De Moor on God's Essential Vindicatory Righteousness: Argument from Exodus 34:7



That Vindicatory Righteousness is expressly attributed to God in Sacred Scripture, we prove from ἐμφατικωτάτοις/forceful Passages; among which is Exodus 34:7, where God, proclaiming His own Name before Moses, among other things inserts, וְנַקֵּה֙ לֹ֣א יְנַקֶּ֔ה, and He will by no means acquit. The opinion of the most illustrious DE DIEU, referring these words to the description of Divine Goodness, through which even in anger He is mindful of compassion, and so translating them, in purging He does not purge, or He does not completely cut off His people, chastening them by measure; is too far from propriety of speech than that we should delay to refute it. But, that the passage is also interpreted as if God were saying that He, in holding the sinner guiltless, that is, the elect sinner, yet does not leave Sin unpunished, by punishing it in Christ, appears to be more acute than solid; since rather here obtains the common Rule concerning a finite Verb governing its infinitive; which structure, as it affirms with greater certainty and effect, when it is affirmative, so, with the negation added, it denies more vehemently, whether the negation be set before, or set in the midst: see BUXTORF’S Thesaurum, and compare Psalm 49:7;[1] Leviticus 19:20;[2] etc. Therefore, as the Lawgiver more simply proclaims, Exodus 20:7, Jehovah will not leave him unpunished, לֹ֤א יְנַקֶּה֙ יְהוָ֔ה, that taketh His name in vain: so, in this passage, the Infinitive placed before intensifies the signification, that in holding or declaring Guiltless He will not hold or declare guiltless, so also the same will by no means hold guiltless, understanding, the sinner, as it immediately follows, פֹּקֵ֣ד׀ עֲוֹ֣ן, visiting the iniquity, etc.; and a similar Ellipsis occurs in Nahum 1:3,[3] on which passage the Commentarius of the most illustrious MARCKIUS is able to be consulted. This received interpretation is supported by the Septuagint translators, who in Exodus 34, rendering the sense rather than the words, have, οὐ καθαριεῖ τὸν ἔνοχον, He will not cleanse the guilty; but in Nahum 1, they thus translate the expression of the Authentic Text verbatim, καὶ ἀθῳῶν οὐκ ἀθῳώσει, and He, leaving unpunished, will not leave unpunished: from both of which passages is the composite reading that occurs in the Apostolic Constitutions, book II, chapter XV, Εὔσπλαγχνος μετὰ δικαιοσύνης Κύριος ὁ Θεὸς ἡμῶν, ἀγαθὸς καὶ φιλάνθρωπος, καὶ ἀθῳῶν οὐκ ἀθῳώσει τὸν ἔνοχον, etc., The Lord our God is compassionate with righteousness, good and benevolent, and He, leaving unpunished, does not leave the guilty unpunished, etc.: for, that ἀθῳῶν, leaving unpunished, just as in the passage of the Septuagint just now cited, is also to be read here, not ἀθῶον/guiltless, as Bovius and Turrianus[4] think, the most learned COTELIER teaches in his Notis on this place. And, while this expression through λιτότητα/litotes[5] does not so much express as leave to be understood; not to hold guiltless signifies to punish most grievously, in comparison with 1 Kings 2:9, Now therefore hold him not guiltless, for thou art a wise man: but know what thou art going to do unto him, that his hoar head thou art going to bring down to the grave with blood. This was not the intention of David to instruct Solomon, that he should not hold a man of this sort guiltless before him, but should judge him truly worthy of death: but he wished judgment, attested by this act, to be given in the punishment of that wicked man; thou wilt know, says he, what thou art going to do to him; and he ordains for him a punishment certainly not slight, when he adds that Solomon is to see to it that the locks of Shimei, now graying because of age, descend to the grave, tinged with blood; evidently this was not to hold guiltless. Now, this expression in Moses pertains to the Name of God. But it is well-known that the Name of God in the divine Books is God Himself, who, since He needs no name, in His word took to Himself such names as were just so many notices, as it were, of His Essence and Perfections, so that through inadequate concepts we might be instructed in some sort of knowledge of God; thus God and His Name are used interchangeably as two terms connoting the same thing, Psalm 20:1, יְהוָה/Jehovah hear thee in the time of difficulty, שֵׁם אֱלֹהֵי יַעֲקֹב, the name of the God of Jacob, set thee on high, etc. From this, therefore, I infer: α. If the Divine Essence does not depend upon the indifferent Will of God, then neither does His Vindicatory Righteousness; because this is of the Essence of God, or pertains to His Name, which is interchangeable with God Himself: but the former is true, therefore also the latter. For His Essence comprehends His Will under it, and without His Essence God would not be, nor would He even be able to will, if one may thus be permitted to speak: but now, if the Essence of God depends upon His Will, He could will Himself not to be; from which who would not shrink, recognizing the absurdity of it in that Necessary Being? β. Again, God is not able to deny Himself, 2 Timothy 2:13, and hence not His Name, that is, He is not able to dissemble His Virtues, or to that that whereby He might testify Himself not to be who He is, and not to have those Virtues that are divine. Hence it might be allowed thus to argue: If God is not able to deny Himself and His Name; therefore neither His Vindicatory Righteousness, because this pertains to His Name: but the antecedent is true, therefore also the consequent. Hence in act He is obliged to furnish that which this Righteousness requires, namely, to inflict punishments upon transgressors: as in a similar manner the Apostle in the passage cited concludes from the Veracity and Faithfulness of God that He will certainly stand to His promises.

[1] Psalm 49:7: “None of them can by any means redeem (לֹא־פָדֹ֣ה יִפְדֶּ֣ה) his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him…”


[2] Leviticus 19:20: “And whosoever lieth carnally with a woman, that is a bondmaid, betrothed to an husband, and not at all redeemed (וְהָפְדֵּה֙ לֹ֣א נִפְדָּ֔תָה), nor freedom given her; she shall be scourged; they shall not be put to death, because she was not free.”


[3] Nahum 1:3: “The Lord is slow to anger, and great in power, and will not at all acquit (וְנַקֵּ֖ה לֹ֣א יְנַקֶּ֑ה): the Lord hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.”


[4] Francisco Torres (c. 1509-1584) was a Spanish Jesuit and classicist. He was also one of the Tridentine Fathers and a polemicist; as part of his work against Protestantism, he defended the authenticity of the Apostolic Canons.


[5] That is, rhetorical understatement.

ABOUT US

Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.

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