Parashah 48: Shof’tim (Judges)

Parashah 48: Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9

“You are to appoint judges and officers for all your gates [in the cities] Adonai your God is giving you, tribe by tribe; and they are to judge the people with righteous judgment” (Deuteronomy 16:18).

The Israelites were to appoint judges to sit at the gates of their cities.  Their job was to judge the people.  Generally, when the word ‘judge’ is used, it is used in a derogatory sense suggesting we are not to make judgments.  In Hebrew the word ‘judge’ is shapat and means ‘govern, decide or rule.’  In the cities of Isra’el, it was important that issues between people would be governed or ruled by judges from their own city.   The Hebrew word for ‘justice’ is tzadek and means ‘to be righteous.’

“Justice, only justice, you must pursue; so that you will live and inherit the land Adonai your God is giving you” (Deuteronomy 16:20).

The ‘do not judge’ dogma has taken root from the western culture of tolerance infiltrating the Body of Messiah leaving it injured at its core by sinful lifestyles and no recourse to remove the blight of sin.  While we can never know the motive of the heart,  we are called to look at thei fruit and decide if the tree is good or bad.  It is called being a fruit inspector (Matthew 12:33). 

Many love to use the speck and the log to point out we should not judge; however, the speck and the log must be the same sin issue.  Someone involved in adultery should not judge another individual involved in adultery or they will bring judgment upon themselves.  Someone who steals cannot pass judgment on the one who stole from them.  Someone who is divorced should not  gossip about another who is getting divorced. Even one who is not working should not condemn another who doesn’t have a job.

The judges at the city gates were not fruit inspectors, however, they were actually rendering legal decisions brought to them by the people in the community.  The best example of this type of government is found in the book of Ruth when Boaz goes to the city gate to discuss the kinsman-redeemer for Naomi.  He takes ten of the city’s leaders to discuss redeeming her land so as not to put anyone’s land inheritance as risk and to have witnesses to the decision. He did this so the name of Naomi’s husband would remain and not be forgotten. 

Yeshua talks about those who sin against one another. The first step is to discuss it privately.  If the issue is resolved, then there should be restoration.  If the brother or sister won’t listen, then two or three are used to help resolve the matter justly.   If the brother or sister still won’t listen, then he or she is to be treated as a pagan or tax-collector.

“Yes! I tell you people that whatever you prohibit on earth will be prohibited in heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be permitted in heaven” (Matthew 18:15-18).

This verse is often used to support binding evil spirits and loosing the Ruach of Elohim in spiritual warfare. However, it is used in the context of rendering a judgment based on an issue of sin within the Body of Messiah.  Yeshua is giving his followers the authority to either bind or loose a judgments according to a righteous judicial process.

Sha’ul explains to the believers in Corinth that judgment is going to part of their responsibility in the Kingdom.  As such, they should be practicing righteous judgment within the community of believers.

“Don’t you know that God’s people are going to judge the universe? If you are going to judge the universe, are you incompetent to judge these minor matters?  Don’t you know that we will judge angels, not to mention affairs of everyday life?  So if you require judgments about matters of everyday life, why do you put them in front of men who have no standing in the Messianic Community?” (1 Corinthians 6:2-4)

Asherah and Artemis

“You are not to plant any sort of tree as a sacred pole beside the altar of Adonai your God that you will make for yourselves” (Deuteronomy 16:21).

An Asherah pole was a tree or pole erected near Canaanite religious locations to honor the Ugaritic goddess Asherah.  Asherah, along with Astarte and Anath, was one of three goddesses in the Canaanite pantheon.  Her primary role was that of a mother.  In Jeremiah,  Asherah is called the Queen of Heaven; in Ephesus she is known as Artemis (Jeremiah 7:18).

“At last, the city clerk was able to quiet the crowd. ‘Men of Ephesus!’ He said, ‘Is there anyone who doesn’t know that the city of Ephesus is the guardian of the temple of the great Artemis, and of the sacred stone which fell from the sky?’” (Acts 19:35)

In Islam, there is a sacred stone called the Black Stone found in the center of the Grand Mosque in Mecca. According to Islamic tradition, the stone dates back to Adam and Eve and has been worshipped since pre-Islamic pagan times.  It is a dark rock believed to have fallen from heaven and described as a meteorite.  Some Muslims believe it has the power to cleanse worshippers from their sins by absorbing them into itself.  It is said that the stone was once pure and white, but has turned black from all the sins it has absorbed over the millennia.

“If there is found among you, within any of your gates [in any city] that Adonai your God gives you, a man or woman who does what Adonai your God sees as wicked, transgressing his covenant by going and serving other gods and worshipping them, the sun, the moon, or anything in the sky — something I have forbidden — … then you are to investigate the matter diligently…. If it is confirmed that such detestable things are being done in Isra’el;  then you are to bring the man or woman who has done this wicked thing to your city gates, and stone that man or woman to death” (Deuteronomy 17:2-6).

The death penalty was required for cases of blood shed, civil suits, personal injury or any other controversial issue.  According to Torah, anyone who refused to accept a verdict rendered by a priest was considered wicked (lawless) and needed to be exterminated from Isra’el.    All sins that required the death penalty could only be carried out after a hearing with a testimony from two or three witnesses.

”One witness alone will not be sufficient to convict a person of any offense or sin of any kind; the matter will be established only if there are two or three witnesses testifying against him” (Deuteronomy 19:15).

However, witnesses could false witnesses and lie.  Elohim gives a regulation for this too. 

“If they find that the witness is lying and has given false testimony against his brother, you are to do to him what he intended to do to his brother” (Deuteronomy 19:18).

This is what happened to Stephen.  False witnesses condemned him to death.

“Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, ‘We have heard Stephen speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.’ So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin” (Acts 6:11-12).

The persecution of Stephen and his death haunted Sha’ul even to the end of his life.

“Lord, they know themselves that in every synagogue I used to imprison and flog those who trusted in you; also that when the blood of your witness Stephen was being shed, I was standing there too, in full agreement; I was even looking after the clothes of the ones who were killing him!’ (Acts 22:19-21)

The War of 1812

“There must not be found among you anyone who makes his son or daughter pass through fire, a diviner, a soothsayer, an enchanter, a sorcerer,  a spell-caster, a consulter of ghosts or spirits, or a necromancer.  For whoever does these things is detestable to Adonai, and because of these abominations Adonai your God is driving them out ahead of you.  You must be wholehearted with Adonai your God. For these nations, which you are about to dispossess, listen to soothsayers and diviners; but you, Adonai your God does not allow you to do this” (Deuteronomy 18:10-14).

I taught my children these verses in Deuteronomy as “The War of 1812” because they outline the practices embodied in one of the darkest spiritual wars believers fight.  Every year wiccans, pagans and satanists take part in these very activities that Yahweh calls an abomination.  The battle is not with the wicked who follow the god of this world,  but with those who claim to follow Christ and join the celebration of death with all sorts of alternatives and rationalizations.  Only those with eyes to see and ears to hear what the Ruach HaKodesh speaks to their circumcised hearts connect the dots and refrain from promoting one of the most evil holidays known as  ‘All Hallow’s Eve.’   

Witchcraft is destructive for everyone involved in its occult practices.  Human sacrifices are condemned by Yahweh yet they are still done today.  I knew a woman who grew up in the occult and sacrificed her babies on Halloween. For years after being saved out of that darkness, she continued to battle the demons that wanted continued sacrifices and she feared having more children.  She eventually had victory over the demons and had two children with her believing husband.  Even the idea that our deceased loved ones are watching over us, so often said at memorials, is akin to consulting the dead.  There is only One who died and lives.  Only He watches over us.  Divining spirits or consulting a medium opens the door to demonic activity.  Yeshua cleansed people from demons and evil spirits who were being spiritually destroyed and wanted to be set free.

Those who understand the darkness of evil and have been called out of it into the light of Messiah cannot take part in this holiday, promote or encourage its roots of evil.   We are commanded to pull down demonic strongholds, especially at Halloween.  More importantly,  we are not to be like the nations around imitating or taking part in the things they do.  The only way to be light in the darkness is to stand against this evil. 

“But you are a chosen people, the King’s cohanim, a holy nation,a people for God to possess!  Why? In order for you to declare the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9).

The King or kings

Yahweh never wanted Isra’el to desire a King other than Himself.  However, He knew their faithless hearts and that they would cry out to have a king like the nations around them so He gave them instructions.

They were never to appoint their own king, but allow ‘I AM’ to choose the man.  The king must be an Israelite, ultimately from the Tribe of Judah,  and not a foreigner.  He was not to obtain horses by returning to Egypt.  He was not to acquire many wives because they would turn his heart away from servingHim.  He was also not to acquire excessive quantities of gold or silver.  

The most important responsibility for a king of Isra’el was to write a copy of Torah for himself on a scroll.   By writing out Torah, keeping it with him, and reading it on a daily basis, the king would learn to fear Elohim and obey all the words of His instructions.  By being under the authority of Yahweh and His commands, the king would remain humble and not set himself above the people of Isra’el.  The king who followed the command to turn neither to the right or left when it came to Torah would prolong his reign and that of his children after him. 

King David wrote love letters about Torah in Psalms 19 and 119.  He was called a ‘man after Elohim’s own heart’ because he was teachable and humble when faced with his sin (Acts 13:22).  Because of his faithfulness, he was promised a descendant on the throne of Isra’el for all eternity.    

“The Torah of Adonai is perfect, restoring the inner person. The instruction of Adonai is sure, making wise the thoughtless. The precepts of Adonai are right, rejoicing the heart. The mitzvah of Adonai is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of Adonai is clean, enduring forever. The rulings of Adonai are true, they are righteous altogether, more desirable than gold, than much fine gold, also sweeter than honey or drippings from the honeycomb. Through them your servant is warned; in obeying them there is great reward” (Psalm 19:8-12).

The Promise of a Prophet

“I will raise up for them a prophet like you [Moshe] from among their kinsmen. I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I order him. Whoever doesn’t listen to my words, which he will speak in my name, will have to account for himself to me” (Deuteronomy 18:19-20). 

Yahweh promised Isra’el that He would raise up a prophet from among their own people who would be greater than Moshe.  This prophet would speak everything Elohim commanded him to speak.  Those who would not listen to the words of this prophet would have to give an account before the judgment seat of ‘I Am.’

A False Prophet

“When a prophet speaks in the name of Adonai, and the prediction does not come true – that is, the word is not fulfilled – then Adonai did not speak that word.  The prophet who said it spoke presumptuously; you have nothing to fear from him” (Deuteronomy 18:22).  

Many presumptuous people over the centuries set dates for the ‘end of the world’ or the return of Messiah.  Because they assume to have ‘special’ knowledge or insight apart from the Scriptures,  believers should have no fear of them.  However, to the world, these false prophets make a mockery of those whose faith and hope are in Yeshua, the salvation of the world.

Warfare Regulations

“Listen, Isra’el!  You are about to do battle against your enemies.  Don’t be fainthearted or afraid; don’t be alarmed or frightened by them; because Adonai your God is going with you to fight on your behalf against your enemies and give you victory” (Deuteronomy 20:3).

A man who had built a new home, planted a vineyard or was engaged to be married was not to go to war because he may die fighting and another man would take over his house, his vineyard and his betrothed.  Men who were fainthearted were not to serve in combat so they would not discourage other men.  In Hebrew ‘fainthearted’ is  rakak and means ‘wanting in courage, easily frightened, weak, tender, or discouraged in spirit.’  This is why the Israelites had to wander for 40 years, they were rakak or ‘discouraged in spirit’ and not fit for war.

When going to war with far-off cities Isra’el was first to offer terms for peace.  If the peace offer was accepted, Isra’el would take over the city and the citizens would work as forced laborers.   If the city rejected the peace offer, Isra’el was to go to war with the city.  When they had victory, every man was to be killed, but women, children and livestock could be taken as plunder.   When going to war with cities within the land inheritance, everyone was to be killed – nothing that breathed was allowed remain alive.  Because Isra’el obeyed this command, the Hitties, the Emorites, the Cannanites, the Perizites, the Hivites and the Yebusites were all exterminated.  

“When, in making war against a town in order to capture it, you lay siege to it for a long time, you are not to destroy its trees, cutting them down with an axe. You can eat their fruit, so don’t cut them down. After all, are the trees in the field human beings, so that you have to besiege them too? However, if you know that certain trees provide no food, you may destroy them and cut them down, in order to build siege-works against the town making war with you, until it falls” (Deuteronomy 20:19-20).

Trees are so important in Isra’el they have a day commemorating them called Tu B’Shevat.  The Tu means 15 in Hebrew so the day falls on the fifteenth day of the month of Shevat which is right before spring.  It is customary to plant a tree in Isra’el on this day similar to the American Arbor Day.   Though Tu B’Shevat is not one of the ‘appointed times,’ it was created as a new year for trees to determine the age of a tree in regard to Leviticus 19.  If a tree was planted on the fourteenth day of Shevat, the next day it would be one year old.  However, if the tree was planted on the sixteenth day of Shevat, it would be one year old an entire year later.  By the fifth year, the fruit from the tree could be eaten. 

“When you enter the land and plant various kinds of fruit trees, you are to regard its fruit as forbidden — for three years it will be forbidden to you and not eaten.  In the fourth year all its fruit will be holy, for praising Adonai. But in the fifth year you may eat its fruit, so that it will produce even more for you; I am Adonai your God” (Leviticus 19:23-25).

Yeshua, Like Moshe

Yeshua, like Moshe, had to be fromamong the community of Isra’el. 

“This is the genealogy of Yeshua the Messiah, son of David, son of Avraham: Avraham was the father of Yitz’chak, Yitz’chak was the father of Ya’akov, Ya‘akov was the father of Y’hudah …” (Matthew 1:1-3).

Yeshua, like Moshe, was sent by Elohim.

“So Yeshua said, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I AM [who I say I am], and that of myself I do nothing, but say only what the Father has taught me. Also, the One who sent me is still with me; he did not leave me to myself, because I always do what pleases him” (John 8:28-29).

Yeshua, like Moshe, was approved by the audible voice of Elohim.

“As soon as Yeshua had been immersed, he came up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, he saw the Spirit of God coming down upon him like a dove,  and a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; I am well pleased with him” (Matthew 3:26-17).

Yeshua, like Moshe, was a shepherd.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11).

Yeshua, like Moshe, was willing to sacrifice his life.

“This is why the Father loves me: because I lay down my life — in order to take it up again! No one takes it away from me; on the contrary, I lay it down of my own free will. I have the power to lay it down, and I have the power to take it up again. This is what my Father commanded me to do” (John 10:17-18). 

• Yeshua, like Moshe, miraculously fed the people.

Then he [Yeshua] took the five loaves and the two fish, and, looking up toward heaven, made a b’rakhah. Next he broke up the loaves and began giving them to the talmidim to distribute. He also divided up the two fish among them all. They all ate as much as they wanted, and they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces and fish. Those who ate the loaves numbered five thousand men” (Mark 6:41-44).

Yeshua, like Moshe, spent 40 days and nights in the wilderness.

“Then Yeshua, filled with the Ruach HaKodesh, returned from the Yarden and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days of testing by the Adversary. During that time he ate nothing, and afterwards he was hungry” (Luke 4:1-2).

• Yeshua, like Moshe, revealed the name of Elohim.

“I made your name known to the people you gave me out of the world…. Now I am no longer in the world. They are in the world, but I am coming to you. Holy Father, guard them by the power of your name, which you have given to me, so that they may be one, just as we are. When I was with them, I guarded them by the power of your name, which you have given to me; yes, I kept watch over them; and not one of them was destroyed” (John 17:6, 11-12).

Yeshua, like Moshe, sent out 12 men.

“Calling together the Twelve, Yeshua gave them power and authority to expel all the demons and to cure diseases; and he sent them out to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal” (Luke 9:1-2).

Yeshua, like Moshe, did what he was told to do by Elohim.

“For I have not spoken on my own initiative, but the Father who sent me has given me a command, namely, what to say and how to say it” (John 12:49).

• Yeshua, like Moshe, instituted a covenant with blood.

“He did the same with the cup after the meal, saying, ‘This cup is the New Covenant, ratified by my blood, which is being poured out for you’” (Luke 22:20).

Yeshua, like Moshe, was rejected by the nation of Isra’el.

“But with one voice they shouted, “Away with this man! Give us Bar-Abba!” (He was a man who had been thrown in prison for causing a riot in the city and for murder.)  Pilate appealed to them again, because he wanted to release Yeshua.  But they yelled, “Put him to death on the stake! Put him to death on the stake!” (Luke 23:18-20)

Yeshua, like Moshe, had a face that reflected the glory of God.

“Six days later, Yeshua took Kefa, Ya‘akov and his brother Yochanan and led them up a high mountain privately. As they watched, he began to change form — his face shone like the sun, and his clothing became as white as light” (Matthew 17:1-2).

Yeshua, like Moshe, brought about a resurrection of the dead; Moshe’s figuratively with the Red Sea.

“Also the graves were opened, and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life;  and after Yeshua rose, they came out of the graves and went into the holy city, where many people saw them” (Matthew 27:52-53).

• Yeshua, like Moshe, was accepted by the nations.

“The woman was a Greek, by birth a Syro-phoenician, and she begged him to drive the demon out of her daughter.  He said, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s food and toss it to their pet dogs.” She answered him, “That is true, sir; but even the dogs under the table eat the children’s leftovers.”  Then he said to her, “For such an answer you may go on home; the demon has left your daughter” (Mark 7:26-29).

Yeshua, like Moshe, taught Torah.

“Don’t think that I have come to abolish the Torah or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete. Yes indeed! I tell you that until heaven and earth pass away, not so much as a yod or a stroke will pass from the Torah — not until everything that must happen has happened. So whoever disobeys the least of these mitzvot and teaches others to do so will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But whoever obeys them and so teaches will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 5:17-19).

Yeshua, like Moshe, has no grave to be found.

Haftarah (Readings of the Prophets)

Isaiah 51:12-52:12

Isaiah  52:12-53:12

B’rit Chadashah (New Testament Readings)

Matthew 23:23

Matthew 5:38-42

1 Timothy 5:17-22

1 Corinthians 5:9-13

Hebrews 10:28-31

Midrash Shof’tim: Least and Greatest in the Kingdom

Discuss the standard for being least, greatest and maybe not even entering the Kingdom of Elohim based on Yeshua’s words in Matthew 5.  Do his words still stand today? Why or why not?

©2018 Tentstake Ministries Publishing, all rights reserved.  No copying or reproducing of this article without crediting the author or Tentstake Ministries Publishing. For a hard copy of this Torah portion or the complete Torah cycle, please purchase Open My Eyes: Wonders of Torah.

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