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Ordinance

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. Deut 10:18; Isa 1:17, 23; Jer 5:28). In the [[Book of the Covenant]] (Exod 20:22-23:33) the term “judgments” or “ordinances” denotes civil, as contrasted with ritual, enactments. Again, mišpāṭîm is the word used to introduce these ordinances (Exod 21:1); thus, here it refers to “the fundamental commands of the civil law” (W