Yahweh's Laws from 171 to 184
Laws Concerning the Duties of the Community and Observing the Authority of Yahweh's Laws and Yahweh's Anointed.
The Census Tax
Exo 30:11 Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying,
Exo 30:12 “When you take a census of the children of Israel, according to those who are counted among them, then each man shall give a ransom for his soul to Yahweh, when you count them; that there be no plague among them when you count them.
Exo 30:13 They shall give this, everyone who passes over to those who are counted, half a shekel after the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel is twenty gerahs); half a shekel for an offering to Yahweh.
Exo 30:14 Everyone who passes over to those who are counted, from twenty years old and upward, shall give the offering to Yahweh.
Exo 30:15 The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less, than the half shekel, when they give the offering of Yahweh, to make atonement for your souls.
Exo 30:16 You shall take the atonement money from the children of Israel, and shall appoint it for the service of the Tent of Meeting; that it may be a memorial for the children of Israel before Yahweh, to make atonement for your souls.”
In terms of today's money, what would be the value of the biblical half shekel?
The Laws of Shekalim 1:5 describes the half shekel mentioned in the Torah – the annual contribution every Hebrew is required to give to the Temple coffers – is equal to 160 grains of barley, which, in modern measurements, would be approximately eight (8) grams of silver.
It is impossible to know silver's value in biblical times. At today's rate is approximately 17 US dollars per ounce, 8 grams of silver is around five dollars.
A New Prophet (Overseer) like Moshe (Moses)
Law from 172
Listen to and obey Yahweh's Annointed Servant, the Overseer of the House of Yahweh.
Deu 18:15 Yahweh your Sovereign will raise up to you a prophet from among you, of your brothers, like Me. You shall listen to him.
Deu 18:16 This is according to all that you desired of Yahweh your Sovereign in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, “Let me not hear again Yahweh my Sovereign’s voice, neither let Me see this great fire any more, that I not die.”
Deu 18:17 Yahweh said to Me, “They have well said that which they have spoken.
Deu 18:18 I will raise them up a prophet (overseer) from among their brothers, like you. I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I shall command him.
Deu 18:19 It shall occur, that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I will require it of him.
Matthew Henry Commentaries
Here is, I. The promise of the great prophet, with a command to receive him, and hearken to him. Now,
1. Some think it is the promise of a succession of prophets, that should for many ages be kept up in Israel. Besides the priests and Levites, their ordinary ministers, whose office it was to teach Jacob Yahweh's law, they should have prophets, extraordinary ministers, to reprove them for their faults, remind them of their duty, and foretel things to come, judgments for warning and deliverances for their comfort.
Having these prophets,
(1.) They need not use divinations, nor consult with familiar spirits, for they might enquire of Yahweh's prophets even concerning their private affairs, as Saul did when he was in quest of his father's asses, 1Sa_9:6. (2.)
They could not miss the way of their duty through ignorance or mistake, nor differ in their opinions about it, having prophets among them, whom, in every difficult doubtful case, they might advise with and appeal to. These prophets were like unto Moses in some respects, though far inferior to him, Deu_34:10.
2. Whether a succession of prophets be included in this promise or not, we are sure that it is primarily intended as a promise of Yahahua and it is the clearest promise of Him that is in all the law of Moshe.
It is expressly applied to our King Yahshua as the Messiah promised (Act_3:22; Act_7:37), and the people had an eye to this promise when they said concerning Him, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world (Joh_6:14); and it was His Spirit that spoke in all the other prophets, 1Pe_1:11.
(1) What it is that is here promised concerning Yahshua. What Yahweh promised Moshe at Mount Sinai (which he relates, Deu_18:18), he promised the people (Deu_18:15) in Yahweh's name.
[1.] That there should come a prophet, great above all the prophets, by whom Yahweh would make known Himself and His will to the children of men more fully and clearly than ever He had done before. He is the light of the world, as prophecy was of the Hebrew church, Joh_8:12. He is the Word, by whom Yahweh speaks to us, Joh_1:1; Heb_1:2
[2.] That Yahweh would raise Him up from the midst of them. In His birth He should be one of that nation, should live among them and be sent to them. In His resurrection He should be raised up at Jerusalem, and thence His doctrine should go forth to all the world: thus Yahweh, having raised up His, Yahshua, sent Him to bless us.
[3.] That He should be like unto Moshe, only as much above him as the other prophets came short of him. Moshe was such a prophet as was a law-giver to Israel and their deliverer out of Egypt, and so was Yahshua: He not only teaches, but rules and saves. Moshe was the founder of a new dispensation by signs and wonders and mighty deeds, and so was Yahshua, by which He proved Himself a teacher come from Yahweh.
Was Moshe faithful? So was Yahahua; Moshe as a servant, but Yahahua as a Son.
[4.] That Yahweh would put his words in his mouth, Deu_18:18. What messages Yahweh had to send to the children of men He would send them by Him, and give Him full instructions what to say and do as a prophet.
Hence our Saviour says, My doctrine is not Mine originally, but His that sent me, Joh_7:16. So that this great promise is performed; this Prophet has come, even Yahahua; it is He that should come, and we are to look for no other.
(2.) The agreeableness of this designed dispensation to the people's avowed choice and desire at Mount Sinai, Deu_18:16, Deu_18:17. There Yahweh had spoken to them in thunder and lightning, out of the midst of the fire and thick darkness. Every word made their ears tingle and their hearts tremble, so that the whole congregation was ready to die with fear.
In this fright, they begged hard that Yahweh would not speak to them in this manner any more (they could not bear it, it would overwhelm and distract them), but that He would speak to them by men like themselves, by Moshe now, and afterwards by other prophets like unto him.
“Well,” says Yahweh, “it shall be so; they shall be spoken to by men, whose terrors shall not make them afraid;” and, to crown the favour beyond what they were able to ask or think, in the fulness of time the Word itself was made flesh, and they saw His glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, not, as at Mount Sinai, full of majesty and terror, but full of grace and truth, Joh_1:14.
Thus, in answer to the request of those who were struck with amazement by the law, Yahweh promised the incarnation of His Son, though we may suppose it far from the thoughts of those that made that request.
(3.) A charge and command given to all people to hear and believe, hear and obey, this great prophet here promised: Unto him you shall hearken (Deu_18:15); and whoever will not hearken to him shall be surely and severely reckoned with for his contempt (Deu_18:19): I will require it of him. Yahweh Himself applied this to our King, Yahshua in the voice that came out of the excellent glory, Mat_17:5, Hear you him, that is, this is He concerning whom it was said by Moshe of old, Unto Him you shall hearken; and Moshe and Elias then stood by and assented to it.
The sentence here passed on those that hearken not to this prophet is repeated and ratified in the New Testament. He that believeth not the Son, the wrath of Yahweh abideth on him, Joh_3:36. And how shall we escape if we turn away from Him that speaketh from heaven? Heb_12:25.
The Chaldee paraphrase here reads it, My Word shall require it of him, which can be no other than a divine person, Yahshua the eternal Word, to whom the Father has committed all judgement, and by whom He will at the last day judge the world. Whoever turns a deaf ear to Yahshua Messiah shall find that it is at his peril; the same that is the prophet is to be his judge, Joh_12:48.
II. Here is a caution against false prophets,
1. By way of threatening against the pretenders themselves, Deu_18:20. Whoever sets up for a prophet, and produces either a commission from the true Sovereign, shall be deemed and adjudged guilty of high treason against the crown and dignity of the King of kings, and that traitor shall be put to death (Deu_18:20), namely, by the judgment of the great sanhedrim, which, in process of time, sat at Jerusalem; and therefore our King says that a prophet could not perish but at Jerusalem, and lays the blood of the prophets at Jerusalem's door (Luk_13:33, Luk_13:34), whom therefore Yahweh Himself would punish; yet there false prophets were supported.
2. By way of direction to the people, that they might not be imposed upon by pretenders, of which there were many, as appears, Jer_23:25; Eze_13:6; 1Ki_22:6. It is a very proper question which they are supposed to ask, Deu_18:21. Since it is so great a duty to hearken to the true prophets, and yet there is so much danger of being misled by false prophets, how shall we know the word which the Yahweh has not spoken?
By what marks may we discover a cheat?
Note, It highly concerns us to have a right touchstone wherewith to try the word we hear, that we may know what that word is which the Yahweh has not spoken. Whatever is directly repugnant to sense, to the light and law of nature, and to the plain meaning of the written word, we may be sure is not that which the Yahweh has spoken; nor that which gives countenance and encouragement to sin, or has a manifest tendency to the destruction of piety or charity: far be it from Yahweh that He should contradict Himself.
The rule here given in answer to this enquiry was adapted chiefly to that state, Deu_18:22. If there was any cause to suspect the sincerity of a prophet, let them observe that if he gave them any sign, or foretold something to come, and the event was not according to his prediction, they might be sure he was not sent of Yahweh.
This does not refer so much to the foretelling of mercies and judgments (though as to these, and the difference between the predictions of mercies and judgments, there is a rule of discerning between truth and falsehood laid down by the prophet, Jer_28:8, Jer_28:9), but rather to the giving of signs on purpose to confirm their mission.
Though the sign did come to pass, yet this would not serve to prove their mission if they called them to serve other gods; this point had been already settled, Deu_13:1-3. But, if the sign did not come to pass, this would serve to disprove their mission.
“When Moshe cast his rod upon the ground, and said it would become a serpent, if it had not accordingly been turned into a serpent, Moshe had been a false prophet: if, when Elijah called for fire from heaven to consume the sacrifice, none had come, he had been no better than the prophets of Baal.”
Samuel's mission was proved by this, that Yahweh let none of his words fall to the ground, 1Sa_3:19, 1Sa_3:20. And by the miracles Yaua hswrought, especially by that great sign He gave of His resurrection the third day, which came to pass as He foretold, it appeared that He was a teacher come from Yahweh.
Lastly, They are directed not to be afraid of a false prophet; that is, not to be afraid of the judgments such a one might denounce to amuse people and strike terror upon them; nor to be afraid of executing the law upon him when, upon a strict and impartial scrutiny, it appeared that he was a false prophet.
This command not to fear a false prophet implies that a true prophet, who proved his commission by clear and undeniable proofs, was to be feared, and it was at their peril if they offered him any violence or put any slight upon him.
The Ruler (King) that Yahweh Chooses Must be Appointed.
Law from 173
Deuteronomy 17:15 thou shalt surely set over thee the ruler whom Yahweh shall choose: of thy brethren thou shalt set over thee a ruler; thou shalt not have power to set over thee a stranger, because he is not thy brother.
Matthew Henry Commentaries
After the laws which concerned subjects fitly followed the laws which concern kings (Rulers); for those that rule others must themselves remember that they are under command.
Here are laws given,
I. To the electors (citizen who has a legal right to vote) of the empire, what rules they must go by in making their choice, Deu_17:14, Deu_17:15. 1. It is here supposed that the people would, in process of time, be desirous of a king (ruler), whose royal pomp and power would be thought to make their nation look great among their neighbours. Their having a king (ruler) is neither promised as a mercy nor commanded as a duty (nothing could be better for them than the divine regimen they were under), but it is permitted them if they desired it.
If they would but take care to have the ends of government answered, and Yahweh's laws duly observed and put in execution, they should not be tied to any one form of government, but should be welcome to have a king (ruler).
Though something irregular is supposed to be the principle of the desire, that they might be like the nations (whereas Yahweh in many ways distinguished them from the nations), yet Yahweh would indulge them in it, becauseHe intended to serve His own purposes by it, in making the regal government typical of the kingdom of the Messiah.
2. They are directed in their choice. If they will have a king over them, as Yahweh foresaw they would (though it does not appear that ever the motion was made till almost 400 years after), then they must,
(1.) Ask counsel at Yahweh's mouth, and make him king whom Yahweh shall choose; and happy it was for them that they had an oracle to consult in so weighty an affair, and a Yahweh to choose for them who knows infallibly what every man is and will be. Kings (rulers) are Yahweh's viceregents, and therefore it is fit that He should have the choosing of them: Yahweh had Himself been in a particular manner Israel's King, and if they set another over them, under him, it was necessary that He should nominate the person.
Accordingly, when the people desired a king (ruler), they applied to Samuel a prophet of Yahweh's; and afterwards David, Solomon, Jeroboam, Jehu, and others, were chosen by the prophets; and the people are reproved for not observing this law, Hos_8:4 : They have set up kings (rulers) but not by me. In all cases God's choice, if we can but know it, should direct, determine, and overrule ours.
(2.) They must not choose a foreigner under pretence of strengthening their alliances, or of the extraordinary fitness of the person, lest a strange king should introduce strange customs of usages, contrary to those that were established by the divine law; but he must be one from among thy brethren, that he may be a type of Messiah, who is bone of our bone, Heb_2:14.
II. Laws are here given to the prince that should be elected for the due administration of the government.
1. He must carefully avoid every thing that would divert him from Yahweh and religion. Riches, honours, and pleasures are the three great hindrances of holiness (the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eye, and the pride of life), especially to those in high stations: against these therefore the king is here warned.
(1.) He must not gratify the love of honour by multiplying horses, Deu_17:16. He that rode upon a horse (a stately creature) in a country where asses and mules were generally used looked very great; and therefore though he might have horses for his own saddle, and chariots, yet he must not set servants on horseback (Ecc_10:7) nor have many horses for his officers and guards (when Yahweh was their King, His judges rode on asses, (Jdg_5:10; Jdg_12:14), nor must he multiply horses for war, lest he should trust too much to them, Psa_20:7; Psa_33:17; Hos_14:3.
The reason here given against his multiplying horses is because it would produce a greater correspondence with Egypt (which furnished Canaan with horses, 1Ki_10:28, 1Ki_10:29) than it was fit the Israel of Yahweh should have, who were brought thence with such a high hand: You shall return no more that way, for fear of being infected with the idolatries of Egypt (Lev_18:3), to which they were very prone.
We should take heed of that commerce or conversation by which we are in danger of being drawn into sin. If Israel must not return to Egypt, they must not trade with Egypt; Solomon got no good by it.
(2.) He must not gratify the love of pleasure by multiplying wives (Deu_17:17), as Solomon did to his undoing (1Ki_11:1), that his heart, being set upon them, turn not away from business, and every thing that is serious, and especially from the exercise of piety and devotion, to which nothing is a greater enemy than the indulgence of the flesh.
(3.) He must not gratify the love of riches by greatly multiplying silver and gold. A competent treasure is allowed him, and he is not forbidden to be good husband of it, but,
[1.] He must not greatly multiply money, so as to oppress his people by raising it (as Solomon seems to have done, 1Ki_12:4), nor so as to deceive himself, by trusting to it, and setting his heart upon it, Psa_62:10.
[2.] He must not multiply it to himself. David multiplied silver and gold, but it was for the service of God (1Ch_29:4), not for himself; for his people, not for his own family.
2. He must carefully apply himself to the law of God, and make that his rule. This must be to him better than all riches, honours, and pleasures, than many horses or many wives, better than thousands of gold and silver.
(1.) He must write himself a copy of the law out of the original, which was in the custody of the priests that attended the sanctuary, Deu_17:18. Some think that he was to write only this book of Deuteronomy, which is an abstract of the law, and the precepts of which, being mostly moral and judicial, concerned the king more than the laws in Leviticus and Numbers, which, being ceremonial, concerned chiefly the priests.
Others think that he was to transcribe all the five books of Moses, which are called the law, and which were preserved together as the foundation of their religion.
[1.] Though the king might be presumed to have very fair copies by him from his ancestors, yet, besides those, he must have one of his own: it might be presumed that theirs were worn with constant use; he must have a fresh one to begin the world with.
[2.] Though he had secretaries about him whom he might employ to write this copy, and who perhaps could write a better hand than he, yet he must do it himself, with his own hand, for the honour of the law, and that he might think no act of religion below him, to inure himself to labour and study, and especially that he might thereby be obliged to take particular notice of every part of the law and by writing it might imprint it in his mind.
It is of great use for each of us to write down what we observe as most affecting and edifying to us, out of the scriptures and good books, and out of the sermons we hear. A prudent pen may go far towards making up the deficiencies of the memory, and the furnishing of the treasures of the good householder with things new and old.
[3.] He must do this even when he sits upon the throne of his kingdom, provided that he had not done it before. When he begins to apply himself to business, he must apply himself to this in the first place. He that sits upon the throne of a kingdom cannot but have his hands full. The affairs of his kingdom both at home and abroad call for a large share of his time and thoughts, and yet he must write himself a copy of the law.
Let not those who call themselves men of business think that this will excuse them from making religion their business; nor let great men think it any disparagement to them to write for themselves those great things of Yahweh's law which He hath written to them, Hos_8:12.
(2.) Having a Bible by him of his own writing, he must not think it enough to keep it in his cabinet, but he must read therein all the days of his life, Deu_17:19. It is not enough to have Bibles, but we must use them, use them daily, as the duty and necessity of everyday require: our souls must have their constant meals of that manna; and, if well digested, it will be true nourishment and strength to them.
As the body is receiving benefit by its food continually, and not only when it is eating, so is the soul, by the word of Yahweh, if it meditate therein day and night, Psa_1:2.
And we must persevere in the use of the written word of Yahweh as long as we live. Yahshua's scholars never learn above their Bibles, but will have a constant occasion for them till they come to that world where knowledge and love will both be made perfect.
(3.) His writing and reading were all nothing if he did not reduce to practice what he wrote and read, Deu_17:19, Deu_17:20. The word of Yahweh is not designed merely to be and entertaining subject of speculation, but to be a commanding rule of conversation.
Let him know,
[1.] What dominion his religion must have over him, and what influence it must have upon him.
First, It must possess him with a very reverent and awful regard to the divine majesty and authority. He must learn (and thus the most learned must by ever learning) to fear (reverence) the sovereignty of Yahweh; and, as high as he is, he must remember that Yahweh is above him, and, whatever fear (reverence) his subjects owe to him, that, and much more, he owes to Yahweh as his King.
Secondly, It must engage him to a constant observance of the law of Yahweh, and a conscientious obedience to it, as the effect of that fear (reverence). He must keep all the words of this law (he is custos utriusque tabulae - the keeper of both tables), not only take care that others do them, but do them himself as a humble servant to the Yahweh of heaven and a exemplary example to his inferiors.
Thirdly, It must keep him humble. How much soever he is advanced, let him keep his spirit low, and let the fear (reverence) of Yahweh prevent the contempt of his brethren; and let not his heart be lifted up above them, so as to carry himself haughtily or disdainfully towards them, and to trample upon them.
Let him not conceit himself better than they because he is greater and makes a fairer show; but let him remember that he is the minister of Yahweh to them for greateness (major singulis, but minor universis - greater than any one, but less than the whole). It must prevent his errors, either on the right hand or on the left (for there are errors on both hands), and keep him right, in all instances, to his Sovereign and to his duty.
[2.] What advantage his religion would be of to him. Those that reverence Yahweh and keep his commandments will certainly fare the better for it in this world. The greatest monarch in the world may receive more benefit by religion than by all the wealth and power of his monarchy.
It will be of advantage,
First, To his person: He shall prolong his days in his kingdom. We find in the history of the kings of Judah that, generally, the best reigns were the longest, except when Yahweh shortened them for the punishment of the people, as Josiah's.
Secondly, To his family: his children shall also prosper. Entail religion upon posterity, and Yahweh will entail a blessing upon it.
Legal Decisions by Priests and Judges
Law from 174
Listen to and obey Yahweh's priests (ministers) (The body of the Elders of the House of Yahweh under the direction of the Overseer)
Deu 17:8 “If any case arises requiring decision between one kind of homicide and another, one kind of legal right and another, or one kind of assault and another, any case within your towns that is too difficult for you, then you shall arise and go up to the place that Yahweh our Sovereign will choose.
Deu 17:9 And you shall come to the Levitical priests and to the judge who is in office in those days, and you shall consult them, and they shall declare to you the decision.
Deu 17:10 Then you shall do according to what they declare to you from that place that Yahweh will choose. And you shall be careful to do according to all that they direct you.
Deu 17:11 According to the instructions that they give you, and according to the decision which they pronounce to you, you shall do. You shall not turn aside from the verdict that they declare to you, either to the right hand or to the left.
Deu 17:12 The man who acts presumptuously by not obeying the priest who stands to minister there before Yahweh our Sovereign, or the judge, that man shall die. So you shall purge the evil from Israel.
Deu 17:13 And all the people shall hear and fear and not act presumptuously again.
Matthew Henry Commentaries
Courts of judgment were ordered to be erected in every city (Deu_16:18), and they were empowered to hear and determine causes according to law, both those which we call pleas of the crown and those between party and party; and we may suppose that ordinarily they ended the matters that were brought before them, and their sentence was definitive;
1. It is here taken for granted that sometimes a case might come into their court too difficult for those inferior judges to determine, who could not be thought to be so learned in the laws as those that presided in the higher courts; so that (to speak in the language of our law) they must find a special verdict, and take time to advise before the giving of judgment (Deu_17:8):
If there arise a matter too hard for thee in judgment, which it would be no dishonour to the judges to own the difficulty of, - suppose it between blood and blood, the blood of a person which cried and the blood of him that was charged with the murder which was demanded, when it was doubtful upon the evidence whether it was wilful or casual, - or between plea and plea, the plea (that is, the bill or declaration) of the plaintiff and the plea of the defendant, - or between stroke and stroke, in actions of assault and battery; in these and similar cases, thought the evidence were plain, yet doubts might arise about the sense and meaning of the law and the application of it to the particular case.
2. These difficult cases, which hitherto had been brought to Moses, according to Jethro's advice, were, after his death, to be brought to the supreme power, wherever it was lodged, whether in a judge (when there was such an extraordinary person raised up and qualified for that great service, as Othniel, Deborah, Gideon, etc.) or in the high-priest (when he was by the eminency of his gifts called of Yahweh to preside in public affairs, as Eli), or, if no single person were marked by heaven for this honour, then in the priests and Levites (or in the priests, who were Levites of course), who not only attended the sanctuary, but met in council to receive appeals from the inferior courts, who might reasonably be supposed, not only to be best qualified by their learning and experience, but to have the best assistance of the divine Spirit for the deciding of doubts, Deu_17:9, Deu_17:11, Deu_17:12.
They are not appointed to consult the urim and thummim, for it is supposed that these were to be consulted only in cases relating to the public, either the body of the people or the prince; but in ordinary cases the wisdom and integrity of those that sat at the stern must be relied on, their judgment had not the divine authority of an oracle, yet besides the moral certainty it had, as the judgment of knowing, prudent, and experienced men, it had the advantage of a divine promise, implied in those words (Deu_17:9),
They shall show thee the sentence of judgment; it had also the support of a divine institution, by which they were made the supreme judicature of the nation.
3. The definitive sentence given by the judge, priest, or great council, must be obeyed by the parties concerned, upon pain of death: Thou shalt do according to their sentence (Deu_17:10); thou shalt observe to do it, thou shalt not decline from it (Deu_17:11), to the right hand nor to the left.
It is for the honour of Yahweh and the welfare of a people that the authority of the higher power be supported and the due order of government observed, that those be obeyed who are appointed to rule, and that every soul be subject to them in all those things that fall within their commission.
Though the party thought himself injured by the sentence (as every man is apt to be partial in is own cause), yet he must needs be subject, must stand to the award, how unpleasing soever, and bear, or lose, or pay, according to it, not only for wrath, but also for conscience' sake.
But if an inferior judge contradict the sentence of the higher court and will not execute the orders of it, or a private person refuse to conform to their sentence, the contumacy must be punished with death, though the matter were ever so small in which the opposition was made:
That man shall die, and all the people shall hear and fear, Deu_17:12, Deu_17:13.
(1.) The evil of disobedience. Rebellion and stubbornness, from a spirit of contradiction and opposition of Yahweh, or those in authority under him, from a principle of contempt and self-willedness, are as witchcraft and idolatry.
To differ in opinion from weakness and infirmity may be excused and must be borne with; but to do so presumptuously, in pride and wickedness (as the ancient translations explain it), this is to take up arms against the government, and is an affront to him by whom the powers that be are ordained.
(2.) The design of punishment: that others may hear and fear, and not do the like. Some would be so considerate as to infer the heinousness of the offence from the grievousness of the penalty, and therefore would detest it; and others would so far consult their own safety as to cross their humours by conforming to the sentence rather than to sin against their own heads, and forfeit their lives by going contrary to it.
From this law the apostle infers the greatness of the punishment of which those will be thought worthy that trample on the authority of the Son of Yahweh Heb_10:28, Heb_10:29.
Speak the Truth When You Give Testimony in a Lawsuit
Law from 175
Exodus 23:2 (BBE) Do not let a false statement go further; do not make an agreement with evil-doers to be a false witness.
Matthew Henry Commentaries
Here are, I. Cautions concerning judicial proceedings; it was not enough that they had good laws, better than ever any nation had, but care must be taken for the due administration of justice according to those laws.
1. The witnesses are here cautioned that they neither occasion an innocent man to be indicted, by raising a false report of him and setting common fame against him, nor assist in the prosecution of an innocent man, or one whom they do not know to be guilty, by putting their hand in swearing as witnesses against him, Exo_23:
1. Bearing false witness against a man, in a matter that touches his life, has in it all the guilty of lying, perjury, malice, theft, murder, with the additional stains of colouring all with a pretence of justice and involving many others in the same guilt. There is scarcely any one act of wickedness that a man can possibly be guilty of which has in it a greater complication of villanies than this has.
Yet the former part of this caution is to be extended, not only to judicial proceedings, but to common conversation; so that slandering and backbiting are a species of falsewitness-bearing.
A man's reputation lies as much at the mercy of every company as his estate or life does at the mercy of a judge or jury; so that he who raises, or knowingly spreads, a false report against his neighbour, especially if the report be made to wise and good men whose esteem one would desire to enjoy, sins as much against the laws of truth, justice, and charity, as a false witness does - with this further mischief, that he leaves it not in the power of the person injured to obtain redress.
That which we translate, Thou shalt not raise, the margin reads, Thou shalt not receive a false report; for sometimes the receiver, in this case, is as bad as the thief; and a backbiting tongue would not do so much mischief as it does if it were not countenanced.
Sometimes we cannot avoid hearing a false report, but we must not receive it, that is, we must not hear it with pleasure and delight as those that rejoice in iniquity, nor give credit to it as long as there remains any cause to question the truth of it. This is charity to our neighbour's good name, and doing as we would be done by.
2. The judges are here cautioned not to pervert judgment.
(1.) They must not be overruled, either by might or multitude, to go against their consciences in giving judgment, Exo_23:2. With the Hebrews causes were tried by a bench of justices, and judgment given according to the majority of votes, in which cause every particular justice must go according to truth, as it appeared to him upon the strictest and most impartial enquiry, though the multitude of the people, and their outcries, or, the sentence of the rabbim (we translate it many), the more ancient and honourable of the justices, went the other way.
Therefore (as with us), among the Hebrews, the junior upon the bench voted first, that he might not be swayed nor overruled by the authority of the senior. Judges must not respect the persons either of the parties or of their fellow-judges. The former part of this verse also gives a general rule for all, as well as judges, not to follow a multitude to do evil.
General usage will never excuse us in a bad practice; nor is the broad way ever the better or safer for its being tracked and crowded. We must enquire what we ought to do, not what the majority do; because we must be judged by our Master, not by our fellow-servants, and it is too great a compliment to be willing to go to hell for company.
(2.) They must not pervert judgment, no, not in favour of a poor man, v. 3. Right must in all cases take place and wrong must be punished, and justice never biassed nor injury connived at under pretence of charity and compassion. If a poor man be a bad man, and do a bad thing, it is foolish pity to let him fare the better for his poverty, Deu_1:16, Deu_1:17.
(3.) Neither must they pervert judgment in prejudice to a poor man, nor suffer him to be wronged because he had not wherewithal to right himself; in such cases the judges themselves must become advocates for the poor, as far as their cause was good and honest (Exo_23:6): “Thou shalt not wrest the judgment of the poor; remember they are thy poor, bone of thy bone, thy poor neighbours, thy poor brethren; let them not therefore fare the worse for being poor.”
(4.) They must dread the thoughts of assisting or abetting a bad cause (Exo_23:7): “Keep thyself far from a false matter; do not only keep thyself free from it, nor think it enough to say thou art unconcerned in it, but keep far from it, dread it as a dangerous snare. The innocent and righteous thou wouldest not, for all the world, slay with thy own hands; keep far therefore from a false matter, for thou knowest not but it may end in that, and the righteous Sovereign (Yahweh) will not leave such wickedness unpunished:
I will not justify the wicked,” that is, “I will condemn him that unjustly condemns others.” Judges themselves are accountable to the great judge.
(5.) They must not take bribes, v. 8. They must not only not be swayed by a gift to give an unjust judgment, to condemn the innocent, or acquit the guilty, or adjudge a man's right from him, but they must not so much as take a gift, lest it should have a bad influence upon them, and overrule them, contrary to their intentions; for it has a strange tendency to blind those that otherwise would do well.
(6.) They must not oppress a stranger, v. 9. Though aliens might not inherit lands among them, yet they must have justice done them, must peaceably enjoy their own, and be redressed if they were wronged, though they were strangers to the commonwealth of Israel (USA).
It is an instance of the equity and goodness of our law, that, if an alien be tried for any crime except treason, the one half of his jury, if he desire it, shall be foreigners; they call it a trial per mediatatem linguae, a kind provision that strangers may not be oppressed.
The reason here given is the same with that in ch. 22:21, You were strangers, which is here elegantly enforced, You know the heart of a stranger; you know something of the griefs and fears of a stranger by sad experience, and therefore, being delivered, can the more easily put your souls into their souls' stead.
II. Commands concerning neighbourly kindnesses. We must be ready to do all good offices (roles), as there is occasion, for any body, yea even for those that have done us ill offices (roles), Exo_23:4, Exo_23:5. The command of loving our enemies, and doing good to those that hate us, is not only a new, but an old commandment, Pro_25:21, Pro_25:22.
1. If we must do this kindness for an enemy, much more for a friend, though an enemy only is mentioned, because it is supposed that a man would not be unneighbourly to any unless such as he had a particular spleen against.
2. If it be wrong not to prevent our enemy's loss and damage, how much worse is it to occasion harm and loss to him, or any thing he has. 3. If we must bring back our neighbours' cattle when they go astray, much more must we endeavour, by prudent admonitions and instructions, to bring back our neighbours themselves, when they go astray in any sinful path, see Jas_5:19, Jas_5:20.
And, if we must endeavour to help up a fallen ass, much more should we endeavour, by comforts and encouragements, to help up a sinking spirit, saying to those that are of a fearful heart, Be strong. We must seek the relief and welfare of others as our own, Php_2:4. If thou sayest, Behold, we know it not, doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it?
See: Pro_24:11, Pro_24:12.
Law from 176
Deuteronomy 16:18 (BBE) You are to make judges and overseers in all your towns which Yahweh your Sovereign gives you, for every tribe: and they are to be upright men, judging the people in righteousness.
Matthew Henry Commentaries
I. Care taken for the due administration of justice among them, that controversies might be determined, matters in variance adjusted, the injured redressed, and the injurious punished. While they were encamped in the wilderness, they had judges and officers according to their numbers, rulers of thousands and hundreds, Exo_18:25.
When they came to Canaan, they must have them according to their towns and cities, in all their gates; for the courts of judgment sat in the gates.
1. Here is a commission given to these inferior magistrates: “Judges to try and pass sentence, and officers to execute their sentences, shalt thou make thee.” However the persons were pitched upon, whether by the nomination of their sovereign or by the election of the people, the power were ordained of Yahweh, Rom_13:1. And it was a great mercy to the people thus to have justice brought to their doors, that it might be more expeditious and less expensive, a blessing which we of this nation ought to be very thankful for.
Pursuant to this law, besides the great sanhedrim that sat at the sanctuary, consisting of seventy elders and a president, there was in the larger cities, such as had in them above 120 families, a court of twenty-three judges, in the smaller cities a court of three judges. See this law revived by Jehoshaphat, 2Ch_19:5, 2Ch_19:8.
2. Here is a command given to these magistrates to do justice in the execution of the trust reposed in them. Better not judge at all than not judge with just judgment, according to the direction of the law and the evidence of the fact.
(1.) The judges are here cautioned not to do wrong to any (Deu_16:19), nor to take any gifts, which would tempt them to do wrong. This law had been given before, Exo_23:8.
(2.) They are charged to do justice to all: “That which is altogether just shalt thou follow, Deu_16:20. Adhere to the principles of justice, act by the rules of justice, countenance the demands of justice, imitate the patterns of justice, and pursue with resolution that which appears to be just. Justice, justice, shalt thou follow.”
This is that which the magistrate is to have in his eye, on this he must be intent, and to this all personal regards must be sacrificed, to do right to all and wrong to none.
II. Care taken for the preventing of all conformity to the idolatrous customs of the heathen, Deu_16:21, Deu_16:22. They must not only not join with the idolaters in their worships, not visit their groves, nor bow before the images which they had set up, but,
1. They must not plant a grove, nor so much as a tree, near Yahweh's altar lest they should make it look like the altars of the false gods.
They made groves the places of their worship either to make it secret (but that which is true and good desires the light rather), or to make it solemn, but the worship of the true Yahweh, has enough in itself to make it so and needs not the advantage of such a circumstance.
2. They must not set up any image, statue, or pillar, to the honour of Yahweh, for it is a thing which the Father hates; nothing belies or reproaches him more, or tends more to corrupt and debauch the minds of men, than representing and worshipping by an image that Yahweh who is an infinite and eternal Spirit.
Witness(es) in a Case
Law from 178
Lev 5:1 Yahweh continued, "Now, if you are a witness under oath and won't tell what you saw or what you know, you are sinning and will be punished.
Matthew Henry Commentaries
I. The offences here supposed are,
1. A man's concealing the truth when he was sworn as a witness to speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Judges among the Hebrews had power to adjure not only the witnesses, as with us, but the person suspected (contrary to a rule of our law, that no man is bound to accuse himself), as appears by the high priest adjuring our Saviour, who thereupon answered, though before he stood silent, Mat_26:63, Mat_26:64.
(Lev_5:1), If a soul sin (that is, a person, for the soul is the man), if he hear the voice of swearing (that is, if he be adjured to testify what he knows, by an oath of Yahweh upon him, 1Ki_8:31), if in such a case, for fear of offending one that either has been his friend or may be his enemy, he refuses to give evidence, or gives it but in part, he shall bear his iniquity (wrongdoing).
And that is a heavy burden, which, if some course be not taken to get it removed, will sink a man to the lowest hell. He that heareth cursing (that is, that is thus adjured) and betrayeth it not (that is, stifles his evidence, and does not utter it), he is a partner with the sinner, and hateth his own soul;
Let all that are called out at any time to bear testimony think of this law, and be free and open in their evidence, and take heed of prevaricating. An oath of unto Yahweh is a sacred thing, and not to be dallied with.
Various Laws - Build a Railing Around the Edge of a Roof
Law from 184
Deuteronomy 22:8 (GW) Whenever you build a new house, put a railing around the edge of the roof. Then you won't be responsible for a death at your home if someone falls off the roof.
Matthew Henry Commentaries
III. In building a house, care must be taken to make it safe, that none might receive mischief by falling from it, Deu_22:8.
The roofs of their houses were flat for people to walk on, as appears by many scriptures; now lest any, through carelessness, should fall off them, they must compass them with battlements, which (the Hebrews say) must be three feet and a half high; if this were not done, and mischief followed, the owner, by his neglect, brought the guilt of blood upon his house.
1. How precious men's lives are to Yahweh, Who protects them, not only by His providence, but by His law.
2. How precious, therefore, they ought to be to us, and what care we should take to prevent hurt from coming to any person.
The Hewbrews say that by the equity of this law they were obliged (and so are we too) to fence, or remove, every thing by which life may be endangered, as to cover draw-wells, keep bridges in repair, and the like, lest, if any perish through our omission, their blood be required at our hand.