Herman Bavinck – The Righteousness and Justice of God

Closely related to this holiness is the righteousness [justice; Dutch, gerechtigheid] of God. The words צַדִּיק, צֶדֶק, and צְדָקָה describe the state of a law-abiding person. The first meaning seems to be a forensic one: צַדִּיק is one who is proved right before a trial judge and therefore has to be acquitted (הִצְדִּיק versus the הִרְשִׁיעַ; Deut. 25:1). It is also the word for a person who is right in a dispute or debate (Job 11:2; 33:12, 32; Isa. 41:26), and the substantive, accordingly, can denote the correctness or truth of an assertion (Ps. 52:3; Prov. 16:13; Isa. 45:23). Further, it means in general that a person is right, even aside from a trial or court, and hence that a person has the right on his or her side, is righteous and good, and in step with the law (Gen. 30:33; 38:26; 1 Sam. 24:18; Ps. 15:2). From here the word crosses into the sphere of religion and is applied to God. God is only twice called צַדִּיק in the Pentateuch (Exod. 9:27; Deut. 32:4). God’s righteousness is first of all manifested in history, in his government of the world, and in his providential guidance of Israel, and is therefore especially developed by psalmists and prophets. It is revealed everywhere and extends even to wild animals (Ps. 36:7). God is the Judge of all the earth (Gen. 18:25). It consists in that God repays everyone according to his or her works, treating the righteous one way and the wicked another (Gen. 18:25). It is noteworthy, however, that God’s remunerative justice is far more prominent in Scripture than his retributive justice. Diestel rightly called attention to this fact, and the idea has been endorsed by many, including especially Ritschl.

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