Messianic Education Trust
    Mishpatim  
(Exodus 21:1 - 24:18)

Shemot/Exodus 22:27(28)   You shall not revile judges, nor curse a leader of your people

Who is - is this G-d, or are they judges ? What Is ...

Targum Onkelos: An early (1st-2nd Century CE) translation/paraphrase of the Torah into Aramaic; attributed to a Roman convert to Judaism, Onkelos; used in Babylonian synagogues during the Talmudic era
Targum Onkelos translates it as , a judge, but the What Is ...

The Mekhilta: The earliest known halakhic midrash or commentary on (parts of) the book of Exodus; formally named for Rabbi Ishmael and therefore set around 100-135CE, it was redacted some years after his time; quoted many times in the Bavli Talmud as "Rabbi Ishmael taught ..."
Mekhilta records the words of Rabbi Akiva connecting this verse to the punishment decreed for someone who curses HaShem (), "Moreover, the one who blasphemes the name of the L-rd shall surely be put to death" (Vayikra 24:16, NASB), on the grounds that the Torah would not give a punishment for something that had not already been forbidden. Rabbi Ishmael, on the other hand, reads this as "judges", relating it to the verse earlier in the same chapter, "the owner of the house shall appear before the judges" (Shemot 22:8, NASB). The later commentators appear equally split with Rashi and Nachmanides opting for "G-d", while the Rashbam and Ibn Ezra choose "judges". The Who Is ...

The Rashbam: Rabbi Samuel ben Asher (1085-1174 CE), a grandson of Rashi; lived in Northern France; worked from the plain meaning of the Hebrew text even when this contradicted established rabbinic interpretaton
Rashbam comments that "since kings and judges deal with court cases, both civil and criminal, people regularly curse them." We see this pattern of behaviour around us in society every day: almost anyone in authority, but particularly judges, probation officers and the police - anyone involved in the criminal justice system - is roundly lambasted and cursed by a significant proportion of the population. This, of course, includes those who have been involved in some form of criminality that has taken them through that system, but also features a wide range of others in society, whether young or old, who curse the system for its efficiency, its inefficiency or simply because it represents a threat or restraint to their impulses.

During Job's trials at the hand of Satan, "his wife said to him, 'Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse G-d [ / The Name ...

Elohim: one of the names of G-d, normally translated as "God"; the name that refers to G-d's attribute of justice; also taken to refer to G-d's power and might; actually a plural Hebrew noun that can mean "judges" depending on the context
Elohim] and die!'" (Job 2:9, NASB). She acknowledges the penalty and also the command and offence, but seems to imply that Job could hardly be worse off that he was and would at least feel better is he vented his spleen at G-d. Job, however, keeps his self-control and simply replies, "You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we accept good from G-d and not accept adversity?" (v.10a, NASB). Job recognises - and goes on in the following chapters to explain to his three so-called comforters - that G-d is perfectly just; it would be incompatible with His nature and character to be anything other than just; so that it is necessary to accept whatever G-d allows into his life as being appropriate, be that a blessing or a test or challenge. The text comments that, "In all this, Job did not sin with his lips" (v.10b, NASB). Job kept himself from sin by keeping control over what came out of his mouth. Perhaps we could all learn a lesson from that.

Yeshua pointed out that our mouths are simply an output device for our hearts: "The good person produces good things form the store of good in his heart, while the evil person produces evil things from the store of evil in his heart. For his mouth speaks what overflows from his heart" (Luke 6:45, CJB). This implies that however important it is to avoid speaking curses upon people, it is more important not to think in that way about someone. While the original command directly applies to judges and leaders, it should certainly apply to those who have authority in the body of Messiah: pastors, home-group leaders, worship leaders and so on - in fact, as believers, we should not curse anyone. The book of James tells us that it is incompatible for the same mouth that praises G-d to curse a fellow man or woman (James ch.3).

However, Yeshua goes on to say something that most people in the world would find quite shocking: "whoever calls his brother 'Good-for-nothing!' will be brought before the Sanhedrin; whoever says 'Fool!' incurs the penalty of burning in the fire of What Is ...

Gei Hinnom: A valley to west and south of the City of Jerusalem, known as the Jewish term for "Hell"; in earlier times, human sacrifice was offered there, and in later biblical times it was the place where the rubbish was burnt outside the city - a place of smoke, burning and dryness
Gei Hinnom!" (Matthew 5:27, CJB). This is so easy to do and many of us have been brought up in a culture where young people routinely "mouth off" about their elders or peers, so that to say of someone: "He's a bit of an idiot", is really very mild yet still crosses the line that Yeshua so clearly draws. If we are to be serious about guarding our mouths and speech so that we do not even inadvertently speak a curse over someone, then perhaps we all have some work to do.

Further Study: Lamentations 3:37-40; James 3:6-10

Application: Have you found yourself speaking a curse over someone recently, calling them "stupid", "lazy", "ignorant" or worse; perhaps a child or a family member who will receive those words as truth and perhaps struggle for years to overcome them? If so, then act before it is too late to recant those words, to apologise and make amends, to repent before G-d and ask Him to show you how to repair the damage.

© Jonathan Allen, 2007

17Feb07 09:32 Glen: Keep letting The Lord lead. Thank you very much!

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