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Judges 1 [Full Chapter]
A time came after the death of Joshua when the People of Israel asked God, “Who will take the lead in going up against the Canaanites to fight them?” And God said, “Judah will go. I’ve given the land to him.” The men of Judah said to those of their brother Simeon, “Go up with us to our territory and we’ll fight the Canaanites. Then we’ll go with you to your territory.” And Simeon went with them. ...

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Moses’ father-in-law said, “This is no way to go about it. You’ll burn out, and the people right along with you. This is way too much for you—you can’t do this alone. Now listen to me. Let me tell you how to do this so that God will be in this with you. Be there for the people before God, but let the matters of concern be presented to God. Your job is to teach them the rules and instructions, to show them how to live, what to do. And then you need to keep a sharp eye out for competent men—men who fear God, men of integrity, men who are incorruptible—and appoint them as leaders over groups organized by the thousand, by the hundred, by fifty, and by ten. They’ll be responsible for the everyday work of judging among the people. They’ll bring the hard cases to you, but in the routine cases they’ll be the judges. They will share your load and that will make it easier for you. If you handle the work this way, you’ll have the strength to carry out whatever God commands you, and the people in their settings will flourish also.”
Moses listened to the counsel of his father-in-law and did everything he said. Moses picked competent men from all Israel and set them as leaders over the people who were organized by the thousand, by the hundred, by fifty, and by ten. They took over the everyday work of judging among the people. They brought the hard cases to Moses, but in the routine cases they were the judges. Then Moses said good-bye to his father-in-law who went home to his own country.
“In all cases of stolen goods, whether oxen, donkeys, sheep, clothing, anything in fact missing of which someone says, ‘That’s mine,’ both parties must come before the judges. The one the judges pronounce guilty must pay double to the other.
At the same time I gave orders to your judges: “Listen carefully to complaints and accusations between your fellow Israelites. Judge fairly between each person and his fellow or foreigner. Don’t play favorites; treat the little and the big alike; listen carefully to each. Don’t be impressed by big names. This is God’s judgment you’re dealing with. Hard cases you can bring to me; I’ll deal with them.”
Appoint judges and officers, organized by tribes, in all the towns that God, your God, is giving you. They are to judge the people fairly and honestly. Don’t twist the law. Don’t play favorites. Don’t take a bribe—a bribe blinds even a wise person; it undermines the intentions of the best of people.
If a hostile witness stands to accuse someone of a wrong, then both parties involved in the quarrel must stand in the Presence of God before the priests and judges who are in office at that time. The judges must conduct a careful investigation; if the witness turns out to be a false witness and has lied against his fellow Israelite, give him the same medicine he intended for the other party. Clean the polluting evil from your company. People will hear of what you’ve done and be impressed; that will put a stop to this kind of evil among you. Don’t feel sorry for the person: It’s life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.
If a dead body is found on the ground, this ground that God, your God, has given you, lying out in the open, and no one knows who killed him, your leaders and judges are to go out and measure the distance from the body to the nearest cities. The leaders and judges of the city that is nearest the corpse will then take a heifer that has never been used for work, never had a yoke on it. The leaders will take the heifer to a valley with a stream, a valley that has never been plowed or planted, and there break the neck of the heifer. The Levitical priests will then step up. God has chosen them to serve him in these matters by settling legal disputes and violent crimes and by pronouncing blessings in God’s name. Finally, all the leaders of that town that is nearest the body will wash their hands over the heifer that had its neck broken at the stream and say, “We didn’t kill this man and we didn’t see who did it. Purify your people Israel whom you redeemed, O God. Clear your people Israel from any guilt in this murder.”
When men have a legal dispute, let them go to court; the judges will decide between them, declaring one innocent and the other guilty. If the guilty one deserves punishment, the judge will have him prostrate himself before him and lashed as many times as his crime deserves, but not more than forty. If you hit him more than forty times, you will degrade him to something less than human.
All Israel was there, foreigners and citizens alike, with their elders, officers, and judges, standing on opposite sides of the Chest, facing the Levitical priests who carry God’s Covenant Chest. Half of the people stood with their backs to Mount Gerizim and half with their backs to Mount Ebal to bless the People of Israel, just as Moses the servant of God had instructed earlier.
[ Joshua’s Charge ] A long time later, after God had given Israel rest from all their surrounding enemies, and Joshua was a venerable old man, Joshua called all Israel together—elders, chiefs, judges, and officers. Then he spoke to them:
[ The Covenant at Shechem ] Joshua called together all the tribes of Israel at Shechem. He called in the elders, chiefs, judges, and officers. They presented themselves before God. Then Joshua addressed all the people:
But then God raised up judges who saved them from their plunderers. But they wouldn’t listen to their judges; they prostituted themselves to other gods—worshiped them! They lost no time leaving the road walked by their parents, the road of obedience to God’s commands. They refused to have anything to do with it.
When God was setting up judges for them, he would be right there with the judge: He would save them from their enemies’ oppression as long as the judge was alive, for God was moved to compassion when he heard their groaning because of those who afflicted and beat them. But when the judge died, the people went right back to their old ways—but even worse than their parents!—running after other gods, serving and worshiping them. Stubborn as mules, they didn’t drop a single evil practice.
Once upon a time—it was back in the days when judges led Israel— there was a famine in the land. A man from Bethlehem in Judah left home to live in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. The man’s name was Elimelech; his wife’s name was Naomi; his sons were named Mahlon and Kilion—all Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They all went to the country of Moab and settled there.
[ Rejecting God as the King ] When Samuel got to be an old man, he set his sons up as judges in Israel. His firstborn son was named Joel, the name of his second, Abijah. They were assigned duty in Beersheba. But his sons didn’t take after him; they were out for what they could get for themselves, taking bribes, corrupting justice.
But God told Samuel, “Looks aren’t everything. Don’t be impressed with his looks and stature. I’ve already eliminated him. God judges persons differently than humans do. Men and women look at the face; God looks into the heart.”
“So here is what you are to tell my servant David: The God-of-the-Angel-Armies has this word for you: I took you from the pasture, tagging along after sheep, and made you prince over my people Israel. I was with you everywhere you went and mowed your enemies down before you. Now I’m making you famous, to be ranked with the great names on earth. And I’m going to set aside a place for my people Israel and plant them there so they’ll have their own home and not be knocked around any more. Nor will evil men afflict you as they always have, even during the days I set judges over my people Israel. Finally, I’m going to give you peace from all your enemies.
This commanded Passover had not been celebrated since the days that the judges judged Israel—none of the kings of Israel and Judah had celebrated it. But in the eighteenth year of the rule of King Josiah this very Passover was celebrated to God in Jerusalem.
“So here is what you are to tell my servant David: The God-of-the-Angel-Armies has this word for you: I took you from the pasture, tagging after sheep, and made you prince over my people Israel. I was with you everywhere you went and mowed your enemies down before you; and now I’m about to make you famous, ranked with the great names on earth. I’m going to set aside a place for my people Israel and plant them there so they’ll have their own home and not be knocked around anymore; nor will evil nations afflict them as they always have, even during the days I set judges over my people Israel. And finally, I’m going to conquer all your enemies.
At the same time he brought together all the leaders of Israel, the priests, and the Levites. The Levites thirty years and older were counted; the total was thirty-eight thousand. David sorted them into work groups: “Twenty-four thousand are in charge of administering worship in the sanctuary; six thousand are officials and judges; four thousand are security guards; and four thousand are to serve in the orchestra, praising God with instruments that I have provided for praise.”
From the family of the Izharites, Kenaniah and sons were appointed as officials and judges responsible for affairs outside the work of worship and sanctuary. From the family of the Hebronites, Hashabiah and his relatives—1,700 well-qualified men—were responsible for administration of matters related to the worship of God and the king’s work in the territory west of the Jordan.
[ King Solomon ] Solomon son of David took a firm grip on the reins of his kingdom. God was with him and gave him much help. Solomon addressed all Israel—the commanders and captains, the judges, every leader, and all the heads of families. Then Solomon and the entire company went to the worship center at Gibeon—that’s where the Tent of Meeting of God was, the one that Moses the servant of God had made in the wilderness. The Chest of God, though, was in Jerusalem—David had brought it up from Kiriath Jearim, prepared a special place for it, and pitched a tent for it. But the Bronze Altar that Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, had made was in Gibeon, in its place before the Tabernacle of God; and that is where Solomon and the congregation gathered to pray. Solomon worshiped God at the Bronze Altar in front of the Tent of Meeting; he sacrificed a thousand Whole-Burnt-Offerings on it.
And he was diligent in appointing judges in the land—each of the fortress cities had its judge. He charged the judges: “This is serious work; do it carefully. You are not merely judging between men and women; these are God’s judgments that you are passing on. Live in the fear of God—be most careful, for God hates dishonesty, partiality, and bribery.”
Rehum the commanding officer and Shimshai the secretary wrote a letter against Jerusalem to Artaxerxes the king as follows: From: Rehum the commanding officer and Shimshai the secretary, backed by the rest of their associates, the judges and officials over the people from Tripolis, Persia, Erech, and Babylon, Elamites of Susa, and all the others whom the great and honorable Ashurbanipal deported and settled in the city of Samaria and other places in the land across the Euphrates. (This is the copy of the letter they sent to him.) To: King Artaxerxes from your servants from the land across the Euphrates. We are here to inform the king that the Jews who came from you to us have arrived in Jerusalem and have set about rebuilding that rebellious and evil city. They are busy at work finishing the walls and rebuilding the foundations. The king needs to know that once that city is rebuilt and the wall completed they will no longer pay a penny of tribute, tax, or duty. The royal treasury will feel the loss. We’re loyal to the king and cannot sit idly by while our king is being insulted—that’s why we are passing this information on. We suggest that you look into the court records of your ancestors; you’ll learn from those books that that city is a rebellious city, a thorn in the side to kings and provinces, a historic center of unrest and revolt. That’s why the city was wiped out. We are letting the king know that if that city gets rebuilt and its walls restored, you’ll end up with nothing in your province beyond the Euphrates.
The Message (MSG)

Copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson

19 topical index results for “judges”

AARON » Judges Israel in the absence of Moses (Exodus 24:14)
OPPRESSION » National, God judges (Acts 7:7)
BEER-SHEBA » The most southern city of Palestine » Two sons of Samuel were judges at (1 Samuel 8:2)
GOVERNMENT » MOSAIC » See JUDGES
MICAH » One of the minor prophets » The injustice of judges and falsehoods of false prophets (Micah 3)
RULERS » WICKED » See JUDGES
SHAMIR » A city on Mount Ephraim » The home and burial place of Tola, one of Israel's judges (leaders) (Judges 10:1,2)
SHECHEM » Also called SYCHAR, a city of refuge in Mount Ephr » Joshua assembled the tribes of Israel at, with all their elders, chiefs, and judges, and presented them before the Lord (Joshua 24:1-28)

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