Deuteronomy 16:19
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)
(19) See 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.16:18-22 Care is taken for the due administration of justice. All personal regards must be laid aside, so that right is done to all, and wrong to none. Care is taken to prevent following the idolatrous customs of the heathen. Nothing belies God more, or tends more to corrupt the minds of men, than representing and worshipping, by an image, that God, who is an almighty and eternal Spirit, present every where. Alas! even in gospel days, and under a better dispensation, established upon better promises, there is a tendency to set up idols, under one form or another, in the human heart.These verses are closely connected in subject with the following chapter, and introduce certain directions for the administration of justice and the carrying on of the civil government of the people in Canaan. During the lifetime of Moses, he himself, especially inspired and guided by God, was sufficient, with the aid of the subordinate judges (compare 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 But now that Moses was to be withdrawn, and the people would soon be scattered up and down the land of Canaan, regular and permanent provision must be made for civil and social order and good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.18-20. Judges and officers shalt thou make—These last meant heralds or bailiffs, employed in executing the sentence of their superiors.

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 shall not wrest judgment,.... Or pervert it, pass a wrong sentence, or act contrary to justice; this is said to the judges as a direction to them, and so what follows:

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).

(y) Bibliothec. l. 1. c. 45. (z) Misn. Peah, c. 8. sect. 9.

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. In connection with the Feast of Tabernacles also, he simply enforces the observance of it at the central sanctuary, and exhorts the people to rejoice at this festival, and not only to allow their sons and daughters to participate in this joy, but also the man-servant and maid-servant, and the portionless Levites, strangers, widows, and orphans. After what had already been stated, Moses did not consider it necessary to mention expressly that this festal rejoicing was also to be manifested in joyous sacrificial meals; it was enough for him to point to the blessing which God had bestowed upon their cultivation of the corn, the olive, and the vine, and upon all the works of their hands, i.e., upon their labour generally (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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