Shoftim/”Judges”, Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9, covers the establishment of the judicial system of Israel! Judges and officers are to be found in their gates ensuring that righteousness is being kept among the people of Israel. They were to handle matters too difficult to decide and their decisions would stand. When we fast forward to where we are today, this seems like quite an anomaly! Today (for the most part), we have a very difficult time handling and judging serious matters correctly when they arise. There seems to be 2 camps, those that proclaim the mantra “judge not lest ye be judged”, and those that make it their life’s mission to point out and “judge” the perceived flaws of others. Yet we’ve entered into the 6th month – the month of Elul – which focuses on our ability to judge ourselves and our households in preparation for the Day of Judgment, Yom Kippur!
Judges: Strong’s #8199 Shaphat שָׁפַט to judge, govern, vindicate, punish, to decide controversy; stems from roots meaning to set up, or to erect, to rule and govern; but what does it truly mean to sit in this position and judge according to how the Torah intends us to? A closer inspection of this word reveals the answer!
ש = To destroy, to transform, or to change; פט root stems from words meaning to prattle, chatter, babble
*The proper way to judge and the purpose of the judges was to cut off/destroy the words of the prattler, the chatterer, the babbler! The idle incessant words that can produce no good fruit but continue to foment division, issues, and strife must be dealt with!
Why is this so important? Do these words really affect us? Once again the word shaphat provides the answer!
שפ root stems from #7779 shuwph שׁוּף to bruise, to crush, to lie in wait for; first seen in Gen. 3:15 describing the battle of the seedlines! Genesis 3:15 – “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise (shuwph) thy head, and thou shalt bruise (shuwph) his heel.“
*Do you realize our ability to properly judge a matter and our willingness to cut off the idle words that have the potential to divide is directly connected to the battle with the serpent? In other words, our ability to properly judge will determine whether or not the enemy runs rampant in our lives!
This שפ root is connected to the letter ט = to surround, it’s a paradoxical letter in that it reveals the potential for both good and evil. The form of the letter is inverted, suggesting and mirroring a woman that is pregnant (something’s growing), however, only after the birth will it be revealed whether it’s good fruit or bad fruit!
This is why the judges are to sit at the gates of the city! The gates were the only entrance and exit point into the city. They are symbolic of the passageway for birthing (birth canal)! Depending on the shoftim’s ability to judge properly and to cut off the prattling words that would foment division, determines what is birthed out of that city/nation/household! They are tasked with crushing the head of the serpent that would attempt to raise up within their midst!
*Do you think this may play a role in the promise given to Abraham that he would possess the gates of his enemies? It’s the responsibility and the inheritance of the seed of Abraham to sit in the gates as judges cultivating good fruit!
How do we cut off these words? The judges were linked with officers at the gates!
Officers: Strong’s #7860 shoter שָׁטַר official, officer, a scribe – the shoter were the scribes, the ones responsible for writing the Torah and keeping the records! A vital lesson is found here – you cannot properly judge and discern a matter outside of using the Torah as your basis by which to judge it! The way to cut off the words of the prattler is to respond with the words of the Torah!
*Deuteronomy 6:9 (11:20) – “And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.”
It’s also interesting to note that the shoter is not only connected with the role of the scribe in relation to writing the Torah, but to the record keeper who was responsible for taking the census of the soldiers for the army, and the officers responsible for organizing the departure of the camp of Israel! Why is this connection important?
*The commandments were first to be written on the individual posts of the houses of the Israelites! Each household was to be able to judge matters according to the WORD and enforce it in their homes. Each time a matter couldn’t be handled in the house between the parties involved, and had to be taken to the judges at the gates – there’s a record now being kept!
Why? Because when it comes time to battle the enemies, the one who has shown an incapability in being able to walk upright and judge the affairs of his house is not capable of now being put into a leadership position charged with crushing the head of the enemy!
This method would cut out the majority of the little squabbles that wreak havoc in the camp because Israel would understand that their inability to judge their own house and walk maturely, would affect their status and role in the camp!
Deuteronomy 16:18 – “judge with just judgments”
Just: Strong’s #6664 tsedeq צֶדֶק justice, righteousness, rightness, straightness (to be straight); but to fully understand what this means from a Torah perspective we have to look at how it’s used in context!
The term tsedeq is almost always used contrasted to wicked (rasha’ #7563) רָשָׁע wicked, unrighteous; but it stems from roots inferring one who departs from Yahweh or leaves the Covenant
*Up to this point, Israel has been a nomadic people – traveling a route through the wilderness, following the pillar. Anyone leaving this path becomes lost and wanders aimlessly!
A righteous/tsedeq person then is not one who lives a “religious/super spiritual” life, but one who is following the correct path – walking in Covenant and not wandering aimlessly!
This is the purpose of the judgments and the judges who sit in the gates! They are directing the course of Israel, ensuring that they don’t find themselves wandering aimlessly due to a lack of judgment and the failure to cut off idle words that will derail you!
In fact, let’s look a little closer at Deut. 6:9 (“And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.”)!
Write: Strong’s #3789 kathab כָּתַב to write, record, enroll; breaking it apart: תב root related to #8421 tuwb תּוּב to return, to answer, to respond, to take something back, to return it; in context refers to the restoration and return of the Temple vessels from Babylon!
*It corresponds to #7725 shuwb שׁוּב to come back, to return, root of teshuva (repent), to restore, refresh or repair
Now as we continue to build on this, the act of “judging” is being redefined. And it seems to hint that these words, and properly being able to judge, plays a role in coming out of Babylon! Why, how?? Because it’s about changing your course!
The Words of the Torah were to be written on the houses and the gates in order for the people to use them to stay on the correct path! These words ensure that the house is in a constant state of teshuva – in other words the set course and direction (the path) of that house was always towards Yahweh. When needed, these same words were a source of restoration and refreshing and repairing.
The תב is also related to the word tebah (#8392) תֵּבָה ark (Noah’s ark), the words that are written are an ark, a place of protection and safety, a form of rescue in times of trouble. If any storm does blow up, or an issue arises, these words offer the solution.
Posts: Strong’s #4201 mezuwzah מְזוּזָה doorpost, gatepost; breaking it apart מ prefix = from, out of; זוז root = to move; ה = to be fruitful, to reveal – From what is written on the mezuwzah (posts) we have revealed to us our next move in any given situation in order to produce good fruit! The concept of judging was not about exposing others as wanting, it was about steering the house on a set course for the benefit of all in order to reach an expected destination!
It’s no accident that this is the 48th Torah Portion – 48 = Strong’s #3104 yobel יוֹבֵל
Jubilee, liberty, freedom & Strong’s #3176 yachal יָחַל to wait, hope for, expect, to wait with hope
*The Words upon your houses and gates, those that would sit in a position as shoftim, all were tasked with offering hope of a jubilee – a time when you would be set free! And if there was an issue that needed resolving, you were to come with the mindset that you would wait, hope, and expect that the answer given would bring you freedom!
It’s interesting that the portion goes on to discuss one that rejects the judgments rendered. Deuteronomy 17:12 – “And the man that will do presumptuously, and will not hearken unto the priest that standeth to minister there before Yahweh thy Elohim, or unto the judge, even that man shall die: and thou shalt put away the evil from Israel.”
Presumptuously: Strong’s #2087 zadown זָדוֹן pride, insolence, arrogance, presumptuousness; from #2102 zuwd זוּד to boil up, seethe, act proudly, act rebelliously, be arrogant, proud; cognate of #2121 zedon זֵידוֹן churning, raging, turbulent, insolent, proud
*The roots of this word stem from the idea of preparing provisions for a journey!
This sentence wasn’t given just because there was a difference of opinion, and this response was not directed towards the judge/shoftim himself! It’s revealing one that when exposed to the words of the Torah began to rage, and churn, and their rebellion boils over!
But the true issue is that this rebellious attitude is not just going to affect this individual. It’s preparing provisions for a journey! In other words, these actions are setting the course for the nation – it’s departing from the paths of righteousness and beginning down the path of wandering. And if proper judgment is a means by which we are set free (experience a jubilee, come out of Babylon), then improper judgment is a means by which we are put into slavery!
The gematria of this word = 67, same value as the name of this month – Elul אלול!
If we’re not willing to spend the time necessary to judge our own hearts, to do the self inspection, then there may be those little seeds of rebellion that go unchecked. When standing before the gates – before the words of the Torah, which act as a piercing light revealing the heart of the man – it has the potential to cause those once little seeds to now be raised up and boil over!
The name Elul is seen only one time in Scripture, in Nehemiah 6:15 – “So the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty and two days.”
This month is specifically associated with the finishing of the wall! In fact, the entire book of Nehemiah, is all about rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem.
Wall: Strong’s #2346 chowmah חוֹמָה a wall; it is also used as a metaphor for a beloved woman; rebuilding the wall literally becomes symbolic of rebuilding the Bride herself!
*This is the purpose of the month of searching and testing and this is the purpose of proper judgments! The reason Israel is being taught how to judge, how to cut off idle words, is because it’s this process that builds the Bride! And as the Bride is collectively built, it’s as if there’s a wall, a means of protection and safety that’s now in place. Because those very judgments are an ark – a refuge!
The passage in Deut. 6 teaches us the proper order – the words were to be written on: 1) the heart 2) Taught to the children in the house 3) On thy hand and between thine eyes 4) On the doorposts of the house and gates; it has to begin first in our own hearts, before it can ever be evident in our homes, before we can ever act on it, or before it can ever affect our community!
In fact the root of shoftim, שפ is the same root found in saphah שָׂפָה lips – our lips are gates that the Torah should be found inscribed upon, and every word that passes through these gates is not only becoming a record, but they are directing the course of our life, our household, and our community!
Psalm 119:171-172 – “My lips shall utter praise, when thou hast taught me thy statutes. My tongue shall speak of thy word: for all thy commandments are righteousness.”