Question: "What is the difference between laws, commands, commandments, decrees, and statutes?"
Answer: In Deuteronomy 6:1-–3 we read of laws, commands, commandments, decrees, and statutes: “Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the rules—that the LORD your God commanded me to teach you” (HCSB, verse 1, emphasis added). Other translations use words like decrees or laws. All these are part of God’s Law, with some slight distinctions.
A look at the various Hebrew words used helps highlight some of the differences:
“Commandments” in verses 1 and 2 (mitzvah): This is the general Hebrew term for “commandment” and usually refers to the comprehensive list of laws or body of laws given by the Lord in the Books of Moses. This is also the Hebrew term often used when the Lord spoke directly in the Old Testament.
“Statutes” (choq): According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary, this word means “statute, prescription, rule, law, regulation” and can refer to laws of nature (Job 28:26; Jeremiah 5:22; 31:35–36) or what is allocated, rationed, or apportioned to someone (Genesis 47:22; Exodus 29:28).
“Rules” (mishpat): A judicial verdict or formal decree. In the Law of Moses, some of the legal types of rules would fall under this category.
“Statutes/Commands” in verse 2 (chuqqah): Chuqqah has a more specific meaning than choq, according to Vine’s dictionary. It refers to a particular law related to a festival or ritual, such as Passover (Exodus 12:14), the Days of Unleavened Bread (Exodus 12:17), or the Feast of Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:41).
All four of these Hebrew words are used throughout the writings of Moses to refer to commands from God to be obeyed by God’s people. Distinctions are sometimes made regarding one word from the other, yet the overall principle is one of obedience to all that the Lord commands, whether it’s a general command, a prescribed law, a legal verdict, or a religious festival or ritual.
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