Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah Shof’tim (Judges): Deuteronomy 11:26-16:17
Haftarah: Isaiah 51:12-53:12
Brit Chadasha: Mattityahu 5:38-42; 18-20; Acts 3:13-26; 7:35-53; 1 Cor. 5:9-13; 1 Tim 5:17-22; Messianic Jews (Hebrews) 10:28-31
Why is there evil in the world?
In this week’s portion we see Moshe telling Israel to appoint righteous judges and officers who shall rule honestly and without favor. Then he warns the people not to plant an Asherah tree or erect a pillar for idol worship near the Altar of HaShem. He goes on to caution B’nai Yisrael that the penalty for idol worship is death by stoning, but he qualifies the penalty by requiring two or three witnesses to condemn the accused before a death sentence may be handed down.
Moshe sets districts and jurisdictions to handle disputes between the people. If local courts cannot handle the matter then they may appeal to a higher court where the Kohanim, Levites, and the Judge of the day will determine the disposition of the case. Moshe warns the people to do what the judges say and be careful to do as they are taught. Yahshua also said that we are to obey those in authority for they sit in the seat of Moshe, but we are to do what they say, not what they do. For the recalcitrant who will not abide the judge’s decisions then that person shall die.
Moshe also predicted that the time would come when B’nai Yisrael will ask for a king “like the nations around them.” The king had to be of the tribe of Judah. He could not have too many horses, which represented wealth or too many wives because they may lead him astray. Solomon was a good example of violation of both those restraints and the resulting consequences. The pursuit of wealth and passion are two weaknesses that tend to remove us from YHVH’s presence. Further, the king should write for himself two copies of the Torah. One must be with him always, as he should read from it continually, so that he does neither become arrogant or deviates from the commandments. Note that the appointment of a king is optional (Deut.17:15). The power of the king is more limited than any other institution. The king was appointed by a prophet of G-d and not the people.
Moshe then lists the kinds of false prophets and soothsayers that exist among the nations: sorcerers, astrologers, and animal charmers among others. He points out that these nations have only this to listen to but B’nai Yisrael has YHVH Elohim, the living Elohim. He warns if a prophet arises in Israel and purports to speak in the name of YHVH and declares certain things to happen, and they do not, then he is a false prophet and not of YHVH Elohim. We see an extension of this concept in 1 John 4-6: “ Dear friends, do not trust every spirit. On the contrary, test the spirits to see whether they are from G-d; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. Here is how you recognize the Spirit of G-d: every spirit which acknowledges that Yahshua the Messiah came as a human being is from G-d, and every spirit which does not acknowledge Yahshua [,] is not from G-d- in fact, this is the spirit of the Anti-Messiah. You have heard that he is coming. Well, he’s here now, in the world already!”
“You, children, are from G-d and have overcome the false prophets, because he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore, they speak from the world’s viewpoint; and the world listens to them. We are from G-d. Whoever knows G-d listens to us; whoever is not from G-d doesn’t listen to us. This is how we distinguish the Spirit of truth from the spirit of error.”
Moshe appoints the cities of refuge for those who kill unintentionally to flee to for protection. YHVH does not want innocent blood shed in the land by revengeful families and these cities are set up for that purpose.
Next, Moshe addresses the people regarding property boundaries, and in no case are they to be tampered with as HaShem Himself has set the boundaries of each person. The law of witnesses is then set forth and a single witness alone cannot testify against someone as to their sin, but the law requires two or three. If there are proven to be false witnesses then what they had wanted to do to the accused should be done to them.
Then Moshe explains the rules of war. He cautioned Israel not to fear their enemies for HaShem is with them as He is with every believer. There is to be no fear or panic because YHVH Elohim is with you. Those exempt from going to war are:
Anyone who has built a new house and not lived in it
Anyone who has planted a vineyard and not eaten of it
Anyone who is betrothed to a woman and has not lived with her
Anyone who is faint-hearted
The reason for the first three exemptions is that someone else will benefit from what the person has begun; the reason for the fourth is that a person who is afraid may make others afraid as well.
Moshe then explains that when the people come to a city you are to call out for peace. If the nation or city refuses peace then B’nai Yisrael is to kill all males and take everything else as booty. The people are told that when they lay siege to a city they are not to cut down the fruit trees, but should use non-bearing trees to make armaments.
Then Moshe tells them of the law of Eglah Arufah. If a corpse is found in the field, the elders and judges should measure the distance between the corpse and the surrounding cities. The elders of the city nearest the corpse must take a calf, which has never been used for work, bring it to a stream, and kill it by cutting its neck in the stream. The elders of the city should then approach and wash their hands over the calf and say, “Our hands have not spilled the blood of this person, nor did we see who did it.” They then ask YHVH Elohim to take the blood of the calf as atonement. However, the hunt for the murderer continued.
This is a synopsis of the parashah this week. However, there is one point I would like to cover in more detail. In verse 1 of chapter 18 we learn that the Levites are not to receive land as their inheritance, and the very next verse repeats this message. We also must understand the importance of owning land in that time. Without land you could not provide for yourself in an agriculture society which Israel was at that time. That is why Yisrael had to pay tithes to the Levites so that they could eat and survive. But still they had no place to call home. The point is YHVH’s solution: He is their inheritance and their home is the Temple itself. That is why we are told twice that the Levites had no inheritance in the land: the first time to show us that the Levites get tithes from all the other Israelites and the second time to teach us that there is no place like home, “YHVH Elohim’s home.” We are to learn to trust G-d for all of our needs; He will provide for those who follow Him out of love and obedience.
What is the Haftarah connection to this week’s parashah? Yeshayahu 51:12-52:12
‘This is the fourth of the “seven prophecies of comfort” read between the Fast of the Ninth of Av and Rosh Hashanah.
Our Haftarah begins with HaShem saying: “I am the One who comforts you.” Thought His future bride (all true believers to Yahshua who is G-d) depicted as a parallel to Jerusalem had forgotten their Creator, G-d returns, keeping true to His covenant. Jerusalem is awakened, repents, and as they recover from drinking deeply from the cup of G-d’s wrath, the enemies that afflicted Jerusalem stagger from drinking from the same cup. Now the enemies reap what they had sown (Is. 51:23). G-d returns His Presence to Jerusalem, escorts the exiles, going before and behind them just as He did in the desert. This will be a slow, holy processional which contrasts with the rapid exodus from Egypt (Is. 52:12). YHVH assures us that we will soon be redeemed, and we will make our way back to Israel. With a promise like that from HaShem, we have no reason to be afraid of the nations.
B’rit Chadasha: 1 Cor. 5: 9-13
9 In my earlier letter I wrote you not to associate with people who engage in sexual immorality. 10 I didn’t mean the sexually immoral people outside your community, or the greedy, or the thieves or the idol-worshippers—for then you would have to leave the world altogether! 11 No, what I wrote you was not to associate with anyone who is supposedly a brother but who also engages in sexual immorality, is greedy, worships idols, is abusive, gets drunk or steals. With such a person you shouldn’t even eat! 12 For what business is it of mine to judge outsiders? Isn’t it those who are part of the community that you should be judging? 13 G-d will judge those who are outside. Just expel the evildoer from among yourselves.
These verses are straight forward, requiring no extensive commentary. However, I want to bring two points to your attention. In verse 9 Sha’ul states “My earlier letter.” This letter has not survived except in the reference to it here. From this we learn that not everything Sha’ul wrote became Holy Scripture. In verse 11 we read “With such a person you shouldn’t even eat. But you should eat with persons inquiring into the faith (Acts 10:1–11:18) and with fellow-believers in good standing.
Gematria: Ki Tavo el ha’aretz… “when you enter the land…” (17:14) Moshe tells B’nai Yisrael that when they enter the land they will want to appoint a king. The numeric value of the words Ki tavo, “when you enter,” is 439. This is the same value as the words Bemay Shmuel, “In the days of Shmuel (Samuel).” It was during the days of Shmuel that B’nai Yisrael asked him to appoint a king. Therefore we can make the connection; “When you enter the land… in the days of Shmuel…they will want to appoint a king”
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart