The Portion of Shoftim

Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9

Continuing Moses’s farewell address to the Children of Israel, this week’s portion deals extensively with the legal system the people must establish when they enter the land. From courts to kings and priests to false witnesses and murderers, the portion details what God expects the people to do in each case.

 

The portion then goes on by instructing the people in proper procedures for war. It also details what should be done in the event of an unsolved murder.

 

 

Topic 1: A System of Justice

Moses instructs the people to set up a court system with judges and officers. He exhorts the judges and officers to serve the people honestly and not let their judgment be clouded by bribery or the power of the people involved.   Moses reiterates the injunction against idolatry, this time singling out Ashera trees and… Read More »

 

 

Topic 2: Laws of Kings and Priests

Moses now sets out the laws that distinguish kings, priests and Levites from the rest of the nation. He tells the people there will come a time when they establish themselves in the land and wish to set a king for themselves like the nations around them. Moses instructs the people to choose only a… Read More »

 

 

Topic 3: Prophets Instead of Witchcraft

Moses tells the people not to copy the practices of the nations which they will dispossess; namely, witchcraft and divination. Instead, God will raise for them prophets from among the people, as they told Moses at Sinai hearing God’s word directly was too overwhelming. Moses tells the people to adhere to the words of the… Read More »

 

 

Topic 4: Manslaughter vs. Murder and False Witnesses

This brief passage deals with the establishment of the cities of refuge first mentioned in Numbers 35 and the laws of those who may or may not seek sanctuary there. Three cities must be established first. Then, as Israel’s borders expand, three more.   Moses identifies who may flee there: only one who has killed… Read More »

 

 

Topic 5: Preparations for War and Unsolved Murders

Moses tells the people what to do in preparation for future wars. He notes that the people should not be afraid if they encounter an enemy that seems more numerous or more powerful than they, as God will be by their side. The priest will announce to the people that God is with them and… Read More »
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