You shall not wrest judgment; you shall not respect persons, neither take a gift: for a gift does blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Exodus 23:6; Exodus 23:8.Deuteronomy 16:19-20. Thou shalt not wrest judgment — Not give a forced and unjust sentence. Thou shalt not respect persons — Not give sentence according to the quality of the person, his riches or poverty, friendship or enmity, but according to the justice of the cause. A gift doth blind the eyes of the wise — Biases his mind, that he cannot discern between right and wrong. And pervert the words of the righteous — That is, the sentence of those judges who are inclined and used to do righteous things, and have the reputation of being righteous men; it makes them give a wrong judgment. That which is altogether just — Hebrew, righteousness, righteousness, doubling the expression to give it emphasis; that is, nothing but righteousness in all causes and times, and to all persons equally.Exodus 18:13 ff), for the duties in question. But now that Moses was to be withdrawn, and the people would soon be scattered up and down the land of Canaan, regular and permanent provision must be made for civil and social order and good government.
in all thy gates—The gate was the place of public resort among the Israelites and other Eastern people, where business was transacted and causes decided. The Ottoman Porte derived its name from the administration of justice at its gates.Not wrest judgment, i.e. not give a perverse, forced, and unjust sentence. See Poole "Exodus 23:8".
Not respect persons, i.e. not give sentence according to the quality of the person, his riches or poverty, friendship or enmity, but according to the justice of the cause.
A gift doth blind the eyes of the wise; corrupts and biasseth his mind, that as he will not, so ofttimes he cannot, discern between right and wrong.
The words of the righteous; either,
1. The words, i.e. the sentence, of those judges who are inclined and used to do righteous things, and have the repute of righteous men, it makes them give wrong judgment. Or,
2. The words, i.e. the matters, or causes, (as word oft signifies,) of righteous persons, or of them whose cause is just.
thou shalt not respect persons; so as to give the cause on account of outward circumstances and relations; as in favour of a rich man against a poor man merely for that reason, or of a near relation or intimate friend and acquaintance against a stranger, but justice should be administered without favour or affection to any; as Jarchi puts it, he was to make no difference in his address and behaviour to contending parties before him; he was not to be tender and soft to one and hard to the other, or let one stand and another sit:
neither take a gift: as a bribe to give the cause wrong: at Thebes, in Egypt, as Diodorus Siculus (y) relates, in a court on a wall, were images of judges to the number of thirty; in the midst of them was the chief judge; having Truth hanging down from his neck (which seems to be in imitation of the Urim of the high priest of the Jews), his eyes shut, and many books by him; by which image was shown, that judges should receive nothing, and that the chief judge should look to truth only:
for a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous; see Exodus 23:8 the Jews have a saying, that a judge that takes a bribe, and perverts judgment, does not die of old age, or till his eyes become dim (z).Thou shalt not wrest judgment; thou shalt not respect persons, neither take a gift: for a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)19. Thou] The whole people are responsible for the impartial discharge of justice: characteristic of D.
shalt not wrest judgement] E, Exodus 23:6 : the judgement of thy poor in his cause.
thou shalt not respect persons] See on Deuteronomy 1:17.
neither shalt thou take a gift, etc.] So E, Exodus 23:8, except that for the eyes of the wise it has the open-eyed or them that have sight.
a gift] Heb. shoḥad, of a present in order to influence justice, a bribe (Deuteronomy 10:17), a prevalent temptation of judges in the East, where he is regarded as still a just judge who takes gifts only from the party in the right, as it were a fee for his judgement or an inducement to hasten it. Here, however, the acceptance of any gift by a judge is forbidden. In the Code of Ḫammurabi the 5th law, expelling from office the judge who alters his decision, implies that he does this for some unjust reason such as a bribe. On bribery among the settled Arabs see Doughty Ar. Des. i. 607.
words] Statements or pleas, equivalent to cause or case.Verse 19. - (Cf. Exodus 23:6, 8.) Respect persons (cf. Deuteronomy 1:17). Pervert the words [margin, matters] of the righteous; rather, the case or the cause of the righteous. Deuteronomy 16:13-15), as there was nothing further to remark after the instructions which had already been given with reference to this feast also (Leviticus 23:34-36, Leviticus 23:39-43; Numbers 29:12-38).
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