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In the Gates


Appeal--This provision is not exactly a form of appeal, but it’s easy enough to see how such a practice could derive from what we see here.

The fifth commandment

Deuteronomy 17.8-13

If any case arises requiring decision between one kind of homicide and another, one kind of legal right and another, or one kind of assault and another, any case within your towns that is too difficult for you, then you shall arise and go up to the place that the LORD your God will choose. And you shall come to the Levitical priests and to the judge who is in office in those days, and you shall consult them, and they shall declare to you the decision. Then you shall do according to what they declare to you from that place that the LORD will choose. And you shall be careful to do according to all that they direct you. According to the instructions that they give you, and according to the decision which they pronounce to you, you shall do. You shall not turn aside from the verdict that they declare to you, either to the right hand or to the left. The man who acts presumptuously by not obeying the priest who stands to minister there before the LORD your God, or the judge, that man shall die. So you shall purge the evil from Israel. And all the people shall hear and fear and not act presumptuously again.”

1 Corinthians 16.15, 16; 1 Thessalonians 5.12, 13; Hebrews 13.17

This provision is not exactly a form of appeal, but it’s easy enough to see how such a practice could derive from what we see here. Higher courts existed to help those a local levels decide cases too hard for them. It’s interesting to note that the ultimate court in Israel was both sacred and secular: it was comprised of both a judge and a priest (or priests).

Decisions of these “higher courts” were final; all were expected to carry out their judgments in a fair and efficient manner. We cannot help but note the deterrent effect of such speedy justice. The people would see the judgments of courts carried out quickly and thoroughly, and they would fear to find themselves at odds with the Law of God.

This series of In the Gates we present a detailed explanation of the Law of God, beginning with the Ten Commandments, and working through the statutes and rules that accompany each commandment. For a practical guide to the role of God’s Law in the practice of ethics, get The Ground for Christian Ethics by going to and click on our Book Store.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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