Righteousness and Justice

When Israel practiced righteousness and justice, God blessed the nation, but when the people strayed from them, the prophets rebuked the people.

The opening verse from parashat Mishpatim reads: "Now these are the rules that you shall set before them. When you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years, and in the seventh he shall go out free, for nothing." (Image © First Fruits of Zion)


Regular Shabbat Readings

Read / Listen to these Portions

  • Mishpatim (משפטים | Judgments)
  • Torah: Exodus 21:1-24:18
  • Haftarah: Jeremiah 34:8-22, 33:25-26
  • Gospel: Matthew 26:20-30

Note: The regular readings are often interrupted with special readings on Jewish holidays, special Sabbaths, and Rosh Chodesh. Refer to the annual Torah Portion schedule for these special portions.

Portion Outline

  • Torah
    • Exodus 21:1 | The Law concerning Slaves
    • Exodus 21:12 | The Law concerning Violence
    • Exodus 21:28 | Laws concerning Property
    • Exodus 22:1 | Laws of Restitution
    • Exodus 22:16 | Social and Religious Laws
    • Exodus 23:1 | Justice for All
    • Exodus 23:10 | Sabbatical Year and Sabbath
    • Exodus 23:14 | The Annual Festivals
    • Exodus 23:20 | The Conquest of Canaan Promised
    • Exodus 24:1 | The Blood of the Covenant
    • Exodus 24:9 | On the Mountain with God
  • Prophets
    • Jer 34:8 | Treacherous Treatment of Slaves
    • Jer 33:14 | The Righteous Branch and the Covenant with David

Portion Summary

The eighteenth reading from the Torah is named Mishpatim (משפטים), which means "judgments." The title comes from the first words of the first verse of the reading, which could be literally translated to say, "And these are the judgments which you will place before them" (Exodus 21:1). The first three chapters of this Torah portion deliver a legal code of laws and commandments that form a nucleus for the Torah's laws. The last chapter tells the story of how the people of Israel consented to keep these laws and entered into a covenant relationship with God through a series of rituals conducted by Moses.

The name of this week’s Torah portion, Mishpatim (משפטים), means “judgments.” The Torah portion contains a list of commandments and guidelines for the exercise of righteousness and justice (mishpat, משפט). Our Master Yeshua declared justice to be the first of three weighty matters of the Torah: “justice and mercy and faithfulness” (Matthew 23:23).

The twin concepts of righteousness and justice stand like pillars at the center of Torah, Messiah, and the kingdom of heaven. Righteousness can be understood as the fulfillment of legal and moral obligations. In the judicial sense, it implies an exonerating verdict: “Not guilty.” Justice can be understood as the fair administration of authority, rightly deciding between contestants, rightly rewarding, and rightly punishing.

God loves righteousness and justice. He desires them more than sacrifice. They support His throne which is founded upon them.

God chose Abraham because He knew that Abraham would teach his children after him to do “righteousness and justice.” He appointed the kings of Israel to dispense justice and righteousness: “David reigned over all Israel; and David administered justice and righteousness for all his people” (2 Samuel 8:15). The Psalmist says, “The strength of the king loves justice; You have established equity; You have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob” (Psalm 99:4). A good king brings peace to his kingdom through righteousness and justice: “The king gives stability to the land by justice” (Proverbs 29:4).

When Israel practiced righteousness and justice, God blessed the nation, but when the people strayed from them under the influence of wicked kings, the prophets rebuked the people. The LORD said, “I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the level” (Isaiah 28:17).

Psalm 72 prays for King Solomon, “Give the king Your judgments, O God, and Your righteousness to the king’s son. May he judge Your people with righteousness and Your afflicted with justice” (Psalm 72:1-2). The LORD gave the son of David supernatural wisdom in order to administer justice. The Queen of Sheba uttered a blessing regarding King Solomon:

Blessed be the LORD your God who delighted in you to set you on the throne of Israel; because the LORD loved Israel forever, therefore He made you king, to do justice and righteousness. (1 Kings 10:9)

The queen’s blessing will apply equally to King Messiah when we see Him on the throne of His father David, administering justice and righteousness. Ultimately, the LORD will send the Son of David to administer justice and righteousness: “In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch of David to spring forth; and He shall execute justice and righteousness on the earth” (Jeremiah 33:15). Then Zion will be rebuilt, as it says, “Zion will be redeemed with justice, and her repentant ones with righteousness” (Isaiah 1:27).

Adapted From: Torah Club Commentary Set: Shadows of the Messiah. Learn more about Torah Club and how you can start a Club of your own, or join a Torah Club in your area. Visit TORAHCLUB.ORG

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