The King's Copy and the Rule of Law

If Yeshua is the king of the Jews, then the laws that pertain to Jewish kings apply to Him. Even the Messiah is not above the rule of law.

A modern-day scribe (Hebrew: 'sofer') at work copying the Torah (Image: Public domain, Wikimedia)

Shoftim

Regular Shabbat Readings

Read / Listen to these Portions

  • Shoftim (שופטים | Judges)
  • Torah: Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9
  • Haftarah: Isaiah 51:12-52:12
  • Gospel: John 14:9-20

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
    • Deuteronomy 16:18 | Municipal Judges and Officers
    • Deuteronomy 16:21 | Forbidden Forms of Worship
    • Deuteronomy 17:8 | Legal Decisions by Priests and Judges
    • Deuteronomy 17:14 | Limitations of Royal Authority
    • Deuteronomy 18:1 | Privileges of Priests and Levites
    • Deuteronomy 18:9 | Child-Sacrifice, Divination, and Magic Prohibited
    • Deuteronomy 18:15 | A New Prophet Like Moses
    • Deuteronomy 19:1 | Laws concerning the Cities of Refuge
    • Deuteronomy 19:14 | Property Boundaries
    • Deuteronomy 19:15 | Law concerning Witnesses
    • Deuteronomy 20:1 | Rules of Warfare
    • Deuteronomy 21:1 | Law concerning Murder by Persons Unknown
  • Prophets
    • Isaiah 51:1 | Blessings in Store for God's People
    • Isaiah 52:1 | Let Zion Rejoice

Portion Summary

The commandment for the king to write a copy of the Torah demonstrates the work of Messiah. He Himself is the Word made flesh. He is the copy of the Torah in human form. Furthermore, He writes a copy of the Torah as He writes the Torah upon our hearts. The Torah of King Messiah is written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts (2 Corinthians 3:3).


The commandment “to write a personal copy of the scroll of the Torah” applies to the king of Israel. This provision was meant to ensure that the king himself submits to the rule of law and does not become a despot without accountability or boundaries. The king writes a copy of the Torah so “that his heart may not be lifted up above his countrymen” (Deuteronomy 17:20). In other words, the king is subject to the laws of Torah just like everybody else in the kingdom.

He has no sovereign exemptions. He has no royal exception or special immunity. By writing a copy of the Torah for himself, the king reminded himself that he is not above God’s law. In the eyes of the Torah, the king is just another citizen of God’s kingdom.

The king of Israel must immerse himself in the Torah. He must write his own copy of the Torah onto a scroll. He is to keep it with him always, and he is to read and study from it every day of his life. He cannot turn away from the commandments in the Torah, neither to the right nor to the left. Even the king of Israel must obey the Torah of God. He must submit himself to it as a standard for conduct and administration.

“He shall write for himself a copy of this Torah on a scroll,” when he goes to war, he takes it out with him; when he comes back, he is to bring it back with him; when he is in session in court, it is to be with him, when he is reclining, it is to be before him, as it is written, “It shall be with him and he shall read it all the days of his life.” (m.Sanhedrin 2:4)

We refer to this basic ethic as the rule of law. We can compare it to the way the constitution of a governing body functions in the modern world. In theory, a nation’s constitutional principle presides over both the governed and the government. In the constitutional model, ultimate sovereignty is vested in the constitution that formed the government, not in the government.

This is the theory of modern politics in the free world. For example, in the United States of America, the constitution lays out the parameters for American government. Ostensibly, the government can legislate and govern only within those parameters. No government official may over-step the bounds of the national constitution. Government officials are subject to the rule of the constitution and the legislation spawned by it, just as private citizens are. Without the rule of law, a government would be able to rule capriciously and without mitigation, as is often the case in dictatorships and rogue states where law has collapsed and absolute power has prevailed.

In God’s economy, the Torah functions as the constitution over Israel’s government. No one is above God’s Torah because no one is above God. His word has the final authority, and even the king may not transgress it.

Without the rule of law, the ethics of the Torah are reduced to simply good advice: the commandments become 613 suggestions. We often hear Bible teachers state that the rule of law in Torah does not apply to believers. In so doing, they place believers on a plane of authority even above the kings of Israel and the Messiah Himself.

According to Deuteronomy 17, if Yeshua is a true king of Israel, He must “keep Torah all the days of his life” and “carefully observe all the words of the Torah” and “not turn aside from the commandment to the right or the left” (Deuteronomy 17:20). Yeshua was not above the rule of law. If He broke the Torah, He committed a sin.

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