Deuteronomy 1:17
You shall not respect persons in judgment; but you shall hear the small as well as the great; you shall not be afraid of the face of man; for the judgment is God's: and the cause that is too hard for you, bring it to me, and I will hear it.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(17) The judgment is God’s.—Comp. St. Paul in Romans 13:1-4, which is, again, only an expansion of this sentence. For the latter part of this verse comp. Exodus 18:22-26.

Deuteronomy 1:17. Respect persons — Hebrew, not know, or acknowledge faces; that is, not give sentence according to the outward qualities of the person, as he is poor or rich, your friend or enemy, but purely according to the merit of the cause. For which reason some of the Grecian lawgivers ordered that the judges should give sentence in the dark, where they could not see men’s faces. The judgment is God’s — It is passed in the name of God, and by commission from him, by you, as representing his person, and doing his work; who therefore will defend you therein against all your enemies, and to whom you must give an exact account.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. Not respect persons, Heb. not know or acknowledge faces, i.e. not give sentence according to the outward qualities of the person as he is poor or rich, your friend or enemy, but purely according to the merits of the cause. For which reason some of the Grecian lawgivers ordered that the judges should give sentence in the dark, where they could not see men’s faces. See the same or the like phrase Deu 10:17 2 Chronicles 19:6,7 Job 13:8 Jam 2:1,9.

The small; persons of the meanest rank.

The judgment is God’s, i.e. it is passed in the name of God, and by commission from him, by you as representing his person, and doing his work, who therefore will own and defend you therein against all your enemies, and to whom you must give an exact account. Ye shall not respect persons in judgment,.... Or pass judgment, and give sentence according to the outward appearances, circumstances, and relations of men; as whether they be friends or foes, rich or poor, old or young, men or women, learned or unlearned; truth and justice should always take place, without any regard to what persons are:

but you shall hear the small as well as the great; persons in low, life, and in mean circumstances, as well as great and noble personages; or little causes and of no great moment, as well as those of the utmost importance; all must be attended to, a cause about a "prutah" or a farthing, as well as one about a hundred pounds, in which Jarchi instances, and if that came first it was not to be postponed:

ye shall not be afraid of the face of man; of the frowns and threatenings of rich men, and of such as are in power and authority; not be awed or intimidated by them from doing justice; see Job 31:34,

for the judgment is God's; judges stand in the place of God, are put into their office by him, and act under him, and for him, and are accountable to him; and therefore should be careful what judgment they make, or sentence they pass, lest they bring discredit to him, and destruction on themselves:

and the cause that is too hard for you, bring it unto me, and I will hear it; which is said for their encouragement, as well as was an instruction to them not to undertake a cause too difficult for them; see Exodus 18:22.

Ye shall not respect persons in judgment; but ye shall hear the small as well as the great; ye shall not be afraid of the face of man; for the judgment is {m} God's: and the cause that is too hard for you, bring it unto me, and I will hear it.

(m) You are his Lieutenants.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
17. respect persons) Heb. recognise or regard, pay undue attention to, faces or presences, whence our idiom ‘respect of persons’ in a bad sense. In Pent. only here and Deuteronomy 16:19. A Heb. synonym is to lift the face or person, Deuteronomy 10:17, LXX, θαυμάζει πρόσωπον, N.T. πρόσωπον λαμβάνειν, to accept the person of, Galatians 2:6; Luke 20:21. The command not to respect persons is next explained as hearing alike, or equally, small and great, not fearing (a poetical term, in prose only here, Deuteronomy 18:22, Numbers 22:3, E, and 1 Samuel 18:15), the face of any man. Cp. Deuteronomy 16:19, not to wrest judgement, nor respect persons, nor take bribes. ‘Justice is administered … immaculate, unspotted, and unsuspected. There is no human being whose smile or favour can start the pulse of an English judge upon the Bench, or move by one hair’s breadth the even equipoise of the scales of justice,’ Lord Bowen’s Life, 175 f. In Exodus 23:3 (JE) the phrase is neither shall thou favour (lit. adorn).

for the judgement is God’s] In early Israel as among the nomad Arabs to-day, there was a final appeal from the tribal or local judge to some immediate representative of the Deity; with the Arabs the greater awe of this religious appeal brings out the truth distorted or veiled before the inferior tribunal. But Moses would have the lower judges feel that they also are God’s representatives: at every stage judgement is His. This emphasis is not given in E except in connection with the decrees of Moses himself, Exodus 18:15 f. The expression of it here is an instance of the more thorough penetration of religion in D to every department of the national life.

the cause that is too hard for you] E, Exodus 18:26. In Deuteronomy 17:8 the same is expressed differently; and from Deuteronomy 19:16 ff. we see that the hardness of a case might arise from the character of the evidence, as well as from the principle involved in it.Verse 17. - Ye shall not respect persons; literally, look at or regard aces, i.e. ye shall not deal partially, favoring the one party rather than the other (comp. Exodus 23:2, 3; Leviticus 19:15); the small as well as the great were to be heard, and neither for favor nor from fear were they to pervert justice. The judgment is God's; i.e. appointed by God and administered in his name, the judge acting for God and by his authority, and being answerable to him (comp. 2 Chronicles 19:6). Hence the phrases, "to inquire of God," "to bring before God" (Exodus 18:15, 19; Exodus 21:6; Exodus 22:8, etc.) phrases still in use among the Arabs for a summoning to judicial trial. In the case of a matter coming before the judges which they found it beyond their power to decide, they were to bring it before Moses as a superior authority (see Exodus 18:26) "Some think there were certain causes reserved to the cognizance of Moses; but the contrary appears by these words, that all manner of causes were brought before the judges; and they, not the people, brought such causes before Moses as they found too hard for them to determine. So that they, not the person whose cause it was, judged of the difficulty of the cause. See Selden, lib. 1. "De Synedriis, cap. 16." (Bishop Patrick).

But in order to guard against any misinterpretation of his words, "I cannot bear you myself alone," Moses added, "May the Lord fulfil the promise of numerous increase to the nation a thousand-fold." "Jehovah, the God of your fathers (i.e., who manifested Himself as God to your fathers), add to you a thousand times, כּכם, as many as ye are, and bless you as He has said." The "blessing" after "multiplying" points back to Genesis 12:2. Consequently, it is not to be restricted to "strengthening, rendering fruitful, and multiplying," but must be understood as including the spiritual blessing promised to Abraham.
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