As Israel prepared to enter the promised land of Canaan Moses reviewed what was expected of them.
“Now it came to pass in the fortieth year…that Moses spoke to the children of Israel according to all that the LORD had given him as commandments to them.” Deuteronomy 1:3
Note Israel’s expectations were based on obedience to commandments issued by their sovereign God. The boundaries of their future possession, which included Canaan, were once again specified.
“Turn and take your journey…as far as the great river, the River Euphrates. See, I have set the land before you…which the LORD swore to your fathers – to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – to give to them and their descendants after them.” Deuteronomy 1:7-8
The instructions given to the Israelites included the requirements of their judicial system.
“You shall appoint judges and officers in all your gates (towns), which the LORD your God gives you…and they shall judge the people with just judgment. You shall not pervert justice; you shall not show partiality, nor take a bribe…You shall follow what is altogether just, that you may live and inherit the land which the LORD your God is giving you.” Deuteronomy 16:18-20
There are several points that stand out. Firstly, the future land of Israel is a gift from God. The only requirement of the Israelites was/will be their obedience to the Giver. The Israelites were to judge all matters justly without bias. And very importantly, the benchmark for judgment or true justice was God’s commandments which constituted their law. The above passage is strikingly clear. For a judge to show partiality or to take a bribe would pervert justice. Partiality is shown when a judge considers other factors associated with either party rather than limit the judgment to the facts of the issue being judged. A bribe is another tactic used to influence impartial judgment and if Israel allowed such tactics the result would be their temporary expulsion from the land promised to them. However, because the covenant with Abraham was unconditional and immutable Israel will someday in the future permanently possess all the land promised to them nearly four thousand years ago.
In America today the ultimate benchmark defining what is ‘right’ is the constitution which was originally intended to reflect God’s standard of justice. Bribes flourish through the affects of lobbying, i.e., the quid pro quo factor.
Concerning the non-partiality factor, nearly all federal judges have their own individual political ideology which leans either to conservatism or liberalism. And while contemporary judges should ideally reflect total impartiality, in reality it is expected their judgments will reflect their ideology. That is a primary reason for their appointment.
Israel also had their version of a ‘supreme court’.
“If a matter arises which is too hard for you to judge…then you shall arise and go up to the place which the LORD your God chooses…According to the sentence of the law to which they instruct you…you shall do; you shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left…” Deuteronomy 17:8-11
The benchmark for justice at both levels of Israel’s court system was God’s immutable, absolute commandments. The benchmark for America today i.e., the constitution is open to interpretation of both act and intent according to the judges’ ideology.
Recently when the Supreme Court addressed the Affordable Care Act, a major question that arose prior to the decision was how Justice Kennedy would vote. He was considered to be the ‘swing vote’ inasmuch as the others were considered to vote according to their perceived liberal or conservative leanings. Well mostly everyone was surprised when the supposed conservative chief justice Roberts, appointed by a conservative president, leaned toward and sided with the left.
The issue of political correctness, a concept thousands of years old, also affects our judicial system.
“Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him…for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” John 12:42-43
The concept of impartiality in our federal court system is laughable. In addition the benchmark for justice in this present generation has little to do with God’s immutable laws.