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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Barcus

Justice, Judges, and Priests- Deuteronomy 16:18-2, 17:8-13

The lesson today may take on a different tone than most other Bible studies. How much of our current events would be fixed by a true revival in the study, understanding, and application of God’s word in our everyday life. As you share this lesson remember this is not intended to be political or divisive. This is all about justice, judging correctly, and teaching others where the truth lies. How different our world would be if society followed God rather than to follow what seems right in our own eyes.


Priest- an office created and defined by God, by which sanctified and consecrated men from the tribe of Levi, represented the future sacrifice of Christ on the cross, by offering sacrifice and service first in the tabernacle and then in the temple.

Judge- this position, also created and defined by God, was as an interpreter of the word of God, men with wisdom who could apply what God had given to Moses to specific circumstances and to answer disputes among the people. After the death of Joshua, they fulfilled a role of leadership and governance, although at that time, each tribe, family, and man ruled over their own affairs and lands under God’s authority. Only when Israel demanded a king, did all political authority become concentrated in one place.

18 Judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates, which the Lord thy God giveth thee, throughout thy tribes: and they shall judge the people with just judgment.

When the founding fathers of the United States of America were deciding how this land should be governed, if they miraculously survived a conflict with the greatest military force on earth at the time- the British Empire, they looked to the Bible for guidance. We know from their writings that self government was a thought they gathered from the pattern God gave Israel. The priests were to follow the law as received by God, the judges were to obey and interpret it for the people, and the people were to honor and obey God’s word first in their affairs. If they had done so, it would have resulted in very little need of oppressive or interfering authority.

19 Thou shalt not wrest judgment; thou shalt not respect persons, neither take a gift: for a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous.

In light of dire warnings in Isaiah, Ezekial, Jeremiah, and other books that prophesied the judgment and punishment of Israel and Judah because they did not righteously judge the people, we can conclude that this verse should be critically examined. What does it mean to wrest judgment? It means to twist or extort by violence. They could not take what God said and make it what they wanted it to say. The law of God was and is above our reasoning. They were not to twist it for their own gain.

They were not to respect persons. No one was above the law, because the law came from God and no one was above him. Rich or poor, powerful or pitiful, the law was to be fairly applied. We often hear it said today that in America one law exists for the rich who can afford lawyers and appeals and another law exists for those who are unable to pay their way out of trouble. In God’s eyes this is a terrible sin. A person should be able to expect equal treatment under the

law, and this idea first was shown to man by God himself. Likewise, they were not to accept bribes, which would obviously cause them to pervert or unfairly decide what was right or wrong. There were to be no high powered lobbyists in God’s government system. The decisions made by the judges were to be humbly and honestly interpreted by examining the words God gave to Moses and applying them without prejudice.

20 That which is altogether just shalt thou follow, that thou mayest live, and inherit the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. 8 If there arise a matter too hard for thee in judgment, between blood and blood, between plea and plea, and between stroke and stroke, being matters of controversy within thy gates: then shalt thou arise, and get thee up into the place which the Lord thy God shall choose;9 And thou shalt come unto the priests the Levites, and unto the judge that shall be in those days, and enquire; and they shall shew thee the sentence of judgment:10 And thou shalt do according to the sentence, which they of that place which the Lord shall choose shall shew thee; and thou shalt observe to do according to all that they inform thee:

The principle here is that every man should be able to resolve and interpret the law in his own situations for the majority of time. God really wanted a nation of God fearing and wise people. However, inevitably there would be cases where they would need the help of the priests and the judges to settle a matter. When that occurred they were to accept the verdict and the consequences that were meted out by those God ordained authorities. In other words, no further appeal.

11 According to the sentence of the law which they shall teach thee, and according to the judgment which they shall tell thee, thou shalt do: thou shalt not decline from the sentence which they shall shew thee, to the right hand, nor to the left.12 And the man that will do presumptuously, and will not hearken unto the priest that standeth to minister there before the Lord thy God, or unto the judge, even that man shall die: and thou shalt put away the evil from Israel.13 And all the people shall hear, and fear, and do no more presumptuously.

Presumptuous disregard for the law and the judgements of the law resulted in death. You would therefore, much rather, seek God’s way for yourself and apply his principles before going to the priests and judges. Why such a hard sentence for law breakers and disrespected? Because of Psalm 19: 7 The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.8 The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.9 The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.10 More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.11 Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.12 Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults.13 Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.14 Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.

Points of Discussion

  • How is the lack of knowledge in God’s word showing up in our courts/society today?

  • How is the lack of knowledge in God’s word showing up in our churches?

  • Did the responsibility of right judgment and decision making ever leave the individual? Leave the family?

  • Whose job is it to make sure the family is knowledgeable about God’s word?

  • How do we make sure our judgment is not being twisted and we are, in fact, doing what God says?

  • What are the consequences of ungodly judgment?

Thank you for studying with us!

God Bless!



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