שופטים Judges

The ‘Parasha’ section begins in Deuteronomy 16:18 with the phrase ‘Thou shalt appoint judges’… Judges have the responsibility to judge justly, that is, to respect the rights of people, not to rely on appearances and not let themselves be corrupted by pots of wine. The role of judges is not an easy task because some situations may seem very difficult to judge when there is a cause relating to a murder, a dispute, an injury or a damage. There were serious consequences for those who did not listen to the orders of a sentence pronounced by a judge.

If the people desire a king to reign over them, instead of the judges, it will be a king chosen by the Lord. The people will take a king from among their brethren who does not amass great wealth and who doesn’t own a large number of horses and be tempted to return to Egypt. He will not have many wives, so that his heart will not be turned aside. Here’s what he’ll have to do:

Deuteronomy 17: 18 Now it shall come about when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself a copy of this law on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. 19 It shall be with him and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, by carefully observing all the words of this law and these statutes;

The law stipulated not to imitate the abominations of the nations who sacrificed children, who exercised the profession of soothsayer, astrologer, augur, magician, and enchanter, who evoked spirits or told fortunes, who consulted the dead. It was strictly forbidden to listen to these people.

Which leads us to ask this question: to whom should the listening be directed? In the context, whether judges, kings, or Moses whom God has established, these leaders are bound to submit to the Word of God because those who follow them will be influenced by them and will tend to listen to them.

The heart of this section is found in Deuteronomy 18:15. Moses addressing the people says: Deuteronomy 18:15 The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him!

This echoes Psalm 2:12, which invites us to embrace the Son, for fear that he’ll be angry, and we perish in our way. This symbolic act (embracing the Son) signifies a submission to him, an active listening, that of obedience.

In the New Testament, God the Father speaks audibly on rare occasions. We are held to pay great attention. Here is what happened during the transfiguration of the Messiah:

Matthew 17:5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!

The judges had a great responsibility, and they should not listen to the first comer. In Deuteronomy 19:15-18 it is mentioned that one witness was not enough against a man to prove a crime or a sin. In Deuteronomy 21:1-2 if a man was found slain, the elders and judges were to measure the distances from the corpse to the neighboring towns. We see this in crime and accident-scenes even today to determine a cause. He who judges must be clothed with much discernment.

We see an example of prayer from king Solomon for discernment in 1 Kings 3:9:

…give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours? 10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this.

Messiah Yeshua gave this command in: Matthew 7:1 Do not judge, or you too will be judged. The quality attached to this commandment is discernment.

Matthew 7:1-5 explained: Because of the old nature, the first instinct we have in a situation is to judge and we must be aware of this. The second thing we must consider is that our judgment is always harsher on others than on ourselves. The third thing is to analyze our own life and see if there are things we need to change. If it is a problem that we have already solved in our own life, we can offer our help, in all humility, to the other person if that person wishes. Aware of my own unworthiness, I must help my neighbor with love without condemning him. Always rely on God in prayer.

So, there is a difference between judgment and discernment: …solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Hebrews 5:14

The discerning person examines his own life. He who judges overlooks similar faults in himself. He who discerns verifies all the facts. One who judges forms opinions and then looks for evidence to support his preconceived idea. He who discerns will propose solutions, he will do so with love.

To conclude: We all have a responsibility to soak up (to absorb) the Word of God daily. In this section of the Parasha, twice God mentions not to imitate the abominations of other nations.

Let us rather imitate the believing Jews of Berea who examined the Scriptures daily to see if what they were told was correct or let us imitate the prophets, who made salvation the object of their research and their investigations, wanting to probe the time and circumstances marked by the Spirit of Christ who was in them, and who testified beforehand of the sufferings of Christ and the glory which would follow.