"How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked? Selah
2 Chronicles 19:7), in addressing the Judges, reminds them that "with the Lord our God is no respect of persons, nor taking of gifts" (see also 2 Samuel 14:14; Acts 10:34; Romans 2:11; Galatians 2:6). This Hebrew term, "accepting the person," or "accepting the face," is the equivalent of our term, "show partiality to." The figure is taken from the Eastern custom of prostration before a king or judge. The accepted suitor is commanded to "lift up his face," that is, to rise up. The extent to which the bribery of judges is carried on in the East may be illustrated by the following passage, referring to Egypt, by Mr. Lane. "The rank of a plaintiff or defendant, or a bribe from either, often influences the decision of the judge. In general the naib (deputy of the judge), and mooftee (chief doctor of the law) take bribes; and the cadi (chief judge) receives from his naib. On some occasions, particularly in long litigations, bribes are given by each party, and the decision is awarded in favour of him who pays highest. This frequently happens in difficult lawsuits; and even in cases respecting which the law is perfectly clear, strict justice is not always administered, bribes and false testimony being employed by one of the parties. The shocking extent to which bribery and suborning false witnesses are carried on in Moslem courts of law, and in the tribunal of the cadi at Cairo, can scarcely be credited." The psalmist pronounces the magistrates of his day to be indifferent to justice, neglectful of their duties, venal and unscrupulous, and he warns them of the ruin they are bringing on society. St. James reminds us that this "undue partiality," this "accepting the person," this showing preference for the rich, is not confined to judges. It may be observed even in the relations of the Christian Church (see James 2:1-4).
I. THERE IS NO "ACCEPTING THE PERSON" WITH GOD. This is distinctly declared by St. Peter (1 Peter 1:17). "If ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work." Certain settings of the Christian truth, those known as Calvinistic, which put in prominence the Divine election, have been used or misused to encourage an idea of" favouritism" in God. It is always better to regard the Divine election as simply the all-wise selection of the most fitting person for the work which has to be done. It is only a subtle form of self-conceit which makes us imagine ourselves the special favourites of Heaven. "God accepteth no man's person." "The Judge of all the earth does right."
II. THERE SHOULD BE NO "ACCEPTING THE PERSON" WITH MEN. This, however, must apply to official relations and duties, not to personal feelings and preferences. It is the fruitful source of evils in the family, business, society, and the Church. The least loved and the most unlovely folk in the world are the family pets, the society pets. - R.T.
How long will ye judge unjustly, and accept the persons of the wicked?1. The sin reproved in general, and that is unjust judgment, — a sin most peculiar to judges. To be covetous, envious, passionate, and proud, is evil; but to judge unjustly, to justify the wicked, and condemn the just is not only abominable, but an abomination in the abstract (Proverbs 17:15). This is iniquity and perverseness with a witness.
2. The duration of their sin, implied in "how long?" It implies that they had for a long time persevered in this practice, and therefore he doth not simply say, ye do unjustly, but how long will ye do unjustly? The interrogation is a vehement negation, ye ought in no wise to continue so long in your injustice as you have done.
3. The generality of the sinners implied in "ye"; how long will ye, i.e. all of ye, judge unjustly? There might be some few, some gleanings, as the prophet speaks (Micah 7:1, 2), of just judges, but the generality was very corrupt.
4. An exegesis, an illustration, or, if you will, an aggravation of what went before. "Ye judge unjustly." What is that? Why, ye accept the persons of the wicked, ye admire their persons, ye favour their faces, ye plead their causes; but the cause of the poor and the righteous man cannot be heard. In the original it is, Ye accept the face of the wicked. Now, to accept the face of a man is a Hebrew phrase, and signifies a showing favour and respect to a man (Genesis 19:22).Observations:
1. Even great men, when they go astray, must be sharply reproved. But for this great wisdom and prudence is required.
2. Continuance in evil is a great evil. How long, saith God, will ye judge unjustly? To do an unjust act is ill, but to persevere for many years in acting unrighteousness is the height of evil. As perseverance in goodness is the crown of goodness (Job 2:3), so perseverance in sin is sin in grain; it is of a deep dye; it is hardly, if ever, set out again.
4. Few great men are good men. They are subject to great temptations, and so to great corruptions.
6. Magistrates must judge impartially. They must not respect persons but causes. They must look more on the face of the cause than the face of the man. This respecting of persons is not good, saith Solomon, that is, it is very bad (Proverbs 24:23). It is a sin oft forbidden (Deuteronomy 1:17; Deuteronomy 16:19; Job 13:8, 10; 2 Chronicles 19:6, 7; Proverbs 18:5; Proverbs 28:21; James 2:9; Jude 1:16), Men must not judge according to any outward appearance or quality of the person that appears before them, but according to the equity of the cause (John 7:24).
(T. Hall, B. D.)
Plutarch's Cicero.Catiline, being prosecuted for some great offence, corrupted the judges. When they had given their verdict, though he was acquitted only by a majority of two, he said he had put himself to a needless expense in bribing one of those judges, for it would have been sufficient to have had a majority of one.
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