Verse 8: (2 Chron. 19:10; Hag. 2:11; Mal. 2:7) If there arise a matter too hard for thee in judgment, (see Ex. 21:13, 20, 22, 28; 22:2; Num. 35:11, 16, 19; Deut. 19:4, 10, 11) between blood and blood, between plea and plea, and between stroke and stroke, being matters of controversy within thy gates: then shalt thou arise, (Deut. 12:5; 19:17; Ps. 122:5) and get thee up into the place which the LORD thy God shall choose…
[If difficult and doubtful, כִּ֣י יִפָּלֵא֩ מִמְּךָ֙] If it be hidden from thee (Pagnine, Vatablus, Syriac). If it be concealed, or, covered, from thee, or, to thee (Oleaster, Targum Jerusalem, Arabic, Cajetan, Junius and Tremellius). From פָּלָא/PALA, to separate, because hidden things are separated from the notice of men (Oleaster). When it is marvelous, as in Deuteronomy 30:11. Or, a thing separated, from thine inquiry, or action and ability. Thus it is taken in Genesis 18:14 and Jeremiah 32:17 (Gerhard). If it be impossible (Septuagint). Thus they often translate פּלא (Grotius). If the cause be doubtful, and more difficult than that thou art able to pronounce concerning it (Vatablus, Fagius). I understand this law to be of so great a necessity, that the union of all Israelites depends upon it, as Maimonides often observed. The sense: when a controversy is obscurer than might be made clear by all the Magistrates of a certain city. He treats here concerning questions, not of fact, but of law. What cases of obscurity human laws have, those the Divine laws expressed in the human manner do not avoid; partly, on account of words or expressions πολυσήμους, with many significations, which are many in all languages, a great many in the Hebrew language; partly, because, where laws speak in a general way, it is disputed what rarer sorts of deeds ought to be excepted; partly, because, where laws speak specifically, it is not always evident whether the law remains limited within that specific case, or ought to be extended unto those things which appear to be similar. And there are many other reasons why the same words are not taken in the same way by all, by some coarser, by others subtler than is necessary (Grotius).
[The judgment, דבָ֜ר לַמִּשְׁפָּ֗ט] A word (matter [Fagius, Junius and Tremellius], business [Arabic], anything [Pagnine]) for judgment (Oleaster, Malvenda), or, of judgment (Fagius, Munster). As when one murder is compared with another with respect to degree, or quality. The same thing obtains in the following two members (Gerhard).
Too hard for thee; he speaks to the inferior magistrates, who were erected in several cities, as appears by the opposition of these to them at Jerusalem. If, saith he, thou hast not skill or confidence to determine so weighty and difficult a cause.
[Between blood and blood, בֵּֽין־דָּ֙ם׀ לְדָ֜ם] Between blood unto blood. It denotes a regard of one to another (Gerhard, Ainsworth). [They take it variously.] Between a relative and a relative. Thus the Vulgate renders these words in 2 Chronicles 19:10; that is, between those who are either of diverse, or the same, family, between whom there are wont to be frequent lawsuits concerning possessions (Tirinus). 2. They understand all blood in general, as menstrual, etc., and the blood of murder, etc. (Hebrews in Fagius). Between blood clean (or, of the clean [Rabbi Salomon]) and impure (or, of the impure [Rabbi Salomon (Targum Jerusalem in Gerhard)]). 3. They understand the blood, either, of one murdered, already shed, or, of the murderer, to be shed by the Magistrate. These things are able to be conjoined most aptly (Gerhard). Between the innocent and the one to be condemned of a capital crime (Fagius, Drusius), who for other reasons appears to thee to be innocent (Vatablus). Whether the homicide was perpetrated voluntarily, or accidentally (Tirinus, Menochius, Ainsworth, Gerhard). Whether murder of this or that sort merits the city of refuge, or not. For in fault there are many degrees: it is extensive, medium, minimal (Grotius). By the name of blood are synecdochically denoted all criminal causes, the adjudication of which the Hebrews call the judgment of blood (Gerhard).
Between blood and blood, i.e. in capital causes in matter of bloodshed, whether it be wilful or casual murder, whether punishable or pardonable by those laws, Exodus 21:13, 20, 22, 28; 22:2; Numbers 35:11, 16, 19; Deuteronomy 19:4, 10.
[Between plea and plea, בֵּֽין־דִּ֣ין לְדִ֗ין] Between judgment (or, cause, or sentence, judicial [Malvenda]) and judgment (Vatablus). Whether the sentence pronounced was to be executed, or reviewed (certain interpreters in Gerhard). Between the plea of the plaintiff, and the plea of the defendant (Vatablus). They understand, either, 1. Financial lawsuits (Fagius, Vatablus, Targum Jerusalem in Gerhard, Grotius), even those which are of lesser moment (Vatablus, Fagius); and injuries of words, the punishment of which was arbitrary, and the punishment to be inflicted in one and the same matter, because of ἀόριστον, that is, the indetermination, of the law, was able to be judged the greater on the one side, and the lesser on the other (Grotius). Or, 2. civil cases, just as blood contained criminal cases (Gerhard). Concerning whatever other case or lawsuit, not criminal or capital (Tirinus, Bonfrerius). A lawsuit over whatever matter (Menochius). What is here דִּין/κρίσις/judgment is in Deuteronomy 25:1 רִיב/ἀντιλογία/controversy (Grotius).
Between plea and plea; in civil causes or suits between plaintiffs and defendants about words or estates.
[Leprosy and leprosy, וּבֵ֥ין נֶ֙גַע֙ לָנֶ֔גַע] [They take it variously.] 1. Between bruise and wound (Fagius), which one inflicted upon another (Ainsworth). 2. Between stroke and stroke, that is, whoever is to be beaten, or, which is severer or more lenient (Oleaster, Eugubinus in Bonfrerius). נֶגַע signifies a stroke, injury, blow, 2 Samuel 7:14; Isaiah 53:8 (Gerhard). 3. Between leprosy and leprosy (Vulgate, Bonfrerius, Montanus, Tirinus, Gerhard, Grotius, thus Onkelos and Jonathan and Rabbi Salomon and Gerundensis in Gerhard). נֶגַע signifies every more grevious ill. The Greeks translate it, μάστιγα/scourges/plagues in the Old Testament, and in the New Testament, Mark 3:10; 5:29, 34. But ἀντονομαστικῶς/antonomastically it signifies leprosy, and it is taken in this sense fifty times in Leviticus 13 (Grotius). In the case of leprosy there were able to be grievous difficulties. See on Leviticus 13 and 14 (Ainsworth). Often even the Physicians are in doubt whether leprosy, which has these or those marks, is not to be feared as a contagion (Grotius). Between leprosy, etc., that is, whether it be true and contagious, or not (Tirinus, Menochius). As cases criminal are understood by blood, and cases civil by lawsuits, so cases Ecclesiastical by leprosy (Gerhard).
Between stroke and stroke, i.e. either first in ceremonial causes, between plague and plague, between the true leprosy, which is ofttimes called the plague, and the seeming and counterfeit leprosy, which was ofttimes hard to determine. And under this, as the most eminent of the kind, may seem to be contained all ceremonial uncleannesses. But this seems not probable, 1. Because the final determination of the matter of leprosy is manifestly left to any particular priest, Leviticus 13; 14. 2. Because the person suspected of leprosy was not to be brought to Jerusalem, to be tried there, but was to be shut up in his own city and house, Leviticus 13:4, 5; and the judges at Jerusalem neither could nor would determine his case without once seeing the person. 3. Because the case of leprosy was not hard or difficult, as those causes are said to be, but plain and evident, and so particularly and punctually described, that the priest needed only eyes to decide it. Or rather, 2. In criminal causes, concerning blows or wounds inflicted by one man upon another, and to be requited to him by the sentence of the magistrate according to that law, Exodus 21:23-25, wherein there might be many cases of great difficulty and doubt, about which see the annotations there.
[Thou mayest see that the words of the judges do vary (similarly the Chaldean), דִּבְרֵ֥י רִיבֹ֖ת] Words, or matters, of contentions (Samaritan Text, Montanus, Grotius), or, of lawsuits (Oleaster, Malvenda, Ainsworth) (it is set down in apposition [Ainsworth]), or, of judgment (Septuagint); a legal process of dispute (Syriac). And the words come into discord (Munster), among the Judges discordant in sentence; it is understood by way of apposition (Ainsworth). Words of disputes, of lawsuits; that is, in controversial matters (Vatablus). Others repeat ὰπὸ κοινοῦ, as common, וּבֵין, and between, and between whatever matters of disputes, that is, controversial: thus the Latin Translator and the Chaldean paraphrasts (Gerhard). Thus the Arabic: between the sentence of a stroke, and contentious causes. Others understand מִן/from, or ב/in; from, or in, matters of lawsuits, or of disputes, or controversial (Junius and Tremellius, Vatablus, Pagnine, Gerhard, similarly Tigurinus); that is, If the contention of the Judges proceeds to the point that the lesser part wishes to uphold its sentence against the greater part, and between the diverse opinions some fissure, about to tear apart that city and its neighbors, is able to emerge. For this law was given to guard against schisms (Grotius).
[Within thy gates] In the tribunals of individual cities, which were in the gates, after the custom of the Hebrews and their neighbors, Genesis 34:20; Ruth 4:1, 11 (Grotius).
Matters of controversy, i.e. such things or matters of blood and pleas and strokes being doubtful, and the magistrates divided in their opinions about it; for if it was a clear case, this was not to be done. Some make this an additional clause to comprehend these and all other things, thus as if he had said, and in general, any words or matters of strifes or contentions.
[Unto the place] At first, Shiloh; afterwards, Jerusalem (Grotius).
Which the Lord shall choose, to wit, to set up his worship and tabernacle or temple there; because there was the abode, both of their sanhedrim, or chief council, which was constituted of priests and civil magistrates, who were most able to determine all controversies, and of the high priests, who were to consult God by Urim, Numbers 27:21, in great matters, which could not be decided otherwise.
Verse 9: And (see Jer. 18:18) thou shalt come unto the priests the Levites, and (Deut. 19:17) unto the judge that shall be in those days, and enquire; (Ezek. 44:24) and they shall shew thee the sentence of judgment…
[And thou shalt come unto the priests of Levitical birth] Both the Priests and the Levites, who, because they have the quiet leisure, were diligently studying, not only all things of the Law, but also of Medicine and of other arts, as were also the Egyptian priests: and, therefore, in those first ages the Senate of seventy men was wont especially to be gathered out of those, as the most erudite: whence also here that Senate is to be understood for its better part. The priests were ἐπόπται πάντων καὶ δικασταὶ τῶν ἀμφισβητουμένων, that is, inspectors of all and judges of controversial matters: Josephus’ Against Apion 2. Philo, in his Concerning the Life of Moses, Συνήδρευον οἱ ἱερεῖς, etc., the priests were holding the Sanhedrin: in Concerning the Establishment of the Prince, Ὄταν οὖν ἀμαυρὰν ποιῆται τὴν ἀντίληψιν τῶν πραγμάτων ἀσάφεια, etc., therefore, as often as the obscurity of those matter renders comprehension difficult, let him refuse the office of Judge, and let him send the litigants to more acute Judges: but who then are these, except the Priests and the High Priest? Excessive wealth, and then luxury and sloth, caused it to be that often the more erudite men were afterwards in other tribes, and therefore, with the Priests and Levites passed over, indeed sometimes even with the High Priest passed over [see what things we have gathered on Deuteronomy 16:18], they were chosen unto the Senate from the Senators. Thus Maimonides, in his יָד הֶחָזָקָה, Mishneh Torah “Concerning the Sanhedrin” 2. But here the method of better times is held, when the Priests and the Levites were of what sort they ought to be. Here, therefore, those differing were commanded to go to the Priests and Levites that were in the Senate, and were regarded to be the most erudite: who, if they had satisfied them either by the weight of reasons, or by testimony of the matter determined in this or that manner in manners or matters concluded, very well: but if nothing was such, the same learned men were referring the reasons of both parties to the Sanhedrin, and were answering according to its decree; which unto posterity was in the place of law. Thus by Christians in weighty controversies a Roman Synod, consisting also of seventy Bishops, formerly the best, and most highly skilled in Divine things, was wont to be consulted (Grotius).
[And unto the judge, וְאֶל־הַשֹּׁפֵט] Question: Who is the Judge here? Response 1: The High Priest (Hebrews in Vatablus and Fagius, Tirinus, Menochius, Bonfrerius, Philo in Gerhard, Rambam and Rabbi Moses in Bonfrerius). It favors these, that such a Judge is treated who, 1. was a Judge of leprosy: 2. and was necessarily dwelling in the place were the Temple was; but not one of the Judges dwelt there except Eli: 3. and was obliged to teach what was to be done according to the Law. But these things agree with the Priest. Objection: How is it made credible that this one determined cases capital and civil? Response 1: The tribunal of the Jews was twofold, 1. of the Priest, concerning religion; 2. of Kings and secular Judges, concerning cases civil and criminal. Response 2: The lay tribunal depended upon the sacred tribunal (Bonfrerius). [How soundly he asserts this, it does not belong to this place to determine. Let the Polemicists be consulted.] Response 2: This Judge was political (Calvin, Grotius, Gerhard, Drusius). It favors these, 1. that in what precedes mention is made of cases criminal and civil: 2. that in verse 12 a distinction is made between the priest and the judge (Bonfrerius). ו/ and is put in the place of אוֹ/or (Grotius, Ainsworth, Gerhard). Thus it is taken in Exodus 21:15, 17 (Grotius, Gerhard), compared with Matthew 15:4 (Gerhard); Numbers 30:5, 6; Matthew 12:37 (Grotius). Likewise compare Leviticus 6:3 with verse 5, and 2 Samuel 2:19 with verse 21 (Gerhard). Thus the Latins make use of and in the place of or, as Servius shows on that statement of the Æneid, they command to cast down, and to burn with flames placed under; alleging also that saying, some roll the massive stone and the spokes of the wheels (Grotius). And thus it is evident that it is to be taken in this place, 1. from verse 12, or of the judge (Ainsworth, Grotius, Gerhard): 2. from the matter itself; for between Israelites twofold were the causes and controversies, 1. concerning Religion, Law, etc.; 2. concerning civil matters; and to that extent twofold was the tribunal, as it is evident from 2 Chronicles 19:4-11 and Jeremiah 26:8 (Gerhard). Judges in the plural is rightly able to be understood, either, those of the urban tribunals, or, even the greatest senators, as in Deuteronomy 1:16; 16:18; 19:17, 18; 21:2. But Judge in the singular is wont to signify an Interrex divinely constituted, of which sort were those in the Book of שֺׁפְטִים/Judges. But those שֺׁפְטִים/Judges are clearly similar to Roman Interreges, and afterwards to the Dictators; they were not differing from Kings, except that they did not have an escort and royal pomp, and therefore they did not exact tribute. And, just as Kings without the Sanhedrin had the right to put to death, 2 Samuel 1:15, so also these δικασταὶ/judges, Judges 8:16, 17; 12:6. However, such δικασταὶ/judges, since they were given by God, and, on account of that, equipped with prophetic gifts (whence also Josephus calls them Prophets), were certainly able to be consulted without danger: but, because there were not going to be such in all times (for this maintains what is added, who will be in that time, that is, if any of this sort shall be), God wills that in the place of the those the Sanhedrin be consulted, composed of the most erudite men, representing the whole people (Grotius). 3. The Judge here is the Sanhedrin: just as what is here priests is in verse 12 the priest; and in 1 Chronicles 4:42 many prefects are called a head. Just as among the Priests there was one principal man, so also among the Judges there was one principal man, 2 Chronicles 19:11 (Ainsworth). The Priests and the Levites were chosen as Judges, if they were strong in wisdom and the fear of the Lord. Then also Israelites, who were equal to the priests in the knowledge of the Law and religion. You have this in Exodus 18:22; Numbers 11:24; Deuteronomy 1:13. Just as also the consent of Hebrew antiquity confirms in the Book Sanhedrin (Fagius, Vatablus). Not in any age ever were the priests and Levites alone the Judges (Fagius).
Unto the priests the Levites, i.e. unto the great council, which it is here denominated from, because it consisted chiefly of the priests and Levites, as being the best expositors of the laws of God, by which all those controversies mentioned verse 8 were to be decided. And the high priest was commonly one of that number, and may seem to be understood here under the priests, whereof he was the chief. Unto the judge: this judge here is either, 1. The supreme civil magistrate, who was made by God the keeper of both tables, and was by his office to take care of the right administration both of justice and of religion, who was to determine causes and suits by his own skill and authority in civil matters, and by the priests’ direction in spiritual or sacred causes. But this seems obnoxious to some difficulties, because, 1. This judge was obliged to dwell in the place of God’s worship, which the civil magistrate was not, and ofttimes did not. 2. This judge was one whose office it was to expound and teach others the law of God, as it here follows, verse 11, therefore not the civil magistrate. Or, 2. The high priest, who was obliged to live in this place, to whom it belonged to determine some at least of those controversies mentioned verse 8, and to teach and expound the law of God. And he may be distinctly named, though he be one of the priests, partly because of his eminency and superiority over the rest of them, as after all David’s enemies Saul is particularly mentioned, Psalm 18 title; and partly to show that amongst the priests he especially was to be consulted in such cases. But this also seems liable to objections. 1. That he seems to be included under that general expression of the priests and Levites. 2. That the high priest is never in all the Scripture called simply the judge, but generally called the priest, or the high priest, or chief priest, or the like; and it is most probable if Moses had meant him here, he would have expressed him by some of his usual names and titles, and not by a strange title which was not likely to be understood. 3. That divers controversies between blood and blood, plea and plea, stroke and stroke, were not to be determined by the high priest, but by other persons, as appears by Exodus 18:22; Deuteronomy 1:16, 17. Or, 3. The sanhedrim or supreme council, which, as was said before, consisted partly of priests, and partly of wise and learned persons of other tribes, as is confessed by all the Jewish and most other writers. And so this is added by way of explication, partly to show that the priests and Levites here mentioned, as the persons to whom all hard controversies are to be referred, are not all the priests and Levites which should reside in Jerusalem, but only such of them as were or should be members of that great council by whom, together with their fellow-members of other tribes, these causes were to be decided; partly to intimate that that great council, which had the chief and final determination of all the above-said controversies, was a mixed assembly, consisting of wise and good men, some ecclesiastical, and some secular; as it was most meet it should be, because many of the causes which were brought unto them were mixed causes. As for the conjunctive particle and, that may be taken either disjunctively for or, as it is Exodus 21:15, 17, compared with Matthew 15:4; and Numbers 30:5, 6, compared with Matthew 12:37; Leviticus 6:3, 5; 2 Samuel 2:19, 21; or exegetically, for that is, or to wit, as Judges 7:24; 1 Samuel 17:40; 28:3; 2 Chronicles 35:14; and so the sense may be, the priests, the Levites, or the judge, as it is Deuteronomy 17:12; or, the priests, the Levites, that is, the judge, or the judges appointed for this work. And though the word judge be in the singular number, and may seem to denote one person, yet it is only an enallage, or change of the number, the singular for the plural, judges, which is most frequent, as Genesis 3:2, 7; 49:6; 1 Samuel 31:1; 1 Kings 10:22; 2 Kings 11:10, compared with 2 Chronicles 9:21; 23:9 and in the Hebrew, 1 Chronicles 4:42, where divers officers are called one head. And so it is most probably here, 1. Because the following words which belong to this run altogether in the plural number, they, they, they, etc., here and verses 10 and 11. 2. Because here is the same enallage in the other branch, the same person or persons being called the priests here, and the priest verse 12. 3. Because for the judge here is put the judges, Deuteronomy 19:17, where we have the same phrase used upon the same or a like occasion, the men between whom the controversy is shall stand before the Lord, before the priests and the judges, which shall be in those days. Nor is it strange, but very fit and reasonable, that so many persons being all united in one body, and to give judgment or sentence by the consent of all, or the greatest part, should be here called by the name of one judge, as indeed they were; and for that reason the priests are spoken of in the plural number, because they were many, as also the other members of that assembly were, and the judge in the singular number, because they all constituted but one judge.
[And thou shalt enquire, וְדָרַשְׁתָּ] In the place of, so that thou mightest enquire: for the ו/and is here used τελικῶς, with respect to the end in view (Gerhard).
[Who shall show to thee] Either by a certain tradition known to them; or by the decree of the Sanhedrin, if the matter had not been previously decided (Grotius).
[The truth of the judgment, דְּבַ֥ר הַמִּשְׁפָּֽט׃] The word of judgment (Munster, Oleaster, Malvenda, Montanus, Gerhard), that is, the matter just, or justly (Oleaster). The very sentence, just as it is to be pronounced (Vatablus, Gerhard). The state of the judgment, or cause (certain interpreters in Malvenda). True judgment, so that thou mightest be able to extricate thyself (Munster).
The sentence of judgment, Heb. the word or matter of judgment, i.e. the true state and right of the cause, and what judgment or sentence ought to be given in it.
Verse 10: And thou shalt do according to the sentence, which they of that place which the LORD shall choose shall shew thee; and thou shalt observe to do according to all that they inform thee…
[Whatever they say] Because the Sanhedrin was going to endure perpetually, but not those Interreges, therefore on those especially he fixes his speech (Grotius).
[עַל־פִּ֤י הַדָּבָר֙] According to (upon [Malvenda]) the mouth of the word (Oleaster, Malvenda, Grotius, Gerhard), that is, that speech (Grotius, Gerhard).
Thou shalt, i.e. thou shalt pass sentence; for he speaks to the inferior magistrates, as was before noted, who were to give sentence, and came hither to be advised about it. Thou shalt observe to do. It is very observable that this place doth not speak of all controversies of faith, as if they were to believe every thing which they should teach; but only of some particular matters of practice and strife between man and man, to which it is plainly limited, verse 8. And they are not here commanded to believe, but only to do, which is thrice repeated.
Verse 11: According to the sentence of the law which they shall teach thee, and according to the judgment which they shall tell thee, thou shalt do: thou shalt not decline from the sentence which they shall shew thee, to the right hand, nor to the left.
[According to His law, עַל־פִּ֙י הַתּוֹרָ֜ה] Upon the mouth (according to the speech [Grotius, Pagnine]) of the law (Montanus). Out of the determination, or prescription, of the law; that is, according to the law which they shall prescribe to thee (certain interpreters in Malvenda). Question: Whether these words restrict the precept? Response 1: The Rabbis answer in the negative. The Hebrew Gloss says, If he should say to thee that right is left, or left is right, such a sentence is to be embraced (Lyra). The Papists also answer in the negative. They ought to esteem the judgment of the priests to be according to the law, Malachi 2:7 (Menochius, Estius). It is to be taken assertively; that is to say, Subordinates ought to acquiesce, and to presuppose that their judgment is according to the law of God (Lapide). [To which is able to be opposed what other authors of theirs say on this passage.] The sentence of no man, of whatever authority, is to be held, if it manifestly contains falsehood or error, because it is said, and they teach thee according to the Law. Therefore, if they manifestly decline from the Law, they are not to be heard (Lyra, similarly Tirinus and Lapide himself). Understand (says he), unless manifestly the contrary is discerned, that is, that the Pope is perverting the Law; for then obedience shall be, not to him, but to the Law of God (Lapide). [Behold the great power of the truth!] Response 2: Others answer in the affirmative. The judgment of the Priests is restricted to the standard of the Divine Law (Ainsworth, Gerhard). See Ezekiel 44:24 and Matthew 23:2, 3, compared with Matthew 15:1, etc.; 16:6, 12 (Ainsworth). These words are to be taken, not assertively, but restrictly (Tostatus, Cajetan, Munster, Paulus Venetus in Gerhard). [Grotius here plays the part of a mediator.] That according to the law (says he) does not limit the precept, as if individuals are only bound to obey the decree of the Sanhedrin, if the Sanhedrin responds with things consistent with the Law: for that would be to submit interpretation to the judgment of every man, and hence to give occasion for disagreements, for the avoiding of which this law was given. Thus the passage has it, according to the speech (that is, the interpretation) of the law…and according to the judgment which they shall speak unto thee (that is, the precept which in judging the Judges ought to follow), thou shalt do—The Law, therefore, does not permit to every man an interpretation of the Law, which he desires to follow, and to make a sect with some color of probability; but he established a necessary rule for preserving unity. Was the Sanhedrin, therefore, able to err, either in witnessing to the ancient tradition, or in explaining the law, in their sentence? It was certainly possible that it was able: if, with the matter afterwards better known, suppose that, having been impressed upon by men very pious and erudite, the Elders see that they have erred from the true sense, it is the reason for the expiation in the law set forth in Leviticus 4:13. But to individuals it was not commanded to believe all things which the Sanhedrin might say, but rather, it was commanded not to act against, not to teach against. See Josephus on this place, and Maimonides in Guide to the Perplexed 3:41, and the Book of Manoim 50:4, and Moses de Kotzi’s Great Book of Commandments “Positive Precept” 46. For some things were able to be called into controversy, of which sort were: Whether a small bird was to be divided in two in this or that manner? what computation was to be entered upon for the Passover? whether a punishment somewhat greater or lesser was to be imposed upon this offense? and other things of this sort; in which matters it was not of so much importance which would be done, as it was to preserve the fabric of the Hebrew body without separation. In matters of great moment, it was certainly not able to happen that the Sanhedrin, from the beginning composed of the best and most erudite men, and continued by an uninterrupted process of election by colleagues, might be able to be mistaken, except with a long passage of ages, and with discipline corrupted: if this had happened, God, a lover of unity, was going to respond by admonishing and convicting them through the Urim and Thummim, or was going to stir up some Prophet renowned for true miracles, and finally was going to give the Messiah Himself, the one greater than Moses; with whom sent, the authority of the Sanhedrin vanished. It is to be observed in addition that some ordinances of the Senate, composed for the interpretation or fortification of the Law, passed away, not only if the Senate changed before the sentence was received everywhere as a custom, but also if either from the beginning the people would not bear them, or if they passed into disuse (Grotius).
According to the sentence of the law which they shall teach thee: these words are a manifest limitation of the foregoing assertion, that they were to do according to all that the judge or judges informed him. And they seem to limit and regulate, 1. The judges in their sentence, that they shall not, upon pretence of this supreme authority put into their hands, presume to teach or direct otherwise than the law prescribes. 2. The people in their obedience; first they shall not simply obey them in all things, but so far forth as their sentence is according to the law and word of God, but not when their commands are evidently contrary to God’s laws, for then, say even popish commentators on this place, they must obey God rather than man. And this cannot be denied by any man of sense, upon supposition that this place speaks of, and this power given to the priest or judge reacheth to, all controversies or questions of faith and manners, as the papists would extend it: for put case these priests or judges should give a sentence directly contrary to the express words of God’s law, Thou shalt worship a graven image, as Aaron did in the case of the calf, thou shalt profane the sabbath, thou shalt dishonour thy father and mother, thou shalt murder, steal, commit adultery, etc., I ask, were the people in this case bound to do as the judge determined, or not? If any say they were, such a bold and wicked assertion must need strike all sober Christians with horror; and if they say they were not, then this must needs be taken for a limitation. But this place speaks only of particular suits between man and man, as is apparent from the notes on verse 8. And in all such cases, although the judge be hereby confined and tied to his rule in giving the sentence, yet it seems but fit and reasonable that people should be bound simply to acquiesce in the sentence of their last and highest judge, or else there would have been no end of strife.
[To the right hand, etc., יָמִ֥ין וּשְׂמֹֽאל׃] It is wanting the preposition עַל/upon, which is expressed in Genesis 24:49 (Gerhard).
Verse 12: And (Num. 15:30; Ezra 10:8; Hos. 4:4) the man that will do presumptuously, and will not hearken (Heb. not to hearken) unto the priest (Deut. 18:5, 7) that standeth to minister there before the LORD thy God, or unto the judge, even that man shall die: and (Deut. 13:5) thou shalt put away the evil from Israel.
[Who would show pride, Hebrew: who would act through pride, בְזָדוֹן] In pride (Septuagint, Montanus, similarly Junius and Tremellius). Who would conduct himself arrogantly (Samaritan Text); who would act audaciously (Syriac). Who would admit obstinacy, that is, through arrogance he is unwilling to obey the priest, etc. (Vatablus). Who will practice stubbornness (Arabic), in malice (the Chaldean in Ainsworth). It is opposed to ignorance and error, Exodus 21:13, 14 (Ainsworth). זָדוֹן signifies temerity. It is translated ἰταμία/temerity, not incorrectly, by the Greeks in Jeremiah 49:16. It certainly belong to temerity in matters open to debate to love their own opinions so tenaciously that, therefore, peace is broken, which humanly speaking cannot be retained except through some authority presiding over all. Now, God rarely does miracles: generally He preserves human affairs by methods agreeing with human nature. Indeed, that description of pride does not apply to all, but to those only that assign to themselves the character of teacher, and divide the people. Such an one, who is called in the Talmudic books זקן חמרא [perhaps it is to be read המרא], an elder, that is, a teacher, contumacious. They were not teachers unless they were above forty years of age (Grotius).
[Of the priest] In verse 9, it is priests: Therefore, the council was composed of a plurality of priests, but the authority and power of one was primary (Lyra). Of the priest, who is going to designate what is received; or shall consult the Sanhedrin, and according to its decree shall respond (Grotius).
[Who ministers to the Lord, אֶת־יְהוָה] To the Lord (Samaritan Text, Junius and Tremellius); before the Lord (Chaldean, Syriac, Samaritan Text); in the name of the Lord (Septuagint).
[And of the judge] That is, of the High Priest, as in verse 9 (Bonfrerius). Of a political Judge (Ainsworth, Grotius). [See what things are on verse 9.]
That will do presumptuously, i.e. that will proudly and obstinately oppose the sentence given against him. This is opposite to ignorance and error, Exodus 21:13, 14.
[He shall die] A grievous punishment, but to avoid the most grievous danger of all. In the place of this is Excommunication in the Christian Church, says Augustine in his Seven Books of Questions on the Heptateuch “Deuteronomy” 5:38 (Grotius). The Hebrews refer this to a rebellious elder, or judge, namely, inferior: And, when they maintain that their traditions are included in this law (see on verse 10), they except from this law and its punishment the Sadducees established in the opinions of their fathers, and also those Elders that only believe the contrary of the decree of the Sanhedrin, or teach others thus to believe, unless they do the contrary, or teach others thus to do, because it is said, who shall do, etc. (Ainsworth).
[The evil, הָרָע] That is, either, the one doing the evil (Ainsworth out of the Chaldean and Septuagint); the pernicious man (Menochius); the refractory (Gerhard): or, the evil thing, that is, the scandal (certain interpreters in Gerhard); thus thou shalt prevent schism, a monstrous evil. For the same reason the examination of a false prophet was permitted to the Sanhedrin alone, and the punishment was signified by letters to all cities (Grotius).
The evil; either, 1. The evil thing, that scandal, that pernicious example. Or, 2. That evil, refractory, pernicious person, whose practice herein tends to the dissolution of all government, and the ruin of the commonwealth of Israel.
Verse 13: (Deut. 13:11; 19:20) And all the people shall hear, and fear, and do no more presumptuously.
[The people, hearing] Hebrew: the people shall hear (Malvenda). The construction is related to the sense (Gerhard).
[It shall fear] He shall beware to make himself the author of doctrine disapproved by public authority, and hence the leader of factions (Grotius). No prudent person punishes because there is sin, but lest there be sin. Sins past are not able to be recalled; sins future are restrained: Seneca’s Concerning Anger 1:16; 2:23, and Plato’s Concerning Laws 11 (Gataker). Hence the old custom obtained, as Maimonides testifies in a tractate concerning Rebels, that an opposer of this sort was not punished, except at the time of the three feasts, when all come together. Therefore, they were hastening to kill Christ at the time of the feast of Passover (Fagius).
 פָּלָא, in the Niphal conjugation, signifies to be wonderful, or to be difficult.
 Deuteronomy 30:11: “For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden (לֹא־נִפְלֵאת) from thee, neither is it far off.”
 Genesis 18:14a: “Is any thing too hard for the Lord (היִפָּלֵ֥א מֵיְהוָ֖ה דָּבָ֑ר)?”
 Jeremiah 32:17: “Ah Lord God! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee (לֹֽא־יִפָּלֵ֥א מִמְּךָ֖ כָּל־דָּבָֽר׃)…”
 Eugubinus, or Agostino Steuco (1496-1549), was the bishop of Kisamos in Crete and prefect of the Vatican Library. He brings his varied talents in languages and antiquities to bear upon exegesis.
 2 Samuel 7:14b: “If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes (וּבְנִגְעֵי) of the children of men…”
 Isaiah 53:8b: “…for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people the stroke (נֶגַע) was to him.”
 For example, Psalm 39:10: “Remove thy stroke (נִגְעֶךָ; τὰς μάστιγάς σου, in the Septuagint) away from me: I am consumed by the blow of thine hand.”
 Mark 3:10: “For he had healed many; insomuch that they pressed upon him for to touch him, as many as had plagues (μάστιγας).”
 Mark 5:29: “And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague (τῆς μάστιγος).”
 Mark 5:34: “And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague (τῆς μάστιγός σου).”
 That is, a title or epithet is used instead of the proper name.
 Hebrew: וּבָאתָ֗ אֶל־הַכֹּהֲנִים֙ הַלְוִיִּ֔ם.
 That is, Maimonides.
 Exodus 21:15, 17: “And he that smiteth his father, or his mother (וְאִמּוֹ, and his mother), shall be surely put to death…. And he that curseth his father, or his mother (וְאִמּוֹ, and his mother), shall surely be put to death.”
 Matthew 15:4b: “…and, He that curseth father or (ἢ) mother, let him die the death.”
 Numbers 30:5, 6: “But if her father disallow her in the day that he heareth; not any of her vows, or of her bonds (וֶאֱסָרֶיהָ, and of her bonds) wherewith she hath bound her soul, shall stand: and the Lord shall forgive her, because her father disallowed her. And if she had at all an husband, when she vowed, or (אוֹ) uttered ought out of her lips, wherewith she bound her soul…”
 Leviticus 6:3-5: “Or have found that which was lost, and lieth concerning it, and sweareth (וְנִשְׁבַּע) falsely; in any of all these that a man doeth, sinning therein: Then it shall be, because he hath sinned, and is guilty, that he shall restore that which he took violently away, or the thing which he hath deceitfully gotten, or that which was delivered him to keep, or the lost thing which he found, Or (אוֹ) all that about which he hath sworn falsely; he shall even restore it in the principal, and shall add the fifth part more thereto, and give it unto him to whom it appertaineth, in the day of his trespass offering. ”
 2 Samuel 2:19, 21a: “And Asahel pursued after Abner; and in going he turned not to the right hand nor to (וְעַל) the left from following Abner…. And Abner said to him, Turn thee aside to thy right hand or (אוֹ) to thy left, and lay thee hold on one of the young men, and take thee his armour.”
 Maurus Servius Honoratius was a fourth century Roman commentator on Virgil.
 Deuteronomy 17:12b: “…and will not hearken unto the priest that standeth to minister there before the Lord thy God, or (אוֹ) unto the judge…”
 The Roman Interreges were short-term regents, governing between kings, during periods of the Roman Kingdom and of the Roman Republic.
 A Roman Dictator would be appointed during times of emergency or crisis; he was invested with plenary power for extraordinary acts of government.
 1 Chronicles 4:42: “And some of them, even of the sons of Simeon, five hundred men, went to mount Seir, having for their head (בְּרֹאשָׁם) Pelatiah, and Neariah, and Rephaiah, and Uzziel, the sons of Ishi.”
 Deuteronomy 17:10a: “And thou shalt do according to the sentence (עַל־פִּ֤י הַדָּבָר֙), which they of that place which the Lord shall choose shall shew thee…”
 Paul of Venice (1368-1428) was of the Hermits of the Order of Saint Augustine, a Scholastic theologian, philosopher, and logician.
 Genesis 24:49: “And now if ye will deal kindly and truly with my master, tell me: and if not, tell me; that I may turn to the right hand, or to the left (עַל־יָמִ֖ין א֥וֹ עַל־שְׂמֹֽאל׃).”
 Hebrew: לְבִלְתִּ֙י שְׁמֹ֤עַ.
 זָדוֹן, insolence or presumption, is derived from the verbal root זִיד, to seethe, or to act presumptuously.
 Jeremiah 49:16a: “Thy terribleness hath deceived thee, and the pride (זְדוֹן; ἰταμία, in the Septuagint) of thine heart…”
 המראה signifies rebelliousness.
 Hebrew: הָעֹמֵ֞ד לְשָׁ֤רֶת שָׁם֙ אֶת־יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ.
 Quæstionum in Heptateuchum Libri Septem.
 Hebrew: הָעָם יִשְׁמְעוּ.