A System of Justice

Deuteronomy 16:18-17:13

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 pillars as forbidden forms of worship, and tells the people not to sacrifice any blemished animal to God.


Returning to the topic of the justice system, Moses tells the people if any of their number transgresses God’s laws against foreign worship, they should be brought before the court, tried and killed. Two witnesses are required for capital cases.


Any case too complex should be brought before a higher court, all the way up to the Levites who will clarify God’s will. Moses tells the people they should listen to the teachings of the Levites, and any who disregard them, or the judgment of the judges, shall be put to death.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

Why do you think reminders not to commit idolatry are intermingled with instructions regarding the establishment of a legal system?

Comments ( 8 )

The comments below do not necessarily reflect the beliefs and opinions of The Israel Bible™.

  • Cathy little

    The Torah teaches us there are different types of laws. Mishpatim are the legal judgments that may be seen as civil laws adjudicated between people. This is what verses 18-19 addresses specifically in the establishment of the legal system. The shift in verse 21 broadens the conversation to include other Mitzvot that are not specifically categorized as "mishpatim". Therefore, Moses is reminding the people that Torah (ALL G-d's instruction) is the standard for national Righteousness and a condition for inheriting in the Land. This is unique from all other legal codes ever established by any other nation.

  • There is only one G-d. Idolatry means deviation from G-ds system of values, the only righteous and truthful system. That’s why the 10 Words exactly say do not make them (those idols) and do not worship them. For they are all man-made. So the idolatrous system is man-made with all the mistakes and omissions of mankind. The worlds legal system has other man-made values and even contrary to HaShem’s perfect prescriptions.

  • The reason the laws forbidding idolatry are intermingled with the laws of justice is because the worship of other mighty ones (idolatry) automatically aligns one to a different justice system — the other mighty ones have a justice system very different from that of Yahweh. The one you worship determines the type of justice system you will have, they are inter-related.

    • If your definition of "mighty Ones" are other Gods, they cannot have a different justice system since there are no other Gods. There are probably Fallen angels trying to trick people to worship other Gods, meaning themselves or Satan. If that is the case I would not dare to use justice system as a term for what they would propose, which I know you don't mean that. Only Hashem loves and protects human beings. Satan and his evil angels try to hurt us and cause us to go to Hell.

  • Idolatry is one of the very worse sins from Adonai's point of view;therefore,this is emphasized by Moishe in this section!

  • Diana Brown

    Idolatry ruins everything. Following God only is our everyday 24/7 goal. I really liked Rabbi’s teaching on this from The Temple Institute. Every battle against Israel is a spiritual battle. I pray for the Peace of Yerushalayim every day!

  • Brenda

    Shalom to all, I am Brenda from Indiana and am new to Judaism. I may need some help to learn and am very excited. I am looking forward to learning.

    • Tsivya Fox

      WELCOME Brenda! We are happy to have you on board!

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