After you are settled in the towns that you will receive from Yahuah your Alahim, the people in each town must appoint judges and other officers. Those of you who become judges must be completely fair when you make legal decisions, even if someone important is involved. Don’t take bribes to give unfair decisions because bribes keep people who are wise from seeing the truth and turn honest people into liars.
So people of Yisharal, if you want to enjoy a long and successful life, make sure you obediently follow the Divine Laws that I’m reminding you of today, and make sure that everyone is treated with justice in the land that Yahuah is giving you. And when you build the altar for offering sacrifices to Yahuah your Alahim, don’t plant any tree to worship that wicked deity Asherah. And don’t set up any sacred stones or pillars (spires, steeples, obelisks) because Yahuah your Alahim hates these things too.
THERE ARE 4 BASIC TYPES OF HUMAN AUTHORITIES DISCUSSED: KINGS, PRIESTS, JUDGES, AND PROPHETS AND WHAT WE’LL FIND AS A GENERAL RULE IS THAT IT WAS NOT INTENDED BY YAHUSHA THAT THESE GOVERNMENTAL AUTHORITIES WERE TO REPRESENT ELITE SOCIAL CLASSES (ABOVE THE NORMAL WORKING PERSON ON THE SOCIO-ECONOMIC SCALE), NOR WAS IT ENVISIONED THAT THESE GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS RULE OVER THE CITIZENS IN AN ARROGANT MANNER. RATHER WE SEE BOUNDARIES AND LIMITATIONS ON HOW KINGS, PRIESTS, JUDGES AND PROPHETS ARE TO OPERATE, AND DEMONSTRATE THAT THEY ARE NOT ABOVE THE SCRUTINY OF THE GENERAL PUBLIC. IT’S ALSO INTERESTING THAT THE APPOINTMENT OF AUTHORITIES COMES ONLY A COUPLE OF VERSES AFTER YAHUSHA PROHIBITS YISHARAL FROM SETTING UP SACRED POLES AND PILLARS. UNDOUBTEDLY THAT IS BECAUSE THROUGHOUT THE MIDDLE EASTERN CULTURES OF THAT DAY IT WAS THE AUTHORIZED GOVERNMENT AND RELIGIOUS OFFICIALS (NOT USUALLY THE GENERAL PUBLIC) WHO WERE THE ONES TO PUT UP SACRED POLES AND PILLARS (ALTHOUGH AT TIMES REGULAR CITIZENS DID DO THAT). THEREFORE YISHARAL’S GOVERNMENT AND OFFICIALS WERE NOT TO MIMIC THE GENERAL PRACTICES OF YISHARAL’S PAGAN NEIGHBORS THAT ON THE SURFACE SEEMED SO ORDINARY AND USUAL.
THE HEBREW WORD FOR JUDGE IS SHOFET. AND SHORTLY AFTER YISHARAL CONQUERED CANAAN WE ENTER THE 250 -300 YEAR ERA OF THE JUDGES WHO RULED, LED, AND DELIVERED YISHARAL FROM FOREIGN OPPRESSION. WE HAVE AN ENTIRE BOOK OF THE SCRIPTURE (ONE OF THE MOST FASCINATING BOOKS) THAT ADDRESSES THIS PERIOD AND IT IS APPROPRIATELY CALLED THE BOOK OF JUDGES (THE SEPHER OF THE SHOFETIM). YET IT IS HERE IN DEUTERONOMY WHERE THE OFFICE OF A SHOFET IS ACTUALLY ESTABLISHED. NOW IT’S NOT THAT A SYSTEM OF AUTHORITY FIGURES WHO SAT IN JUDGMENT OF EVERY DAY CIVIL MATTERS WAS NEW FOR YISHARAL; WE READ IN EXODUS THAT AT THE ENCOURAGEMENT OF MOSES’ FATHER-IN-LAW JETHRO, MOSES SET UP A LEGAL SYSTEM WHEREBY SOME MEN OF INTEGRITY (ELDERS) WERE CHOSEN TO BECOME A KIND OF LOWER COURT TO HEAR TYPICAL AND MUNDANE MATTERS OF THE PEOPLE; AND IF THE MATTER PROVED TOO DIFFICULT OR SERIOUS IN NATURE ONLY THEN WOULD MOSES AND THE HIGH PRIEST AARON GET INVOLVED. THE DIFFERENCE IS THAT UNDER THE SYSTEM THEY WERE USING OUT IN THE WILDERNESS, LEGAL MATTERS WERE NOT HANDLED TRIBE-BY-TRIBE; THAT IS, IF A PERSON BELONGED TO THE TRIBE OF JUDAH IT WAS NOT JUST MEMBERS OF THE TRIBE OF JUDAH TO WHICH HE ANSWERED. RATHER IT WAS VIA A CENTRALIZED SYSTEM THAT MOSES SET UP THAT A COUNCIL OF ELDERS CONSISTING OF MEN FROM VARIOUS TRIBES WHO SAT IN JUDGMENT OF ALL.
BUT THINGS WERE ABOUT TO CHANGE. YISHARAL WHILE OUT IN THE WILDERNESS WAS A UNITED NATION OPERATING UNDER ONE LEADER, MOSES. AS THEY WENT INTO CANAAN TO CONQUER IT THE SAME TIGHTLY CENTRALIZED ORGANIZATIONAL FORMAT MOST SUITED FOR THE MILITARY OPERATION THEY WERE CARRYING OUT WOULD REMAIN, ONLY NOW JOSHUA WAS THE ULTIMATE AUTHORITY. BUT ALMOST IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING JOSHUA THE CENTRAL GOVERNMENT WEAKENED AND ESSENTIALLY DISSOLVED. SO THESE ORDINANCES IN DEUTERONOMY ABOUT HOW THE YISHARAL GOVERNMENT WOULD OPERATE REALLY ONLY TAKE EFFECT AFTER THE LAND OF CANAAN HAD BEEN SECURED, WHEN THE MILITARY-STYLE ADMINISTRATION AND STRUCTURE WAS NO LONGER NEEDED, AND AFTER EACH OF THE 12 TRIBES HAD ESTABLISHED A FOOTHOLD IN THE DISTRICT OF LAND ALLOTTED TO EACH OF THEM. BECAUSE THIS ENVISIONED THE TIME WHEN EACH TRIBE WOULD BE MORE AUTONOMOUS, THEREFORE EACH TRIBE WOULD HAVE ITS OWN SET OF JUDGES AND OFFICIALS. THE KEY IS THAT WHILE YISHARAL WOULD SOON BECOME A MORE DECENTRALIZED SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT IN CANAAN, YAHUSHA STILL FULLY EXPECTED THAT EACH TRIBE OPERATE UNDER THE SAME COMMON SET OF PRINCIPLES: HIS DIVINE LAWS AND INSTRUCTIONS.
IF YAHUSHA HATES MANKIND WORSHIPPING HIM VIA SACRED POLES AND OBELISKS, THEN WHY WERE ABRAHAM, ISAAC AND JACOB PERMITTED TO ERECT STANDING STONES?
Why do we find Jacob erecting a standing stone to Al Shaddai as he is on his journey from Canaan to Mesopotamia some 5 centuries earlier; and we also have Abraham setting up an altar to Al Shaddai under the Tamarisk tree at Beersheba, a hundred years before that too. In fact Moses set up 12 of these standing stones at Mt. Sinai too and Joshua would set up an enormous standing stone at Shechem (and all of these to honor Yahusha, and there’s not a hint that Yahusha objected to it either). Why? Because there’s an pattern of understanding that is woven into the fabric of Scripture (it's also common sense), showing that NO OBJECT OR LIVING CREATURE IS OF ITSELF UNCLEAN OR EVIL. Rather the issue is what an object or creature is USED FOR and TO WHOM it is meant to identify, along with Yahusha’s declaration concerning the Set-Apart or unclean status He ascribes to that object or living creature.
Now that doesn’t mean that Yisharal had the legitimate option to take that which Yahusha prohibits and make it permissible simply because (to their minds) they felt that they were doing a better or more loving thing (and the same goes for us in our behaviour and celebrations today too). So an uncut stone stood up on its edge is not inherently evil. We may have stacks of them out in our garden landscaping. A tree or a pole that has been formed from a tree trunk and sunk into the ground is not inherently wicked. But when these things are used as a means to attempt to honor Yahusha, He's prohibited it because it can easily become confused with well known pagan worship practices. The same goes for statues, idols, symbols and iconography, which today may be used simply for interior decorating and in no way represents any form of idolatry. Common sense people! It's not what's outside us that makes us unclean but what comes from within (thoughts and desires manifest into behaviours).
If an ox or a sheep has has any deformity or blemish, don’t offer it as a sacrifice to Yahuah your Alahim, for it’s an abomination and He’ll will be disgusted with you. All offerings must be perfect! Yahuah your Alahim is giving you towns to live in, but later, a man or a woman in your town may start worshiping other deities, or even the sun, moon, or stars (ZODIAC, MAZZAROTH, CONSTELLATIONS). I have strictly warned you not to bow down and serve other deities, because whoever worships them is disobeying Yahuah and breaking the Blood-Covenant Agreement He’s made with you. So when you hear that someone in your town is committing this disgusting evil behaviour, you must carefully find out if that person really is guilty and take two or three witnesses with you because one witness isn’t enough to prove a person guilty. And get rid of those who are guilty of such evil. Take them outside your town gates and have everyone stone them to death. But remember, the witnesses must be the first to throw the stones.
THERE'S SOME EXCELLENT PSYCHOLOGY BEHIND THIS PROTOCOL. FIRST, A WITNESS WHO GIVES UNTRUTHFUL TESTIMONY IN A CAPITAL CASE THAT LEADS TO THE EXECUTION OF AN INNOCENT PERSON NOW HAS BLOOD ON HIS HANDS. WHAT THAT MEANS IS THAT HE IS NOW A MURDERER AND IS SUBJECT TO EXECUTION HIMSELF. AND ANYONE WHO IS GUILTY OF “BLOOD” IN SCRIPTURES IS PERMANENTLY CUT-OFF FROM YAHUSHA (BOTH PHYSICAL AND SPIRITUAL DEATH). THEREFORE THERE WAS A SAFEGUARD IN PLACE MEANT TO DISCOURAGE RASH OR INTENTIONALLY FALSE TESTIMONY; AND BY REQUIRING SEVERAL WITNESSES THEN TESTIMONY COULD BE VERIFIED. THEN AFTER ACCUSERS/WITNESSES BEGAN THE EXECUTION PROCESS (BY THROWING THE FIRST STONES) AND THE ENTIRE COMMUNITY IS TO JOIN IN AND FINISH THE JOB. CAN YOU IMAGINE WHAT AN IMPRESSION WAS MADE ON EVERYONE WHO PICKED UP A STONE AND HELPED TO KILL THAT CRIMINAL? IT WAS BLOODY AND GRAPHIC AND AWFUL. IT WASN’T SANITARY AND OUT OF PUBLIC VIEW LIKE IT IS TODAY. IT DIDN’T HAVE A GOAL OF BEING “PAINLESS” FOR THE PERPETRATOR NOR PAINLESS FOR THE COMMUNITY. YAHUSHA DOESN’T ENJOY THE DEATH OF EVEN THE WICKED AND NEITHER SHOULD HIS PEOPLE. BUT BY THE ENTIRE COMMUNITY PARTICIPATING IN SUCH A THING AS EXECUTION NO ONE COULD SAY THEY DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT IT NOR WOULD THEY NOT HAVE FULL REALISATION OF JUST HOW TERRIBLE A THING AN EXECUTION IS AND HOW FULL OF CONSEQUENCES SUCH EVIL BEHAVIOUR CAN BE. IN THE END, THOUGH, THIS WAS ALSO ABOUT THE ENTIRE COMMUNITY AFFIRMING YAHUSHA’S JUSTICE SYSTEM. IT WAS AN ENTIRE COMMUNITY ACKNOWLEDGING THAT HIGHHANDED EVIL HAD BEEN COMMITTED (FIRST AND FOREMOST AGAINST YAHUSHA) AND IT WAS THEIR JOB TO PURGE THIS WICKEDNESS FROM THE SOCIETY. THIS IS THE PRIMARY JOB OF ALL HUMAN GOVERNMENT.
It may be difficult to find out the truth in some legal cases in your town, and you may not be able to decide if someone was killed accidentally or murdered, or whether an injury or property damage was done by accident or on purpose. So if the case is too difficult, take it to the court at the place where Yahuah your Alahim chooses to rest His Name (Tabernacle). This court will be made up of one judge and several priests who serve at Yahuah’s altar. They will explain the Divine Laws to you and give you their decision about the case, so do exactly what they tell you, because if you shoot off your mouth in arrogance, you’ll be put to death. And when the other Yisharalites hear about it, they’ll be afraid and obey the decisions of the court and this will purge such evil behaviour from Yisharal. TRIBAL LOYALTY WAS NOT TO BE LIFTED HIGHER THAN THE DECISION OF THE PRIESTS.
APPOINTING A KING
People of Yisharal, after you capture the land that Yahuah your Alahim is giving you, and after you settle on it, you will say, “We want a king, just like all the nations around us.” So go ahead and appoint a king, but make sure that he is a Yisharalite and that he is the one that Yahuah has chosen. No outside foreigner can be the King. The king should not be trying to grow his own wealth through silver and gold, or by attaining more horses, especially encouraging the people to go back to Egypt for horse-trading, for Yahuah has said `never to go back that way ever again'. And the king must not have a lot of wives, for they might tempt him to betray Yahuah and be disobedient.
The official copy of Yahuah’s Divine Laws will be kept by the priests of the Levi tribe. So, as soon as anyone becomes king and he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he must go to the priests and write out a copy of these Divine Laws while they watch. Each day the King must read and obey these divine laws, so that he will learn to serve Yahuah with fear and trembling and not think that he’s better than everyone else. If the King completely obeys Yahuah’s instructions, he and his descendants will rule Yisharal for many years.
MOSES STARTS ESTABLISHING THE IDEA OF A KING, WHICH SURPRISES A LOT OF PEOPLE BECAUSE MOST FOLKS WHO KNOW THEIR SCRIPTURES THINK ABOUT THE TIME WHEN SAMUEL APPOINTED KING SAUL AND THE GENERALLY NEGATIVE ATTITUDE OF THE NARRATIVE ABOUT THIS CROWNING OF THE FIRST KING OF YISHARAL. YET HERE WE HAVE YAHUSHA ANTICIPATING THE DAY THAT YISHARAL WILL HAVE A KING AND SO LISTS THE BOUNDARIES AND RULES THAT YISHARAL’S KINGS MUST OPERATE UNDER.
The first group of governmental leaders we discussed is called Shofetim, Judges. They were usually tribal elders and the purpose for their selection was to behave as a lower court handling matters within in their own tribe about things that happened within their own tribal territory. The typical type of judges (those who formed the lower courts) ONLY dealt with matters concerning their own tribe. And while we get this mental picture of a judge sitting behind a bench, ruling on legal issues, in fact many of Yisharal’s Judges came to assume entirely different roles than those ascribed (or possibly even envisioned) here. Samson for instance, he of the superhuman strength, acted as a protector of his people and an instrument of Yahusha’s wrath upon the Philistines. He certainly did not sit as an arbitrator of legal matters among his tribe of Dan. So the type of behaviour of each type of judge often changes from tribe to tribe.
The next class of governmental leaders Moses discussed was Kings. It would be nearly 300 years AFTER the time of Moses before Yisharal actually had its first King, Saul. So the instructions regarding the boundaries and limitations around what an Yisharalite King should be and what he could and could not do, looked well into the future. And we must grasp that this is both knowledge of the future and a concession on Yahusha’s part. That is He foreknew that Yisharal would eventually want to be more like their neighbors than to be seen as set apart and unique, so He makes provision for Yisharal to have an earthly king because the Hebrews were (in time) going to demand it. It’s not at all unlike circumstances that Paul was dealing with in his thoughts concerning divorce; it is not that Yahusha ordains divorce it’s that in His foreknowledge and power He knows that fallen man will go this route so He sets up procedures and boundaries to deal with it. Yahusha is in no way setting up the parameters of kingship because He accepts the governing philosophy of a man ruling His people as a king; He is doing it because in time Yisharal WILL, by their own folly, insist that a king be appointed over them (and indeed that is exactly what eventually happened).
Yahusha puts restrictions upon Yisharal’s future kings in 3 different contexts. That is, 3 different spheres of influence that every king has sway over: military, political, and economic. And the first injunction is that the King is not to amass too many horses. And since the finest and most well-trained horses came from Egypt, Yisharal would be tempted to rebuild ties with their former slave master in order to attain these animals. There is also a deeper sense of instruction contained in this admonition; it is that for Yisharal’s leadership to create a relationship of convenience or personal benefit with an enemy of Yahusha is not something that ought to be pursued by the redeemed. Imagine the Bride of Yahusha trying to buddy up to Islam or any other religion in so-called love and peace! That is a direct violation of Yahusha’s Instructions here not to give up their set-apart status to join the world’s league of nations and partake of their wealth. Yahusha will provide for His Nation. Also Yahusha states that Yisharal is never to go back that way again which definitely means way of life, friendships and behaviour tied with Egypt and it’s systems and ways. This is what that verse of “not going back that way” is primarily about. Because if Yisharal’s Kings ever start looking to the same people who view them as no more than escaped slaves for friendship and as a source of strategic military hardware or economic benefits, the price will be to compromise or even abandon Yahusha’s principles to achieve it. And, of course, that is exactly what the West and even a great portion of Religion is in the process of doing as we speak.
Also in Moses’ day horses were for one primary purpose: to pull chariots. And chariots were used for two things: as limosines for the king and his court but more importantly they were key armaments for ancient warfare. The more chariots a king had in his arsenal the more formidable he was in battle. The kings of Yisharal were instructed to place their trust in Yahusha, not in military armaments. Their power was to be their belief in the Alahim of Yisharal, not in advanced weaponry. Even so Yahusha does NOT speak against Yisharal being well armed and having a substantial military, rather it is that their hopes of victory are His and thus obedience to Him is the key to their survival. And the source of their power and their ability to survive certainly shouldn’t come from a people (Egypt) who could pull the plug on that power source at any time. Further, as has always been, kings who taste great power are jealous to keep it and so they often turn their military against their own people in order to maintain that power. Yahusha does not want Yisharal’s kings to be so strong and arrogant as to be impervious to the will of the civilian population.
The directive that Yisharal’s kings must not have many wives centers around a uniquely Middle Eastern societal unit called a harem. Westerners tend to think of a harem as simply a pleasure palace full of beautiful women for use by the king and his court. That is far from reality. Political power in this era came as much from forming strong alliances as it did from exercising military might. And those alliances almost always entailed intermarriage between the families of the kings that were involved. We miss the point in the infamous story of Solomon and the enormous number of wives and concubines in his harem because the idea that seems to be prevalent among religion is that Solomon was on some level a self-indulgent sex maniac; rather the Scriptural story was meant to brag about the immense number of alliances he had created throughout the region…..and how wrong-minded it was.
Harems were not large palaces full only of women; it was where the children of these women also resided. For a king to disgrace or show disrespect to one of the wives among his harem was tantamount to an international incident and could even bring about war with the family that wife represented. So the warning that comes that a King’s “heart might go astray” should he have a large harem means that this king would be tempted to be more focused on keeping his wives, and the alliances they represent, satisfied than paying attention to Yahusha’s people and His Instructions. Let me also remind you that the use of the word “heart” was referring to the king’s mind…..his intellect, what interested him and what he felt was important…..not his emotions or that his love and affection towards his harem would override his common sense.
And finally there’s a warning for the king not to go around amassing a personal fortune on the backs of his subjects. And how would a king go about doing that? By heavily taxing his people and by confiscating wealth from those smaller nations and city-states he has conquered and under his control. While all of that was standard operating procedure for Canaan’s kings, the Yisharalite king was only to gather wealth for the good of his nation in order to fund a proper military, to care for the neediest of the society, and for national building projects like roads that truly benefited the people on a corporate level. The Scriptural reality is that the story of David’s son, King Solomon, is told in a fashion meant to highlight that he violated all of these provisions of the law: to abstain from an overly large military, to avoid having many wives and the alliances they represented, and to not store up for himself wealth. Even with Yisharal having a king, the Divine Law we are reading in Deuteronomy was designed to retain Yahusha as the ultimate king of Yisharal, and the human king was simply His representative on earth accomplishing His will (even though it would have been better if Yisharal had not insisted on having a human king at all).
It is difficult in a short period of time to explain why Yahusha’s definition of an earthly king as ordained in Deuteronomy is so opposite of mankind’s definition of a king. But suffice it to say that earthly kings typically created the laws for their people and just as typically exempted themselves from their own laws. Since Yisharal’s Laws came from Yahusha, then Yisharal’s kings were to be as much under Yahusha’s laws as was any other Hebrew citizen. Upon his selection the FIRST duty of new king is to borrow the original Truth (instruction) scrolls from the priests of Yisharal and then to write a copy of that document for Himself. The King is NOT to have a scribe make a copy for him, he is to take whatever time is needed to write it word-for-word and then keep it close by his side as that instrument that governs his life and is the law of the land for governing the people who look to him for leadership. Back in the day before the new progressive teaching methods that have made reading, writing, and math secondary to learning secular human social agendas such as tolerance, diversity, and anything-goes sexuality…. repetitive writing was used to facilitate memory and retention. And it works; and here in Deuteronomy Yahusha orders the King of Yisharal to employ muscle memory, if you would, for the purpose of drinking in deeply and never forgetting the Instructions upon the King and the Divine Laws that he is to enforce upon those he serves. Sadly very few of Yisharal’s kings ever paid these Divine Laws any heed and the consequences are still being felt to this day in the world.