Command (To) - Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old Testament Words
Usage Number: 1
Strong's Number: H6680
Original Word: sawâ
Usage Notes: "to command." This verb occurs only in biblical Hebrew (in all periods) and imperial Aramaic (starting from around 500 b.c.). Biblical occurrences number around 485.
Essentially, this verb refers to verbal communication by which a superior "orders" or "commands" a subordinate. The word implies the content of what was said. Pharaoh "ordered" ("commanded") his men concerning Abraham, and they escorted Abraham and his party out of Egypt (Gen. 12:20). This "order" defines an action relevant to a specific situation. Sawâ can also connote "command" in the sense of the establishment of a rule by which a subordinate is to act in every recurring similar situation. In the Garden of Eden (the first appearance of this word in the Bible), God "commanded" ("set down the rule"): "Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:…" (Gen. 2:16). In this case, the word does not contain the content of the action but focuses on the action itself. One of the recurring formulas in the Bible is "X did all that Y commanded him", e.g., Ruth "did according to all that her mother-in-law bade her" (Ruth 3:6). This means that she carried out Naomi's "orders." A similar formula, "X did just as Y commanded," is first found in Num. 32:25, where the sons of Reuben and Gad say to Moses that they "will do as my lord commandeth." These formulas indicate the accomplishment of, or the intention to accomplish, the "orders" of a superior.
The verb sawâ can be used of a commission or charge, such as the act of "commanding," "telling," or "sending" someone to do a particular task. In Gen. 32:4, Jacob "commissioned" his servants to deliver a particular message to his brother Esau. They acted as his emissaries. Jacob commissioned (literally, "commanded") his sons to bury him in the cave of Machpelah (Gen. 49:30), and then he died. This "command" constituted a last will and testament, an obligation or duty. The verb again indicates, therefore, appointing someone to be one's emissary. The most frequent subject of this verb is God. However, He is not to be questioned or "commanded" to explain the work of His hands (Isa. 45:11). He tells Israel that His "commands" are unique, requiring an inner commitment and not just external obedience, as the commands of men do (Gen. 29:13). His "ordering" is given to Moses from above the mercy seat (Exod. 25:22) and from His "commands" at Sinai (Lev. 7:38; cf. Lev. 17:1ff.). At other times when He "commands," the thing simply occurs; His word is active and powerful (Psa. 33:9). He also issues "orders" through and to the prophets (Jer. 27:4) who explain, apply, and speak His "commands" (Jer. 1:17).