Deuteronomy 16:18

Justice

18 "You shall appoint 1judges and officers in all your towns that the LORD your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment.

Deuteronomy 16:18 Meaning and Commentary

Deuteronomy 16:18

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 F19: 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 F20 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 F21 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) F23; 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 F24:

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.


FOOTNOTES:

F19 Hilchot Sanhedrin, c. 1. sect. 1.
F20 Ib. c. 2. sect. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.
F21 Ib. c. 1. sect. 2.
F23 Sanhedrin, c. 10. sect. 2.
F24 Ib. sect. 3, 4.

Deuteronomy 16:18 In-Context

16 "Three times a year all your males shall appear before the LORD your God at the place that he will choose: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Booths. They shall not appear before the LORD empty-handed.
17 Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God that he has given you.
18 "You shall appoint judges and officers in all your towns that the LORD your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment.
19 You shall not pervert justice. You shall not show partiality, and you shall not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of the righteous.
20 Justice, and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

Cross References 1

  • 1. Deuteronomy 1:16; Numbers 11:16; Joshua 1:10; 1 Chronicles 23:4; 1 Chronicles 26:29