Parashat Shoftim: Various Teachings From Netivyah Staff
In our desire to provide you with the teaching of Messiah Yeshua in a Jewish context, we provide in-depth teachings of the weekly Torah portions throughout the year. Below are various perspectives from various teachers and staff members from Netivyah Bible Instruction ministry.
Joseph Shulam: Innocent Blood Must be Avenged 
The Parashat Shoftim (“shoftim” means “judges” in Hebrew) reading is from Deuteronomy 16:18 – 21:9. The weekly reading from the prophets is Isaiah 51:12 – 52:12, and from the New Testament we read John 1:19-27.
One of the intriguing texts in this Shabbat’s reading is the issue of the blood avenger. The issue of the blood avenger starts with the second story of the book of Genesis. When God speaks to Cain:
“And He said, ‘What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground. 11 So now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.’” – Genesis 4:10 [NKJV]
Innocent blood that is shed on the ground will forever have to be avenged. Sooner or later, God does see that the innocent blood will be avenged. This is a true principle.
At times it takes hundreds, and even thousands, of years for innocent blood to be avenged, but the best judge of such crimes is history itself (His Story). And history has proven that those who kill eventually pay for their crimes in one way or another.
Now in our Torah portion Shoftim, the difference between a premeditated murderer and those who have killed a person by mistake is being administrated, and the rules of engagement are being set for righteousness sake. The Torah does not judge with blindfolded eyes, but with the eyes of God’s wisdom and mercy.
On the other hand, the Torah states that a person who premeditates a murder should be dealt with in the following manner:
“You must show him no pity. Thus, you will purge Israel of the blood of the innocent, and it will go well with you.” – Deut. 19:13 [NJPS]
The Word of God instructs us not to have mercy on a murderer, but rather to purge “the blood of the innocent”. This is a major problem in today’s Western civilization. The law ignores the pain and the suffering of the victims and their family, and worries and stands with the rights of the criminals.
What the millennials say today is, “How does killing the murderer purge innocent blood?” The modern judgement seems to ask, “Who is the ‘innocent’ person?” The victim is already dead, and the only one now left is this poor murderer who will now suffer in jail 10 or 20 years, and be released. Let us help this poor murderer and not avenge the innocent blood that he shed on the ground.
The Word of God says, “You must show him no pity. Thus, you will purge Israel of the shedding of innocent blood, and it will go well with you.” This is what God commands Israel.
Suddenly, dear brothers and sisters, we, the human race, are those who know what is wise and what is righteous and just and right for humanity, better than Lord, who created the world and made us out of the dust of the Earth and the breath from His mouth.
The Lord, who created this world, and chose Israel, and gave us the Torah, is the one who is speaking to Moses, and through Moses to us Israel, and to the whole world. In other words, clean out bloodshed.
The blood of the innocent is an important topic through the whole Bible. Those who shed innocent blood must be purged, and if we don’t or can’t do the purging today, we must know that God Himself will judge and excise justice for the blood that was shed, so that it will go well with us.
I realize that this text from God’s Word seems not so politically correct for the eyes and ears of the modern world. Some people might say that the language of the word of God here is to be understood figuratively. As long as the murderer is not brought to justice, it is as if the blood of the murdered is exposed on the ground.
In other words, the ground does not accept it, and this blood is not covered. The blood that is not covered and not avenged continues to be a curse to the murderer and to the collective community, and the curse stays on the ground until it will be avenged.
See the following text from the words of Yeshua, that demonstrates this principle:
“Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.” – Matthew 23:34-36 [NKJV]
This text is interesting from a few different viewpoints. One of the more interesting points is that the Matthew text today speaks of the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah. Zechariah, son of Berechiah, is the famous Zechariah who wrote the book of Zechariah, one of the last prophets of the Old Testament.
But this Zechariah is not the Zechariah that was murdered between the Temple and the altar. The Zechariah that was killed between the Temple and altar is actually Zechariah the son of Jehoiada. This is the story to which Yeshua is referring in Matthew 23:34,35:
“Then the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, who stood above the people, and said to them, ‘Thus says God: “Why do you transgress the commandments of the Lord, so that you cannot prosper? Because you have forsaken the Lord, He also has forsaken you.”’ So they conspired against him, and at the command of the king they stoned him with stones in the court of the house of the Lord.” – 2 Chronicles 24:20,21
So, how did Matthew write the wrong Zechariah? Did Yeshua make the mistake, and mix up the right Zechariah? No, Yeshua just said “Zechariah.” One of the early translators, a Greek brother who did not know the Bible very well, and knew the book of Zechariah the son of Berechiah, was thinking that he will help the reader and tell him which Zechariah Yeshua is speaking about.
So, the translator edited innocently and added the name of the famous Zechariah who wrote the book. Yeshua was actually referring to this other Zechariah that is only mentioned very few times in the book of 2 Chronicles chapter 24:20-21.
This is actually the Zechariah that was killed by the people inside the Temple, between the Temple building and the altar in the courtyard. Note the next verse:
“Thus Joash the king did not remember the kindness which Jehoiada his father had done to him, but killed his son; and as he died, he said, ‘The Lord look on it, and repay!’” – 2 Chronicles 24:22 [NKJV]
Note that upon his death in the temple, he said, “The Lord look on it, and repay.”
According to Jewish history, God did repay the innocent blood of Zechariah son of Jehoiada:
“R. Hiya b. Abin said in the name of R. Joshua b. Korhah: An old man from the inhabitants of Jerusalem told me that in this valley Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard killed two hundred and eleven myriads, and in Jerusalem he killed ninety-four myriads on one stone, until their blood went and joined that of Zechariah [Rashi: son of Jehoiada the priest, who was murdered in the Temple court by officers of Judah at the command of Joash, when the people were bowing down to Joash and worshipping him as a god], to fulfil the words, Blood touched blood (Hos. 4:2). He noticed the blood of Zechariah bubbling up warm and asked what it was. They said: It is the blood of the sacrifices which has been poured there. He had some blood brought, but it was different from the other. He then said to them: If you tell me [the truth], well and good, but if not, I will tear your flesh with combs of iron. They said: What can we say to you? There was a prophet among us who used to reprove us for our irreligion, and we rose up against him and killed him, and for many years his blood has not rested. He said to them: I will appease him. He brought the great Sanhedrin and the small Sanhedrin and killed them over him, but the blood did not cease. He then slaughtered young men and women, but the blood did not cease. He brought school-children and slaughtered them over it, but the blood did not cease. So he said; Zechariah, Zechariah. I have slain the best of them; do you want me to destroy them all? When he said this to him, it stopped. Straightway Nebuzaradan felt remorse. He said to himself: If such is the penalty for slaying one soul, what will happen to me who have slain such multitudes? So he fled away, and sent a deed to his house disposing of his effects and became a convert.” – Gittin 57b
This chapter in Jewish history clearly shows that the words of Zechariah son of Jehoiada, upon his death, were fulfilled by the Assyrian general Nebuzaradan, when he killed so many of the young priests. One thing we should know: God’s word is living, and God keeps His promises. If we don’t do justice, God will do the justice! He always does!
The world must know, and the church must know, that the innocent blood that has been and is shed in the world will be purged and atoned for by God.
Today’s political correctness is not the Law (Torah) of the Lord. The Torah of the Lord and His promises are always fulfilled, and will continue to be fulfilled, and we all must know that no one will escape the just judgment of God, either in this world or for eternity after the day of judgment.
Yehuda Bachana: Judge Every Person Favorably 
Read the teaching below, or watch a video of the teaching by Yehuda Bachana.
Shabbat Shalom. Parashat Shoftim is a more “practical” parasha, whose name, “Shoftim” (“judges”), testifies to its content. The parasha deals mainly with the government, where the people in the parasha are not “private individuals” but part of a collective called the Jewish people. And as such, the people are subject to the government, and must listen to the legislators.
We Are All Lawyers
At the beginning of our parasha there is a famous and well-known verse:
“Do not pervert justice or show partiality. Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the innocent.” – Deuteronomy 16:19 [NIV]
A lawyer’s job is misleading, he or she must justify a desired outcome, and then persuade the judge – irregardless of the truth. And if that lawyer were hired by the other side, he or she would reach and embrace the opposite conclusion.
Judges are warned not to accept bribes. Even if they try very hard to see things as they are, the money will blind them. Even a judgment that is reasoned, explained, and logical can be madness.
We all are lawyers in matters of faith, we all read the Torah from our own prejudice and previous ideas that have been planted in us. We can consistently ignore what is inconvenient to us in the text, and interpret what is convenient for us in such a way that it seems to us as logical and serious.
As lawyers, we lie to ourselves, using all the excuses in the world.
The True Intent, Not Our Own Interpretation
We must try and find the courage to change and manage our lives according to the spirit and intent of the Scriptures, and not according to the most convenient way that we sometimes interpret the text to be.
We are also all judges, we all look at the people around us and judge them. Whether it’s their politeness, their clothes, their children, and their belongings.
We all are judges, and usually we come to a verdict based on superficial appearances, without evidence, without investigation, without information on the reasoning behind each and every person.
Appearances Can be Deceiving
There’s a story about a father with two children riding a bus. The children were behaving wildly, they were very restless, bothering the other passengers.
The father, on his part, looked out of the window and seemed detached from reality, detached from the mess his children were making.
How did the other passengers judge him and the children?
“He is not a good father, he is detached from his children, the children are not educated, there is no discipline! Overall the situation is bad.”
You know how it is… Israelis like to push their nose into things that are not their business. So the passengers mentioned to the father that his children were not under control and that he should do something about it.
The father immediately responded, “Sorry for being so detached, we’re just in shock, we are returning home from the hospital where their mother just died. I’ll take care of the children.”
We Don’t Know the Whole Story
Yes, this example is extreme, but I want to emphasize that one piece of information can make a night and day – or heaven and earth – difference. A moment ago, the emotions that flooded all passengers on the bus were, anger, annoyance, irritation, and contempt for the father, before they knew the whole story.
After they knew, after receiving the facts, the emotions changed to, pity, caring, understanding, and empathy. One piece of information can make all the difference in how we see the people around us.
And we tend to judge people and families without knowing what goes on behind the scenes. Sometimes we get hurt from each other, in the community, at work, and even at home, but we do not know the whole story, we do not know all the facts, so the conclusion that we reach will probably be incorrect.
Judge Every Person Favorably
Pirkei Avot, or Ethics of the Fathers, is a tractate of the Mishan that deals with morality, virtues, and righteousness. It teaches us many important rules, two of which are:
“Do not judge your fellow until you come to his place.” – Pirkei Avot 2:4
“…judge every person as meritorious.” – Pirkei Avot 1:6
It is easy for us to judge people, especially as we sit on a deck chai, look out at everyone else, ignoring whatever led to conflict. For example:
You see a neighbor, or a member of the community, and he does not say hello, he ignores you. How rude!
Maybe he’s is egotistical and has no manners, so why am I even interested in his company? Or maybe he’s mad at me, or I did something to him, I made him uneasy. What could it be?
We forget to think about the third option, which is: last night one of the kids got up and wasn’t feeling well, he had to calm him and care for him. Five minutes before they left the house the boy wet his pants. He needed a full change of clothes. In the car the children were behaving wild, and because of the long night the parents got tired and argued in the morning.
Now we see them at congregation, the same family… I hope we do not expect them to be jumping for joy.
Let the Person Without Problems Cast the First Stone
The same can happen in marriage. The couple meet up for a date, the wife wants to talk, to share, to be close to her husband. The husband feels distant and not very attentive, even on the ride home the husband feels like he’s somewhere else.
The wife thinks – does my husband still love me? Does he want me? Do I still interest him? How can I fix the situation, why doesn’t he share with me how he’s feeling? In short – a first-rate disaster!
The husband thinks – the computer at work crashed – how do I save the data on the old computer and move it to a new one? And how much does a new computer cost?
If only we were to adhere to these two rules, “Do not judge your fellow until you come to his place,” and “…judge every person as meritorious.”
I think our community life, and our social lives, will be much better and closer.
We judge each other without knowing each other adequately. We do not even have a quarter of the evidence we need to formulate an opinion and do justice.
We tend to judge people about their problems and what they do not do right, but Yeshua warns us and says, “What about your own problems? Are you taking care of them?”
Let the person without problems cast the first stone.
Published August 19, 2018 | Updated September 5, 2019
Netivyah is an Israeli non-profit organization that teaches God's Word and helps those in need. We present the teachings of Messiah Yeshua in a Jewish context, both in Israel and worldwide. We also feed the poor in Jerusalem, and invest in the next generation through youth programs and scholarships.