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Moses to Israel: 9 At that time I (Moses) said, “I am not able to take care of you (Israel) by myself. 10 The LORD your God has made you grow in number so that there are as many of you as there are stars in the sky. 11 I pray that the LORD, the God of your ancestors, will give you a thousand times more people and do all the wonderful things He promised. 12 But I cannot take care of your problems, your troubles, and your arguments by myself. 13So choose some men from each tribe—wise men who have understanding and experience—and I will make them leaders over you.” 14 And you (Israel) said, “That’s a good thing to do.” 15 So I took the wise and experienced leaders of your tribes, and I made them your leaders. I appointed commanders over a thousand people, over a hundred people, over fifty people, and over ten people and made them officers over your tribes. Deuteronomy 1:9-15 (NCV)
After leaving Egypt, Moses led the great and vast people of Israel (Deuteronomy 1:9-11). God called Moses to lead Israel, to judge any quarrels and problems amongst the people and seek God’s will for the ancient Israelites (Deuteronomy 1:9, 12; see also Exodus 18:13-15, 19; Numbers 11:10-12). As God’s representative, Moses would resolve the Israelites’ disputes based upon God’s laws and decrees (see Exodus 18:15-16, 19-20). Because the people of Israel were numerous (Deuteronomy 1:10-11), Moses could not solely manage the people’s problems and disputes (Deuteronomy 1:12). Moses was a great leader and a spiritual giant, but even he could do only so much (see Exodus 18:17-18, 22-23; Numbers 11:14, 17).
God instructed Moses to select some wise, understanding, honest, trustworthy, and experienced men from each of the Twelve Tribes of Israel and appoint these godly men as judges and officials to help him lead the people of Israel (Deuteronomy 1:13-14; see also Exodus 18:20-22; Deuteronomy 16:18-20; Acts 6:3). Moses selected godly and respected men and commissioned them as leaders in charge of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens to resolve any disputes and help the Israelites in every way (Deuteronomy 1:15; see also Exodus 18:21, 25). Also, Moses taught these God-fearing men God’s decrees and laws and showed them the way to live and the duties they were to perform (Deuteronomy 1:18; see also Exodus 18:20). These selected men were to assist Moses in judging the people’s issues, but Moses was to resolve any difficult cases (Deuteronomy 1:17; see also Exodus 18:22, 26; Numbers 11:16).
Moses to Israel: 16 “At that time I (Moses) instructed the judges, ‘You must hear the cases of your fellow Israelites and the foreigners living among you. Be perfectly fair in your decisions 17 and impartial (unprejudiced) in your judgments. Hear the cases of those who are poor as well as those who are rich. Do not be afraid of anyone’s anger, for the decision you make is God’s decision. Bring me (Moses) any cases that are too difficult for you, and I will handle them.’ 18 At that time, I gave you instructions about everything you were to do.” Deuteronomy 1:16-18 (NLT)
At the same time, Moses instructed these honest, God-fearing, and experienced judges to be perfectly fair at all times, even to foreigners (Deuteronomy 1:16; see also Exodus 22:21-22; Exodus 23:8). Moses instructed these leaders to listen carefully to complaints and accusations among the people and to judge every case fairly and impartially, regardless of their nationality, race, social position, or wealth (Deuteronomy 1:16-17; see also 1 Kings 3:9). Moses encouraged these leaders not to play favorites because one was rich but to be fair and impartial to great and small alike; listening carefully to each dispute (Deuteronomy 1:17; see also Leviticus 19:15; Deuteronomy 16:18; Acts 10:34-35; James 2:1). These judges and officials were neither to pervert justice, show partiality nor to accept a bribe and twists the words of the innocent but follow justice and justice alone for all people (Deuteronomy 16:19-20; see also Exodus 23:2-3, 6-9).
God wanted these judges and officials to imitate His ways in all matters (Deuteronomy 10:17; see also 2 Chronicles 19:7). The LORD God shows no partiality and accepts no bribes (Deuteronomy 10:17; see also Leviticus 19:15-16). The true and living God defends the cause of the fatherless and widows, and loves the foreigner, giving them food and clothing (Deuteronomy 10:18; see also Exodus 22:21, 22-24; Deuteronomy 24:19). God expects everyone, particularly His judges and leading officials to love people and to be fair and just in all matters (Deuteronomy 10:19; see also Leviticus 19:33-34).
Moreover, the leaders were not fear the people’s displeasure because they were judging in the place of God, who is the ultimate Judge of all (Deuteronomy 1:17; see also Proverbs 29:25). Any disputes that were too difficult for the leaders were to be given to Moses for a final decision (Deuteronomy 1:17). These instructions created a chain of command between Moses and the people so that he did not have to get involved in every minor dispute. Moses could devote himself to talking with God and helping to settle the most significant problems among the people.
The instructions Moses gave to the newly appointed judges and officials is one that should be followed by everybody who serves in positions of authority, whether religious or civil (Deuteronomy 1:16-18; see also Deuteronomy 16:18-20). The emphasis is on honesty, mercy, and fairness toward all people and the realization that God is the ultimate Judge and the final authority (1 Samuel 2:3; see also Psalm 50:6; Psalm 75:7). Throughout the Law of Moses, God emphasized justice, mercy, fairness, honesty, and kindness to the poor, especially widows, orphans, and aliens in the land (e.g., see e.g. Exodus 22:21-24; Leviticus 19:9-10; Deuteronomy 14:28-29; Deuteronomy 16:9-12; Deuteronomy 24:17-21). Frequently the Old Testament prophets thundered against the wealthy because they were abusing the poor and the helpless in the land (e.g. see Isaiah 1:23-25; Isaiah 10:1-3; Jeremiah 7:1-6; Jeremiah 22:3; Hosea 6:6 Amos 2:6-7; Amos 5:11; Micah 6:6-8; Zechariah 7:8). The New Testament also speaks on the importance of fairness, honesty, mercy, and kindness to the poor and needy (e.g. see Matthew 9:13; Matthew 12:7; Matthew 25:31-46; Hebrews 13:1-5; James 1:26-27; James 2:15-16; James 5:1-6).
The Holy Bible NIV 2011 (Grand Rapids, MI: Biblica, 2011).
Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary – Old Testament (Victor Books, 1989).
May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you His favor and give you His peace. Numbers 6:24-26
Brothers and sisters . . . Be joyful and happy. Grow to maturity in Christ. Encourage each other. Live in harmony and peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet each other warmly with Christian love. . . . May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
2 Corinthians 13:11-12, 14