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Deuteronomy: The Second Law - Speech 7

A commentary on the seventh speech of Moses in Deuteronomy 24-26. The book of Deuteronomy is a series of 12 speeches that Moses gave just before his death at the end of Israel's wilderness journey.

Category - Bible Commentaries

Chapter 12

Equal Weights and Measures

The law is to be administered with impartial justice. This is expressed most clearly in the law of equal weights and measures, which concludes Moses’ eighth speech. He says in Deut. 25:13-16,

13 You shall not have in your bag differing weights, a large and a small. 14 You shall not have in your house differing measures, a large and a small. 15 You shall have a full and just measure, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you. 16 For everyone who does these things, everyone who acts unjustly is an abomination to the Lord your God.

In those days the weight of something being bought or sold (such as grain) was measured by scales, or balances. Such balances were also the symbol of justice, even as we see today on the logo for the Department of Justice. This understanding is seen also in Daniel 5:27, when God revealed the time of His judgment to the Babylonian king, saying,

27 TEKEL—your kingdom has been weighed on the scales and found deficient.

The weight of sin determined its judgment. The judgment always fit the crime. The focus was upon justice, not punishment. Man’s system of punishment usually places deterrence above justice, causing them to steadily increase penalties until justice is badly perverted. Various writers like Charles Dickens and Victor Hugo have written books about this, showing how a man might be imprisoned for many years for minor crimes like stealing a loaf of bread.

America has steadily followed this same path of deception. Unfortunately, such practices are often pushed by Christians who do not understand that the primary purpose of the law of God is to establish justice. Deterrence is important, but always secondary.

Equality of Justice

The “weight of sin” on the scale of justice is to be measured equally among men. In ancient times under the laws of Hammurabi (Nimrod), the laws of men were applied unequally to citizens, rich men, priests, and rulers. If a common man stole from a priest or ruler, he might receive the death penalty, whereas if he stole from one of his peers, the penalty would be some form of restitution.

On the other hand, some were judged partially in the opposite manner, giving consideration to one’s poverty or low station in life. For this reason, Scripture forbids this form of injustice in Exodus 23:3,

3 nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his dispute.

Exodus 23:1-9 legislates against various examples of the way in which judges may violate the law of equal weights and measures. It ends with perhaps the most common violation of all in verse 9,

9 And you shall not oppress a stranger, since you yourselves know the feelings of a stranger, for you also were strangers in the land of Egypt.

It is common for us to judge those we do not know by a different standard from those that we know. We tend to judge foreigners by a different standard of measure, based upon an inner resentment of their presence. It is as if they are unworthy of the same rights that we enjoy. The carnal mind also tends to weigh its own sin differently from the same sins done by others. We judge others by their acts, and ourselves by our intentions. This is a violation of the mind and character of God, and hence also His law.

Balances of Justice

The law of equal weights and measures had followed Israel throughout their wilderness journey, for it was given not only in Exodus but also in Lev. 19:35-37, saying,

35 You shall do no wrong in judgment, in measurement of weight, or capacity. 36 You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin; I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from the land of Egypt. 37 You shall thus [in this manner] observe all My statutes, and all My ordinances, and do them: I am the Lord.

Here the Hebrew phrase in verse 36 literally reads, “balances of justice,” ????? ???, that is, the scales of justice. It is clear, then, that this law governs the entire judicial system of the Kingdom of God. It is more than a law; it is the whole procedure by which the law is applied equally to all the nations of the earth.

There are very few apparent deviations from this practice. One is in the case of usury, where it is lawful to charge usury to an alien living outside the land, whereas it is unlawful if the alien is living within the land. In other words, those who condoned usury did not enjoy the same rights as those who lived by the law of God. I have already commented on this in Book 6 in the discussion on Deut. 23:19, 20.

Anyone living inside the borders of the Kingdom must conform to the law of the land, but those living outside may be treated according to their own set of laws. Other nations saw nothing wrong with usury, and so Israel was allowed to treat them according to their own standard of measure. This was not a violation of the law, but actually another application of the law of equal weights and measures. Such aliens were being treated equally according to the way that they would treat others in their own land.

Jesus’ Witness

Jesus mentioned the law of equal weights and measures in the Sermon on the Mount in Matt. 7:1 and 2, saying,

1 Do not judge, lest you be judged. 2 For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.

This shows that God’s method of justice is to allow our own sin to correct us. If we all truly loved our neighbors as ourselves, we would follow the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If we would place ourselves in the shoes of other people and treat them as we ourselves want to be treated, then we would not victimize any other person. But in our selfishness, we often fail in this regard. The carnal mind is more preoccupied with its own comfort and self-interest than with equal justice for all.

When God judges us for sin, we find ourselves being treated as we treated others. The standard by which we judge and treat other men is the standard by which God judges and treats us in order to correct us and cause us to repent (change our way of thinking).

Because God is our Father, He trains us in His ways so that we may be conformed to the perfect image of Christ. Part of this training involves bringing us into situations where we must make decisions, discern, and make certain judgments about right and wrong. If we judge correctly, fine. But if we judge unjustly, God then reverses the roles. He makes us play the role of the one we have judged unjustly, in order that we might understand how better to apply the Golden Rule.

David and Bathsheba

When King David committed adultery and murder on account of Bathsheba, God sent the prophet Nathan to inform him of God’s judgment against him. But the prophet did not immediately determine David’s judgment. Nathan first wanted David to reveal his heart, so that he could be judged by his own standard of measure.

Thus, Nathan told him a little story in order give David opportunity to judge himself—or to show mercy. 2 Sam. 12:1-4 says,

1 Then the Lord sent Nathan to David. And he came to him and said, “There were two men in one city, the one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had a great many flocks and herds. 3 But the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb which he bought and nourished; and it grew up together with him and his children. It would eat of his bread and drink of his cup and lie in his bosom, and was like a daughter to him. 4 Now a rich traveler came to the rich man, and he was unwilling to take from his own flock or his own herd, to prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him; rather, he took the poor man’s ewe lamb and prepared it for the man who had come to him.”

David’s emotional response is given in verses 5 and 6,

5 Then David’s anger burned greatly against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, surely the man who has done this deserves to die. 6 And he must make restitution for the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing and had no compassion.”

The law of God does indeed demand fourfold restitution for stealing a sheep, when it is killed or sold (Exodus 22:1). However, the law does not condemn a man to death for theft. David’s unjust judgment called for the death penalty as well as restitution. It is part of human psychology that when our own conscience condemns us, we overreact and judge others in an unbalanced manner. This is because we are driven by emotions that are founded on guilt, and so, without realizing it, we judge others in proxy for ourselves.

David’s heart condemned him, whether or not he was aware of it. This made him render an unbalanced judgment. God used this to determine the level of judgment that would come upon David himself. If David had been merciful, he would have received mercy. But his subconscious guilt over his own theft and murder drove him to overreact emotionally with anger, and so he judged the hypothetical man as if he were judging himself. He included the death penalty because he himself had been guilty of murder.

God has a unique way of applying the law of equal weights and measures, and He even allows us to judge ourselves.

It was not about lambs. David received the death penalty, combined with the penalty of fourfold restitution. However, because David also repented, God chose to show mercy to David himself, but even so, he lost four sons over time: (1) the first son of Bathsheba, (2) Amnon, (3) Absalom, and (4) Adonijah.

What is comforting to us all is that even though David’s life was full of heartache from that point on, God’s judgments served to correct him, not to destroy him. In fact, God said to him in Psalm 2:7, “Thou art My son, today I have begotten thee.” While this was also a messianic prophecy about Jesus Christ, it was first a promise to David himself. Like Jesus, he was also the high priest after the Order of Melchizedek (Psalm 110:4).

Divine Judgment Corrects us

When God judges us by our own standard of measure, it corrects us in ways that no other experience could ever do. God in His infinite wisdom knows how to reach down into our innermost being and pull our unjust views to the surface where we may judge them and eradicate them. When such emotions surface, they can be ugly. But there is no other way to deal with them so that we can be conformed to the image of Christ. Those who are aware of God’s dealings in this way are the fortunate ones, for they are repentant. Their humility is genuine, because they know that they have reason to be humble.

The good news is that this same law has a mercy factor built into it. If David had shown mercy when Nathan told the story, mercy would have been shown to David. If David had not judged the rich man in the story, he would not have lost four sons. Suppose David had said, “Take me to this poor man who has lost his lamb. I will restore the lamb fourfold.” David would have acted as a type of Christ in this way, for Christ came to earth to pay the full penalty for our sin.

Even so, this law principle gives all of us the opportunity to determine our own level of mercy. It is only our own subconscious mind that drives us by guilt and fear to make us unbalanced in judging (discerning) other people, causing us to be judged by our own unbalanced measure of justice.

We see others through the distorted lens of our own guilt and fear. Unless that guilt and fear is covered by the blood of Christ or removed through experience in our walk with Him, it will continue to give us an unbalanced mind and disqualify us when it comes time for the saints to judge the world (1 Cor. 6:2).

One of the overall purposes of being led by the Spirit in our wilderness journey is to deal with the unbalanced state of the carnal mind that cannot judge properly until it deals with its hidden emotional issues springing from guilt and fear. In other words, we are learning to judge the world by the law of God and the mind of Christ. To judge is to discern right from wrong, not to condemn others but to understand the difference by the mind of Christ.

Since the days of Jeremiah and Daniel, the Kingdom of God has been placed under the authority of the beast nations of the earth. We are to use this time to prepare our hearts to rule and judge the earth when the time of the beasts has run its course. We are given a lifetime of practice in each generation until the time of beast-authority ends. Then, when the great Stone Kingdom arises, and when the authority is passed to the saints of the Most High, as Daniel 7:22 prophesies, God will have a group of trained judges who can administer the laws of the Kingdom with impartial justice for all.

According to Ferrar Fenton, this is the end of Moses’ speech. However, I believe that the next few verses regarding Amalek are part of this present speech, as I will explain shortly.