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!
Shoftim / Judges
Humility of a King
Shotim begins with the title of this parsha; to appoint judges, to judge with right ruling, to not pervert justice and to ‘live’. ‘You shall not pervert justice; you shall not show partiality, nor take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous. You shall follow what is altogether just, that you may live and inherit the land which the Lord your God is giving you.’ Deuteronomy 16:19-20. This decree is followed with the instructions to once again not pervert/or make common the worship of Adonai. Deuteronomy 16:21-22 ‘You shall not plant for yourself any tree, as a wooden image, near the altar which you build for yourself to the Lord your God. 22 You shall not set up a sacred pillar, which the Lord your God hates.’ Deuteronomy 17:16-17 states the commands for a king. ‘But he shall not multiply horses for himself, or cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, for the Lord has said to you, ‘You shall not return that way again.’ 17 Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away; nor shall he greatly multiply silver and gold for himself.’ These were all temptations to a king. As we know and as the sages pointed out, it was these three prohibitions that Solomon, wisest of men, broke, marking the beginning of the long slow slide into corruption that marked much of the history of the monarchy in ancient Israel. It led, after his death, to the division of the kingdom. .
Deuteronomy 17:18 “When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he must write for himself a copy of this Torah on a scroll before the Levitical priests.” He must “read it all the days of his life” so that he will be God-fearing and never break Torah. But there is another reason, so that he would not be haughty over those he ruled. The king had to have humility. The highest in the land should not feel like he was the highest in the land.
. The sages state that Solomon justified his breach of these prohibitions by his will and thought process, such as: ‘the only reason that a king may not accumulate wives is that they will lead his heart astray, so I will marry many wives and not let my heart be led astray. And since the only reason not to have many horses is not to establish links with Egypt, I will have many horses but not do business with Egypt.’ In both cases he fell into the trap of which the Torah warns. Solomon’s wives did lead his heart astray.
1 Kings 11:3-8 ‘And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart. 4 For it was so, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned his heart after other gods; and his heart was not loyal to the Lord his God, as was the heart of his father David. 5 For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. 6 Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not fully follow the Lord, as did his father David. 7 Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, on the hill that is east of Jerusalem, and for Molech the abomination of the people of Ammon. 8 And he did likewise for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods.’
And his horses were imported from Egypt, 1 Kings 10:28-29. ‘Also Solomon had horses imported from Egypt and Keveh; the king’s merchants bought them in Keveh at the current price. 29 Now a chariot that was imported from Egypt cost six hundred shekels of silver, and a horse one hundred and fifty; and thus, through their agents, they exported them to all the kings of the Hittites and the kings of Syria.’
The arrogance of power and lack of humility is the downfall of one in power.
This is why the Torah emphasizes humility, not as a mere nicety, a good thing to have, but as essential to the role. The king was to be treated with the highest honor and yet not desire the highest honor, and be the servant of others.
The greatest King that ever was, that ever is and ever is to come, reveals the greatest humility of all.
Phillippians 2:5-11 ‘Let this mind be in you which was also in Yeshua Messiah, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Yeshua is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.’
Mark 10:45 ‘For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.’
2 Corinthians 8:9 ‘For you know the grace of our Lord Yeshua that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you by His poverty might become rich.’
Matthew 11:29 ‘Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.’
John 13:3-7 ‘Yeshua, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside His outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around His waist. Then He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around Him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to Him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Yeshua answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.”
John 5:19 ‘Then Yeshua answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.’
John 12:12-16 ‘The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Yeshua was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, the King of Israel!” And Yeshua found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey's colt!” His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Yeshua was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about Him and had been done to Him.’
Hebrews 4:15 ‘For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.’
Mark 6:34 ‘When He went ashore He saw a great crowd, and He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And He began to teach them many things.’
What is our calling as followers to Yeshua?
2 Chronicles 7:14 ‘If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
1 Peter 5:5 ‘Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
James 4:10 ‘Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.’
Proverbs 11:2 ‘When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.’
Deuteronomy 18:13 emphasizes to be blameless: ‘You shall be blameless before the Lord your God.’ To be blameless equals not associating with worship of the nations.
This chapter continues with the prophecy of Yeshua, the greatest King; Deuteronomy 18:15 ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like Me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear…’
In Deuteronomy 17:12-13, Elohim seems to preface the art of humility. The word is 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; and we totally lack humility. Different synonyms of the word presumptuous appear in the Scriptures; willful, boastful, defiantly, 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.
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. Presumptuousness is void of taking every thought captive. It is void of controlling our tongue. It is void of prayer before we act.
Let us take great lessons from The King of Kings, and how He amplified humility.
Shoftim / Judges
This parsha begins with the administration of justice. ‘You shall not pervert justice; you shall not show partiality, nor take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous. You shall follow what is altogether just, that you may live and inherit the land which the Lord your God is giving you.’ Deuteronomy 19:19-20. Just in this beginning paragraph we see how the perversion of justice, the twisting of the Torah, will blind even the wise and thus twist words of the one that is righteous.
Justice is found in the Torah and those that adhere to the Word, John 1:1, who are righteous. When one begins to twist the words of The Father, specifically the Torah, they themselves become blind and thus twist words of those that are righteous. In Acts 13 Rabbi Shaul gives us an example: ‘Now when they had gone through the island to Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, whose name was Bar-Jesus, who was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man. This man called for Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God. But Elymas the sorcerer (for so his name is translated) withstood them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith. Then Saul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, “O full of all deceit and all fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease perverting the straight ways of the Lord? And now, indeed, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you shall be blind, not seeing the sun for a time.” And immediately a dark mist fell on him, and he went around seeking someone to lead him by the hand. Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had been done, being astonished at the teaching of the Lord.’
The theme of justice continues throughout Shoftim with the rules for the governing King. ‘ But he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, for the Lord has said to you, ‘You shall not return that way again.’ Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away; nor shall he greatly multiply silver and gold for himself. “Also it shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from the one before the priests, the Levites. 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, 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.’ Deuteronomy 17:16-20.
As we know, these were the prohibitions that Solomon, wisest of men, disobeyed; Solomon’s wives led his heart astray - 1 Kings 11:3 and his horses were imported from Egypt- 1 Kings 10: 28-29. The arrogance of power is its downfall and this marked the beginning of the descent into corruption that led after Solomon’s death (932BC) to the division of the kingdom. ‘…that his heart may not be haughty over his brothers…’
What comes with seeking true justice through Torah is an attitude of humility. Everyone is here to serve and everyone has the opportunity to serve. Pirkei Avos in 4:1 states: ‘Who is honored? One who honors others.” True honor is not the honor we receive but the honor we give to others and this is true humility.
Acting presumptuously will keep one from giving honor. Deuteronomy 17:12 states: ‘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. And all the people shall hear and fear, and no longer act presumptuously.’ Deuteronomy 18:20 ‘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.’
When one acts presumptuously they rush out ahead of God, in a sense creating their own justice. With their presumption, they assume that God should handle events in their lives in accordance with their desires or wants. Often, even our prayers can be presumptuous. Their very thoughts center on their lives, creating an attitude of entitlement or ‘honor due themselves’.
Presumption: יומרני A behavior perceived as arrogant, disrespectful, and transgressing the limits of what is permitted or appropriate. Synonyms: Boldness, arrogance, rudeness, expectations, conjecture, generalization.
In Psalm 19 David exalts God and the His Ways and then closes the Psalm with a desire to keep pure and righteous.
‘Who can understand his errors?
Cleanse me from secret faults.
13 Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins;
Let them not have dominion over me.
Then I shall be blameless,
And I shall be innocent of great transgression.
14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.’
Notice the words: secret faults and presumptuous sins. Even a man such as David knew that he had secret sins that would chase him down. An atonement was provided in the Torah for every kind of sin, except one: God speaks of this in Numbers 15:30-31. ‘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. 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.’
This type of attitude rules against the statutes of God. This type of attitude runs ahead of God in glory for themselves as in these and many more examples; Korach, Nadab and Abihu, Haman, Balak and Balaam, Absalom, etc.
What is the cure? We must recognize that we are the holders of the secret sin and the presumptuousness that will chase us down, therefore, Yeshua and Torah cure us from the trappings of presumptuousness. We follow Yeshua and His ways and we gird ourselves with the Word of God, the Torah.
May you be blessed as you study Shoftim.
Rabbi Jay Howard