Commandments for War Shoftim (Weekly Portion) Deuteronomy 16:18 to 21:9
The Book of Deuteronomy told the Israelites to do justice and appoint Judges and a Sanhedrin for Biblical matters. The Levites were the Priestly Tribe and were provided for. Cities of Refuge for unintentional homicides were to be set apart. False Prophets to be killed, pagan practices forbidden. Pagan peoples to be expelled. An Anointed Priest before the battle would command the People not to be afraid. Those who did show fear were to be sent home.
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The Israelites were commanded to appoint judges and to administer justice. They were commanded to pursue justice and the truth.
They also had to establish a Sanhedrin of 70 elders and to obey its decisions. The principle of the Sanhedrin has been continued through the Consensus of Rabbinical Authorities throughout the Ages.
D5a. Judgement and the Sanhedrin
The Israelites were commanded to set up a king when they were settled in the Land. They had to respect, honor, and obey the monarch.
The King on his side had obligations, responsibilities, and limitations. Amongst other things he had to write a Torah Scroll at the beginning of his reign, to constantly read in it and also always be humble.
D5b. The Monarch
Appointing a King and National Independence
Section Two of Shoftim-Deuteronomy
1 The Levitical priests, the whole tribe of Levi, shall have no allotment or inheritance within Israel. They may eat the sacrifices that are the LORD's portion
The Tribe of Levi was not to receive its own Tribal Inheritance but rather scattered settlements throughout Israel.
2 but they shall have no inheritance among the other members of the community; the LORD is their inheritance, as he promised them.
The Tribe of Levi had an extra moral obligation to serve the Almighty however they could. God is their portion.
3 This shall be the priests' due from the people, from those offering a sacrifice, whether an ox or a sheep: they shall give to the priest the shoulder, the two jowls, and the stomach.
The Priests (Cohens) were to receive from every animal that was slaughtered the forelimb, the tongue and surrounding cheeks, stomach and surrounding fat .
4 The first fruits of your grain, your wine, and your oil, as well as the first of the fleece of your sheep, you shall give him.
5 For the LORD your God has chosen Levi out of all your tribes, to stand and minister in the name of the LORD, him and his sons for all time.
The Priests (Cohens) were also to receive the firstfruits of the primary agricultural produce and that which was processed from it i.e. the wine and the oil. They were also to receive first wool of the shearing.
In our time we should support they who teach us the words of Torah.
Brit-Am/Hebrew Nations in many ways is fulfilling this role.
We too should also be supported.
6 If a Levite leaves any of your towns, from wherever he has been residing in Israel, and comes to the place that the LORD will choose (and he may come whenever he wishes), 7then he may minister in the name of the LORD his God, like all his fellow-Levites who stand to minister there before the LORD. 8They shall have equal portions to eat, even though they have income from the sale of family possessions.
Levites and Cohens had to be given their fair share in the offerings and reasonably equal opportunity to do those services (such as officiating in the Temple) that resulted in payment.
Everybody needs to be paid for what they do. They deserve it and expect it. Even if they say they do not want payment and genuinely seem to mean it one should be careful.
9 When you come into the land that the LORD your God is giving you, you must not learn to imitate the abhorrent practices of those nations. 10No one shall be found among you who makes a son or daughter pass through fire, or who practises divination, or is a soothsayer, or an augur, or a sorcerer,
Passing through the fire was practiced recently in Ireland, England, and Scandinavia. In northern England it was known as Beltane meaning "fire of Bel".
## At Beltain two "needfires" were lighted among the Gael, between which they drove their cattle for purification and luck; ##
[Ezekiel 16:21] THAT THOU HAST SLAIN MY CHILDREN, AND DELIVERED THEM TO CAUSE THEM TO PASS THROUGH THE FIRE FOR THEM?
This is the Beltain which symbolically was still practiced until recently in Britain and Scandinavia and elsewhere: People and animals would be led between or over small fires on certain days of the year. It was called "Beltain" in Britain which is Celtic for "Fire of baal".
See Brit-Am Commentary to Hosea 2
[Hosea 2:8] FOR SHE DID NOT KNOW THAT I GAVE HER CORN, AND WINE, AND OIL, AND MULTIPLIED HER SILVER AND GOLD, WHICH THEY PREPARED FOR BAAL.
The Peoples of Scandinavia, Gaul, and the British Isles worshipped Bel (BaaL) and had other pagan practices similar to those of the Land of Canaan. They were Israelites who had been exiled for copying the heathen religions of their Canaanite neighbors. They were therefore exiled from the Land of Israel as a punishment (2-Kings chs. 17 and 18) and apparently even in their places of exile continued to practice aspects of the Canaanite religion.
11 or one who casts spells, or who consults ghosts or spirits, or who seeks oracles from the dead. 12 For whoever does these things is abhorrent to the LORD; it is because of such abhorrent practices that the LORD your God is driving them out before you. 13 You must remain completely loyal to the LORD your God.
completely loyal. Hebrew "tamim" also connoting innocent, simple, trusting, or perfect.
Do as well as you can and trust in the Almighty.
We are forbidden to go to witches. Astrology is also questionable. Seances etc are forbidden. Participation in Hindu religious festivals voodoo cults etc is also forbidden.
Even being superstitious in a Biblical sense may be questionable.
One needs to be careful.
14 Although these nations that you are about to dispossess do give heed to soothsayers and diviners, as for you, the LORD your God does not permit you to do so.
15 The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet* like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet.* 16 This is what you requested of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said: 'If I hear the voice of the LORD my God any more, or ever again see this great fire, I will die.' 17 Then the LORD replied to me: 'They are right in what they have said. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet* like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet,* who shall speak to them everything that I command. 19 Anyone who does not heed the words that the prophet* shall speak in my name, I myself will hold accountable.
These days we no longer have Prophets though perhaps soon we will have. Nevertheless we do have the Bible and the Prophets who spoke to us in the Bible and we need to listen to them.
20 But any prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, or who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded the prophet to speak, that prophet shall die.' 21You may say to yourself, 'How can we recognize a word that the LORD has not spoken?' 22 If a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD but the thing does not take place or prove true, it is a word that the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; do not be frightened by it.
Someone who claims to have received a direct message from the Almighty was to be tested. If he was found to be speaking falsehood he was to be killed.
The test of a false prophet was someone whom claimed to have a direct message from God concerning the future and what he said would happen did not come to pass.
1 When the LORD your God has cut off the nations whose land the LORD your God is giving you, and you have dispossessed them and settled in their towns and in their houses, 2 you shall set apart three cities in the land that the LORD your God is giving you to possess.
They had already been commanded to set aside six cities; three east of the Jordan and another three to the west of the Jordan. Maimonides understood this commandment to set aside an additional three (i.e. nine altogether) when the Israelites should expand their borders BEYOND those of the Promised Land!
3 You shall calculate the distances and divide into three regions the land that the LORD your God gives you as a possession, so that any homicide can flee to one of them.
4 Now this is the case of a homicide who might flee there and live, that is, someone who has killed another person unintentionally when the two had not been at enmity before: 5 Suppose someone goes into the forest with another to cut wood, and when one of them swings the axe to cut down a tree, the head slips from the handle and strikes the other person who then dies; the killer may flee to one of these cities and live. 6 But if the distance is too great, the avenger of blood in hot anger might pursue and overtake and put the killer to death, although a death sentence was not deserved, since the two had not been at enmity before. 7 Therefore I command you: You shall set apart three cities.
8 If the LORD your God enlarges your territory, as he swore to your ancestors, and he will give you all the land that he promised your ancestors to give you, 9 provided you diligently observe this entire commandment that I command you today, by loving the LORD your God and walking always in his ways, then you shall add three more cities to these three, 10so that the blood of an innocent person may not be shed in the land that the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, thereby bringing blood-guilt upon you.
11 But if someone at enmity with another lies in wait and attacks and takes the life of that person, and flees into one of these cities, 12then the elders of the killer's city shall send to have the culprit taken from there and handed over to the avenger of blood to be put to death. 13Show no pity; you shall purge the guilt of innocent blood from Israel, so that it may go well with you.
14 You must not move your neighbour's boundary marker, set up by former generations, on the property that will be allotted to you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you to possess.
15 A single witness shall not suffice to convict a person of any crime or wrongdoing in connection with any offence that may be committed. Only on the evidence of two or three witnesses shall a charge be sustained. 16 If a malicious witness comes forward to accuse someone of wrongdoing, 17 then both parties to the dispute shall appear before the LORD, before the priests and the judges who are in office in those days, 18 and the judges shall make a thorough inquiry. If the witness is a false witness, having testified falsely against another, 19 then you shall do to the false witness just as the false witness had meant to do to the other. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. 20 The rest shall hear and be afraid, and a crime such as this shall never again be committed among you. 21 Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.
1 When you go out to war against your enemies, and see horses and chariots, an army larger than your own, you shall not be afraid of them; for the LORD your God is with you, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.
When Israelites went to war they were forbidden to be afraid even when the adversary was stronger and more numerous and warlike.
2 Before you engage in battle, the priest shall come forward and speak to the troops,
This Priest was a specially appointed and known as "Mashiach Milchamah" i.e. Appointed for War. His task was to encourage the Hebrews to fight well, without fear, in the knowledge that the Almighty God of Israel was on their side.
3 and shall say to them: 'Hear, O Israel! Today you are drawing near to do battle against your enemies. Do not lose heart, or be afraid, or panic, or be in dread of them; 4 for it is the LORD your God who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to give you victory.' 5 Then the officials shall address the troops, saying, 'Has anyone built a new house but not dedicated it? He should go back to his house, or he might die in the battle and another dedicate it. 6 Has anyone planted a vineyard but not yet enjoyed its fruit? He should go back to his house, or he might die in the battle and another be first to enjoy its fruit. 7 Has anyone become engaged to a woman but not yet married her? He should go back to his house, or he might die in the battle and another marry her.' 8 The officials shall continue to address the troops, saying, 'Is anyone afraid or disheartened? He should go back to his house, or he might cause the heart of his comrades to fail like his own.' 9 When the officials have finished addressing the troops, then the commanders shall take charge of them.
10 When you draw near to a town to fight against it, offer it terms of peace. 11 If it accepts your terms of peace and surrenders to you, then all the people in it shall serve you in forced labour. 12If t does not submit to you peacefully, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it; 13 and when the LORD your God gives it into your hand, you shall put all its males to the sword. 14 You may, however, take as your booty the women, the children, livestock, and everything else in the town, all its spoil. You may enjoy the spoil of your enemies, which the LORD your God has given you. 15 Thus you shall treat all the towns that are very far from you, which are not towns of the nations here. 16 But as for the towns of these peoples that the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, you must not let anything that breathes remain alive. 17 You shall annihilate them, the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, just as the LORD your God has commanded, 18 so that they may not teach you to do all the abhorrent things that they do for their gods, and you thus sin against the LORD your God.
19 If you besiege a town for a long time, making war against it in order to take it, you must not destroy its trees by wielding an axe against them. Although you may take food from them, you must not cut them down. Are trees in the field human beings that they should come under siege from you? 20 You may destroy only the trees that you know do not produce food; you may cut them down for use in building siege-works against the town that makes war with you, until it falls.
1 If, in the land that the LORD your God is giving you to possess, a body is found lying in open country, and it is not known who struck the person down, 2 then your elders and your judges shall come out to measure the distances to the towns that are near the body. 3 The elders of the town nearest the body shall take a heifer that has never been worked, one that has not pulled in the yoke; 4 the elders of that town shall bring the heifer down to a wadi with running water, which is neither ploughed nor sown, and shall break the heifer's neck there in the wadi. 5 Then the priests, the sons of Levi, shall come forward, for the LORD your God has chosen them to minister to him and to pronounce blessings in the name of the LORD, and by their decision all cases of dispute and assault shall be settled.
The Tribe of Levi had an educational task for all Israel.
Cf. THEY SHALL TEACH JACOB THY JUDGMENTS, AND ISRAEL THY LAW [Deuteronomy 33:10].
6 All the elders of that town nearest the body shall wash their hands over the heifer whose neck was broken in the wadi, 7and they shall declare: 'Our hands did not shed this blood, nor were we witnesses to it. 8 Absolve, O LORD, your people Israel, whom you redeemed; do not let the guilt of innocent blood remain in the midst of your people Israel.' Then they will be absolved of blood-guilt. 9 So you shall purge the guilt of innocent blood from your midst, because you must do what is right in the sight of the LORD.