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Reading Psalms 119, we see the following words:

  1. Commandments
  2. Law
  3. Way
  4. Testimonies
  5. Precepts
  6. Judgments
  7. Statutes
  8. Ordinances
  9. Word

Deut 26: 16 - 19 reads

16 “This day the Lord your God commands you to observe these statutes and judgments; therefore you shall be careful to observe them with all your heart and with all your soul. 17 Today you have proclaimed the Lord to be your God, and that you will walk in His ways and keep His statutes, His commandments, and His judgments, and that you will obey His voice. 18 Also today the Lord has proclaimed you to be His special people, just as He promised you, that you should keep all His commandments, 19 and that He will set you high above all nations which He has made, in praise, in name, and in honor, and that you may be a holy people to the Lord your God, just as He has spoken.”

Deut 6 : 1 reads

“Now this is the commandment, and these are the statutes and judgments which the Lord your God has commanded to teach you, that you may observe them in the land which you are crossing over to possess,

There are many other places in the Old Testament where these words appear, but I couldn't quite grasp distinctly what they mean.

  • I marked your question up because it is a good question but maybe you should ask it on Mi Yodeya as it is more of a question for Judaism than Christianity. – gideon marx May 27 '14 at 9:26
  • Sure. Will post it there – Jabez May 27 '14 at 19:17
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    It should be noted that Jewish Poetry is just that--poetry. There are often couplets that say the same thing in two different ways. We should be careful to not read too much into the differences in words, since the variation is more for the purpose of eliminating redundancy. – Narnian May 28 '14 at 15:40
  • I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this question would work better on Hermeneutics.SE. – Lee Woofenden Aug 17 '16 at 16:54
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1) law - the first five books of the Old Testament; the Torah; the Pentateuch (Psalm 119:44)

2) testimonies - ordinances; God's standard of conduct according to the Ten Commandments (Psalm 119:2)

3) way - the pattern of life required by God's law (Psalm 119:30)

4) precepts - injunction; requirement; commandment (Psalm 119:69)

5) statutes - things inscribed; enacted laws (Psalm 119:8)

6) commandments - a distinct, authoritative order (Psalm 119:166)

7) judgments - a binding law; judicial decision (Psalm 119:7)

8) word - a general term for God's revelation (Psalm 119:11)

Source: Nelson's NKJV Study Bible page 1003

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The differences between the words you mention, and perhaps others, is more a matter of muance than substance. As an example, in the US there are two sets of documents, the US Code, which is the laws passed by Congress, and the Code of Federal regulations, which are regulations published by regulatory agencies of the executive branch. In technical legal parlance in the US, "Statutes" refers to items from the USC, regulations to items from CFR. Both give guidance to what a person should do. And both are different from testimonies, which are statements given under oath, for example in court, in front of a committee of the House of Representatives, or Senate, or in front of a Federal Regulatory Agency.

As to the words in your list, they are all ways of referring to God's communication with his chosen people.

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    I think your answer misses an important point and it would have served you better to use the example of Common Law of Britain but that still does not explain Jewish law. There is a flow from commandment through law, interpretation, application, all the way to education of children. The question list these quite neatly. – gideon marx May 27 '14 at 9:25
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I also am trying to understand these Biblical terms. I have not found an article at Chabad.org, which is my usual go-to in matters of Old Testament. From what I have found thus far:

I believe, "Law" is a given, authoritative command by G_d. It is obligatory for all: private citizen, groups and businesses and also all public figures, entities and institutions. The term can also refer to the controlling influence of G_d's Law, or the entire system or collective body of G_d's Law. I would include G_d-given Scripture, Torah, in this category.

"Statute" seems to be the obvious implication of the expressed Law of G_d. I think "Ordinance" is the obligatory explanation of the carrying out of the Law. Ordinances are binding in only those jurisdictions that they address (as for instance, the feasts. What applies to one feast may not necessarily apply to other days or other situations). They cannot violate the Law, but give direction in how to carry out the Law. I would probably include prophetic and probably Talmudic derived doctrine here. As previously stated, I am trying to learn, so may not be clear as of yet on these.

"Judgements" I think, refer to Godly, wise, appointed, men providing judgements about particular cases. Litigation concerning the commands of G_d, if you will. These decisions serve as president for later decisions about the fulfillment of G_d's Law. Rabbinic law tends to err on the side of caution and is a good example for this category. Although there are direct references to G_d himself giving judgements ( Ex21:1 for example).

If our goal is to keep the commands of G_d, and our desire is to not offend, these will not be grievous, but a help to us and welcomed as guidance, not regarded as unreasonable or intrusive. I don't know if I have a clear understanding yet, but this is the result of what I have been able to find for definitions thus far.

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    Welcome Julie! Could you add your sources for the definitions you give here? That way, it's easier for readers to evaluate them. I hope you'll take a minute to review how this site is different from others, and better understand how your answer can be supported. – Nathaniel is protesting Aug 17 '16 at 16:39
  • Though this answer does address the question, it needs some specific sources, rather than just a general reference to chabad.org, to support the things it says. – Lee Woofenden Aug 19 '16 at 16:53
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Commandments

Derived from a verb signifying to command or ordain. Such as God’s command to Adam about the tree; to Noah about constructing the ark.

Law

This word is formed from a verb which means to direct, to guide, to aim, to shoot torwards. Its etymological meaning, then, would be a rule of conduct. It means God’s law in general, whether it be that universal rule called the law of nature, or that which was revealed to his Church by Moses, and perfected by Christ.

Way

It occurs but twice as a characteristic word, and the places in which it occurs must be considered a plain rule of conduct; in its higher sense, the assisting grace of God through Christ our Lord, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Taken from John Jebb’s exposition in 1846.

Further, one might prescribe Proverbs 12:14, which indicates that any other way that differs leads only to death and hell. To wit: "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death."

Testimonies

Derived from a word which signifies to bear witness to testify. The ark of the tabernacle is so called as are the two tables of stone, and the tabernacle; the earnests and witnesses of God’s inhabitation among his people. Testimonies are more particularly God’s revealed law; the witnesses and confirmation of his promises made to his people, and earnests of his future salvation.

Precepts

From a word which means to place in trust, mean something entrusted to man, "that is committed to thee"; appointments of God, which consequently have to do with the conscience, for which man is responsible, as an intelligent being.

Judgments

Derived from a word signifying to govern, to judge or determine, mean judicial ordinances and decisions; legal sanctions.

Statutes

The verb from which this word is formed means to engrave or inscribe. The word means a definite, prescribed, written law—that moral law of God which is engraven on the fleshy tables of the heart; the in most and spiritual apprehension of his will: not so obvious as the law and testimonies, and a matter of more direct spiritual communication than his precepts; the latter being more elaborated by the efforts of the mind itself, divinely guided.

Word

There are two terms, quite distinct in the Hebrew, but both rendered "word." The latter of these is rendered "saying." They are closely connected: since out of twenty-two passages in which "word" occurs, in fourteen it is parallel to it, or in connection with, "saying". From this very circumstance it is evident they are not synonymous.

The term here rendered "word" seems the logos, or Word of God, in its most divine sense; the announcement of God’s revealed will; his command; his oracle; at times, the special communication to the prophets. The ten commandments are called by this term in Exodus. In this psalm it may be considered as, —

(1) God’s revealed commandments in general.

(2) As a revealed promise of certain blessings to the righteous.

(3) As a thing committed to him as the minister of God.

(4) As a rule of conduct; a channel of illumination.

From November 03, 2013 Sermon

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