Deuteronomy 16:18
Judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates, which the LORD thy God giveth thee, throughout thy tribes: and they shall judge the people with just judgment.
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(18) Judges and officers.—A fresh section of the book, as read in the synagogues, begins with these words.

The land is now considered as the seat of the Kingdom of Jehovah, to the end of ch. 18. See Introduction for a complete analysis, and comp. Joshua 23:2, which shows that these magistrates were already appointed.

Deuteronomy 16:18. Judges — Chief magistrates, to examine and determine causes and differences. Officers — Who were subordinate to the other, to bring causes and persons before them, to acquaint people with the sentence of the judges, and to execute their sentence. Thy gates — Thy cities, which he here calls gates, because there were the seats of judgment set. Pursuant to this law, in every town which contained above a hundred and twenty families, there was a court of twenty-three judges; in the smaller towns, a court of three judges.

16:18-22 Care is taken for the due administration of justice. All personal regards must be laid aside, so that right is done to all, and wrong to none. Care is taken to prevent following the idolatrous customs of the heathen. Nothing belies God more, or tends more to corrupt the minds of men, than representing and worshipping, by an image, that God, who is an almighty and eternal Spirit, present every where. Alas! even in gospel days, and under a better dispensation, established upon better promises, there is a tendency to set up idols, under one form or another, in the human heart.These verses are closely connected in subject with the following chapter, and introduce certain directions for the administration of justice and the carrying on of the civil government of the people in Canaan. During the lifetime of Moses, he himself, especially inspired and guided by God, was sufficient, with the aid of the subordinate judges (compare Exodus 18:13 ff), for the duties in question. But now that Moses was to be withdrawn, and the people would soon be scattered up and down the land of Canaan, regular and permanent provision must be made for civil and social order and good government.18-20. Judges and officers shalt thou make—These last meant heralds or bailiffs, employed in executing the sentence of their superiors.

in all thy gates—The gate was the place of public resort among the Israelites and other Eastern people, where business was transacted and causes decided. The Ottoman Porte derived its name from the administration of justice at its gates.

Judges; chief magistrates to examine and determine causes and differences.

Officers, who were inferior and subordinate to the other, to bring causes and persons before them, to acquaint people with the mind and sentence of the judges, and to execute their sentence, Deu 20:5,9 Jos 1:10,11 3:2,3. In all thy gates, i.e. thy cities, which he here calls

gates, because there were seats of judgment set. Compare 1 Chronicles 23:4.

Judges and officers shall thou make thee,.... Judges were fixed in the sanhedrim, or court of judicature, and those that have lawsuits come before them; officers are masters of the staff and whip, and they stand before the judges, and go into markets, streets, and shops, to order the weights and measures, and to smite all that do wrong; and all they do is by order of the judges; so Maimonides (s): the qualifications of judges to be chosen and constituted by the people are thus described by him. In the sanhedrim, greater or lesser, they place only men wise and understanding, expert in the wisdom of the law, and masters of great knowledge, and that know some of the other sciences, as medicine, arithmetic, astronomy, and astrology, the ways of soothsayers, diviners, and wizards, and the vanities of idolatry, that they may know how to judge them; and they set in the sanhedrim only priests, Levites, and Israelites, who are genealogized; nor do they set an old man there, nor an eunuch, nor a king, but an high priest, if he is qualified with wisdom; and they must be free from blemishes, and of a good stature and appearance, and understand many languages, and not hear by an interpreter; and though all this was not precisely required of the sanhedrim of three judges, yet these same things ought to be in everyone of them, wisdom, and meekness, and fear, and hatred of money, and love of truth, and love of men, and to be of a good report (t) and these were to be placed in

all thy gates which the Lord thy God giveth thee throughout thy tribes; that is, in every city, as Onkelos, and so Jarchi; and usually the courts of judicature were held in the gates of cities, and it was only in the land of Israel, not without it, that they were obliged to set up courts of judicature, as Maimonides (u) observes; who also asks, how many courts were fixed in Israel, and what the number they consisted of? to which he answers, they fixed at first the great court in the sanctuary, and it was called the great sanhedrim, and its number were seventy one; and again, they set up two courts of twenty three, one at the door of the court, and the other at the door of the mountain of the house (and so in the Misnah) (w); and they set up in every city in Israel, in which were one hundred and twenty (men or families) or more, a lesser sanhedrim, which sat in the gate, and their number were twenty three judges; in a city in which there were not one hundred and twenty, they placed three judges, for there is no court less than three (x):

and they shall judge the people with just judgment; give a right and just sentence in all cases that come before them, according to the laws of God, and the rules of justice and equity.

(s) Hilchot Sanhedrin, c. 1. sect. 1.((t) Ib. c. 2. sect. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. (u) Ib. c. 1. sect. 2.((w) Sanhedrin, c. 10. sect. 2.((x) Ib. sect. 3, 4.

{i} Judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates, which the LORD thy God giveth thee, throughout thy tribes: and they shall judge the people with just judgment.

(i) He gave temporary authority to the people to choose magistrates for themselves.

18. Judges … shalt thou make thee] Heb. give or appoint for thyself.

and officers] scribes or marshals. See on Deuteronomy 1:15.

in all thy gates] The law is another consequence of the centralisation of the cultus. In ancient Israel ordinary cases were decided by the meeting of the community at the town’s gate, and the harder cases referred to the local sanctuary for decision by its priest as God’s representative; cp. the Elohim in E, Exodus 21:6; Exodus 22:8 ff., 1 Samuel 2:25. On the abolition of the local sanctuaries the former, the popular, court continued, as we see from the elders mentioned in Deuteronomy 19:12, Deuteronomy 22:13-21, Deuteronomy 25:5-10, and combined with the judges in Deuteronomy 21:2. But other provision had to be made for the superior procedure hitherto carried out at the local sanctuaries, and it is effected first as here by the appointment of local lay judges, and second in Deuteronomy 17:8 f. by the constitution of the Priests of the One Altar as a court of final reference. Josephus’ version, IV. Antt. viii. 14—seven judges for each township with two Levites as assessors—probably reflects the arrangements of his own time.

according to thy tribes] This survival of the old tribal interests (Deuteronomy 1:13), alongside of the new arrangement according to locality, is interesting.

and they shall judge, etc.] Deuteronomy 1:16.

II. Second Division of the Laws: the Officers of the Theocracy—Deuteronomy 16:18-20Deuteronomy 17:8-18Five Laws on Judges and Justice, Appeal to the Sanctuary, the King, the Priests, the Prophets; interrupted by an isolated group of laws on the Worship, Deuteronomy 16:21 to Deuteronomy 17:7.

Deuteronomy 16:18-20. Of Judges and Justice

Judges with officers are to be appointed in every locality but according to tribes. Justice is to be pursued with strict impartiality.—Sg. Steuern. regards Deuteronomy 16:18 alone as original on the grounds that while it commits the discharge of justice to special Judges , vv. Deuteronomy 16:19 f. addresses the whole people as responsible for it; and that while Deuteronomy 16:18 presupposes Israel’s occupation of the land, Deuteronomy 16:20 b promises this as the reward of the people’s justice. But the former variation, though a possible, is not a certain, mark of diversity of authorship. The same author, after instituting the judges, might well address to the whole people his enforcement of the principles which were to inspire the institution, especially since (as we shall see) he left to the popular courts part of the duty of discharging justice. Deuteronomy 16:20 b, a couple of deuteronomic formulas, may well be a later scribe’s malapropos addition to the original law. There is no reason for doubting the integrity of the rest. Deuteronomy 16:19 is a close, but not exact, quotation from E. On the substance of this law see notes to Deuteronomy 1:9-18.

Verses 18-20. - Moses had at an earlier period appointed judges to settle disputes among the people, and had given instructions to them for the discharge of their duty (Exodus 18; Deuteronomy 1:12-18). Whilst the people were in the wilderness, united as one body and under the leadership of Moses, this arrangement was sufficient; but a more extended arrangement would be required when they came to be settled in Canaan and dispersed in towns and villages over the whole land. In prospect of this, Moses here enacts that judges and officers were to be appointed by the people in all their gates, in all their places of residence, which the Lord should give them. Verse 18. - Judges and officers. The "officers" (shoterim, writers) associated with the judges both in the earlier arrangements and in that which was to succeed were secretaries and clerks of court, and acted also as assessors and advisers of the judges. No instruction is given as to the number of judges and officers, or as to the mode of appointing them; nor was this necessary. The former would be determined by the size and population of the place where they were appointed, and the latter would, as a matter of course, follow the method instituted by Moses in the earlier arrangement (see Deuteronomy 1:13-15; Exodus 18:21-26). Deuteronomy 16:18Just as in its religious worship the Israelitish nation was to show itself to be the holy nation of Jehovah, so was it in its political relations also. This thought forms the link between the laws already given and those which follow. Civil order - that indispensable condition of the stability and prosperity of nations and states - rests upon a conscientious maintenance of right by means of a well-ordered judicial constitution and an impartial administration of justice. - For the purpose of settling the disputes of the people, Moses had already provided them with judges at Sinai, and had given the judges themselves the necessary instructions for the fulfilment of their duties (Exodus 18). This arrangement might suffice as long as the people were united in one camp and had Moses for a leader, who could lay before God any difficult cases that were brought to him, and give an absolute decision with divine authority. But for future times, when Israel would no longer possess a prophet and mediator like Moses, and after the conquest of Canaan would live scattered about in the towns and villages of the whole land, certain modifications and supplementary additions were necessary to adapt this judicial constitution to the altered circumstances of the people. Moses anticipates this want in the following provisions, in which he first of all commands the appointment of judges and officials in every town, and gives certain precise injunctions as to their judicial proceedings (Deuteronomy 16:18-17:7); and secondly, appoints a higher judicial court at the place of the sanctuary for the more difficult cases (Deuteronomy 17:8-13); and thirdly, gives them a law for the future with reference to the choice of a king (Deuteronomy 16:14-20).

Deuteronomy 16:18-20

Appointment and Instruction of the Judges. - Deuteronomy 16:18. "Judges and officers thou shalt appoint thee in all thy gates (place, see at Exodus 20:10), which Jehovah thy God shall give thee, according to thy tribes." The nation is addressed as a whole, and directed to appoint for itself judges and officers, i.e., to choose them, and have them appointed by its rulers, just as was done at Sinai, where the people chose the judges, and Moses inducted into office the persons so chosen (cf. Deuteronomy 1:12-18). That the same course was to be adopted in future, is evident from the expression, "throughout thy tribes," i.e., according to thy tribes, which points back to Deuteronomy 1:13. Election by majorities was unknown to the Mosaic law. The shoterim, officers (lit., writers, see at Exodus 5:6), who were associated with the judges, according to Deuteronomy 1:15, even under the previous arrangement, were not merely messengers and servants of the courts, but secretaries and advisers of the judges, who derived their title from the fact that they had to draw up and keep the genealogical lists, and who are mentioned as already existing in Egypt as overseers of the people and of their work (see at Exodus 5:6; and for the different opinions concerning their official position, see Selden, de Synedriis, i. pp. 342-3). The new features, which Moses introduces here, consist simply in the fact that every place was to have its own judges and officers, whereas hitherto they had only been appointed for the larger and smaller divisions of the nation, according to their genealogical organization. Moses lays down no rule as to the number of judges and shoterim to be appointed in each place, because this would depend upon the number of the inhabitants; and the existing arrangement of judges over tens, hundreds, etc. (Exodus 18:21), would still furnish the necessary standard. The statements made by Josephus and the Rabbins with regard to the number of judges in each place are contradictory, or at all events are founded upon the circumstances of much later times (see my Archologie, ii. pp. 257-8). - These judges were to judge the people with just judgment. The admonition in Deuteronomy 16:19 corresponds to the instructions in Exodus 23:6 and Exodus 23:8. "Respect persons:" as in Deuteronomy 1:17. To this there is added, in Deuteronomy 16:20, an emphatic admonition to strive zealously to maintain justice. The repetition of the word justice is emphatic: justice, and nothing but justice, as in Genesis 14:10, etc. But in order to give the people and the judges appointed by them a brief practical admonition, as to the things they were more especially to observe in their administration of justice, Moses notices by way of example a few crimes that were deserving of punishment (Deuteronomy 16:21, Deuteronomy 16:22, and Deuteronomy 17:1), and then proceeds in Deuteronomy 17:2-7 to describe more fully the judicial proceedings in the case of idolaters.

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