Deuteronomy 1:16
And I charged your judges at that time, saying, Hear the causes between your brothers, and judge righteously between every man and his brother, and the stranger that is with him.
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(16) And I charged your judges . . . saying.—These instructions given by Moses are an admirable expansion, but only an expansion, of those of Jethro(Exodus 18:21), that the judges must be “able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness”—a sentence older than the Decalogue itself.

Deuteronomy 1:16. The stranger — That converseth or dealeth with him. To such God would have justice equally administered as to his own people, partly for the honour of religion, and partly for the interest which every man hath in matters of common right.1:9-18 Moses reminds the people of the happy constitution of their government, which might make them all safe and easy, if it was not their own fault. He owns the fulfilment of God's promise to Abraham, and prays for the further accomplishment of it. We are not straitened in the power and goodness of God; why should we be straitened in our own faith and hope? Good laws were given to the Israelites, and good men were to see to the execution of them, which showed God's goodness to them, and the care of Moses.This appointment of the "captains" (compare Exodus 18:21 ff) must not be confounded with that of the elders in Numbers 11:16 ff. The former would number 78,600; the latter were 70 only.

A comparison between this passage and that in Exodus makes it obvious that Moses is only touching on certain parts of the whole history, without regard to order of time, but with a special purpose. This important arrangement for the good government of the people took place before they left Horeb to march direct to the promised land. This fact sets more clearly before us the perverseness and ingratitude of the people, to which the orator next passes; and shows, what he was anxious to impress, that the fault of the 40 years' delay rested only with themselves!

10. ye are this day as the stars of heaven for multitude—This was neither an Oriental hyperbole nor a mere empty boast. Abraham was told (Ge 15:5, 6) to look to the stars, and though they "appear" innumerable, yet those seen by the naked eye amount, in reality, to no more than three thousand ten in both hemispheres. The Israelites already far exceeded that number, being at the last census above six hundred thousand [Nu 26:51]. It was a seasonable memento, calculated to animate their faith in the accomplishment of other parts of the divine promise. That converseth or dealeth with him. To such God would have justice equally administered as to his own people, partly for the honour of religion, and partly for the interest which every man hath in matters of common right. And I charged your judges at that time,.... When they were appointed and constituted, even the heads and rulers before spoken of; this charge is also new, and not recorded before:

saying, hear the causes between your brethren; hear both sides, and all that each of them have to say; not suffer one to say all he has to say, and oblige the other to cut his words short, as the Targum of Jonathan paraphrases it; but give them leave and time to tell their case, and give the best evidence they can of it:

and judge righteously; impartially, just as the case really appears to be, and according to the evidence given:

between every man and his brother; between an Israelite and an Israelite:

and the stranger that is with him; between an Israelite and proselyte, whether a proselyte of the gate, or of righteousness; the same justice was to be done to them as to an Israelite.

And I charged your judges at that time, saying, Hear the causes between your brethren, and judge righteously between every man and his brother, and the stranger that is with him.
16. judges] Unless the previous emendation be accepted the term judges appears here for the first time in the passage.

Hear … and judge righteously] The two indispensables: patient, equal hearing, and impartial decision.

your brethren] Your fellow-Israelites.

the stranger that is with him] His Gêr or sojourner: any non-Israelite who leaving his own kin settles under the protection of an Israelite family or individual; in distinction from the ‘ezraḥ or born Israelite (Joshua 8:33). The Ar. equivalents are ǧar and ṣarîḥ. See W. R. Smith, OTJC2, 342n., and Rel. Sem. 75 ff. In E the Gêr is not to be wronged, Exodus 22:21; Exodus 23:9, and to have rest on the Sabbath, Exodus 23:12; cp. Exodus 20:8. In D his equal rights at law are reiterated here, Deuteronomy 24:17, Deuteronomy 27:19; not to be oppressed, Deuteronomy 24:14, but cherished, Deuteronomy 10:19; to share with the Levite and the poor, Deuteronomy 14:29, Deuteronomy 16:11-14, Deuteronomy 24:19 ff., Deuteronomy 26:11 ff.; to rest on the Sabbath, Deuteronomy 5:14; enter the covenant, Deuteronomy 29:11; and keep the Law, Deuteronomy 31:12; only he is to have freedom in meats forbidden to Israel, Deuteronomy 14:21; if Israel persists in sin the Gêr shall rise over him, Deut 18:43. See on Deuteronomy 10:19 and Deuteronomy 14:21 where the different treatment of the Gêr in P is noted.Verses 16, 17. - In installing the judges, Moses solemnly charged them to deal impartially, fairly, and equitably with those who might come before them. Verse 16. - Hear between your brethren, i.e. hear impartially both parties, and judge righteously between man and man, whether both parties are Israelites, or one of the parties a stranger. This land the Lord had placed at the disposal of the Israelites for them to take possession of, as He had sworn to the fathers (patriarchs) that He would give it to their posterity (cf. Genesis 12:7; Genesis 13:15; Genesis 15:18., etc.). The "swearing" on the part of God points back to Genesis 22:16. The expression "to them and to their seed" is the same as "to thee and to thy seed" in Genesis 13:15; Genesis 17:8, and is not to be understood as signifying that the patriarchs themselves ought to have taken actual possession of Canaan; but "to their seed" is in apposition, and also a more precise definition (comp. Genesis 15:7 with Genesis 15:18, where the simple statement "to thee" is explained by the fuller statement "to thy seed"). ראה has grown into an interjection equals הנּה. לפני נתן: to give before a person, equivalent to give up to a person, or place at his free disposal (for the use of the word in this sense, see Genesis 13:9; Genesis 34:10). Jehovah (this is the idea of Deuteronomy 1:6-8), when He concluded the covenant with the Israelites at Horeb, had intended to fulfil at once the promise which He gave to the patriarchs, and to put them into possession of the promised land; and Moses had also done what was required on his part, as he explained in Deuteronomy 1:9-18, to bring the people safety to Canaan (cf. Exodus 18:23). As the nation had multiplied as the stars of heaven, in accordance with the promise of the Lord, and he felt unable to bear the burden alone and settle all disputes, he had placed over them at that time wise and intelligent men from the heads of the tribes to act as judges, and had instructed them to adjudicate upon the smaller matters of dispute righteously and without respect of person. For further particulars concerning the appointment of the judges, see at Exodus 18:13-26, where it is related how Moses adopted this plan at the advice of Jethro, even before the giving of the law at Sinai. The expression "at that time," in Deuteronomy 1:9, is not at variance with this. The imperfect ואמר with vav rel., expresses the order of thought and not of time. For Moses did not intend to recall the different circumstances to the recollection of the people in their chronological order, but arranged them according to their relative importance in connection with the main object of his address. And this required that he should begin with what God had done for the fulfilment of His promise, and then proceed afterwards to notice what he, the servant of God, had done in his office, as an altogether subordinate matter. So far as this object was concerned, it was also perfectly indifferent who had advised him to adopt this plan, whilst it was very important to allude to the fact that it was the great increase in the number of the Israelites which had rendered it necessary, that he might remind the congregation how the Lord, even at that time, had fulfilled the promise which He gave to the patriarchs, and in that fulfilment had given a practical guarantee of the certain fulfilment of the other promises as well. Moses accomplished this by describing the increase of the nation in such a way that his hearers should be involuntarily reminded of the covenant promise in Genesis 15:5. (cf. Genesis 12:2; Genesis 18:18; Genesis 22:17; Genesis 26:4).
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