THE NAMES OF GOD
by Nathan Stone (1944)
THE NAME Jehovah-Tsidkenu means Jehovah our righteolisness.
It appears in Jeremiah's prophecy of a "righteous Branch" and a
"King" who is to appear; "and this is his name whereby he shall
be called, Jehovah our Righteousness" (Jer. 23:5,6).
THE OCCASION OF THE PROPHECY
When Jeremiah uttered this prophecy, the. kingdom of Judah
was hastening to its fall. More than a hundred years before, the
ten tribes of the kingdom of Israel had been taken captive never
to return. But apparently Judah had learned nothing from this
lesson, and it sinned perhaps even more grievously than its
sister kingdom in the north. Jeremiah's ministry began during the
reign of the good king Josiah. Till this time good kings and bad
kings, reformations and counterreformations had succeeded each
other, a sad reflection upon the unstable spiritual condition of
the people and their rulers, and revealing a downward moral and
spiritual trend which could only end in disaster. The history of
the period of the Judges appears to repeat itself here. Jehovah
in His goodness and patience raised up pious and devout kings to
succeed unrighteous, wicked kings, but it failed to arrest their
The good king Josiah, who had followed the particularly
wicked and cruel Manasseh and Amon, instituted sweeping reforms
and a great spiritual revival which were brought to an abrupt end
by his unfortunate and untimely death. His successors swept them
all away. Their doings may be summed up in that familiar formula,
which might well have served as an epitaph for them all - "he did
evil in the sight of Jehovah." Conditions went from bad to worse
spiritually, morally, materially. Even the priests, as well as
the princes and people, polluted the very house of the Lord in
Jerusalem, practicing every abomination of the heathen round
about (Ezek. 8). The land was full of oppression and violence,
political intrigue and unrest. Jehovah's warnings went unheeded:
His messengers the prophets were mocked and despised and misused
"until the wrath of the Lord arose against his people, till there
was no remedy" (2 Chron. 36:16). Even at the time of Josiah's
death it was already too late, for "the Lord turned not from the
fierceness of his great wrath, wherewith his anger was kindled
against Judah, because of all the provocations that Manasseh had
provoked him withal. And the Lord said, "I will remove Judah also
out of my sight, as I have removed Israel. and will cast off this
city of Jerusalem which I have chosen, and the house of which I
said, My name shall be there" (2 Kings 23:26,27). Judah's day of
grace had already expired.
Jeremiah predicted the captivity of Judah and counseled
submission to Babylon, the instrument of Jehovah's judgment
against Judah. But would not this mean the defeat of God's own
purpose and promise! Had He not promised to establish David's
kingdom and throne forever (2 Sam. 7:16,17)! Jehovah had promised
that, and He would keep the promise that there should never fail
David a man to sit upon his throne (I Kings 2:4), even though it
was to be fulfilled only on condition that David's descendants
would walk before Jehovah "in truth with all their heart and with
all their soul." For Jeremiah predicted not only that Israel
would return from captivity and be restored to its land, but that
Jehovah would raise up to David a Righteous Branch, a King who
should reign and prosper and do judgment and justice in the
earth, and bring peace and security to Israel, and who should be
called Jehovah our Righteousness.
There is a striking and significant similarity between the
name of this Righteous Branch and King of Jeremiah's prophecy and
the name of Judah's last king "Zedekiah," which means the
righteousness of Jehovah. His name had originally been Mattaniah,
which means the gift of Jehovah. Strange to say, his name had
been changed to Zedekiah by the king of Babylon. Was it a
scathing rebuke by Nebuchadnezzar of Judah's defection from its
God? Perhaps it was intended to vindicate the justice and
righteousness of Jehovah in all that had befallen this people,
and the judgment about to fall upon them. Perhaps it was a
reminder of what might have been. For Israel had steadily and
determinedly trod the downward path of retrogression from its
God, occasionally, through Jehovah's mercy, halting and retracing
a few steps, only to turn back again. "They have turned unto me
the back, and not the face" (Jer. 32:33). They despised His
provision of redemption as Jehovah-jireh. Consequently He could
not be to them Jehovah-rophe, who heals. They were a people, as
Isaiah says, without soundness from the sole of the foot to the
crown of the head, full of open wounds, bruises, and putrefying
sores (Isa. 1:6). Without Jehovah-nissi, their banner, they were
defeated at every turn. Refusing to sanctify themselves to
Jehovah-M'Kaddesh, their sanctifier, they became corrupt and
degenerate. Ezekiel sees their elders in the very Temple
worshiping creeping things and abominable beasts (Ezek. 8:10,
11). Forsaking Jehovah-shalom, their peace, they were torn by
internal dissension and violence, and subjected by outward
aggression and conquest.
It must have been in the reign of Zedekiah that the great
prophecy of Jehovah-tsidkenu was given. Certainly the prophecy of
Jeremiah 33:16, which speaks of Jerusalem as Jehovah-tsidkenu,
because of the presence there of Jehovah-tsidkenu, was made in
Zedekiah's reign. And what a striking contrast is here presented!
All that Judah's kings should have been as representatives of
Jehovah, at least typically, and as summed up in the name of
Judah's last king, Zedekiah (the righteousness of Jehovah), this
Righteous Branch, and King of David's line, would be. And in Him,
as Jeremiah declares in 33:6-26, Judah would be once more
redeemed, healed, cleansed, victorious, at peace and made
righteous. For the nature of His kingdom was to be spiritual
rather than political and its chief characteristic righteousness,
which was to be not of themselves but of that. King who should be
MEANING AND USE OF THE TERM "TSEDEK"
The word tsidkenu is derived from tsedek-righteousness. It
meant originally to be stiff or straight. There is certainly no
more significant word in the Old Testament. The Hebrew word
cannot be adequately translated by any one English word. It
signifies God's dealings with men under the ideas of
righteousness, justification, and acquittal.
It is applied to the outward obligations and relationships
of men. The Book of Leviticus, where Jehovah is revealed as
M'Kaddesh who sanctifies and demands sanctification of life, the
book which reveals the basis of approach and manner of worship,
also reveals the standards of right and just relationships among
men. "Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment ... in weight,
or in measure. Just balances, just weights ... shall ye have: I
am Jehovah your God ..." (Lev. 19:35,36). In Deuteronomy 25:15
such a righteous practice is one of the conditions of prosperity
and stay in their land.
Among the ancient Romans justice was represented by a person
with a pair of balanced scales in her hand. Thus Job pleads: "Let
me be weighed in an even balance," or balance of righteousness,
"that God may know mine integrity" (31:6). The psalmist pictures
all men, both high and low, as going up when laid on the balances
(62:9). It is a coming short in the righteous practices which men
owe God even in their relationships toward one another.
Modern orthodox Jewry still conceives of God as weighing
their good deeds over against the bad. On new year's day the
process begins and on the Day of Atonement it ends and judgment
is sealed for the year. The ten days in between are spent in a
desperate effort by charity, prayer, and fasting to tip the
balances in one's favor, although there is never certainty as to
which way it may have gone.
The word tsedek is also used of a full weight or measure
toward God in the spiritual sense. Thus Israel was commanded to
walk in the paths of righteousness and to offer the sacrifices of
righteousness, putting their trust in the Lord (Ps. 4:5). These
sacrifices are described also as a broken spirit and a contrite
heart (Ps. 51:17), because of failure to measure up to such a
full standard of righteousness; for as Job says: "How shall a man
be righteous with God?" (9:2).
It is used in the sense of rendering justice and making
right. The judges and officers of Israel were to judge the people
with righteous judgment (Dent. 16:18). They were especially
warned against perverting righteous judgment, but they justify or
make righteous the wicked for a reward, says Isaiah (5:23). They
decree unrighteous decrees (10:1). Isaiah pictures Jehovah as
looking for righteousness in judgment, but finding the cry of the
The word is used hundreds of times in the Scriptures both as
right, righteous, righteousness, and also as just, justify,
declare innocent. Human language is at best insufficient to
convey the full comprehension of the ideas of righteousness and
justification contained in this word. It is only as we see it
exhibited in God's character and acts that we see it clearly.
JEHOVAH THE SOURCE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS
Jehovah is Himself perfect righteousness; He is the
perfectly righteous One. Jehovah is a Tsadik-a righteous One.
says the psalmist (129:4). As an El-Tsadik - a righteous God,
there is none to compare with Him, says Isaiah (45:21) . He is
the Rock whose work is perfect, all of whose ways are justice.
Tsadik-righteous and right is He (Deut. 32:4). His righteousness
is an everlasting righteousness and His testimonies are righteous
forever (Ps. 119:142,144). Righteousness and justice are the very
foundations of His throne (Ps. 89:14; 97:2). Therefore in all His
dealings He is righteous.
In contrast to Jehovah's perfect righteousness is man's lack
of righteousness and the evil of his ways. The constant testimony
of Scripture is to this effect. "What is man that he should be
clean? And he which is born of woman, that he should be
righteous?" asks Eliphaz of Job (15:14). The psalmist represents
Jehovah as looking in vain from heaven upon the children of men
to see if there be any that understand and do good. And the
verdict is: "There is none that doeth good, no, not one" (Ps.
14:3). The apostle Paul, quoting this very passage in the New
Testament, says, "There is none righteous, no, not one" (Rom.
3:20), and he concludes that "all have sinned, and come short of
the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23).
Israel is sharply reminded that not because it has any
righteousness of its own does Jehovah give them the land to
possess. On the contrary, they are a stiffnecked and sinful
people. It is only because He would perform His promise to the
fathers and carry out His purpose that they inherit the land
(Deut. 9:4-6). The prophet Isaiah regards as filthy rags what he
had once considered his personal righteousnesses (Isa. 64:6). And
that righteousness of the law of which Paul had once been so
proud, and which he considered as great merit and gain, he came
to regard as refuse (Phil. 3:4-9).
Acknowledging Jehovah's righteousness, the Old Testament
saints at the same time acknowledged their own guilt. "O Lord,
righteousness belongeth to thee, but unto us confusion of faces
... to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and
unto all Israel ... because of their trespass that they have
trespassed against thee ... because we have sinned against thee"
(Dan. 9:7,8). The Old Testament makes it abundantly clear that a
righteousness acceptable to God is impossible of attainment by
man alone because of ... sin. "The heart is (the word "is" is not
in the Hebrew - should read 'the heart can be' - Keith Hunt)
deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly corrupt: who
can know it?" (Jer. 17:9, A.S.V.). "Behold, I was brought forth
in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me" (Ps. 51:5,
A.S.V.). (This has nothing to do with inherited sin, which is a
false doctrine. It means we are born with sin all around us -
Keith Hunt) "How then can man be righteous before God? Or how can
he be clean that is born of a woman?" (Job 25:4). (And that
simply means "all have sinned" as Paul was inspired to write -
Keith Hunt) And the word for man here denotes frailty, weakness.
Jehovah, who is perfectly righteous, cannot overlook this lack of
righteousness in man. For He "will by no means clear the guilty."
These words follow that remarkable expression of His desire and
purpose to forgive sin and transgression found in Exodus 34:6, 7.
"I will not justify the wicked" (Exod. 23:7). The sinner is
regarded as guilty in God's sight. The soul that sinneth shall
die; the wages of sin is death. And it is clear that none is
capable in himself of a righteousness acceptable to God. It is
obviously impossible for a fallen creature to rise to the
standard of a perfect obedience. "It is quite impossible that any
man can in himself be right who does not render pure, perfect,
perpetual, and personal obedience to the precepts of God's law,
since it is inconceivable that God could be satisfied with
1 Whitelaw, Jehovah-Jesus, p.94.
How then can man be acquitted of his unrighteousness and
become righteous before God?
Only Jehovah has provided such a righteousness for man. It
was clearly understood by the spiritually discerning even in Old
Testament times that such a righteousness must be provided by God
Himself. "Surely, shall one say, in Jehovah have I righteousness
... to him shall men come ... In Jehovah shall all the seed of
Israel be justified ..." (Isa. 45:24, 25). "He is near that
justifieth me; who will contend with me?" (Isa. 50:8). Isaiah
further predicts that no weapon formed against Israel is to
prosper; every tongue rising up in judgment against her is to be
condemned because her righteousness is of Jehovah (Isa. 54:17).
It is this righteousness of Jehovah which the prophet further
predicts is to go forth like brightness from Jerusalem, and, as
the chief characteristic and glory of a redeemed Israel, will
attract the nations (Isa. 62:1,2).
But how was this righteousness of Jehovah to be applied to
men? Again the spiritually minded of the Old Testament
dispensation clearly understood on the one hand that the penalty
of death which his sin had incurred must be borne by an innocent
sufferer and that, on the other hand, the innocence or
righteousness of the sufferer must be applied to him. It is only
on this basis that God could declare the guilty innocent and the
unrighteous righteous. Only so could Balaam understand that
Jehovah "hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen
perverseness in Israel" (Num. 23:21). Only so could Jeremiah say:
"In those days, and in that time, saith Jehovah, the iniquity of
Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none: and the sins
of Judah, and they shall not be found: for I will pardon them
..." (50:20). For they were to be borne by an innocent one. Such
an innocent person is predicted in the Scriptures.
Isaiah spoke of a Servant who should be wounded for our
transgressions and be bruised for our iniquities. Upon Him
Jehovah would lay the iniquity of us all and would make His soul
an offering for sin. This Servant is called "my righteous
servant" who should justify many by "bearing their iniquities."
But who could that one be? Surely he could be no mere man, for
there is no man righteous, and "none can by any means redeem his
brother, nor give to God a ransom for him" (Ps. 49:7).
Apart from the fact that such a substitute and sufferer must
of necessity be perfectly righteous himself and therefore more
than man, the Servant of Isaiah 53 is also that Servant of Isaiah
49:7, the Holy One. He is identified by Zechariah as the Servant
who is the Branch (Zech. 3:8-10). And that Branch - is the
righteous Branch of David and the King of Jeremiah 23:5 who is
also Jehovah-tsidkenu-Jehovah our Righteousness.
"Thus while the Scriptures of the Old Testament took away from
the Hebrew any hope he might have in himself, they concentrated
his expectations on the living God who had specially revealed
Himself to Israel." 2
Now Israel understood that punishment for sin does not of
itself cleanse a sinner, but that the righteousness of the
innocent sufferer must also be reckoned to the sinner if he is to
stand before Jehovah acquitted not only of penalty but of guilt.
A glimpse into this marvelous doctrine of God's grace was given
to men from the begin
2 Girdlestone, Old Testament Synonyms, p.260.
ning. Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him for
righteousness (Gen. 15:6). "Thou hast forgiven the inquity of thy
people," says the psalmist, and adds, "thou hast covered all
their sin" (Ps. 85:2). And Isaiah tells us how: "I will greatly
rejoice in Jehovah ... for ... he hath covered me with the robe
of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with a garland,
and a bride adorneth herself with jewels" (61:10, A.S.V.).
JESUS, OUR JEHOVAH-TSIDKENU
The manifestation and provision of that righteousness of
Jehovah which alone can make men acceptable to God was fully
realized in the Lord Jesus Christ, our Jehovah-tsidkenu. In His
person, character, and work as the suffering, righteous Servant
of Jehovah, He was worthy to be substituted for Israel and for
us. As the Righteous Branch of David He identified Himself with
Israel and with us so that He could truly represent us before
God, and that in Him it could be said we have truly met our
obligations to God. Yet as Jehovah our Righteousness He is also
distinct from us so as not to be involved in our guilt.
Jesus is Himself the Righteous One. In his great sermon at
Pentecost, Peter accuses his hearers of denying the Holy One and
the Just or Righteous (Acts 3:14). Hebrews 1:8,9 says of Him:
"Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever: a scepter of
righteousness is the scepter of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved
righteousness and hated iniquity." This is a quotation of several
Old Testament passages of which Psalm 11:7 reads, "For the
righteous Jehovah loveth righteousness." "He, in human nature,
lived up to the perfect standard of the divine law, so that His
righteousness was of the same complexion and character as the
righteousness of God." Still more, as one with the Father, His
righteousness was the perfect manifestation of the righteousness
And then He is made righteousness to us. "Of him are ye in
Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and
righteousness ..." (I Cor. 1:30). And this He did on His part by
paying the penalty for sin in His death for us upon the cross.
"For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we
might be made the righteousness of God in him" (2 Cor. 5:21). And
Peter adds: "Because Christ also suffered for sins once, the
righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God;
being put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the Spirit" (I
Peter 3:18, A.S.V.). What we could not do for ourselves, Christ
did for us. Being Himself the Lawgiver. er. the Law had no claim
upon Him. As perfect, He perfectly obeyed the Law for us, and
became "the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that
believeth" (Rom. 10:4). In His death for us as a perfect and
worthy sacrifice, He took our guilt and paid our penalty.
So on our part His righteousness is bestowed upon us as a
free gift through faith. Israel's great error was in seeking to
establish a righteousness of its own and in not submitting,
itself to the righteousness of God (Rom. 10:3). This is the great
argument of Paul in Romans 3, in which. establishing the
unrighteousness of man, he presents the righteousness of God as
His grace in redemption toward and us, closing in verse 26 with
3 Op. cii.. p.269
words: "To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that
he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in
Jesus." In Philippians 3:9, applying the argument to his own
experience, he places all his hopes on being "found in him, not
having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that
which is of the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of
God by faith." In Romans 5, Paul argues again that as our
identity with Adam brings us under sin and death, so our identity
with Christ makes us the recipients of the free gift of His
righteousness and life (Rom. 5:16-19).
Finally, the practical effect of the bestowal of the gift of
His righteousness is to set our feet on the path of righteousness
in conformity to His will whose ways are all righteousness, who
loves righteousness and hates iniquity. We are to put on the new
man which is created in righteousness (Eph. 4:24), and being made
free from sin, we have become the servants of righteousness (Rom.
Jehovah-tsidkenu! Wonderful name! It reveals to us the
method and the measure of our acceptance before God; cleansed in
the blood of the Lamb; clothed with the white robe of the
righteousness of Him who is Jehovah-our righteousness-even our
Lord Jesus Christ.
I once was a stranger to grace and to God,
I knew not my danger, and felt not my load;
Though friends spoke in rapture of Christ on the tree
Jehovah-tsidkenu was nothing to me.
When free grace awoke me, by light from on high,
Then legal fears shook me, I trembled to die:
No refuge, no safety, in self could I see;
Jehovah-tsidkenu my Saviour must be.
My terrors all vanished before the sweet name; My guilty
fears banished, with boldness I came To drink at the
fountain, life-giving and free: Jehovah-tsidkenu is all
things to me. 4
4 Whitelaw, Jehovah-Jesus, pp.102,103.
To be continued