Of the various words connoting the idea of “ordinance” mišpāṭ is an unusually rich term and merits more detailed analysis. According to KB the semantic development of the word was: umpire’s [or judge’s] decision>decision, judgment > case presented for judgment > (legal) right, claim, due > proper, fitting. BDB classifies its main usages as follows: 1. judgment; 2. attribute: justice; 3. ordinance; 4. decision (of a judge in a case of law); 5. right, due; 6. miscellaneous: custom, manner, fitness, plan, etc. There is an interesting use of the same root in Ugaritic: “He judges the case of the ‘widow,’ he adjudicates the cause of the ‘orphan’” (2 Aqhat V:7, 8; cf.
All of the above terms and references confront us with the fact that “to the men of the Old Testament God was a God of law, and a very great deal in their religion cannot be understood if this is lost sight of” (L. Morris, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross, p. 253). “Among the heathen the deity was thought of as above all law, with nothing but his own desires to limit him. Accordingly his behavior was completely unpredictable, and while he made demands on his worshipers for obedience and service, there were few if any ethical implications of this service and none of a logically necessary kind. Far otherwise was it with the God of the Hebrews...Yahweh was thought of as essentially righteous in His nature, as incorporating the law of righteousness within His essential Being. Accordingly He works by a method which may be called law—He inevitably punishes evil-doing and rewards righteousness” (ibid., p. 258). The ordinances are included in the detailed particularization of that law.
BDB (1907); J. M. P. Smith, The Origin and History of Hebrew Law (1931); ISBE (1939); W. E. Vine, An Expository Dictionary ofWords (1940); W. F. Albright, “The Old Testament and Archaeology,” Old Testament Commentary (1948), 134-170; J. M. Myers, “ ,” Old Testament Commentary (1948), 43-52; T. J. Meek, Hebrew Origins (1950); L. Köhler, Old Testament Theology (1953); KB (1953); N. H. Snaith, The Distinctive of the Old Testament (1953); M. F. Unger, Archaeology and the Old Testament (1954); G. E. Mendenhall, Law and Covenant in Israel and the Ancient Near East (1955); W. Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament (1961); IDB (1962); C. H. Gordon, Ugaritic Textbook (1965); L. Morris, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross (1965).
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
In the New Testament, "ordinance" renders different Greek words, namely,
(1) dikaioma, in
(2) dogma, in
(3) paradosis, in
(4) ktisis, "setting up," "institution" in