Friday, August 26: Deuteronomy 17- The rule of law.

I have been thinking lately about the gift I have living in the US with the rule of law and our right to a trial of peers. Now to be sure the legal system in my country has some issues. It takes too long to prosecute, there appears to be a bias against the poor, public defenders have ridiculous caseloads that do not allow for fair representation, etc. Inequities noted, our system is an incredible gift compared to countries where there is no rule of law except “might makes right.”

Reading the Word today, I grew in my appreciation for the Lord and the gift He gave Israel with their legal system. It showed me God’s heart for truth, honesty and justice. Admittedly this example is a capital case, but it is in those situations where the outcome is most severe.

If a man or woman living among you in one of the towns the LORD gives you is found doing evil in the eyes of the LORD your God … and this has been brought to your attention, then you must investigate it thoroughly. … On the testimony of two or three witnesses a person is to be put to death, but no one is to be put to death on the testimony of only one witness. The hands of the witnesses must be the first in putting that person to death, and then the hands of all the people. … (2-7).

First I note that any investigation must be thorough. In a world and culture where the big person matters more and generally can do what he wants to require thorough investigation is a huge step forward in jurisprudence. It suggest truth is what is being sought, not vengeance.

Next requiring the testimony of two witnesses –obviously corroborating witnesses- raise the bar of truth significantly while also limiting corruption. This is another large step forward in protecting individuals from abuse by the system or by the rich and powerful.

Requiring the witnesses to be the first involved in executing the capital punishment is a third step forward to seeking truth and offering fairness regardless of a defendant’s wealth. Certainly this doesn’t absolutely ensure honest testimony, but a person with any shred of conscience, I would think, would have problems putting someone to death with their own hands for a crime they were not 100% convinced the person committed.

Lastly, if the judge presiding the case doesn’t discern truth, he has the ability to move the case to a temple priest. The inference here is that the Lord will determine the verdict. For the accused this should bring comfort if they are innocent.

All in all Israel’s system was a major step toward equity, honesty and true justice, especially given the state of affairs in the ancient world from which this comes.

All of this shows me God’s heart for integrity and justice in His land.

Thank You, Lord, for Your heart for truth and for teaching Your people this and for setting up a system that would help insure it for all the people of Your land.

Praise to You, Lord, God… Amen and amen.


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