De Moor on God's Essential Vindicatory Righteousness: Argument from Psalm 9:4; 11:5-7; etc.



Thirdly, we add passages in which God is considered as Judge, and hence Judiciary Righteousness is assigned to Him, no less with respect to exacting punishments, than with respect to distributing rewards: such is in Psalm 9:4, in which God is called שׁוֹפֵ֥ט צֶֽדֶק׃, the Judge of Righteousness, or the Just Judge, as the Targum translates it דינא זכאה, the Just Judge; in Psalm 11:5-7, the wicked and him that loveth violence His (that is, the Lord’s) soul hateth. He shall rain upon the wicked coals, fire, and brimstone: and a most violent wind shall be the portion of their cup. For Jehovah is Just, loving those things that are just, etc. Here, God is represented as the Judge of all the Earth, and, with an epithet especially appropriate for Judges, He is called Just; moreover, this Just Judge is said to consider the wicked with hatred, and that not by an indifferent will, determined only by His Decree, but by His Essence, נַפְשׁוֹ, His soul, does these things: It is an Anthropopathism (as JOHANN HEINRICH MICHAELIS[1] fittingly notes on this passage) to express more forcefully God’s deep hatred of sin: because God by His inner and essential Attributes is not able not to hate the impudent. And to this description of the Judge, and of the judgment of His mind concerning their evils and crimes, is joined the external judicial act aiming at the punishment and destruction of the wicked; which again is fetched, not from the Lord’s Decree, but from His Essential Righteousness as the cause, which, since it is delighted with things rightly done, is not able not to abominate wickedness. For God is not to be considered simply as absolute Lord, who of Himself establishes whatever He wills, in inflicting punishments, for this belongs to Him as Judge and Rector: and, as in a private family this office of Rector belongs to the Father, in the republic to the highest Magistrate, so in the Earth this belongs to God, to whom thence all the parts of this office are to be submitted; just as whoever has the power of governing on a ship ought by his power to discharge the office of governor, whoever has the paternal power in the family, whoever has the power of a King in a kingdom, as the rule of right altogether requires: unless God should will Himself to abdicate the office of Rector and Judge, and thus to remove the Dependence of creatures from Himself as Creator: which perplexes. At the same time such is, as TERTULLIAN learnedly writes in de Resurrectione Carnis, chapter XIV, that He is deservedly our Judge, because He is our Lord: deservedly our Lord, because He is our creator: deservedly our creator, because His is God. Whence that heretic, whose name I know not, holds that He is not deservedly Judge, for He is not God; not deservedly Lord, for He is not the creator: demonstrating that those things, that He is God, and the Lord of all, and the Judge of the Earth, stand or fall together. How necessary is it then for a Prince among men to set forth fair Laws, and to take care that they be kept by the distribution of rewards to the obedient and the imposition of punishments upon transgressors: just so necessary is it to God to avenge the violation of His Law, which is a certain Image of the Divine Holiness expressed, as it were, by inflicting the punishments due. Hence Abraham asked, Shall not the Judge of all the earth administer Justice? Genesis 18:25, in this way powerfully affirming the same; whence Onkelos rendered those words with a particle of asservation interposed, הדין כל ברם ארע ברם יעביד דינא, Shall not the Judge of all, indeed of all the earth, do judgment? with which indeed Abraham, so that he might induce God to be Merciful, begins; but, nevertheless, he furnishes a clear testimony to the Righteousness of the Divine Judge, with whom, just as it was not consistent to punish the innocent with the guilty, as Abraham gathers, so it was not proper for the same to absolve the guilty: indeed, this is the δικαίωμα/judgment of that Judge, ὅτι οἱ τὰ τοιαῦτα πράσσοντες ἄξιοι θανάτου εἰσίν, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, Romans 1:32. Now, what God’s δικαίωμα/judgment is, that His Righteousness requires to be done: for, as τὸ δικαίωμα τοῦ νόμου, the judgment/righteousness of the law, Romans 8:4, is what the Law requires, and what is not able to be denied without injustice to the Law; so God’s δικαίωμα/judgment is what God requires, and what He is not able to deny to Himself, unless He is willing to be unjust to Himself. Therefore, there is a connection between sin and the recompense of death, by virtue, not only of the Divine Will, but also of the Divine Righteousness, and by His Righteousness He is not able consequently not to punish with death ἄξιον θανάτου, one worthy of death, since His Judgment is according to truth.[2] In this manner, therefore, we argue the Vindicatory Righteousness of God to be Essential, not as if it were proper to God to punish sin in such a way that He is not able to abstain from it in whatever state of circumstances; but in such a way that, with the Decree of creating the world through the indifferent Will of God posited, He is not able not to govern the created world justly through Laws set forth, and not to avenge the transgression of them.

[1] Johann Heinrich Michaelis (1668-1738) was a German Lutheran Theologian, Orientalist, and Philologist. He served as Professor of Oriental Languages (1699) and of Theology (1709) at Halle. Michaelis published an annotated edition of the Hebrew Bible and works on Hebrew grammar and accentuation.


[2] Romans 2:2.

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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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