Judgment over man is given to man - Gen 9:6

Whoever sheds the blood of a human, by a human shall that person’s blood be shed; for in his own image God made humankind.

  • Though God with omniscience and perfect justice would seem more fit to judge men, he has foundationally delegated judgment of man to man
  • This is the earliest institution of government in the Bible.

Instructions to Judges - Deu 1:16-17

I charged your judges at that time: “Give the members of your community a fair hearing, and judge rightly between one person and another, whether citizen or resident alien. You must not be partial in judging: hear out the small and the great alike: you shall not be intimidated by anyone, for the judgment is God’s. Any case that is too hard for you, bring to me, and I will hear it”

What must the judges do?

  • Give a fair hearing. Judge rightly between people
  • Whether ALIEN    ⇔   CITIZEN
  • Whether SMALL  ⇔   GREAT
  • What is the disadvantage of the alien? Possibly not knowing the language, not knowing the law that well, no connections to officials, not able to threaten anyone
  • Don’t be partial
  • Don’t be afraid or let no one intimidate you … for judgment is God’s
    • > this is a challenge to judges to have the fear of God on them: Think that you represent God himself!
    • > this is an encouragement to judges, the assurance that God himself will stand behind the judge who judges righteously
  • System of appeal to higher court in case of no clarity / conflict / disagreement

Again: Instructions to Judges - Deu 16:18-20

You shall appoint judges and officials throughout your tribes, in all your towns that the LORD you God is giving you, and they shall render just decisions for the people. You must not distort justice; you must not show partiality; and you must not accept bribes, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of those who are in the right. Justice and only justice, you shall pursue, so that you may live and occupy the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

  • Give just decisions. Do not distort justice. Do not show partiality.
  • Must not accept bribes … for a bribe blinds: a judge choosing not to see the evidence there is > false judgment > subverting the cause of the one in the right
  • Must not accept bribes … for a bribe slants the judgment in favor of the rich (who can afford a higher bribe) against the poor
  • The full list of opposites then is … You must judge righteously
    • Whether        POOR    ⇔    RICH
    • Whether        ALIEN   ⇔    CITIZEN
    • Whether       SMALL  ⇔    GREAT
    • Whether       WEAK    ⇔    POWERFUL
  • Justice, and only justice you shall pursue

No bias in favor of the poor - Lev 19:15

You shall not render and unjust judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbor.

  • No automatic bias toward the poor, weak, small either … simply justice

Fair judgment produces stability - Deu 16:20

… so that you may live and occupy the land

  • Absence of fair judgment > lawlessness > insecurity / injustice / instability
  • Absence of fair judgment > self-justice in anger > new injustice (no proper investigation, no appeal, arbitrary measure of punishment)
  • Example: Albania, century-old blood feuds between families, no males alive

How are judges appointed? - Deu 1:13, 16:18

  • The passage about judges (Deu 1:16) follows on from Deu 1:9-15, the appointing of government officials > judges are appointed in the same way
  • De 16:18 also mentions the appointing of judges and officials in the same breath
  • Therefore: same principles for appointing judges and officials

Relationship between Executive and Judiciary - Deu 16:18, Deu 1:16

You shall appoint judges and officials throughout your tribes, in all your towns …

  • Clearly two groups are differentiated here, officers (executive it seems), and judges (judiciary)
  • The process of appointment is the same, but the groups are separate
  • Why? The two groups are to hold each other accountable, are to be checks to each other. Executive is given much power (police, army), how are they kept under the law? through the judiciary. Separation of judiciary & executive is crucial
  • Bangladesh: 1 November 2007 by the caretaker government

Division of power?

  • God the Almighty is a Trinity, with – if not separation of power – still a sharing of power and authority

Isaiah 33:22 … For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king, he will save us …

  • Lawgiver (legislative), king (ruler, master, executive) and judge (judiciary)
  • This Scripture shows God as the true Example of all three divisions of power
  • The Bible typically separates the offices of spiritual authority (priest, Levite, prophet, apostle) and political authority (king, judge, ruler, official, elder). Too much power tends to corrupt. Power in two domains is too much power.
  • Quote of Lord Acton: “Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Biblical examples that people should not hold power in two domains:

  • 1 Sam 13:8-14                              Saul’s unlawful sacrifice
  • 2 Sam 6:1-11 & 1 Chr 15:1-15  King David’s military & later correct handling of ark
  • 2 Kin 26:16-20                             King Uzziah’s incense in the temple

Biblical example of a splitting of power:

  • Exo 28:1                                        Moses, though the spiritual leader of Israel, is not made high priest
  • 1 Sam 12 ff                                  After anointing Saul as political leader Samuel has only spiritual function