|Int. Standard Bible Encyclopedia|
1. Their Organization:
At the advice of Jethro, Moses appointed judges (shopheTim, Exodus 18). In Egypt it appears that the Hebrews did not have their own judges, which, of course, was a source of many wrongs. Leaving Egypt, Moses took the judicial functions upon himself, but it was impossible that he should be equal to the task of administering justice to two and one-half million people; hence, he proceeded to organize a system of jurisprudence. He appointed judges over tens, fifties, hundreds, thousands-in all 78,600 judges. This system was adequate for the occasion, and these courts respectively corresponded practically to our Justices of the Peace, Mayor's Court, District Court, Circuit Court. Finally, there was a Supreme Court under Moses and his successors. These courts, though graded, did not afford an opportunity of appeal. The lower courts turned their difficult cases over to the next higher. If the case was simple, the judge over tens would take it, but if the question was too intricate for him, he would refer it to the next higher court, and so on until it finally reached Moses. There were certain kinds of questions which the tens, fifties, and hundreds would not take at all, and the people understood it and would bring them to the higher courts for original jurisdiction. When any court decided it, that was the end of that case, for it could not be appealed (Exodus 18:25, 26). On taking possession in Palestine, the judges were to be appointed for every city and vicinity (Deuteronomy 16:18), thus giving to all Israel a speedy and cheap method of adjudication. Though not so prescribed by the constitution, the judges at length were generally chosen from among the Levites, as the learned class. The office was elective. Josephus states this plainly, and various passages of the Scriptures express it positively by inference (see Deuteronomy 1:13). Jephthah's election by vote of the people is clearly set forth (Judges 11:5-11).
2. Character of the Judges:
Among the Hebrews, the law was held very sacred; for God Himself had given it. Hence, those who administered the law were God's special representatives, and their person was held correspondingly sacred. These circumstances placed upon them the duty of administering justice without respect to persons (Deuteronomy 1:17; Deuteronomy 16:18). They were to be guided by the inalienable rights granted to every citizen by the Hebrew constitution:
(1) No man was to be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law (Numbers 35:9-34).
(2) Two or three witnesses were required to convict anyone of crime (Deuteronomy 17:6; Deuteronomy 19:2-13).
(3) Punishment for crime was not to be transferred or entailed (Deuteronomy 24:16).
(4) A man's home was inviolate (Deuteronomy 24:10, 11).
(5) One held to bondage but having acquired liberty through his own effort should be protected (Deuteronomy 23:15, 16).
(6) One's homestead was inalienable (Leviticus 25:23-28, 34).
(7) Slavery could not be made perpetual without the person's own consent (Exodus 21:2-6).
3. Their Work:
Gradually a legal profession developed among the Hebrews, the members of which were designated as "Lawyers" or "Scribes" also known as "Doctors of the Law" (Luke 2:46). Their business was threefold:
(1) to study and interpret the law;
(2) to instruct the Hebrew youth in the law; and
(3) to decide questions of the law. The first two they did as scholars and teachers; the last either as judges or as advisers in some court, as, for instance, the Senate of Jerusalem or some inferior tribunal. No code can go into such details as to eliminate the necessity of subsequent legislation, and this usually, to a great extent, takes the form of judicial decisions founded on the code, rather than of separate enactment; and so it was among the Hebrews. The provisions of their code were for the most part quite general, thus affording large scope for casuistic interpretation. Regarding the points not explicitly covered by the written law, a substitute must be found either in the form of established custom or in the form of an inference drawn from the statute.
As a result of the industry with which this line of legal development was pursued during the centuries immediately preceding our era, Hebrew law became a most complicated science. For the disputed points, the judgments of the individual lawyers could not be taken as the standard; hence, the several disciples of the law must frequently meet for a discussion, and the opinion of the majority then prevailed. These were the meetings of the "Doctors." Whenever a case arose concerning which there had been no clear legal decision, the question was referred to the nearest lawyer; by him, to the nearest company of lawyers, perhaps the Sanhedrin, and the resultant decision was henceforth authority.
Before the destruction of Jerusalem technical knowledge of the law was not a condition of eligibility to the office of judge. Anyone who could command the confidence of his fellow-citizens might be elected, and many of the rural courts undoubtedly were conducted, as among us, by men of sterling quality, but limited knowledge. Such men would avail themselves of the legal advice of any "doctor" who might be within reach; and in the more dignified courts of a large municipality it was a standing custom to have a company of lawyers present to discuss and decide any new law points that might arise. Of course, frequently these men were themselves elected to the office of judge, so that practically the entire system of jurisprudence was in their hands.
4. Limitations under Roman Rule:
Though Judea at this time was a subject commonwealth, yet the Sanhedrin, which was the body of supreme legislative and judicial authority, exercised autonomous authority to such an extent that it not only administered civil cases in accordance with Jewish law-for without such a right a Jewish court would be impossible-but it also took part to a great extent in the punishment of crime. It exercised an independent police power, hence, could send out its own officers to make arrests (Matthew 26:47 Mark 14:43 Acts 4:3; Acts 5:17, 18). In cases that did not involve capital punishment, its judgments were final and untrammeled (Acts 4:2-23; Acts 5:21-40). Only in capital punishment cases must the consent of the procurator be secured, which is not only clearly stated in John 18:31, but is also evident in the entire course of Christ's trial, as reported by the Synoptic Gospels. In granting or withholding his consent in such cases, the procurator could follow his pleasure absolutely, applying either the Jewish or Roman law, as his guide. In one class of cases the right to inflict capital punishment even on Roman citizens was granted the Sanhedrin, namely, when a non-Jewish person overstepped the bounds and entered the interior holy place of the temple. Even in this case the consent of the procurator must be secured, but it appears that the Roman rulers were inclined to let the law take its course against such wanton outrage of the Jews' feelings. Criminal cases not involving capital punishment need not be referred to the procurator.
5. Time and Place of Sessions:
The city in which the Sanhedrin met was Jerusalem. To determine the particular building, and the spot on which the building stood, is interesting to the archaeologist, not to the student of law. The local courts usually held their sessions on the second and fifth day (Monday and Thursday) of the week, but we do not know whether the same custom was observed by the Great Sanhedrin. On feast days no court was held, much less on the Sabbath. Since the death penalty was not to be pronounced until the day after the trial, such cases were avoided also on the day preceding a Sabbath or other sacred day. The emphasis placed on this observance may be seen from the edicts issued by Augustus, absolving the Jews from the duty of attending court on the Sabbath.
SeeDOCTOR; LAWYER; SANHEDRIN; SCRIBES.
Frank E. Hirsch
See COURTS, JUDICIAL.
Courts (59 Occurrences)
Matthew 10:17 And, take ye heed of men, for they will give you up to sanhedrims, and in their synagogues they will scourge you, (See NAS)
Matthew 21:23 When he had come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, "By what authority do you do these things? Who gave you this authority?" (See NIV)
Matthew 26:55 In that hour Jesus said to the multitudes, "Have you come out as against a robber with swords and clubs to seize me? I sat daily in the temple teaching, and you didn't arrest me. (See NIV)
Mark 11:16 He would not allow anyone to carry a container through the temple. (See NIV)
Mark 11:27 They came again to Jerusalem, and as he was walking in the temple, the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders came to him, (See NIV)
Mark 12:35 Jesus responded, as he taught in the temple, "How is it that the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David? (See NIV)
Mark 13:9 But watch yourselves, for they will deliver you up to councils. You will be beaten in synagogues. You will stand before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony to them. (See NAS)
Mark 14:49 I was daily with you in the temple teaching, and you didn't arrest me. But this is so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled." (See NIV)
Luke 2:27 He came in the Spirit into the temple. When the parents brought in the child, Jesus, that they might do concerning him according to the custom of the law, (See NIV)
Luke 2:46 It happened after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them, and asking them questions. (See NIV)
Luke 7:25 But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft clothing? Behold, those who are gorgeously dressed, and live delicately, are in kings' courts. (WEB KJV ASV DBY WBS RSV)
Luke 20:1 It happened on one of those days, as he was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the Good News, that the priests and scribes came to him with the elders. (See NIV)
Luke 22:53 When I was with you in the temple daily, you didn't stretch out your hands against me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness." (See NIV)
John 2:14 He found in the temple those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, and the changers of money sitting. (See NIV)
John 7:14 But when it was now the midst of the feast, Jesus went up into the temple and taught. (See NIV)
John 7:28 Jesus therefore cried out in the temple, teaching and saying, "You both know me, and know where I am from. I have not come of myself, but he who sent me is true, whom you don't know. (See NIV)
John 8:2 Now very early in the morning, he came again into the temple, and all the people came to him. He sat down, and taught them. (See NIV)
Acts 2:46 Day by day, continuing steadfastly with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread at home, they took their food with gladness and singleness of heart, (See NIV)
Acts 3:2 A certain man who was lame from his mother's womb was being carried, whom they laid daily at the door of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask gifts for the needy of those who entered into the temple. (See NIV)
Acts 3:8 Leaping up, he stood, and began to walk. He entered with them into the temple, walking, leaping, and praising God. (See NIV)
Acts 5:20 "Go stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life." (See NIV)
Acts 5:21 When they heard this, they entered into the temple about daybreak, and taught. But the high priest came, and those who were with him, and called the council together, and all the senate of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. (See NIV)
Acts 5:25 One came and told them, "Behold, the men whom you put in prison are in the temple, standing and teaching the people." (See NIV)
Acts 5:42 Every day, in the temple and at home, they never stopped teaching and preaching Jesus, the Christ. (See NIV)
Acts 19:38 If therefore Demetrius and the craftsmen who are with him have a matter against anyone, the courts are open, and there are proconsuls. Let them press charges against one another. (WEB ASV DBY NAS RSV NIV)
Acts 24:18 amid which certain Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple, not with a mob, nor with turmoil. (See NIV)
Acts 26:21 For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple, and tried to kill me. (See NIV)
1 Corinthians 6:2 Do you not know that God's people will sit in judgement upon the world? And if you are the court before which the world is to be judged, are you unfit to deal with these petty matters? (See NAS)
1 Corinthians 6:4 If then, you have to judge things pertaining to this life, do you set them to judge who are of no account in the assembly? (See NAS)
James 2:6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Don't the rich oppress you, and personally drag you before the courts? (WEB WEY)
Exodus 8:13 Yahweh did according to the word of Moses, and the frogs died out of the houses, out of the courts, and out of the fields. (WEB JPS ASV DBY YLT NAS)
Deuteronomy 17:8 If there arises a matter too hard for you in judgment, between blood and blood, between plea and plea, and between stroke and stroke, being matters of controversy within your gates; then you shall arise, and go up to the place which Yahweh your God shall choose; (See NAS NIV)
2 Kings 21:5 He built altars for all the army of the sky in the two courts of the house of Yahweh. (WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
2 Kings 23:12 The altars that were on the roof of the upper chamber of Ahaz, which the kings of Judah had made, and the altars which Manasseh had made in the two courts of the house of Yahweh, did the king break down, and beat them down from there, and cast the dust of them into the brook Kidron. (WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
1 Chronicles 23:28 For their office was to wait on the sons of Aaron for the service of the house of Yahweh, in the courts, and in the chambers, and in the purifying of all holy things, even the work of the service of the house of God; (WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV)
1 Chronicles 28:6 He said to me, Solomon your son, he shall build my house and my courts; for I have chosen him to be my son, and I will be his father. (WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
1 Chronicles 28:12 and the pattern of all that he had by the Spirit, for the courts of the house of Yahweh, and for all the surrounding rooms, for the treasuries of the house of God, and for the treasuries of the dedicated things; (WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
2 Chronicles 23:5 and a third part shall be at the king's house; and a third part at the gate of the foundation: and all the people shall be in the courts of the house of Yahweh. (WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV)
2 Chronicles 31:2 And Hezekiah appointed the divisions of the priests, and the Levites after their divisions, every man according to his service, as well the priests as the Levites, for burnt-offerings and for peace-offerings, to serve and to give thanks and to praise in the gates of the courts of Jehovah. (DBY)
2 Chronicles 33:5 He built altars for all the army of the sky in the two courts of the house of Yahweh. (WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Nehemiah 8:16 So the people went forth, and brought them, and made themselves booths, everyone on the roof of his house, and in their courts, and in the courts of the house of God, and in the broad place of the water gate, and in the broad place of the gate of Ephraim. (WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Nehemiah 13:7 and I came to Jerusalem, and understood the evil that Eliashib had done for Tobiah, in preparing him a chamber in the courts of the house of God. (WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Psalms 65:4 Blessed is one whom you choose, and cause to come near, that he may live in your courts. We will be filled with the goodness of your house, your holy temple. (WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Psalms 84:2 My soul longs, and even faints for the courts of Yahweh. My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. (WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Psalms 84:10 For a day in your courts is better than a thousand. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness. (WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Psalms 92:13 They are planted in Yahweh's house. They will flourish in our God's courts. (WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Psalms 96:8 Ascribe to Yahweh the glory due to his name. Bring an offering, and come into his courts. (WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Psalms 100:4 Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him, and bless his name. (WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Psalms 116:19 in the courts of Yahweh's house, in the midst of you, Jerusalem. Praise Yah! (WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Psalms 135:2 you who stand in the house of Yahweh, in the courts of our God's house. (WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Isaiah 1:12 When you come to appear before me, who has required this at your hand, to trample my courts? (WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Isaiah 62:9 but those who have garnered it shall eat it, and praise Yahweh; and those who have gathered it shall drink it in the courts of my sanctuary." (WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Ezekiel 9:7 He said to them, Defile the house, and fill the courts with the slain. Go forth! They went forth, and struck in the city. (WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Ezekiel 42:6 For they were in three stories, and they didn't have pillars as the pillars of the courts: therefore the uppermost was straitened more than the lowest and the middle from the ground. (WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS NAS NIV)
Ezekiel 46:22 In the four corners of the court there were courts enclosed, forty cubits long and thirty broad: these four in the corners were of one measure. (WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Ezekiel 46:23 There was a wall around in them, around the four, and boiling places were made under the walls all around. (See RSV NIV)
Amos 5:12 For I know how many your offenses, and how great are your sins- you who afflict the just, who take a bribe, and who turn aside the needy in the courts. (WEB NIV)
Amos 5:15 Hate evil, love good, and establish justice in the courts. It may be that Yahweh, the God of Armies, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph." (WEB NIV)
Zechariah 3:7 "Thus says Yahweh of Armies:'If you will walk in my ways, and if you will follow my instructions, then you also shall judge my house, and shall also keep my courts, and I will give you a place of access among these who stand by. (WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)