doings of the land of Canaan, whither I bring you, shall ye not do: neither shall ye walk in their ordinances” (Lev. 18:3; cf. 20:23). The reason for the requirement to abstain from the pagan practices is that they were considered to be degenerate (Lev. 18:30).

The most significant usage of chûqqâh is God’s “law.” It is more specific in meaning than choq. Whereas choq is a general word for “law,” chûqqâh denotes the “law” of a particular festival or ritual. There is the “law” of the Passover (Exod. 12:14), Unleavened Bread (Exod. 12:17), Feast of Tabernacles (Lev. 23:41), the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:29ff.), the priesthood (Exod. 29:9), and the blood and fat (Lev. 3:17).

The word chûqqâh has many synonyms. At times it forms a part of a series of three: “Beware that thou forget not the Lord thy God, in not keeping his commandments [mitswah], and his judgments [mishpat], and his statutes [chûqqâh], which I command thee this day” (Deut. 8:11), and at other times of a series of four: “Therefore thou shalt love the Lord thy God, and keep his charge [mishmeret], and his statutes [chûqqâh] and his judgments [mishpat], and his commandments [mitswah], always” (Deut. 11:1; cf. Gen. 26:5 with torah instead of mishpat).

The “statutes” of people are to be understood as the practices contrary to God’s expectations: “For the statutes of Omri are kept, and all the works of the home of Ahab, and ye walk in their counsels, that I should make thee a desolation, and the inhabitants thereof a hissing: therefore ye shall bear the reproach of my people” (Mic. 6:16). The prophet Ezekiel condemned Judah for rejecting God’s holy “statutes”: “And she hath changed my judgments into wickedness more than the nations, and my statutes [chûqqâh] more than the countries that are round about her: for they have refused my judgments and my statutes [chûqqâh], they have not walked in them” (Ezek. 5:6). He also challenged God’s people to repent and return to God’s “statutes” that they might live: “If the wicked restore the pledge, give again that he had robbed, walk in the statutes of life, without committing iniquity; he shall surely live, he shall not die” (Ezek. 33:15).

The Septuagint gives the following translations of both choq and chûqqâh: prostagma (“order; command; injunction”); dikaioma (“regulation; requirement; commandment”); and nomimos (“lawful; conformable to law”). A translation of choq is duatheke (“last will; testament; covenant”). A translation of chûqqâh is nomos (“law”).

B. Verb.

Châqaq (חָקַק, Strong's #2710), “to cut in, determine, decree.” This root is found in Semitic languages with the above meaning or with the sense “to be true” (Arabic), “to be just” (Akkadian). This verb occurs less than 20 times in the Old Testament.

Châqaq is used in Isa. 22:16 with the meaning “to cut in”: “… That graveth a habitation for himself in a rock.” In Isa. 10:1 the verb is used of “enacting a decree”: “Woe unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and that write grievousness which they have prescribed.”

Bibliography Information
Vines, W. E., M. A. Entry for 'Statute, Ordinance'. Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​vot/​s/statute-ordinance.html. 1940.
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