Reflecting on Deuteronomy 16 18-20, 17 8-13

Reflecting on Deuteronomy 16 18-20, 17 8-13

What is entailed, practically, in the pursuit of justice, justice? Especially in our modern context, in which our system of justice is purposely secular, and involves highly trained legal specialists? How are regular people of today supposed to read texts like Deuteronomy 16:18-20 and Deuteronomy 17:8-13, which contain instructions for the ancient Israelites, and their legal system, and relate that instruction to our own lives and concerns? These may be the big, provocative questions on our minds as we study those texts for Sunday, January 23. [Some notes on the texts are here.] But here are a couple more questions we might want to think about or discuss in class:

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The principles articulated in Deuteronomy 16:18 include impartiality, integrity, and wisdom. Do we ourselves share these values? When and where do we notice this most often? Why?

[More personal] Are we ever called on to exercise these values? When? How do we feel we do at that? Why?

[Still more personal] What does reflecting on these values, and how they feature in our own lives, teach us about ourselves? What thoughts and feelings does that raise for us? Or, decisions?

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The Israelites seem to have been expected to “appoint” the judges and officials as a community. [One reference to that is here.] What are the implications of the instruction in this text for the task of appointing judges and officials? That is, how would people need to go about the task of making these appointments, who should they look for in candidates, etc.?

Any implications of that for us? What implications? [For instance, should the members of the Nominating Committee review these instructions, perhaps?] Why do we say that?

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What is our reaction to verse 20? Why, do we think? [For instance, does it seem to have anything to do with what we think of when we hear the word “justice”? What if we substituted “righteousness” for “justice”? Or “what is right and just”?]

What would be an example of “pursuing” justice today?

[More personal] Would actively pursuing justice, justice, change our lives in any way, do we think? What way, or ways? Why do we think that?

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One way to think about the instruction in Deuteronomy 17:8-13 might be that it instructs people to refer difficult legal matters to trained specialists, or experts, for discernment, and and then to respect and follow their judgment. What thoughts and feelings does that description raise for us? Would we change that description in any way or ways? Why?

Assuming we agree with that description of the system, what are the implications of that system? How would a system like that work in our own time and place, do we think? Why?

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Degas painting of woman in red hat and man in conversationg over papers on a table

Image: “The Conversation,” Edgar Degas, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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