Judge (שׁוֹפֵט, shophet', usu. in the plur.,שׁוֹפטַי, shophetim', rulers rather than magistrates, from שָׁפִט different from, דַּין to try a cause, see Gesenius, s.v.; compare Bertholdt's Theolog. Journ. 7, 1; Werner, in Rudelbach's Zeitschr. 1844, 3, 17; Sept., N. Test. Ac 13:20, and Josephus, Ant. 6, 5, 4, κριταί; in Da 3:2-3, a diff. Chald. term is employed, אֲדִרגּ זרַין, adargazerin', chief judges: in two passages, Ex 21:6; Ex 22:8, the Hebrew magistrates are called,אלֵַֹהי, elohim', gods, compare Ps 82:1,6; Joh 10:34; but see Gesenius, s.v.). Besides being the general title of any magistrate, this name is applied to those persons who at intervals presided over the affairs of the Israelites during the four and a half centuries which elapsed from the death of Joshua to the accession of Saul, as recounted in the book of Judges, and as alluded to by the apostle Paul in Ac 13:2. These judges were fifteen in number:
1. Othniel; 2. Ehud; 3. Shamgar; 4. Deborah and Barak; 5. Gideon; 6. Abimelech; 7. Tola; 8. Jair; 9. Jephthah; 10. Ibzan; 11. Elon; 12. Abdon; 13. Samson; 14. Eli; 15. Samuel.
For an account of the events of each judgeship, see the judges in their alphabetical place; for a discussion of the length of the entire period, and the adjustment of the different epochs, SEE CHRONOLOGY. The history appears to coincide with a time of mutual collision between the surrounding nations. SEE JUDGES, BOOK OF.
I. Earliest Forms and Characteristics of the Magisterial Office among the Hebrews. — The administration of justice in all early Eastern nations, as among the Arabs of the desert to this day, rests with the patriarchal seniors, the judges being the heads of tribes, or of chief houses in a tribe. (The expression נשַׂיא בֵּיתאּאָב Nu 25:14, is remarkable, and seems to mean the patriarchal senior of a subdivision of the tribe: comp. 1Ch 4:38; Jg 5:3,15). Such, from their elevated position, would have the requisite leisure, would be able to make their decisions respected, and through the wider intercourse of superior station would decide with fuller experience and riper reflection. Thus, in the book of Job (29:7, 8, 9), the patriarchal magnate is represented as going forth "to the gate" amid the respectful silence of elders, princes, and nobles (compare 32:9). The actual chiefs of individual tribes are mentioned on various occasions, one as late as the time of David, as preserving importance in the commonwealth (Nu 7:2,10-11; Nu 17:6, or 17 in Heb. text; 34:18; Jos 22:14; so perh. Nu 16:2; Nu 21:18). Whether the princes of the tribes mentioned in 1Ch 27:16; 1Ch 28:1, are patriarchal heads, or merely chief men appointed by the king to govern, is not strictly certain; but it would be foreign to all ancient Eastern analogy to suppose that they forfeited the judicial prerogative before they were overshadowed by the monarchy, and in David's time this is contrary to the tenor of history. During the oppression of Egypt the nascent people would necessarily have few questions at law to plead, and the Egyptian magistrate would take cognizance of theft, violence, and other matters of police. Yet the question put to Moses shows that "a prince" and "a judge" were connected even then in the popular idea (Ex 2:14; compare Nu 16:13). When the people emerged from this oppression into national existence, the want of a machinery of judicature began to press. The patriarchal seniors did not instantly assume the function, having probably been depressed by bondage till rendered unfit for it, not having become experienced in such matters, nor having secured the confidence of their tribesmen. Perhaps for these reasons Moses at first took the whole burden of judicature upon himself, then at the suggestion of Jethro (Ex 18:14-24) instituted judges over numerically graduated sections of the people. These were chosen for their moral fitness, but from De 1:15-16, we may infer that they were taken from among those to whom primogeniture would have assigned it. Save in offenses of public magnitude, criminal cases do not appear to have been distinguished from civil. The duty of teaching the people the knowledge of the law which pertained to the Levites, doubtless included such instruction as would assist the judgment of those who were thus to decide according to it. The Levites were thus the ultimate sources of ordinary jurisprudence, and perhaps the "teaching" aforesaid may merely mean expounding the law as applicable to difficult cases arising in practice. Beyond this it is not possible to indicate any division of the provinces of deciding on points of law as distinct from points of fact. The judges mentioned as standing before Joshua in the great assemblies of the people must be understood as the successors of those chosen by Moses, and had doubtless been elected with Joshua's sanction from among the same general class of patriarchal seniors (Jos 4:2,4; Jos 22:14; Jos 24:1).
The judge was reckoned a sacred person, and secured even from verbal injuries. Seeking a decision at law is called "inquiring of God" (Ex 18:15). The term "gods" is actually applied to judges (Ex 21:6; compare Ps 82:1,6). The judge was told, "Thou shalt not be afraid of the face of men, for the judgment is God's;" and thus, while human instrumentality was indispensable, the source of justice was upheld as divine, and the purity of its administration only sank with the decline of religious feeling. In this spirit speaks Psalm 82 — a lofty charge addressed to all who judge; compare the qualities regarded as essential at the institution of the office (Ex 18:21), and the strict admonition of De 16:18-20. But besides the sacred dignity thus given to the only royal function, which, under the theocracy, lay in human hands, it was made popular by being vested in those who led public feeling, and its importance in the public eye appears from such passages as Ps 69:12 (comp. 119:23); 82; 148, 11; Pr 8:15; Pr 21:4-5,23. There could have been no considerable need for the legal studies and expositions of the Levites during the wanderings in the wilderness, while Moses was alive to solve all questions, and while the law which they were to expound was not wholly delivered. The Levites, too, had a charge of cattle to look after in that wilderness like the rest, and seem to have acted also, being Moses' own tribe, as supports to his executive authority. But then few of the greater entanglements of property could arise before the people were settled in their possession of Canaan. Thus they were disciplined in smaller matters, and under Moses' own eye, for greater ones. When, however, the commandment, "Judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates" (De 16:18), came to be fulfilled in Canaan, there were the following sources from which those officials might be supplied: 1st, the ex- officio judges, or their successors, as chosen by Moses; 2dly, any surplus left of patriarchal seniors when these were taken out (as has been shown from De 1:15-16) from that class; and, 3dly, the Levites. On. what principle the non-Levitical judges were chosen after divine superintendence was interrupted at Joshua's death is not clear. A simple way, would have been for the existing judges in every town, etc., to choose their own colleagues, as vacancies fell, from among the limited number of persons who, being heads of families, were competent. Generally speaking, the reputation for superior wealth, as some guarantee against facilities for corruption, would determine the choice of a judge, and, taken in connection with personal qualities, would tend to limit the choice to probably a very few persons in practice. The supposition that judicature will always be provided for is carried through all the books of the Law (see Ex 21:6; Ex 22; Le 19:15; Nu 35:24; De 1:16; De 16:18; De 25:1). All that we know of the facts of later history confirms the supposition. The Hebrews were sensitive as regards the administration of justice; nor is the free spirit of their early commonwealth in anything more manifest than in the resentment which followed the venal or partial judge. The fact that justice reposed on a popular basis of administration largely contributed to keep up this spirit of independence, which is the ultimate check on all perversions of the tribunal. The popular aristocracy (if we may so term it) of heads of tribes, sections of tribes, or families, is found to fall into two main orders of varying nomenclature, and rose from the capite censi, or mere citizens, upward. The more, common name for the higher order is "princes," and for the lower, "elders" (Jg 8:14; Ex 2:14; Job 29:7-9; Ezr 10:8). These orders were the popular element of judicature. On the other hand, the Levitical body was imbued with a keen sense of allegiance to God as the Author of Law, and to the Covenant as his embodiment of it, and soon gained whatever forensic experience and erudition those simple times could yield; hence they brought to the judicial task the legal acumen and sense of general principles which complemented the ruder lay element. Thus the Hebrews really enjoyed much of the virtue of a system which allots separate provinces to judge and jury, although we cannot trace any such line of separation in their functions, save in so far as has been indicated above. To return to the first or popular branch; there is reason to think, from the second concurrence of phraseology amid much diversity, that in every city these two ranks of "princes" and' "elders" had their analogies, and that a variable number of heads of families and groups of families, in two ranks, were popularly recognized, whether with or without any form of election, as charged with the duty of administering justice. Succoth (Jg 8:14) may be taken as an example. Evidently the ex-officio judges of Moses' choice would have left their successors when the tribe of Gad, to which Succoth pertained (Jos 13:27), settled in its territory and towns: and what would be more simple than that the whole number of judges in that tribe should be allotted to its towns in proportion to their size? As such judges were mostly the head men by genealogy, they would fall into their natural places, and symmetry would be preserved. The Levites also were apportioned, on the whole, equally among the tribes; and if they preserved their limits, there were probably few parts of Palestine beyond a day's journey from a Levitical city.
One great hold which the priesthood had, in their jurisdiction, upon men's ordinary life was the custody in the sanctuary of the standard weights and measures, to which, in cases of dispute, reference was doubtless made. It is, however, reasonable to suppose that in most towns sufficiently exact models of them for all ordinary questions would be kept, since to refer to the sanctuary at Shiloh, Jerusalem, etc., in every case of dispute between dealers would be nugatory (Ex 30:13; Nu 3:47; Eze 45:12). Above all these, the high priest in the ante-regal period was the resort in difficult cases (De 17:12), as the chief jurist of the nation, and one who would, in case of need, be perhaps oracularly directed; yet we hear of none acting as judge save Eli, nor is any judicial act recorded of him though perhaps his not restraining his sons is meant to be noticed as a failure in his, judicial duties. Now the judicial authority of any such supreme tribunal must have wholly lapsed at the time of the events recorded in Judges 19. It should not be forgotten that in some cases of "blood" the "congregation" themselves were to "judge" (Nu 35:24), and that the appeal of Jg 20:4-7 was thus in the regular course of constitutional law. It is also a fact of some weight, negatively, that none of the special deliverers called judges was of priestly lineage, or even became as much noted as Deborah, a woman. This seems to show that any central action of the high priest on national unity was null, and of this supremacy, had it existed in force, the judicial prerogative was the main element. Difficult cases would include cases of appeal, and we may presume that, save so far as the authority of those special deliverers made itself felt, there was no judge in the last resort from Joshua to Samuel. Indeed, the current' phrase of those deliverers that they "judged" Israel during their term, shows which branch of their authority was most in request, and the demand of the people for a king was, in the first instance, that he might "judge them," rather than that he might "fight their battles" (1Sa 8:5,20).
II. Peculiar Traits and Functions of the "Judges" in the Period designated by their Rule. — The station and office of these shophetim are involved in great obscurity, partly from the want of clear intimations in the history in which their exploits and government are recorded, and partly from the absence of parallels in the history of other nations by which our notions might be assisted. The offices filled by Moses and Joshua, whose presence was so essential for the time and the occasion, were not at all involved in the general machinery of the Hebrew government. They were specially appointed for particular services, for the performance of which they were invested with extraordinary powers; but when their mission was accomplished, society reverted to its permanent institutions and its established forms of government. As above seen, every tribe had its own hereditary chief or "prince," who presided over its affairs, administered justice in all ordinary cases, and led the troops in time of war. His station resembled that of the Arabian emirs, or rather, perhaps, of the khans of the Tartar tribes inhabiting Persia and the countries further east. He was assisted in these important duties by the subordinate officers, the chiefs of families, who formed his council in such matters of policy as affected their particular district, supported his decisions in civil or criminal inquiries, and commanded under him in the field of battle (Nu 26; Nu 27; Jos 7:16-18). This was, in fact, the old patriarchal government, to which the Hebrews were greatly attached. It was an institution suited to the wants of men who live dispersed in loosely connected tribes, and not to the wants and exigencies of a nation. It was in principle segregative, not aggregative and although there are traces of united agreement through a congress of delegates, or rather of national chiefs and elders of the tribes, this was an inefficient instrument of general government, seeing that it was only applicable or applied to great occasions, and could have no bearing on the numerous questions of an administrative nature which arise from day to. day in every state, and which there should somewhere exist the power to arrange and determine. This defect of the general government it was one of the objects of the theocratical institutions to remedy. Jehovah had taken upon himself the function of king of the chosen people, and he dwelt among them 11 his palace tabernacle. Here he was always ready, through his priest, to counsel them in matters of general interest, as well as in those having reference only to particular tribes; and to his court they were all required by the law to repair three times every year. Here, then, was the principle of a general administration, calculated and designed to unite the tribes into a nation by giving them a common government in all the higher and more general branches of administration, and a common center of interest for all the political and ecclesiastical relations of the community. It was on this footing that the law destined the government of the Hebrews to proceed, after the peculiar functions of the legislator and the conqueror had been fulfilled. SEE THEOCRACY.
The fact is, however, that, through the perversity of the people, this settlement of the general government on theocratical principles was not carried out in its proper form and extent. and it is in this neglect we are to seek the necessity for those officers called judges who were from time to time raised up to correct some of the evils which resulted from it. It is very evident from the whole history of the judges that, after the death of Joshua, the Israelites threw themselves back upon the segregative principles of their government by tribes, and all but utterly neglected and for a long period did utterly neglect, the rules and usages on which the general government was established. There was, in fact, no human power adequate to enforce them. They were good in themselves, they were gracious, they conferred high privileges, but they were enforced by no sufficient authority. No one was amenable to any tribunal for neglecting the annual feasts, or for not referring the direction of public affairs to the divine King. Omissions on these points involved the absence of the divine protection and blessing, and were left to be punished by their consequences. The man who obeyed in this and' other things was blessed; the man who did not was not blessed; and general obedience was rewarded with national blessing, and general disobedience with national punishment. The enormities and transgressions into which the people fell in consequence of such neglect, which left them an easy prey to idolatrous influences, are fully recorded in the Book of Judges. The people could not grasp the idea of a divine and invisible king; they could not bring themselves to recur to him in all those cases in which the judgment of a human king would have determined the course of action, or in which his arm would have worked for their deliverance. Therefore it was that God allowed them judges — in the persons of faithful men, who acted for the most part as agents of the divine will — regents of the invisible King, and who, holding their commission directly from him or with his sanction, would be more inclined to act as dependent vassals of Jehovah than kings, who, as members of royal dynasties, would come to reign with notions of independent rights and royal privileges; which would draw away their attention from their true place in the theocracy. In this greater dependence of the judges upon the divine King we see the secret of their institution. The Israelites were disposed to rest upon their separate interests as tribes, and, having thus allowed the standing general government to remain inoperative through disuse, they would, in case of emergency, have been disposed "to make themselves a king like the nations" had their attention not been directed to the appointment of officers whose authority. could rest on no tangible right apart from character and services, which, with the temporary nature of their power, rendered their functions more accordant with the principles of the theocracy than those of any other public officers could be. It is probably in this adaptation to the peculiar circumstances of the Hebrew theocracy that we shall discover the reason of our inability to find any similar office among other nations. In being thus peculiar it resembled the dictatorship among the Romans, to which office, indeed, that of the judges has been compared, and perhaps this parallel is the nearest that can be found. But there is this great difference. that the dictator laid down his power as soon as the crisis which had called for its exercise had passed away, and in no case could this unwonted supremacy be retained beyond a limited time (Livy, 9, 34); but the Hebrew judge remained invested with his high authority the whole period of his life, and is therefore usually described by the sacred historian as presiding to the end of his days over the tribes of Israel, amid the peace and security which his military skill and counsels had, under the divine blessing, restored to the land.
It is usual to consider the judges as commencing their career with military exploits to deliver Israel from foreign oppression, but this is by no means invariably the case. Eli and Samuel were not military men, Deborah judged Israel before she planned the war against Jabin; and of Jair, Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon, it is at least uncertain whether they ever held any military command. In many cases it is true that military achievements were — the means by which they elevated themselves to the rank of judges; but in general the appointment may be said to have varied with the exigencies of the times, and with the particular circumstances which in times of trouble would draw the public attention to persons who appeared suited by their gifts and influence to advise in matters of general concernment, to decide in questions arising between tribe and tribe, to administer public affairs, and to appear as their recognized head in their intercourse with their neighbors and oppressors. As we find that many of these judges arose during times of oppression, it seems to us that this last circumstance, which has never been taken into account, must have had a remarkable influence in the appointment of the judge. Foreigners could not be expected to enter into the peculiarities of the Hebrew constitution, and would expect to receive the proposals, remonstrances, or complaints of the people through some person representing the whole nation, or that part of it to which their intercourse applied. The law provided no such officer except in the high priest; but as the Hebrews themselves did not recognize the true operation of their theocracy, much less were strangers likely to do so. On the officer they appointed to represent the body. of the people, under circumstances which compelled them to deal with foreigners mightier than themselves, would naturally devolve the command of the army in war, and the administration of justice in peace. This last was among. ancient nations, and it is still in the East, regarded as the first and most important duty of a ruler, and the interference of the judges was probably confined to the cases arising between different tribes, for which the ordinary magistrates would find it difficult to secure due authority to their decisions.
In nearly all the instances recorded the appointment seems to have been by the free, unsolicited choice of the people. The election of Jephthah, who was nominated as the fittest man for the existing emergency, probably resembled that which was usually followed on such occasions; and probably, as in his case, the judge; in accepting the office, took care to make such stipulations as he deemed necessary. The only cases of direct divine appointment are those of Gideon and Samson, and the last stood in the peculiar position of having been from before his birth ordained "to begin to deliver: Israel." Deborah was called to deliver Israel, but was already a judge. Samuel was called by the Lord to be a prophet, but not a judge, which ensued from the high gifts which the people recognized as dwelling in him; and as to Eli, the office of judge seems to have devolved naturally, or, rather, ex-officio, upon him; and his case seems to be the only one in which the high priest appears in the character which the theocratical institutions designed for him.
The following clear summary of their duties and privileges is from Jahn (Bibl. Archäol. 2, 1, § 22 sq.; Heb. Commonwealth, Stowe's transl., § 23): "The office of judges or regents was held during life, but it was not hereditary, neither could they appoint their successors. Their authority was limited by the law alone; and in doubtful cases they were directed to consult the divine King through the priest by Urim and Thummim (Nu 27:21). They were not obliged in common cases to ask advice of the ordinary rulers; it was sufficient if these did not remonstrate against the measures of the judge. In important emergencies, however, they convoked a general assembly of the rulers, over which they presided and exercised a powerful influence. They could issue orders, but not enact laws; they could neither levy taxes nor appoint officers, except perhaps in the army. Their authority extended only over those tribes by whom they had been elected or acknowledged; for it is clear that several of the judges presided over separate tribes. There was no income attached to their office, nor was there any income appropriated to them, unless it might be a larger share in the spoils, and those presents which were, made them as testimonials of respect (Jg 8:24). They bore no external marks of dignity, and maintained no retinue of courtiers, though some of them were very opulent. They were not only simple in their manners, moderate in their desires, and free from avarice and ambition. but noble and magnanimous men, who felt that whatever they did for their country was above all reward, and could not be recompensed; who desired merely to promote the public good, and who chose rather to deserve well of their country than to be enriched by its wealth. This exalted patriotism, like everything else connected with politics in the theocratical state of the Hebrews; was partly of a religious character, and these regents always conducted themselves as the officers of God; in all their enterprises they relied upon him, and their only care was that their countrymen should acknowledge the authority of Jehovah, their invisible king (Jg 8:22 sq.; compare Hebrews 11). Still they were not without faults, neither are they so represented by their historians; they relate, on the contrary, with the utmost frankness, the great sins of which some of them were guilty. They were not merely deliverers of the state from a foreign yoke, but destroyers of idolatry, foes of pagan vices, promoters of the knowledge of God, of religion, and of morality; restorers of theocracy in the minds of the Hebrews, and powerful instruments of divine Providence in the promotion of the great design of preserving the Hebrew constitution, and by that means of rescuing the true religion from destruction.... By comparing the periods during which the Hebrews were oppressed by their enemies with those in which they were independent and governed by their own constitution, it is apparent that the nation in general experienced much more prosperity than adversity in the time of the judges. Their dominion continued four hundred and fifty years; but the whole time of foreign oppression amounts only to one hundred and eleven years, scarcely a fourth part of that period. Even during these one hundred and eleven years the whole nation was seldom under the yoke at the same time, but, for the most part, separate tribes only were held in servitude; nor were their oppressions always very severe; and all the calamities terminated in the advantage and glory of the people as soon as they abolished idolatry and returned to their king, Jehovah. Neither was the nation in such a state of anarchy at this time as has generally been supposed. There were regular judicial tribunals at which justice could be obtained, and when there was no supreme regent, the public welfare was provided for by the ordinary rulers" (Ru 4:1-11; Jg 8:22; Jg 10:17-18; Jg 11:1-11; 1Sa 4:1; 1Sa 7:1-2).
See generally Buddei Hist. V.T. 1, 939 sq.; Zeltner, De adolescentia reip. Israel. (Altorf, 1696); Bauer, Heb. Gesch. 2, 34 sq.; Hess, Gesch. Josua's u. d. Heerführer (Zur. 1779), 2; Paulus, Theol.-exeget. Conservator. 2, 180 sq.; Döring, Das Zeitalter der Richter (Freiburg, 1833); Ewald. Isr. Gesch. 2, 362 sq.; Stanley, Hist. of Jewish Church, lect. 13.
III. The Judicial Office in later Periods among the Hebrews. — The magisterial functions of the priesthood being, it may be presumed, in abeyance during the period of the judges, seem to have merged in the monarchy. The kingdom of Saul suffered too severely from external foes to allow civil matters much prominence. Hence of his only two recorded judicial acts, the one (1Sa 11:13) was the mere remission of a penalty. popularly demanded; the other the pronouncing of a sentence (1Sa 14:44-45),which, if it was sincerely intended, was overruled in turn by the right sense of the people. In David's reign it was evidently the rule for the king to hear causes in person, and not merely be passively, or even by deputy (though this. might also be included), the "fountain of justice" to his people. For this purpose, perhaps, it was prospectively ordained that the king should "write him a copy of the law," and "read therein all the days of his life" (De 17:18-19). The same class of cases which were reserved for Moses would probably fall to his lot, and the high priest. was, of course, ready to assist the monarch. This is further presumable from the fact that no officer analogous to a chief justice ever appears under the kings. It has been supposed that the subjection of all Israel to David's sway caused an influx of such cases, and that advantage was artfully taken of this by Absalom (2Sa 15:1-4); but the rate at which cases were disposed of can hardly have been slower among the ten tribes after David had become their king, than it was during the previous anarchy. It is more probable that during David's uniformly successful wars wealth and population increased rapidly, and civil cases multiplied faster than the king, occupied with war, could attend to them, especially when the summary process customary in the East is considered. Perhaps the arrangements mentioned in 1Ch 23:4; 1Ch 26:29. (compare 5:32, "rulers" probably including judges), of the 6000 Levites acting as "officers and judges," and amongst them specially "Chenaniah and his sons," with others, for the trans-Jordanic tribes, may have been made to meet the need of suitors. In Solomon's character, whose reign of peace would surely be fertile in civil questions, the "wisdom to judge" was the fitting first quality (1Ki 3:9; comp. Ps 72:1-4). As a judge Solomon shines "in all his glory" (1Ki 3:16, etc.). No criminal was too powerful for his justice, as some had been for his father's (2Sa 3:39; 1Ki 2:5-6,33-34). The examples of direct royal exercise of judicial authority are 2:Samuel 1:15; 4:9-12, where sentence is summarily executed, and the supposed case of 2Sa 14:1-21. The denunciation of 2Sa 12:5-6, though not formally judicial, is yet in the same spirit. Solomon similarly proceeded in the cases of Joab and Shimei (1Ki 2:34,46; compare 2Ki 14:5-6). It is likely that royalty in Israel was ultimately unfavorable to the local independence connected with the judicature of the "princes" and "elders" in the territory and cities of each tribe. The tendency of the monarchy was doubtless to centralize, and we read of large numbers of king's officers appointed to this and cognate duties (1Ch 23:4; 1Ch 26:29-32). If the general machinery of justice had been, as is reasonable to think, deranged or retarded during a period of anarchy, the Levites afforded the fittest materials for its reconstitution. Being to some extent detached, both locally, and by special duties, exemptions, etc., from the mass of the population, they were, more easily brought to the steady routine which justice requires, and, what is no less important, were, in case of neglect of duty, more at the mercy of the king (as shown in the case of the priests at Nob, 1Sa 22:17). Hence it is probable that the Levites generally superseded the local elders in the administration of justice. But subsequently, when the Levites withdrew from the kingdom of the ten tribes, judicial elders probably again filled the gap. Thus they conducted the mock trial of Naboth (1Ki 21:8-13). There is in 2Ch 19:5, etc., a special notice of a reappointment of judges by Jehoshaphat, and of a distinct court, of appeal, perhaps, at Jerusalem, composed of Levitical and of lay elements. In the same place (as; also in a previous one, 1Ch 26:32) occurs a mention of "the king's matters" as a branch of jurisprudence. The rights of the prerogative having a constant tendency to encroach, and needing continual regulation, these may have grown probably into a department somewhat like the English Exchequer.
One more change is noticeable in the pre-Babylonian period. The "princes" constantly appear as a powerful political body, increasing in influence and privileges, and having a fixed center of action at Jerusalem, till, in the reign of Zedekiah, they seem to exercise some of the duties of a privy council, and especially a collective jurisdiction. (2Ch 28:21; Jer 26:10,16). These "princes" are probably the heads of great houses in Judah and Benjamin, whose fathers had once been the pillars of local jurisdiction, but who, through the attractions of a court, and probably also under the constant alarm of hostile invasion, became gradually residents in the capital, and formed an oligarchy which drew to itself, amidst the growing weakness of the latter monarchy, whatever vigor was left in the state, and encroached on the sovereign attribute of justice. The employment in offices of trust and emolument would tend also in the same way, and such chief families would probably monopolize such employment. Hence the constant burden of the prophetic strain, denouncing the neglect, the perversion, the corruption of judicial functionaries (Isa 1:17,21; Isa 5:7; Isa 10:2; Isa 28:7; Isa 56:1; Isa 59:4; Jer 2:8; Jer 5:1; Jer 7:5; Jer 21:12; Eze 22:27; Eze 45:8-9; Ho 5:10; Ho 7:5,7; Am 5:7,15,24; Am 6:12; Hab 1:4, etc.). Still, although far changed from its broad and simple basis in the earlier periods the administration of justice had little resembling the set and rigid system of the Sanhedrim of later times. This last change arose from the fact that the patriarchal seniority, degenerate and corrupted as it became before the, captivity, was by that event broken up, and anew basis of judicature had to be sought for. SEE SANHEDRIM.
4. Judicial Customs. — With regard to the forms of procedure, little. more is known than may be gathered from the two examples, Ru 4:2, of a civil, and 1Ki 21:8-14, of a criminal character; to which, as a specimen of royal summary jurisdiction, may be added the well known "judgment" of Solomon. Boaz apparently empanels, as it were, the first ten "elders" whom he meets " in the gate," the well known site of the Oriental court, and cites the other party by "Ho, such a one;" and the people appear to be invoked as attesting the legality of the proceeding. The whole affair bears an extemporaneous aspect, which may, however, be merely the result of the terseness of the narrative. In Job 9:19, we have a wish expressed that a "time to plead" might be "set" (comp. the phrase of Roman law, diem dicere). In the case of the involuntary homicide seeking the city of refuge, he was to make out his case to the satisfaction of its elders (Jos 20:4), and this failing, or the congregation deciding against his claim to sanctuary there (though how its sense was to be taken does not appear), he was not put to death by act of public justice, but left to the "avenger of blood" (De 19:12). The expressions between "blood and blood;" between "plea and plea" (De 17:8), indicate a presumption of legal intricacy arising, the latter expression seeming to imply something like what we call a "cross suit." We may infer from the scantiness, or, rather, almost entire absence of direction as regards forms of procedure, that the legislator was content to leave them to be provided for as the necessity for them arose, it being impossible by any jurisprudential devices to anticipate chicane. It is an interesting question how far judges were allowed to receive fees of suitors; Michaelis reasonably presumes that none were allowed or customary, and it seems, from the words of 1Sa 12:3, that such transactions would have been regarded as corrupt. There is another question how far advocates were usual. There is no reason to think that, until the period of Greek influence, when we meet with words based on συνήγορος and παράκλητος, any professed class of pleaders existed. Yet passages abound in which the pleading of the cause of those who are unable to plead their own is spoken of as, what it indeed was, a noble act of charity; and the expression has even (which shows the popularity of the practice) become a basis of figurative allusion (Job 16:21; Pr 22:23; Pr 23:11; Pr 31:9; Isa 1:17; Jer 30:13; Jer 1:19; Jer 51:36). The blessedness of such acts is forcibly dwelt upon, Job 29:12-13.
There is no mention of any distinctive dress or badge as pertaining to the judicial officer. A staff or scepter was the common badge of a ruler or prince, and this they probably bore (Isa 14:5; Am 1:5,8). They would, doubtless, be more than usually careful to comply with the regulations about dress laid down in Nu 15:38-39; De 22:12. The use of the "white asses" (Jg 5:10) by those who "sit in judgment" was perhaps a convenient distinctive mark for them when journeying where they would not usually be personally known.