What is a Righteous (tzadiyq צַדִּיקִם) Person?
By Yochanan Zaqantov
When you think of a righteous person what do you think of? Is it a person who studies constantly? Does their effort make them righteous? Can one be too righteous? These are some of the things that we will be looking at in determining first what righteousness is and then what makes one righteous.
Since in Hebrew the nouns, adverbs, and adjectives all derive their meaning from the verb stem then lets look at the verb stem for what is translated in the Tanakh as righteous or righteousness.
Tzadaq (Tzadie-Dalet-Kof) which is reference number 6663 and is found on page 842 in the Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew English Lexicon (BDB) and on page 1062 in the new englishman’s Hebrew concordance (NEHC). It is the verb. Its general meaning is to do right.
26 Judah recognized them, and said, “She is more in the right (tzad’qah צָדְקָה) than I, inasmuch as I did not give her to my son Shelah.” And he was not intimate with her again.
Here we see Judah say that Tamar is more in the right than him.
10 The fear of Yehovah is pure, abiding forever; the judgments of Yehovah are true , righteous (tzad’qu צָדְקוּ) altogether,
Here we see that Fear (Awe) of Yehovah is something to be desired. That his judgments (keeping them) are true and righteous.
6 Against You alone have I sinned, and done what is evil in Your sight; so You are just (titz’daqתִּצְדַּק) in Your sentence, and right in Your judgment.
Here we see that David is repenting for the Evil he did to Uriah. He expresses to Yehovah that he is right in his sentence and just in his judgment.
2 Do not enter into judgment with Your servant, for before You no creature is in the right (lo yitz’daq לֹא־יִצְדַּק).
25 It is through Yehovah that all the offspring of Israel Have vindication (yitz’daqu יִצְדְּקוּ) and glory.”
Here we see that Yehovah will show all of Yisrael right.
52 Truly, you must bear the disgrace of serving as your sisters’ advocate: Since you have sinned more abominably than they, they appear righteous (titz’daqenah תִּצְדַּקְנָה) in comparison. So be ashamed and bear your disgrace, because you have made your sisters look righteous.
Jerusalem acted so wickedly that her sisters seemed right in comparison.
1 When there is a dispute between men and they go to law, and a decision is rendered declaring the one in the right (v’hatz’diyqu et-hatzadiyq
וְהִצְדִּיקוּ אֶת־הַצַּדִּיק) and the other in the wrong
Showing that tz’diyqu is right or righteous.
Melekhim Aleph/I Kings 8:31-32
31 “Whenever one man commits an offense against another, and the latter utters an imprecation to bring a curse upon him, and comes with his imprecation before Your altar in this House, 32 oh, hear in heaven and take action to judge Your servants, condemning him who is in the wrong and bringing down the punishment of his conduct on his head, vindicating [and to the declare right] him who is in the right by rewarding him according to his righteousness (ul’hatzediyq tzadiyq latet lo batzidedatoוּלְהַצְדִּיק צַדִּיק לָתֶת לוֹ כְּצִדְקָתוֹ).
The one in the right is righteous.
16 Judah replied, “What can we say to my lord? How can we plead, how can we prove our innocence [how can we declare right] (umah nitz’tadaq וּמַה־נִּצְטַדָּק)? Elohim has uncovered the crime of your servants. Here we are, then, slaves of my lord, the rest of us as much as he in whose possession the goblet was found.”
In front of Yosef, after the cup is discovered in Binyamin possession tries take on blame for the theft on all the brothers not knowing Yosef was doing this.
The Maculine noun related to Tzadaq is Tzedeq from the same stem root. It is reference number 6664. You can find this on page 841 in the BDB and on page 1063 in the NEHC.
It has the general meaning of right as in just.
Vayiqra/Leviticus 19:15, 36
15 You are not to commit corruption in justice; you are not to lift-up-in-favor the face of the poor, you are not to overly-honor the face of the great; with equity you are to judge (batzedeq tish’fot בְּצֶדֶק תִּשְׁפֹּט) your fellow!
35 You are not to commit corruption in justice, in measure, weight, or capacity; 36 scales of equity (tzedeq צֶדֶק), weighing-stones of equity (tzedeq צֶדֶק), an efa of equity (tzedeq צֶדֶק) and a hin of equity (tzedeq צֶדֶק) you shall have. I am Yehovah Eloheykha, who brought you out of the land of Egypt!
We are told to judge rightly. To use right or just scales and measurements.
16 I charged your magistrates at that time as follows, “Hear out your fellow men, and decide justly (zedeqצֶדֶק) between any man and a fellow Israelite or a stranger.
Don’t pick favorites when judging.
18 You shall appoint magistrates and officials for your tribes, in all the settlements that Yehovah Eloheykha is giving you, and they shall govern the people with due justice [with judgement right] (mish’pat zedeq מִשְׁפַּט־צֶדֶק). 19 You shall [not] judge unfairly : you shall show no partiality; you shall not take bribes, for bribes blind the eyes of the discerning and upset the plea of the just (viysalef dib’rey tzadiyqim
וִיסַלֵּף דִּבְרֵי צַדִּיקִם). 20 Justice, justice (tzedeq tzedeq צֶדֶק צֶדֶק) shall you pursue, that you may thrive and occupy the land that Yehovah Eloheykha is giving you.
Always judge rightly. It is interesting that while translated as Justice it is Righteousness we are to choose which includes justice.
3 For acquiring the discipline for success, Righteousness (tzedeq צֶדֶק), justice (Mish’pat), and equity;
To be successful one must act fairly, with righteousness and judgments.
9 You will then understand what is right (tzedeq צֶדֶק), just (Mish’pat), And equitable—every good course. 10 For wisdom will enter your mind And knowledge will delight you. 11 Foresight will protect you, And discernment will guard you.
Seeking out his ways (derekh) will give you understand which will let gather knowledge foresight and discernment making you wise.
Mishlei/Proverbs 8:6-8, 12-15
6 Listen, for I speak noble things; Uprightness comes from my lips; 7 My mouth utters truth; Wickedness is abhorrent to my lips. 8 All my words are just [in right] (batzedeq בְּצֶדֶק), None of them perverse or crooked.
12 “I, Wisdom, live with Prudence; I attain knowledge and foresight. 13 To fear Yehovah is to hate evil; I hate pride, arrogance, the evil way, And duplicity in speech. 14 Mine are counsel and resourcefulness; I am understanding; courage is mine. 15 Through me kings reign And rulers decree just [laws] (tzedeq צֶדֶק);
We should speak right and true things. We should hate wickedness. The ways of the wicked we should hate.
17 He who testifies faithfully tells the truth (tzedeq צֶדֶק), But a false witness, deceit.
Faithfully speaking utters right things.
9 Speak up, judge righteously (shefat-tzedeq שְׁפָט־צֶדֶק), Champion the poor and the needy.
Do right by the needy and poor but remember from before to not favor them in a judgment always judge right.
7 The path is level for the righteous (latzadiyq -6662 לַצַּדִּי) man; O Just One, You make smooth the course of the righteous (tzadiyq צַדִּיק). 8 For Your just ways, O Yehovah, we look to You; We long for the name by which You are called. 9 At night I yearn for You with all my being, I seek You with all the spirit within me. For when Your judgments are wrought on earth, The inhabitants of the world learn righteousness (tzedeq צֶדֶק). 10 But when the scoundrel is spared, he learns not righteousness (tzedeq צֶדֶק); In a place of integrity, he does wrong— He ignores the majesty of Yehovah.
The righteous follow the way of Yehovah which are his mish’patim, chuqqim, and mitzvot. The sum of which is his torah.
Yeshayahu/Isaiah 45: 8, 18-19
8 Pour down, O skies, from above! Let the heavens rain down victory! Let the earth open up and triumph sprout, Yes, let vindication spring up [let pour righteousness] (yizalu-tzedeq יִזְּלוּ־צֶדֶק): I Yehovah have created it.
18 For thus said Yehovah, The Creator of heaven who alone is Elohim, Who formed the earth and made it, Who alone established it—He did not create it a waste, But formed it for habitation: I am Yehovah, and there is none else. 19 I did not speak in secret, At a site in a land of darkness; I did not say to the stock of Jacob, “Seek Me out in a wasteland”—I Yehovah, who foretell reliably [speak righteousness] (dober tzedeq דֹּבֵר צֶדֶק), Who announce what is true.
Yehovah creates and speaks righteousness.
Yeshayahu/Isaiah 51:1, 7
1 Listen to Me, you who pursue justice [righteousnees] (tzedeq צֶדֶק), You who seek Yehovah: Look to the rock you were hewn from, To the quarry you were dug from.
7 Listen to Me, you who care for the right (tzedeq צֶדֶק), O people who lay My instruction to heart! Fear not the insults of men, And be not dismayed at their jeers;
Persue righteousness and lay his torah upon your heart/ Make it a part of your very being. Like a walking torah.
3 Seek Yehovah, All you humble of the land Who have fulfilled His law; Seek righteousness (tzedeq צֶדֶק), Seek humility. Perhaps you will find shelter on the day of Yehovah’s anger.
Seek humility and be humble and fulfill his statues.
Nest, lets look at the femine noun that related to Zadaq which is Zadaqah. It is reference number 6666 and is found in the BDB on page 842 and in the NEHC oin page 1063-1064.
6 And because he put his trust in Yehovah, He reckoned it to his merit [righteousness] (tzadaqah צְדָקָה).
We should put our trust in him.
19 For I have singled him out, that he may instruct his children and his posterity to keep the way of Yehovah by doing what is just [justice] (Mish’pat) and right [righteousness] (tzadaqah צְדָקָה) , in order that Yehovah may bring about for Abraham what He has promised him.”
The importance that a righteous person will teach his children Yehovah’s way.
33 In the future when you go over my wages, let my honesty [my righteousness] (tzid’qatiy צִדְקָתִי) toward you testify for me: if there are among my goats any that are not speckled or spotted or any sheep that are not dark-colored, they got there by theft.”
Dealing honest in our transactions should be our goal.
13 you must return the pledge to him at sundown, that he may sleep in his cloth and bless you; and it will be to your merit [righteousness] (tzadaqah צְדָקָה) before Yehovah Eloheykha.
Showing Mercy like Yehovah shows us is an important character of a righteous person.
21 He chose for himself the best, For there is the portion of the revered chieftain, Where the heads of the people come. He executed Yehovah‘s judgments [righteousness] (tzid’qat צִדְקַת) And His decisions (umish’patayv – and his judgements) for Israel.
11 Louder than the sound of archers, There among the watering places Let them chant the gracious [righteous] (tzid’qot צִדְקוֹת) acts of Yehovah, His gracious [righteous] (tzid’qot צִדְקֹת) deliverance of Israel. Then did the people of Yehovah March down to the gates!
Yehovah acts righteously too.
Shemu’el Bet/II Samuel 22:21, 25
21 Yehovah rewarded me according to my merit [righteousness] (katzid’qatiy כְּצִדְקָתִי), He requited the cleanness of my hands.
25 And Yehovah has requited [to] my merit [righteousness] (batzid’qatiy כְּצִדְקָתִי), According to my purity in His sight.
Yehovah judges us whether we are righteous or not.
Melekhim aleph/I Kings 8:31-32
31 “Whenever one man commits an offense against another, and the latter utters an imprecation to bring a curse upon him, and comes with his imprecation before Your altar in this House, 32 oh, hear in heaven and take action to judge Your servants, condemning him who is in the wrong and bringing down the punishment of his conduct on his head, vindicating him who is in the right by rewarding him according to his righteousness (katzid’qato כְּצִדְקָתוֹ).
Judges right from wrong and reward accordingly.
Melekhim aleph/I Kings 10:9
9 Praised be Yehovah Eloheykha, who delighted in you and set you on the throne of Israel. It is because of Yehovah’s everlasting love for Israel that He made you king to administer justice (mish’pat - judgement) and righteousness (utz’daqah וּצְדָקָה).”
Here Queen Sheba speaks these word to Melekh Shlomo about his Elohim and him being on the throne.
20 I said to them in reply, “The Elohim of Heaven will grant us success, and we, His servants, will start building. But you have no share or claim [right] (utz’daqah וּצְדָקָה) or stake in Jerusalem!”
9 O Lord, lead me in Your righteousness (batzid’qatekha בְצִדְקָתֶךָ) because of my watchful foes; make Your way straight before me.
We should ask Yehovah to guide us in his ways of righteousness.
31 Offspring shall serve Him; Yehovah’s fame shall be proclaimed [and declare his righteousness] (v’yagiydu tzid’qato וְיַגִּידוּ צִדְקָתוֹ) to the generation 32 to come; they shall tell of His beneficence to people yet to be born, for He has acted.
We should tell our children of Yehovah and all the wonderful things he has done for us. How his ways are righteous.
5 He shall carry away a blessing from Yehovah, [and] a just reward [righteousness] (utzadaqah וּצְדָקָה) from Elohim, his deliverer.
5 He loves what is right [righteousness] (tzadaqah צְדָקָה) and just [judgement – umish’pat]; the earth is full of Yehovah’s faithful care.
Yehovah loves Righteousness and a state of living.
Mishlei/Proverbs 11:4-6, 18-19
4 Wealth is of no avail on the day of wrath, But righteousness (utz’daqah וּצְדָקָה) saves from death. 5 The righteousness (tzid’qat צִדְקַת) of the blameless man smooths his way, But the wicked man is felled by his wickedness. 6 The righteousness (tzid’qat צִדְקַת) of the upright saves them, But the treacherous are trapped by their malice.
18 The wicked man earns illusory wages, But he who sows righteousness (tzedaqah צְדָקָה) has a true reward. 19 [Likewise – Ken] Righteousness (tzadaqah צְדָקָה) is a prop of life, But to pursue evil leads to death.
Great wealth will not save you because in quickly disappears. Yet Righteous saves us by allowing ourselves to come under Yehovah’s protection.
15 He who walks in righteousness (tzedaqot צְדָקוֹת), Speaks uprightly, Spurns profit from fraudulent dealings, Waves away a bribe instead of grasping it, Stops his ears against listening to infamy, Shuts his eyes against looking at evil—
Here we see some characteristics of a righteous person. The text here in Hebrew says one who narrows his ears to hear bad testimony. Shutting his eyes in that he takes no part in it. Waves away the bribe is more literally shakes away.
Yermiyahu/Jeremiah 9:22-23 (23-24)
22 Thus said Yehovah: Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom; Let not the strong man glory in his strength; Let not the rich man glory in his riches. 23 But only in this should one glory: In his earnest devotion to Me. For I Yehovah act with kindness, Justice, and equity [righteously] (utz’daqah וּצְדָקָה) in the world; For in these I delight
Yehovah delights (find favorable) kindness, justice and righteousness
Yermiyahu/Jeremiah 22:2-4, 15-16
2 Say: “Hear the word of Yehovah: O king of Judah, you who sit on the throne of David, and your courtiers and your subjects who enter these gates! 3 Thus said Yehovah: Do what is just and righteousness (utz’daqah וּצְדָקָה); rescue from the defrauder him who is robbed; do not wrong the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow; commit no lawless act, and do not shed the blood of the innocent in this place. 4 For if you fulfill this command, then through the gates of this palace shall enter kings of David’s line who sit upon his throne, riding horse-drawn chariots, with their courtiers and their subjects.
A warning to the line of David.
15 Do you think you are more a king Because you compete in cedar? Your father ate and drank And dispensed justice and righteousness (utz’daqah וּצְדָקָה)—Then all went well with him. 16 He upheld the rights of the poor and needy—Then all was well. That is truly heeding Me.
How did David act. Be doing righteously we are heeding him.
5 Thus, if a man is righteous (tzadiyq – 6662 צַדִּיק) and does what is just and right (utz’daqah וּצְדָקָה): 6 If he has not eaten on the mountains or raised his eyes to the fetishes of the House of Israel; if he has not defiled another man’s wife or approached a menstruous woman; 7 if he has not wronged anyone; if he has returned the debtor’s pledge to him and has taken nothing by robbery; if he has given bread to the hungry and clothed the naked; 8 if he has not lent at advance interest or exacted accrued interest; if he has abstained from wrongdoing and executed true justice between man and man; 9 if he has followed My laws and kept My rules and acted honestly—he is righteous (tzadiyq צַדִּיק). Such a man shall live—declares Adoni Yehovah.
19 and now you ask, “Why has not the son shared the burden of his father’s guilt?” But the son has done what is righteousness (utz’daqah וּצְדָקָה) and just, and has carefully kept all My laws: he shall live!
20 The person who sins, he alone shall die. A child shall not share the burden of a parent’s guilt, nor shall a parent share the burden of a child’s guilt; the righteousness (tzid’qat צִדְקַת) of the righteous (hatzadiyq הַצַּדִּיק) shall be accounted to him alone, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be accounted to him alone. 21 Moreover, if the wicked one repents of all the sins that he committed and keeps all My statues (chuqotay) and does judgment (mish’pat) and righteousness (utz’daqah וּצְדָקָה), he shall live; he shall not die. 22 None of the transgressions he committed shall be remembered against him; because of the righteousness (batzid’qato בְּצִדְקָתוֹ) he has practiced, he shall live. 23 Is it my desire that a wicked person shall die?—says Adoni Yehovah. It is rather that he shall turn back from his ways and live.
24 So, too, if a righteous (tzadiyq צַדִּיק) [person] turns away from his righteousness (mitzid’qato מִצִּדְקָתוֹ) and does wrong, practicing the very abominations that the wicked person practiced, shall he live? None of [his] righteous (tzid’qotayv צִדְקֹתָיו) deeds that he did shall be remembered; because of the treachery he has practiced and the sins he has committed—because of these, he shall die.
25 Yet you say, “The way of Yehovah is unfair.” Listen, O House of Israel: Is My way unfair? It is your ways that are unfair! 26 When a righteous (tzadiyq צַדִּיק) [person] turns away from his righteousness (mitzid’qato מִצִּדְקָתוֹ) and does wrong, he shall die for it; he shall die for the wrong he has done. 27 And if a wicked person turns back from the wickedness that he practiced and does judgment and righteousness (utz’daqah וּצְדָקָה) , such a person shall save his life. 28 Because he took heed and turned back from all the transgressions that he committed, he shall live; he shall not die.
This is the best place to find many of the characteristics Yehovah is looking for in a righteous person.
12 Now, O mortal, say to your fellow countrymen: The righteousness (tzidaqat צִדְקַת) of the righteous (hatzadiyq הַצַּדִּיק) shall not save him when he transgresses, nor shall the wickedness of the wicked cause him to stumble when he turns back from his wickedness. The righteous (v’tzadiyq וְצַדִּיק) shall not survive through [his righteousness] when he sins. 13 When I say to the righteous (letzadiyq לַצַּדִּיק) “He shall surely live,” and, relying on his righteousness (tzid’qato צִדְקָתוֹ), he commits iniquity, none of his righteous (tzid’qotayv צִדְקֹתָיו) deeds shall be remembered; but for the iniquity that he has committed he shall die. 14 So, too, when I say to the wicked, “You shall die,” and he turns back from his sinfulness and does judgment and righteousness (utz’daqah וּצְדָקָה)—15 if the wicked man restores a pledge, makes good what he has taken by robbery, follows the laws (statues) of life, and does not commit iniquity—he shall live, he shall not die. 16 None of the sins that he committed shall be remembered against him; since he does judgment and righteousness (utz’daqah וּצְדָקָה), he shall live.
17 Your fellow countrymen say, “The way of Yehovah is unfair.” But it is their way that is unfair! 18 When a righteous (tzadiyq צַדִּיק) man turns away from his righteous deeds and commits iniquity, he shall die for it. 19 And when a wicked man turns back from his wickedness and does judgment and righteousness (utz’daqah וּצְדָקָה), it is he who shall live by virtue of these things.
Some more references to what is a righteous person.
Now the adjective form from the verb Zadaq is Tzadiq. It is reference number 6662 and found on page 843 in the BDB and on page 1061 of the NEHC. It has the general meaning of righteousness.
9 This is the line of Noah.—Noah was a righteous (tzadiyq צַדִּיק) man; he was blameless in his age; Noah walked with Elohim.—
1 Then Yehovah said to Noah, “Go into the ark, with all your household, for you alone have I found righteous (tzadiyq צַדִּיק) before Me in this generation.
Noach was a righteous man.
1 You must not carry false rumors; you shall not join hands with the guilty to act as a malicious witness: 2 You shall neither side with the mighty to do wrong—you shall not give perverse testimony in a dispute so as to pervert it in favor of the mighty—3 nor shall you show deference to a poor man in his dispute. 4 When you encounter your enemy’s ox or ass wandering, you must take it back to him.5 When you see the ass of your enemy lying under its burden and would refrain from raising it, you must nevertheless raise it with him.
6 You shall not subvert the rights of your needy in their disputes. 7 Keep far from a false charge; do not bring death on those who are innocent and the righteous (v’tzadiyq וְצַדִּיק), for I will not acquit the wrongdoer. 8 Do not take bribes, for bribes blind the clear-sighted and upset the pleas of those who are righteous (tzadiyqim צַדִּיקִים). 9 You shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the feelings of the stranger, having yourselves been strangers in the land of Egypt.
More characteristics of a righteous person.
8 Or what great nation has laws (statues – chuqim חֻקִּים) and rules (judgments – umish’patimוּמִשְׁפָּטִים) as perfect (righteous – tzadiqim צַדִּיקִים) as all this Teaching (kikol hatorah כְּכֹל הַתּוֹרָה) that I set before you this day?
Here we see that having and keeping all the statues, judgments, and mitzvot of torah makes one righteous. The nations will notice this.
19 You shall not judge unfairly (mish’pat-tzedeq): you shall show no partiality; you shall not take bribes, for bribes blind the eyes of the discerning and upset the plea of the just (righteous – tzadiyqim צַדִּיקִם). 20 Justice, justice shall you pursue, that you may thrive and occupy the land that Yehovah Eloheykha is giving you.
Strive for true justice and righteousness.
So now that we have read all these, what is a Righteous Person from all these sources:
A Righteous Person:
Some of these may overlap but this gives a list of things that makes one righteous according to Tanakh.