De Moor VI:2: The Term, "Decrees"


These Immanent and Eternal Acts of God ad Extra commonly go by the name of DECREES; which term is found in the Chaldean of Daniel 4:17, 24, where is the word גְּזֵרָה/decree,[1] properly decision, cutting off, separation, as it is in Leviticus 16:22, אֶ֣רֶץ גְּזֵרָ֑ה, a land of separation, cutting off;[2] improperly Decree, as it is here: from גְּזַר, properly to cut, to separate; metaphorically to decide, to decree. Now, what in Daniel 4:17 is גְּזֵרַת עִירִין, the decree of the watchers, in verse 24 is called גְּזֵרַת עִלָּיָא, the decree of the Most High. That is, it is properly the Decree of the Most High God, to whom as its author it ought to have been ascribed: but the same was able to be said to be the Decree of the Watchers (as the Angel are with good reason called; see Chapter IX, § 1), because the execution of the Decree was entrusted to them: in which manner Paul speaks of his Gospel, Romans 2:16, of which he himself was made a Minister, the announcement of which had been entrusted to him. Similarly we have in Isaiah 44:26, that confirmeth the word of His servant, and the counsel of His messengers (וַעֲצַ֥ת מַלְאָכָ֖יו) performeth. Elsewhere, in the place of this, is used: Will, Good-Pleasure: so it is in Isaiah 46:10, וְכָל־חֶפְצִ֖י אֶעֱשֶֽׂה׃, and I will do all my pleasure: in Ephesians 1:9, γνωρίσας ἡμῖν τὸ μυστήριον τοῦ θελήματος αὐτοῦ, κατὰ τὴν εὐδοκίαν αὐτοῦ, ἣν προέθετο ἐν αὐτῷ, having made known unto us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure, which He hath purposed in Himself. As here the verb to purpose is used of the Decree, so elsewhere this is also called His Purpose, Ephesians 1:11, προορισθέντες κατὰ πρόθεσιν τοῦ τὰ πάντα ἐνεργοῦντος, etc., being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things, etc. Statute perhaps, in Psalm 2:7,אֲסַפְּרָ֗ה אֶֽ֫ל חֹ֥ק, I will declare the statute/decree; compare Chapter V, § 8; τὸ ὡρισμένον, the determination, Luke 22:22:[3] and Counsel, עֵצָה, Isaiah 46:10, 11, עֲצָתִ֣י תָק֔וּם, my counsel shall stand, אִ֣ישׁ עֲצָתִ֑י,[4] the man of my counsel; ἡ βουλὴ, the counsel, Hebrews 6:17; ἡ ὡρισμένη βουλὴ, the determinate counsel, Acts 2:23.


[Now, the language of Counsel, together with the other terms, is here to be understood in such a way that all Ignorance, Doubt, and reception of Wisdom from elsewhere are hence excluded.] That is, all manner of deliberation, which has place in our Counsels and Decrees, conjoined with manifold ignorance, and the long delay of investigation, and also troublesome doubt, whereby the mind is often driven and divided this way and that, is not at all able to be reconciled with the altogether prefect Understanding of God. SPANHEIM, Decadum Theologicarum VI, § 5, opera, tome 3, column 1229: “By the Sacred Writers the Decree is called will, good pleasure, counsel, purpose…. But the counsel is without consultation, as in God the decree is without deliberation, knowledge without discursive reasoning, freedom without choice beforehand, action without motion, order in the decrees without priority or posteriority of time, etc.”


[But consideration is to be given to the Eternity, Wisdom, and Immutability of the Decrees.] That is, every Perfection found in human Counsels, in a manner infinitely more perfect, is to be considered in God; the Will in Counsel preceding the work leads us to the Eternity of the Decrees. One who takes counsel before he undertakes, has an opportunity to execute his work in greater wisdom; than one who with previous deliberation rashly undertakes a work: hence the language of Counsel also recalls into mind for us the Wisdom of the divine Counsels. Neither is one that after serious deliberation commissions a work for execution brought so quickly to regret and a change of the work, as one that inconsiderately undertook something: hence the language of Counsel also requires us to ascend to the Immutability of the divine Decrees.


[With which admonition set down beforehand, it is not fitting with Scaliger[5]to inveigh against this term, found in the Scriptures, as impious.] This has regard to the words of SCALIGER cited by CLOPPENBURG,[6]Exercitationibus Theologicis, locus II, disputation V, section II, § 1, opera, tome I, pages 750, 751: “The Counsel of the Will of God, which we attribute to God, with the Scriptures going before us, Ephesians 1:11; Isaiah 46:10, we do not understand with that human acceptation, whereby deliberation concerning means and concerning intervening occasions, conjoined with ignorance and hesitation, is wont to be noted; in which there is often delay and postponement, and the summoning of advisers. Concerning such the opinion of Scaliger is true; the language of Counsel in Divine things is as impious as a plurality of Deity: Julius Scaliger, de Subtilitate, Exercitation CCCLXXXV, § 8.” The same words of Scaliger, with critical analysis, you will find cited by GOMARUS, Disputationum Theologicarum nona, § 22, opera, part III, page 31.

[1] Daniel 4:17, 24: “This matter is by the decree of the watchers (בִּגְזֵרַ֤ת עִירִין֙), and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men…. This is the interpretation, O king, and the decree of the most High (וּגְזֵרַ֤ת עִלָּיָא֙) is this, which is come upon my lord the king…” [2] Leviticus 16:22: “And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited (אֶל־אֶ֣רֶץ גְּזֵרָ֑ה): and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness.” [3] Luke 22:22: “And truly the Son of man goeth, as it was determined (κατὰ τὸ ὡρισμένον): but woe unto that man by whom he is betrayed!” [4] Thus the Qere. [5] Julius Cæsar Scaliger (1484-1558) was an Italian scholar of the first order, and champion of Aristotelianism against the new Renaissance humanism. His De Subtilitate Exercitationes demonstrates his mastery of Aristotle’s physics and metaphysics, and continued to be a popular textbook until Aristotelianism finally gave way before the new learning. [6] Johann Cloppenburg (1592-1652) was a Dutch Reformed theologian and controversialist. He studied at the University of Leiden, and held various ministerial posts until his appointment as professor at the University of Harderwijk (1641), and then at Franeker (1643). He was a lifelong friend of Voetius, and colleague of Cocceius at Franeker.

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