Shoftim / Judges
Shoftim opens with the importance of righteous judgment. In Deuteronomy 17 we see the need for two to three witnesses and the instructions to listen to the priests and not act presumptuously, making our own rules. Deuteronomy 17:6-7 ‘Whoever is deserving of death shall be put to death on the testimony of two or three witnesses; he shall not be put to death on the testimony of one witness. 7 The hands of the witnesses shall be the first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hands of all the people. So you shall put away the evil from among you.’ Deuteronomy 17:11-13 ‘According to the sentence of the law in which they instruct you, according to the judgment which they tell you, you shall do; you shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left from the sentence which they pronounce upon you. 12 Now the man who acts presumptuously and will not heed the priest who stands to minister there before the Lord your God, or the judge, that man shall die. So you shall put away the evil from Israel. 13 And all the people shall hear and fear, and no longer act presumptuously.’
Deuteronomy 18:17-22 speaks of the Messiah as coming in God’s Name ‘And the Lord said to me: ‘What they have spoken is good. 18 I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. 19 And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him. 20 But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’ 21 And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’— 22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.’
These verses show us how critical it is to not listen to someone who does not speak the words of God, instead prophesying their own words, thus changing the words of God.
In Deuteronomy 19:15-21 there is the law for the one false witness. ‘One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established. 16 If a false witness rises against any man to testify against him of wrongdoing, 17 then both men in the controversy shall stand before the Lord, before the priests and the judges who serve in those days. 18 And the judges shall make careful inquiry, and indeed, if the witness is a false witness, who has testified falsely against his brother, 19 then you shall do to him as he thought to have done to his brother; so you shall put away the evil from among you. 20 And those who remain shall hear and fear, and hereafter they shall not again commit such evil among you. 21 Your eye shall not pity: life shall be for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.’
Tying these things together, God shows us the need for 2 to 3 witnesses, to not act presumptuously, the Messiah, the prophet raised up, again the need to not speak presumptuously and finally the law against false witness.
2 Corinthians 13:1 ‘This is the third time I am coming to you. Every charge must be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.’
John 8:17 ‘In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true.’
1 Timothy 5:19 ‘Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses.’
Numbers 35:30 ‘If anyone kills a person, the murderer shall be put to death on the evidence of witnesses. But no person shall be put to death on the testimony of one witness.’
Hebrews 10:28 ‘Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses.’
Matthew 18:15-17 ‘If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.’
Comparing these verses to the need of two witnesses we realize the gravity of not having two witnesses for a judgment call. There are two types of witnesses are attesting and testifying. The Torah refers to "heaven and earth" as God’s testifying witnesses in Deuteronomy 30:19. This broadens the scope of our human thought as heaven and earth represent infinity. The heavenly bodies exist "eternally," that is, not exhibiting any change throughout the generations, and although the individual creatures of earth do not live forever, our souls continue forever. With heaven and earth, we have the spiritual realm and the earthly, fleshly realm.
If we are operating as the sole witness even if we gain an agreement for our perception, we are operating without Torah and acting are presumptuously.
In Deuteronomy 17:12-13, Elohim describes the antithesis of humility, that of presumptuous, which God equates to evil. ‘Now the man who acts presumptuously and will not heed the priest who stands to minister there before the Lord your God, or the judge, that man shall die. So you shall put away the evil from Israel. 13 And all the people shall hear and fear, and no longer act presumptuously.’
By acting presumptuously, we forge ahead in our own opinion of anything and everything; we totally lack humility. Different synonyms of the word presumptuous appear in the Scriptures: willful, boastful, defiant, haughtiness, deliberate, insolent, etc. Presumptuous indicates an intentional rebellious or sinful act by a single person; Exodus 21:14, Numbers 15:30, Psalm 19:13, 2 Peter 2:10. Just that fact alone voids the Torah of the two witnesses.
Presumptuous sins are a grave offense as outlined in Numbers 15:30 ‘But the person who does anything presumptuously, whether he is native-born or a stranger, that one brings reproach on the Lord, and he shall be cut off from among his people. 31 Because he has despised the word of the Lord, and has broken His commandment, that person shall be completely cut off; his guilt shall be upon him.’
When humility captures our character, there is no room for presumptuous behavior. Humility keeps us from assuming that we are right, and that what we want to say or do is best. Humility keeps us from attaining the spotlight, and the conversation. By acting with humility, we would desire the two to three witnesses and the entire set of instructions laid before us by Messiah in Matthew 18. Presumptuousness is void of taking every thought captive. It is void of controlling our tongue. It is void of prayer before we act and void of truth.
Presumptuousness is zodone in Hebrew: pride, contempt to evil. The opposite is zedek; justice, right, right-rulings. Zodone is the spirit of the physical, is a sense of pride and self-importance, is a heavy burden and separates us from God and His Will. Zedek on the other hand, is the spirit of humility which allows us to see the will of God. It is not a burden and it will bring us closer to God.
Isaiah 51:12 - 52:12
There are instructions within this parsha, regarding the kings of Israel: negative commands and positive commands. Deuteronomy 17:16-17 tells us what a King must not do, rather than what he should do. He should not “acquire great numbers of horses,” or “take many wives” or “accumulate large amounts of silver and gold.” These are the temptations of power, and as we know, even the greatest – King Solomon himself – could not resist the accumulation of them.
The positive command in Deuteronomy 17:19-20 is for the king to remain humble. He must constantly read the Torah “so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God … and not consider himself better than his fellow Israelites, and most importantly, not to turn right or left.” It is not easy to be humble when everyone is bowing down before you and when you have the power of life and death over the people.
Another great leader, Joshua, is commanded the same thing in Joshua 1:8, ‘Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.’
If kings were subjugated to falling, how greater would we fail the instructions and seek the pleasures and wealth of the world? The instruction in Deuteronomy 17:20 to ‘not turn left or right’ may seem like a simple metaphor but could be an impossible feat if we do not heed instruction from God, but instead make our own instructions.
Deuteronomy 17:11 ‘According to the terms of the law which they teach you, and according to the verdict which they tell you, you shall do; you shall not turn aside from the word which they declare to you, to the right or the left.’
Deuteronomy 28:14 ‘And if you do not turn aside from any of the words that I command you today, to the right hand or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them.’
Joshua 23:6 ‘Therefore, be very strong to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, turning aside from it neither to the right hand nor to the left…’
Proverbs 24:7 ‘Do not turn to the right or the left; remove your foot from evil.’
We are to keep our vision straight ahead on the ways of Adonai.
Psalm 16:8 ‘ have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.’
Psalm 119:18 ‘Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Your law.’
Psalm 141:8 ‘But my eyes are toward you, O God, my Lord; in you I seek refuge; leave me not defenseless!’
In Matthew 14:22-33 as Yeshua walks on water, Kefa/Peter requests that he too walk on water. But he took his eyes off the Master and instead was distracted by the wind of the storm and began to sink. His faith wavered and he began to doubt his strength – strength in Adonai. He looked to the left and the right, instead of straight away towards Yeshua, the Living Torah. He veered.
It is when we keep our vision on the path of the Torah. It is when we carefully maneuver this life we are given, keeping straight not veering to the left or the right. It is when we seek humility and instruction from God, that we prosper in the ways of Adonai.
Shoftim / Judges
HafTorah Portion Isaiah 51:12-52:12
Brit Chadasha John 1:19-27
Staying the Course…
Aliyah is a term used in the Hebrew language for ascending, moving up, and going up. When a person moves to Israel they are ‘making Aliyah’. So too as we continue to study the Torah portions, year after year, we are to make Aliyah towards the completeness and truth of His Word. Each time we study, He reveals more to us – if we listen and hear His Word as we were designed to.
This parsha, Shoftim is a continuation of blessings and curses – another level of understanding just how important His instructions and covenant is. Twice in just Deuteronomy 17 alone, God instructs His people and the King to stay the course, stay on the narrow, do not deviate from The Way.
Deuteronomy 17:11 ‘According to the sentence of the law in which they instruct you, according to the judgment which they tell you, you shall do; you shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left from the sentence which they pronounce upon you.’
Deuteronomy 17:19- 20 ‘And 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 and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes, 20 that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left, and that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children in the midst of Israel.’
This is repeated in Proverbs 4:25-27 ‘Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you. 26 Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established. 27 Do not turn to the right or the left; remove your foot from evil.’
Deuteronomy 28:13-14 brings even more clarity to the instruction: ‘And the Lord will make you the head and not the tail; you shall be above only, and not be beneath, if you heed the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you today, and are careful to observe them. 14 So you shall not turn aside from any of the words which I command you this day, to the right or the left, to go after other gods to serve them.’
In Deuteronomy 17:12 we are given insight to a person’s attitude who would turn away from the teachings of God. They are a presumptuous person. ‘Now the man who acts presumptuously and will not heed the priest who stands to minister there before the Lord your God, or the judge, that man shall die. So you shall put away the evil from Israel. 13 And all the people shall hear and fear, and no longer act presumptuously.’
Presumptuousness is zodone in Hebrew; pride, contempt to evil. The opposite is zedek; justice, right, right-rulings. Zodone is the spirit of the physical, is a sense of pride and self-importance, is a heavy burden and separates us from God and His Will. Zedek on the other hand, is the spirit of humility which allows us to see the will of God, it is not a burden and will bring us closer to God.
Acting with zodone/presumptuousness keeps us from heeding instructions from the priest ‘…who stands to minister there before the Lord…’ The High Priest Melchizedek is revealed in Genesis 14:18-20 and later in the book of Hebrews as Rabbi Shaul writes in Hebrews 6:19-7:28.
King David references Melchizedek in Psalm 110:1-4 ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.” 2 The Lord shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion. Rule in the midst of Your enemies! 3 Your people shall be volunteers in the day of Your power; in the beauties of holiness, from the womb of the morning, You have the dew of Your youth.
4 The Lord has sworn and will not relent, “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.”
Yeshua in the Brit Chadasha:
Matthew 7:13-14 ‘Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.’
Luke 6:46 “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?
John 14:23-24 ‘Yeshua answered him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love Me does not keep My words. And the word that you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me.’
The prophet Isaiah calls it the Way Of Holiness in Isaiah 35:8 ‘And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness; it will be for those who walk on that Way. The unclean will not journey on it, wicked fools will not go about on it.’
In Deuteronomy chapter 20, Moshe is instructing the people regarding the day of battle. This is important as these instructions are coming after the command to stay the course, do not turn, do not waiver and do not leave the path. Moshe tells the children of Israel -“When you go out to battle against your enemies, and see horses and chariots and people more numerous than you, do not be afraid of them; for the Lord your God is with you, who brought you up from the land of Egypt. 2 So it shall be, when you are on the verge of battle, that the priest shall approach and speak to the people. 3 And he shall say to them, ‘Hear, O Israel: Today you are on the verge of battle with your enemies. Do not let your heart faint, do not be afraid, and do not tremble or be terrified because of them; 4 for the Lord your God is He who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.’ Deuteronomy 20:1-4
Verse 3 begins with the Shema! ‘“Hear Israel” He continues by listing three types of “fear” of the “faint hearted” (yerach levav). Do not be fearful (al tiru) - Do not panic (al tachpzu) - Do not be terrified (al ta’artzu). The precipice for not being in fear or to panic is knowing that God is fighting the battles with us and for us.
2 Chronicles 20:1517- ‘And he said, “Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the Lord to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God's. You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you.”
Deuteronomy 3:22 ‘You shall not fear them, for it is the Lord your God who fights for you.’
What would the battle look like if we were to stray from His perfect course?
Proverbs 2:15 ‘Whose paths are crooked, and who are devious in their ways;
Proverbs 10:17 ‘He is on the path of life who heeds instruction, but he who ignores reproof goes astray.’
Proverbs 21:16 A man who wanders from the way of understanding will rest in the assembly of the dead.
Ezekiel 44:10 ‘But the Levites who went far from Me when Israel went astray, who went astray from Me after their idols, shall bear the punishment for their iniquity.’
May we stay the course!