Every Use of the Word Justice
Justice in the Old Testament. You might be surprised. This is a supporting page for the Character of God and the Gospel Glossary entry for justice. The truth is that there are no verses using the word “justice” (KJV) which support that justice means to punish sin.
There are 28 verses in the Old Testament (KJV) that use the word “justice. (The word does not appear in the New Testament in the KJV.) Following are all of the 28 verses with Strong’s numbers indicated after each use of “justice.” In 21 of those verses, the words “justice” and “judgment” are used together showing how closely they are related. “Judgment” is from Strong’s H4941 unless indicated.
#1 “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD, to do justice (H6666) and judgment; that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.” (Gen 18:19)
To “do justice” is to “keep the way of the LORD.”
#2 “And he provided the first part for himself, because there, in a portion of the lawgiver, was he seated; and he came with the heads of the people, he executed the justice (H6666) of the LORD, and his judgments with Israel.” (Deut 33:21)
#3 “And David reigned over all Israel; and David executed judgment and justice (H6666) unto all his people.” (2 Sam 8:15)
#4 “Absalom said moreover, Oh that I were made judge in the land, that every man which hath any suit or cause might come unto me, and I would do him justice (H6663)!” (2 Sam 15:4)
To “do him justice” would be for Absalom to do the right thing in the causes presented to him.
#5 “Blessed be the LORD thy God, which delighted in thee, to set thee on the throne of Israel: because the LORD loved Israel for ever, therefore made he thee king, to do judgment and justice (H6666).” (1 Kings 10:9)
#6 “So David reigned over all Israel, and executed judgment and justice (H6666) among all his people.” (1 Chron 18:14)
#7 “Blessed be the LORD thy God, which delighted in thee to set thee on his throne, to be king for the LORD thy God: because thy God loved Israel, to establish them for ever, therefore made he thee king over them, to do judgment and justice (H6666).” (2 Chron 9:8)
#8 “Doth God pervert judgment? or doth the Almighty pervert justice (H6664)?” (Job 8:3)
This verse shows that God’s justice has been long misunderstood. Bildad is asking a rhetorical question to point out that God always does the right thing; in Job’s case, by bringing deserved punishment (in Bildad’s opinion) upon him. However, a proper understanding of the book of Job shows that the misfortunes that came upon Job were not an act of God at all – the whole narrative shows that it was Satan who afflicted Job in the absence of God’s protection. Bildad was mistaken in thinking that Job’s troubles were an example of God’s justice.
#9 “But thou hast fulfilled the judgment (H1779) of the wicked: judgment (H1779) and justice (H4941) take hold on thee.” (Job 36:17)
This and the verse before are the only ones of the 28 that sound like punishment as justice. Elihu is saying in this verse that the retributive judgment of God towards the wicked has come upon Job because of his sins – Job is being punished by God. But note carefully that this is Elihu’s opinion and Elihu had the wrong understanding of God’s justice (Job 42:7).
The translation of “mishpat” as “justice” (only time this happens in the KJV) in this verse may be because there were already two uses of “judgement” from another Hebrew word in the same sentence. It shows how close in meaning the two words are.
#10 “Touching the Almighty, we cannot find him out: he is excellent in power, and in judgment, and in plenty of justice (H6666): he will not afflict.” (Job 37:23)
#11 “Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice (H6663) to the afflicted and needy.” (Psa 82:3)
The construction of this verse which equates justice with defending the poor and fatherless really helps us to understand the meaning of Biblical justice. To do justice is to defend – stand up for the rights of – the poor, fatherless, afflicted and needy. A good example of this is:
“Then came the daughters of Zelophehad, the son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, of the families of Manasseh the son of Joseph: and these are the names of his daughters; Mahlah, Noah, and Hoglah, and Milcah, and Tirzah. And they stood before Moses, and before Eleazar the priest, and before the princes and all the congregation, by the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying, Our father died in the wilderness, and he was not in the company of them that gathered themselves together against the LORD in the company of Korah; but died in his own sin, and had no sons. Why should the name of our father be done away from among his family, because he hath no son? Give unto us therefore a possession among the brethren of our father. And Moses brought their cause before the LORD. And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, The daughters of Zelophehad speak right: thou shalt surely give them a possession of an inheritance among their father’s brethren; and thou shalt cause the inheritance of their father to pass unto them.” (Num 27:1-7)
#12 “Justice (H6664) and judgment are the habitation of thy throne: mercy and truth shall go before thy face.” (Psa 89:14)
In this example of synonymous parallelism, the verse equates “justice” with “mercy” and “judgment” with “truth.” It is Divine justice to extend mercy and forgiveness. God always does the just or right thing. His goal is always to heal and save. Thus, the Biblical Healing Model of the gospel.
#13 “I have done judgment and justice (H6664): leave me not to mine oppressors.” (Psa 119:121)
#14 “To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice (H6664), and judgment, and equity;” (Pro 1:3)
#15 “By me kings reign, and princes decree justice (H6664).” (Pro 8:15)
#16 “To do justice (H6666) and judgment is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.” (Pro 21:3)
#17 “If thou seest the oppression of the poor, and violent perverting of judgment and justice (H6664) in a province, marvel not at the matter: for he that is higher than the highest regardeth; and there be higher than they.” (Eccl 5:8)
This verse equates perversion of judgment with oppression of the poor. True justice, then, would be to relieve the oppression of the poor.
18 “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and justice (H6666) from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.” (Isa 9:7)
#19 “Thus saith the LORD, Keep ye judgment, and do justice (H6666): for my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed.” (Isa 56:1)
#20 “Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God: they ask of me the ordinances of justice (H6664); they take delight in approaching to God.” (Isa 58:2)
#21 “None calleth for justice (H6664), nor any pleadeth for truth: they trust in vanity, and speak lies; they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity.” (Isa 59:3)
#22 “Therefore is judgment far from us, neither doth justice (H6666) overtake us: we wait for light, but behold obscurity; for brightness, but we walk in darkness.” (Isa 59:9)
#23 “And judgment is turned away backward, and justice (H6666) standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter.” (Isa 59:14)
#24 “Shalt thou reign, because thou closest thyself in cedar? did not thy father eat and drink, and do judgment and justice (H6666), and then it was well with him?” (Jer 22:15)
#25 “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice (H6666) in the earth.” (Jer 23:5)
#26 “Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; As yet they shall use this speech in the land of Judah and in the cities thereof, when I shall bring again their captivity; The LORD bless thee, O habitation of justice (H6664), and mountain of holiness.” (Jer 31:23)
#27 “All that found them have devoured them: and their adversaries said, We offend not, because they have sinned against the LORD, the habitation of justice (H6664), even the LORD, the hope of their fathers.” (Jer 50:7)
#28 “Thus saith the Lord GOD; Let it suffice you, O princes of Israel: remove violence and spoil, and execute judgment and justice (H6666), take away your exactions from my people, saith the Lord GOD.” (Eze 45:9)
Now look at this verse:
“Yet say ye, Why? doth not the son bear the iniquity of the father? When the son hath done that which is lawful (H4941) and right (H6666), and hath kept all my statutes, and hath done them, he shall surely live.” (Eze 18:19)
In the verse above, the KJV translated the common word for “judgement” as “lawful” and the common word for “justice” as “right.” The verse could easily have been translated as “… the son hath done judgment and justice and hath kept …” And what had that son done? He had kept all of God’s statutes. The son had done judgment and justice but there is no indication that there was anything retributive about it. In all the verses examined, there are no mentions of retributive action or violence. Again, to do the just thing is simply to do the right thing.
Return to the Glossary entry for Justice