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Bible Lexicons

Girdlestone's Synonyms of the Old Testament

Charge, Precept

The word Pekud (פקוד , Ass. paqadu) is properly a charge. It is only found in the plural, and is always rendered precept except in Psalms 103:18; Psalms 111:7. The general renderings of the verb are ἐπισκέπτω, to visit, ἐκδικέω, to avenge, and καθίστημιto appoint. It is used of visitation, whether for purposes of mercy or for purposes of chastisement. The substantive in the feminine form, Pekudah (answering to ἐπίσκεψις or ἐπισκοπή, is found in the former sense in Jeremiah 27:22; but in the latter sense in Isaiah 10:3; Isaiah 29:6; Jeremiah 6:15; Jeremiah 8:12; Jeremiah 10:15; Jeremiah 11:23; Jeremiah 23:12; Jeremiah 48:44 in these cases the context plainly decides the matter; and though it is noticeable that the instances of the noun being used of judgment preponderate, if the passages where the verb is used were also cited this would not be the case.

But the word has a further sense. It is often rendered ἐντολή and δικαίωμα, and signifies a charge. Sometimes it denotes the oversight or care which a responsible person is enjoined to take. Thus we read in Numbers 4:16 that Eleazar had the 'oversight' (ἐπισκοπή) of all the tabernacle. It was put in his charge, and he was responsible for its safe keeping in Psalms 109:8 we read, 'Let another take his office' (ἐπισκοπή), i.e Let another perform the duties which are laid up on him. It is a pity that this passage has not been translated more literally where it is quoted in the N.T., in Acts 1:20, where we read, 'His bishoprick let another take.' The margin here very properly has 'office' or 'charge.' Whilst it is true that a 'bishoprick' is an ἐπισκοπή, not only etymologically but really, yet it does not follow that an ἐπισκοπή is a (modern) 'bishoprick.' this rendering, like many others, has come to us from the Latin Vulgate. It was accepted by Wycliffe and Tyndale without hesitation. See R. V.

The word ἐπίσκοποςanswers to another form of pakad, and indicates the persons who have a charge or responsibility laid up on them, whether for military, civil, or religious purposes. The following are among the passages in which it occurs: - Numbers 31:14, 'Moses was wroth with the officers of the host;' Judges 9:28, ' is not Abimelech the son of Jerubbaal? and Zebul his officer?' 2 Chronicles 34:12, 'The men did the work faithfully; and the overseers of them were Jahath and Obadiah;' verse 17, 'They have delivered the money into the h and of the overseers, and to the h and of the workmen.' See also Nehemiah 11:9; Nehemiah 11:14.

Combination of Words in the 119th Psalm

In reading the 119th Psalm we are struck with the constant recurrence of various titles by which God's revelation of Right is described in the first nine verses we find eight different titles given to the truth of God. [Compare Psalms 19:7-9, in which five words are used to designate God's law, namely, decree, testimony, statutes, commandments, and judgments.] They are as follows: -

(1.) The law or Torah.

(2.) The word.

(3.) The commandments.

(4.) The statutes.

(5.) The precepts, pekudim (פקודים ).

(6.) The ways. The word used throughout this Psalm for 'way' is orech (ארח ), a course, journey, or pilgrimage; whilst in other parts of the Scripture derec (דרך ), a path, is the expression used. Either word implies that man's course of life, thought, and desire ought to be brought into harmony and made coincident with God's.

(7.) The judgments. The word mishpath (משׁפט ) is used twenty-one times in the Psalm, and seems to point to rules of righteous administration.

(8.) The testimonies. The word for 'testimony' is derived from od (עוד ), to bear witness. It is used fourteen times in this Psalm, and in various other parts of the O.T. The law of God is his testimony, because it is his own affirmation concerning his nature, attributes, and consequent demands.

With exquisite beauty and with inspired depth of thought the writer of the 119th Psalm draws out these varied aspects of the Divine Truth, and presents the law of God in every light in which the experience of a godly man can regard it. Certainly no student of the Psalms can doubt that the pious Israelite found the revealed will of God anything but a heavy burden or an intolerable yoke. Whosoever trusted in the Most High so on learned to take pleasure in God's commandments, and to realise their breadth and spirituality, and he was thus enabled to love God's law as well as to long for his salvation.

Teaching in the NT

The word νόμος is very frequently used of the law of Moses, which is regarded, both in the O. and N.T., as one, though containing many ἐντολαί or specified commandments (see Matthew 22:36). this law is also called the law of the Lord, because, though it was given by Moses (John 1:17), and by the disposition of angels (Acts 7:53), it really represented the will of the Lord God (Luke 2:23).

In the four Gospels and Acts the law is referred to fifty times, and generally in the sense now mentioned; in some passages, however, it specially designates the books of Moses, according to the ordinary Jewish mode of dividing the O.T.

In Romans 2:14 we have another sense of the word introduced. The heathen nations have not [the [There is no definite article here, and hence some critics have doubted whether the reference is made to the law of Moses, or whether the principle of law in the abstract is to be understood. But this is probably one of the cases in which the absence of the article ought not to be pressed.]] law; but if it should be found that they do the things of the law (i.e. act on those great principles which lie at the root of the whole Mosaic legislation), then, though they have not [the] law, they become a law to themselves, in as much as they show forth in their outer life the results which the law aimed at producing, and which were written not indeed on external tables, but on their hearts; moreover, their consciousness and their inmost convictions, which lead them to disapprove of one course of action and approve of another, will bear witness with these outward results in the Day when God shall form a judicial estimate of the secrets of the heart.

With regard to the persons thus described, St. Paul says again, in verses 26, 27, that the uncircumcision, i.e. the Gentiles, who accomplish the law, will be reckoned as true Jews, and will judge those Jews who have the letter of the law and circumcision, but who nevertheless are transgressors.

In Romans 5:14, St. Paul says that 'Up to the time that the law was given, i.e. from Adam to Moses, sin was in the world (and among the heathen nations which have not heard of Christ's salvation sin is still in the world; nor did the command that all men everywhere should repent go forth till the Day of Pentecost); but sin is not reckoned where there is no law; and yet death, the fruit and penalty of sin, reigned all this time, even on those whose sins were committed under far less aggravated circumstances than the transgression of Adam.' Hence we are left to imply that there is some law which all the heathen have transgressed, and that in all the children of men there has been such a departure from God as has justified Him in inflicting death. sin was in them, though not in the form of rebellion against the law of Moses.

In other passages the word νόμος rather signifies order or principle. this is sometimes the case with davar, word, in the O.T., as in the familiar sentence, 'Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.' [Some render these words, 'after my word, O Melchizedek.'] in Romans 3:27, St. Paul asks, ' on what principle (A. V. by what law) is a man accounted righteous? on the principle of works? no; on the principle of faith.' So again in Romans 8:2, 'The binding principle of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the binding principle of sin and death.'

In Romans 7:2 the word is used in two senses, 'The married woman is bound by law (i.e. by the law of Moses) to her living husband; but if the husband dies she is liberated [The word κατηργήται is not an easy word to translate. It signifies a complete abolition of that relationship which had previously existed.] from the bond or tie which had existed between the two parties.' So, carrying out the parallel, we may understand verse 6, 'Now we are liberated from the bond which connected us with the flesh, sin, and the letter of the law, for we have been identified through faith with the death of Christ - a death whereby sin was overcome, the flesh was made an instrument of good instead of evil, and the letter of the law had its complete fulfilment and consequent abolition.'

When St. Paul said, 'I was living without the law once' (Romans 7:9), he seems to be referring to a part of his previous history during which sin lay dormant in him. But when the commandment came - i.e. some special commandment of the law which went against Paul's manner of life and natural dispositions - s in burst forth into a new life, [The word ἀνέζησε seems to imply that he had felt its power before, but that he had, as he thought, quite overcome it, so that he supposed it was dead. He had brought himself into complete harmony with the law as he imagined, but suddenly a special commandment in the law was pressed up on his attention, and brought out the old Adam in renewed vigour.] whilst I died, i.e. trespassed and so brought death on myself; and the commandment in question which if I had kept it would have kept me in the way of life, proved practically a means of leading me to death. for sin, receiving an impetus (ἀφορμήν) from the commandment, deceived me (as it is the way of all sin to do, see Genesis 3:13, 1 Timothy 2:14, James 1:14), and made use of the law of God to slay me. Perhaps Paul's reference to a point of his past history in Galatians 2:19, may be explained in the same way, 'I through the law died to the law, that I might live to Christ,' i.e. the law taught me my sinfulness and led me to believe in Christ, and accordingly I did what all converted Jews must do - I died to the law, identifying myself with Christ in his death, that I might live no longer to myself, but to Him who died for me. The words διὰ νόμου might, however, be explained by a similar phrase in Romans 2:27 (διὰ γράμματος), as 'although I had the law,' or ' in spite of the law.'

We find δικαίωμα ten times in the N.T in seven of these passages it conveys the O.T. word precept, namely, Luke 1:6; Romans 1:32; Romans 2:26; Romans 8:4 (A.V. the righteousness of the law); Hebrews 9:1; Hebrews 9:10; Revelation 15:4 in Revelation 19:8, we are obliged to render the word 'the righteousnesses of the saints ;' so in Romans 5:16, 'The gift is of many offences unto righteousness' (A.V. justification); verse 18, ' by one righteousness' (A. V. by the righteousness of one).

The words ἐντέλλεσθαι and ἐντολή; are used of the charges contained in the law. They are also applied to the orders given by Christ Himself, the new Lawgiver; see Matthew 28:20; John 15:14; John 15:17; Acts 1:2; Acts 13:47. The latter class of passages shows that the Lord laid great stress on the keeping of his commandments. The ἐντολή spoken of in various verses of Romans 7:1-25. was doubtless some portion of the Mosaic commandments; but the 'holy commandment' of 2 Peter 2:21 must be referred to the charge laid down by our Lord; see also 2 Peter 3:2.

The verb ἐπισκέπτομαι is used ten times in the N.T., and generally, if not always, signifies visitation for purposes of mercy. The kindred term ἐπισκοπει̂ν is used in Hebrews 12:15 and 1 Peter 5:2, and denotes responsibility and watchfulness rather than rule. The Lord is called the Shepherd and Watcher over our souls or lives, 1 Peter 2:20. The apostles had a charge of the same kind, though more limited, Acts 1:20; and the Ephesian elders are told to take heed to the flock over which the Holy Ghost had appointed them as watchers, Acts 20:28. The word ἐπίσκοπος, which is found in these two places, gradually assumed a more technical sense, and stood for the whole office, of which this careful watching was only a part (1 Timothy 3:1-2, and Titus 1:7). [It has been said that ' in the incumbent of a large Lond on parish, with curates, Scripture readers, district visitors, lay agents, and Sunday school teachers, dependent on his piety, zeal, vigour, ability, and force of character, for direction, stimulus, encouragement, superintendence and tone, we seem to have the best representative now in existence of the Primitive Bishop.' See Church Missionary Intelligencer for April 1871; and on the whole subject of the Primitive Christian ministry consult Dr. Lightfoot's Essay in his 'Commentary on the Epistle to the Philippians.']

The word ἐπισκοπή; occurs in Luke 19:44, where the Lord spoke of the doom which was coming on Jerusalem, because she knew not the time of her visitation. this was the visitation of God's mercy and grace in the person of Christ, of whom it is said that 'He came unto his own (property), and his own (people) received him not.' Compare Luke 1:68; Luke 1:78, with John 1:11. There is another day of visitation yet to come, in which the mercy of God in Christ will be more gloriously manifested. See 1 Peter 2:12.

Public Domain
Girdlestone, Robert Baker. Entry for 'Charge, Precept'. Synonyms of the Old Testament.
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