You shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: you shall not respect the person of the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Do no unrighteousness in judgment.—That is, the judges are not to abuse the authority vested in them by virtue of their office, by administering what ought to be justice in an arbitrary manner.
Thou shalt not respect the person of the poor.—The general statement in the preceding clause is here more minutely defined. The consideration for the infirm enjoined in Leviticus 19:14 is not to influence the decision of the judge, who is to administer justice, even if the poor is thereby reduced to greater poverty, and though the rich party to the suit may benevolently desire a verdict against himself to save the needy (Exodus 23:3). The authorities during the second Temple illustrate it as follows:—“If the rich man should say I am by law obliged to provide for the poor, I will therefore let him win the suit, and he will thus have his wants supplied without being subjected to the humiliation of receiving alms; for this reason it is said thou shalt not respect the person of the poor.”
Nor honour the person of the mighty.—Jewish juries, in their extreme desire to be impartial, have gone so far as to urge, that whilst the case between a rich man and a poor is being tried, they should both be dressed alike, both alike should either stand or sit, both should have the same right of speech, and both should be addressed by the judge in the same courteous manner. “If ye have respect to persons,” says the Apostle, in allusion to this passage, “ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors” (James 2:9, with Leviticus 19:2-4).Leviticus 19:15. The poor — So as, through pity to him, to give an unrighteous sentence.Deuteronomy 27:18), but thou shalt remember that though the weak and poor cannot resist, nor the deaf hear, nor the blind see, God is strong, and sees and hears all that thou doest." Compare Job 29:15. Thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, so as through pity to him to give an unrighteous sentence. Compare Deu 1:17 10:17 Proverbs 24:23.
thou shalt not respect the person of the poor; that is, in judgment, or in a court of judicature, when a cause of his is brought before it; though privately his person may be respected, and he relieved in his distress as a poor man; but in a court of justice his person and character as a poor man are not to be regarded; the cause is not to be given either for him or against him on that account, without regard to the justice and equity of it; he may be pitied in other respects but in a cause between him and another, even a rich man, not pity, but justice, must take place; see Gill on Exodus 23:3,
nor honour the person of the mighty; not fear to put him to shame and blushing, by giving the cause against him, if he is in the wrong; his riches, his grandeur, his honour, must not came into any account, or have any weight or influence on the court to pervert justice: the Jewish writers, particularly Maimonides (z) suggest that there was to be no difference between a rich man and a poor man while their cause was trying; that they were to be clothed either both in a rich habit, or both in a mean one; and that their posture was to be alike, whether sitting or standing; as well as that no favour should be shown to one more than to another; as that one might have liberty to speak as much and as long as he pleased, and the other bid to be short; or the one be spoken tenderly to, and the other harshly:
but in righteousness shall thou judge thy neighbour; be he rich or poor, doing justice to both, and showing no partiality to either; see Proverbs 18:5.Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment: thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty: but in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbor.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)15. Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgement] Cp. Leviticus 19:35.
15, 16. Against unrighteousness in judgement, and slander. Cp. Exodus 23:1-3; Exodus 23:6-7; Deuteronomy 1:17; Deuteronomy 16:19; Deuteronomy 27:19; Psalm 82:2; Proverbs 24:23.Verse 15. - Justice is to be done to all. The less danger of respecting the person of the poor has to be guarded against, as well as the greater and more obvious peril of honouring the person of the mighty. The scales of Justice must be held even and her eyes bandaged, that she may not prefer one appellant to another on any ground except that of merit and demerit. "If ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors" (James 2:9).
In reaping the field, "thou shalt not finish to reap the edge of thy field," i.e., not reap the field to the extreme edge; "neither shalt thou hold a gathering up (gleaning) of thy harvest," i.e., not gather together the ears left upon the field in the reaping. In the vineyard and olive-plantation, also, they were not to have any gleaning, or gather up what was strewn about (peret signifies the grapes and olives that had fallen off), but to leave them for the distressed and the foreigner, that he might also share in the harvest and gathering. כּרם, lit., a noble plantation, generally signifies a vineyard; but it is also applied to an olive-plantation (Judges 15:5), and her it is to be understood of both. For when this command is repeated in Deuteronomy 24:20-21, both vineyards and olive-plantations are mentioned. When the olives had been gathered by being knocked off with sticks, the custom of shaking the boughs (פּאר) to get at those olives which could not be reached with the sticks was expressly forbidden, in the interest of the strangers, orphans, and widows, as well as gleaning after the vintage. The command with regard to the corn-harvest is repeated again in the law for the feast of Weeks or Harvest Feast (Leviticus 23:20); and in Deuteronomy 24:19 it is extended, quite in the spirit of our law, so far as to forbid fetching a sheaf that had been overlooked in the field, and to order it to be left for the needy. (Compare with this Deuteronomy 23:24-25.)
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