The Parashat Shoftim (“shoftim” means “judges” in Hebrew) reading is from Deuteronomy 16:18 – 21:9. The weekly reading from the prophets is Isaiah 51:12 – 52:12, and from the New Testament we read John 1:19-27.
One of the intriguing texts in this Shabbat’s reading is the issue of the blood avenger. The issue of the blood avenger starts with the second story of the book of Genesis. When God speaks to Cain:
“And He said, ‘What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries out to Me from the ground. 11 So now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand.’” – Genesis 4:10 [NKJV]
Innocent blood that is shed on the ground will forever have to be avenged. Sooner or later, God does see that the innocent blood will be avenged. This is a true principle.
At times it takes hundreds, and even thousands, of years for innocent blood to be avenged, but the best judge of such crimes is history itself (His Story). And history has proven that those who kill eventually pay for their crimes in one way or another.
Now in our Torah portion Shoftim, the difference between a premeditated murderer and those who have killed a person by mistake is being administrated, and the rules of engagement are being set for righteousness sake. The Torah does not judge with blindfolded eyes, but with the eyes of God’s wisdom and mercy.
On the other hand, the Torah states that a person who premeditates a murder should be dealt with in the following manner:
“You must show him no pity. Thus, you will purge Israel of the blood of the innocent, and it will go well with you.” – Deut. 19:13 [NJPS]
The Word of God instructs us not to have mercy on a murderer, but rather to purge “the blood of the innocent”. This is a major problem in today’s Western civilization. The law ignores the pain and the suffering of the victims and their family, and worries and stands with the rights of the criminals.
What the millennials say today is, “How does killing the murderer purge innocent blood?” The modern judgement seems to ask, “Who is the ‘innocent’ person?” The victim is already dead, and the only one now left is this poor murderer who will now suffer in jail 10 or 20 years, and be released. Let us help this poor murderer and not avenge the innocent blood that he shed on the ground.
The Word of God says, “You must show him no pity. Thus, you will purge Israel of the shedding of innocent blood, and it will go well with you.” This is what God commands Israel.
Suddenly, dear brothers and sisters, we, the human race, are those who know what is wise and what is righteous and just and right for humanity, better than Lord, who created the world and made us out of the dust of the Earth and the breath from His mouth.
The Lord, who created this world, and chose Israel, and gave us the Torah, is the one who is speaking to Moses, and through Moses to us Israel, and to the whole world. In other words, clean out bloodshed.
The blood of the innocent is an important topic through the whole Bible. Those who shed innocent blood must be purged, and if we don’t or can’t do the purging today, we must know that God Himself will judge and excise justice for the blood that was shed, so that it will go well with us.
I realize that this text from God’s Word seems not so politically correct for the eyes and ears of the modern world. Some people might say that the language of the word of God here is to be understood figuratively. As long as the murderer is not brought to justice, it is as if the blood of the murdered is exposed on the ground.
In other words, the ground does not accept it, and this blood is not covered. The blood that is not covered and not avenged continues to be a curse to the murderer and to the collective community, and the curse stays on the ground until it will be avenged.
See the following text from the words of Yeshua, that demonstrates this principle:
“Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.” – Matthew 23:34-36 [NKJV]
This text is interesting from a few different viewpoints. One of the more interesting points is that the Matthew text today speaks of the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah. Zechariah, son of Berechiah, is the famous Zechariah who wrote the book of Zechariah, one of the last prophets of the Old Testament.
But this Zechariah is not the Zechariah that was murdered between the Temple and the altar. The Zechariah that was killed between the Temple and altar is actually Zechariah the son of Jehoiada. This is the story to which Yeshua is referring in Matthew 23:34,35:
“Then the Spirit of God came upon Zechariah the son of Jehoiada the priest, who stood above the people, and said to them, ‘Thus says God: “Why do you transgress the commandments of the Lord, so that you cannot prosper? Because you have forsaken the Lord, He also has forsaken you.”’ So they conspired against him, and at the command of the king they stoned him with stones in the court of the house of the Lord.” – 2 Chronicles 24:20,21
So, how did Matthew write the wrong Zechariah? Did Yeshua make the mistake, and mix up the right Zechariah? No, Yeshua just said “Zechariah.” One of the early translators, a Greek brother who did not know the Bible very well, and knew the book of Zechariah the son of Berechiah, was thinking that he will help the reader and tell him which Zechariah Yeshua is speaking about.
So, the translator edited innocently and added the name of the famous Zechariah who wrote the book. Yeshua was actually referring to this other Zechariah that is only mentioned very few times in the book of 2 Chronicles chapter 24:20-21.
This is actually the Zechariah that was killed by the people inside the Temple, between the Temple building and the altar in the courtyard. Note the next verse:
“Thus Joash the king did not remember the kindness which Jehoiada his father had done to him, but killed his son; and as he died, he said, ‘The Lord look on it, and repay!’” – 2 Chronicles 24:22 [NKJV]
Note that upon his death in the temple, he said, “The Lord look on it, and repay.”
According to Jewish history, God did repay the innocent blood of Zechariah son of Jehoiada:
“R. Hiya b. Abin said in the name of R. Joshua b. Korhah: An old man from the inhabitants of Jerusalem told me that in this valley Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard killed two hundred and eleven myriads, and in Jerusalem he killed ninety-four myriads on one stone, until their blood went and joined that of Zechariah [Rashi: son of Jehoiada the priest, who was murdered in the Temple court by officers of Judah at the command of Joash, when the people were bowing down to Joash and worshipping him as a god], to fulfil the words, Blood touched blood (Hos. 4:2). He noticed the blood of Zechariah bubbling up warm and asked what it was. They said: It is the blood of the sacrifices which has been poured there. He had some blood brought, but it was different from the other. He then said to them: If you tell me [the truth], well and good, but if not, I will tear your flesh with combs of iron. They said: What can we say to you? There was a prophet among us who used to reprove us for our irreligion, and we rose up against him and killed him, and for many years his blood has not rested. He said to them: I will appease him. He brought the great Sanhedrin and the small Sanhedrin and killed them over him, but the blood did not cease. He then slaughtered young men and women, but the blood did not cease. He brought school-children and slaughtered them over it, but the blood did not cease. So he said; Zechariah, Zechariah. I have slain the best of them; do you want me to destroy them all? When he said this to him, it stopped. Straightway Nebuzaradan felt remorse. He said to himself: If such is the penalty for slaying one soul, what will happen to me who have slain such multitudes? So he fled away, and sent a deed to his house disposing of his effects and became a convert.” – Gittin 57b
This chapter in Jewish history clearly shows that the words of Zechariah son of Jehoiada, upon his death, were fulfilled by the Assyrian general Nebuzaradan, when he killed so many of the young priests. One thing we should know: God’s word is living, and God keeps His promises. If we don’t do justice, God will do the justice! He always does!
The world must know, and the church must know, that the innocent blood that has been and is shed in the world will be purged and atoned for by God.
Today’s political correctness is not the Law (Torah) of the Lord. The Torah of the Lord and His promises are always fulfilled, and will continue to be fulfilled, and we all must know that no one will escape the just judgment of God, either in this world or for eternity after the day of judgment.
This article originally appeared on Netivyah and is reposted with permission.