(937) 669-3090 support@cffm.org

Figures Friday

God bless you in the wonderful name of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh (John 1:14).

Synonyms are words, the sense of which is similar, though the sound, appearance, and derivation may be quite different.  Synonyms do not make the figure called synonymia unless they are used for the express purpose of enhancing the force and fire of a passage.  The figure synonymia is a repetition of words different in sound and origin, but similar in shades of meaning to repeatedly emphasize specific subject matter in a passage.

Its use directs the mind to look again and again at the subject.  It is used in scripture to attract the attention, and impress the mind.  When words of similar meaning are heaped together like this, it is with great wisdom, power, or purpose.  One of the most outstanding examples of this figure is in Psalms 119.

We find in Psalms 119 that the Word of God is referred to by fourteen Hebrew synonyms, translated into eleven different English words in the King James Version.  There is immediate value in recognizing that they all refer to the same Word of God.  However, we would lose much to not differentiate between them.  Each of these terms designates the same word of the Lord, but each represents different aspects or functions or signifies a different mode of its reception and promulgation.  Not one of them separately can portray the magnitude of the Word’s magnificence, but collectively they convey the fullness of the divine revelation that is the Word of God.  They are:

1.     God’s law, because they are enacted by him as our Sovereign.  Hebrew torah [08451], which is always translated “law,” occurs 25 times in Psalm 119, always in the singular.  This word comes from a verb which means to direct, to point out, to guide, to aim, to shoot forwards.  Its etymological meaning, then, would be a rule of conduct, something that directs us as we move forward in life.  It is frequently used to refer to just the first five books of the Old Testament, but it is used to refer to the entire Old Testament, also.

2.     His way, because it lays out a course for life and morality easily established by habit over the course of time.  Hebrew derek [01870] and orach [0734], are always translated “way” or “ways” in Psalm 119, and occur thirteen and five times respectively.  However, only half of them refer to God’s way of His Word, the other half refer to man’s ways.

3.     His testimonies, because they are solemnly declared to the world, and attested beyond contradiction.  It comes from related Hebrew words meaning to repeat or go over again.  Hebrew edah [05713] occurs 26 times in the Old Testament, fourteen of which are in Psalm 119 and eduth [05715] which occurs nine times in the psalm, all but one time in the plural.  It addresses what one bears witness to so as to certify that which is correct, true, or genuine, thus providing proof or evidence.

4.     His commandments, because they are given with authority and mandate a course of action.  This word emphasizes the authority of what is said, and the right to direct actions or behavior.  Hebrew mitsvah [04687], which is always translated commandments, occurs twenty-two times in Psalm 119; all but once in the plural.  You may have heard of bar and bat mitzvah celebrations.  Under Jewish Law, children are not obligated to observe the commandments, although they are encouraged to do so as much as possible to learn the obligations they will have as adults.  A Jewish boy automatically becomes Bar Mitzvah when he turns 13 years old, and a girl at age 12.  This is the time when young people reach the stage of obligation and must take responsibility for their actions by keeping God’s commandments.

5.     His precepts, because they are prescribed to us, and not left indifferent.  Derived from a word, which means “to place in trust,” it means something entrusted to man.  Like a written prescription, it will fix what ails you.  Hebrew piqqed [06490] occurs 24 times (always in Psalms) and 21 of them are in Psalm 119.  This word was almost designed for its particular use in this Psalm.  Many of us wear eyeglasses.  However, if we were to switch or trade eye-wear we might not find them working as well.  That’s because the prescriptions were made specifically for the vision problem unique to each one of us.  Similarly, God’s Word prescribes applications of each of us which minister to each of us individually.

6.     His word, or saying, because it is the declaration of his will, and Jesus Christ, the red thread, is in it.  Hebrew dabar [01697] and imrah [0565] occur twenty-three and nineteen times respectively; all but four in the singular.  It exalts the spoken word proceeding from the mouth of God to us.  As such it is God’s revealed word to man.

7.     His judgments, because they are framed in infinite wisdom and by them, we must both judge and be judged.  It’s derived from a word signifying “to govern,” “to judge” or “to determine.”  It means judicial ordinances and decisions; legal sanctions.  They cause us to discern what is right and wrong.  Hebrew mishpat [04941] occurs twenty-three times in Psalms 119; all but twice in the plural.  Mishpat is also translated “ordinances” once and “usest to do” once.

8.     His righteousness, because it is all holy, just, and good, and the rule and standard for righteous living.  Hebrew tsedeq [06664] occurs twelve times in Psalms 119.  Tsedeq is also translated justice once.

9.     His statutes, because they are fixed and determined, and of perpetual obligation.  The verb from which this word is formed means “to engrave” or “to inscribe.”  Hebrew choq [02706] occurs twenty-one times in Psalm 119, always in the plural.  I know it says statutes and not statues, but I often think of them that way, as being etched in stone.  Like when the ten commandments were written by the finger of God on tablets of stone.  It exalts the written word of God. 

10. His faithfulness, because it represents how faithful God is to what he has declared.  It shows His firmness, fidelity, steadfastness, and steadiness in bringing to pass what He has declared.  It is used 49 times in the Old Testament and is translated “faithfulness” eighteen times and “truth” thirteen times.  Hebrew emanuh [0530] occurs five times in Psalm 119.

11. His truth, because God is not a man and does not lie.  What He asserts is true and righteous altogether.  It shows His sureness, reliability and stability.  It is used to confirm, support, uphold and certify its veracity.  It is used of spoken testimony and judgment and of written ethical instruction.  Hebrew emeth [0571] occur four times in Psalm 119.

Those are the eleven English words with their Hebrew counterparts.  They all represent the wonderful word of God and show it in all its different forms and in all its variations, displaying all its greatness.  God didn’t just use one word to cover how magnificent, diverse, and useful it really is in the life of a believer.