Mishpatim has the greatest contrast between the letter of the Law and its Spirit and it points out the great contrast between the natural man and the spiritual man. Are the letter and spirit of the Law opposed to each other in Mishpatim? Let’s find out.
This transcript is not exactly like the recording but it doesn’t vary by much and all the essential scriptures and quotes are there. Click here to listen to the Midrash. Some excellent comments were made and questions asked.
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Just as the letter of the Law contrasts the Spirit of the Law, so does the inclinations of the natural man contrast with the inclinations of the spiritual man. Our study of Mishpatim will point this out.
Mishpatim probably has the greatest contrast between the letter of the Law and its Spirit. Certainly, it points out the great contrast between the natural man and its inclinations compared to the inclinations of the spiritual man. But are the letter and spirit of the Law opposed to each other in Mishpatim? Let’s find out.
EYE FOR EYE
Mishpatim’ “eye for an eye” is called the Law of Retaliation, the outcome of man’s natural desire to punish others for wrongdoing. The “eye for eye” law says that criminals should receive as punishment precisely those injuries and damages they had inflicted upon their victims.
The Hebrew word ‘Mishpatim’ means ‘judgments’. These are court rulings. They have been decided in a court. Which court would it have been that decided these judgments that the Israelites are now hearing from Moses at Mount Sinai? These were gotten from Moses sitting on the mountain judging conflicts in Exodus 18:13.
What is the purpose of a judgment? To allow the collection of a debt but regulating the kind and extent of punishment. It is anywhere from:
Exodus 21:23 And if any injury occurs, then you shall give life for life,
Exodus 21:24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,
Exodus 21:25 burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.
Why was this Law of Judgments, Mishpatim, given? Paul explains why:
Gal 3:19 Why then the Law? It was added because of transgressions, until the Seed should come to those to whom it had been promised, being ordained through angels in the Mediator’s hand.
…Being ordained through messengers, prophets, in Moses’s hand. It was Moses who adjudicated these laws even before the Covenant was given. Yeshua would 1500 years later speak of the same thing but from a different viewpoint. He would explain that there is a higher standard for resolving conflicts and He give them another choice that they had not as yet figured out.
Moses had the right to make Law, according to Deuteronomy 17:8-13, and his judgments became Law, Mishpatim.
Deuteronomy 17:8 If a matter is too hard for you in judgment, between blood and blood, between plea and plea, and between stroke and stroke, matters of strife within your gates, then you shall arise and go up to the place which Jehovah your God shall choose.
Deuteronomy 17:9 And you shall come to the priests of the Levites, and to the judge that shall be in those days, and ask. And they shall declare to you the sentence of judgment [Mishpat].
Deuteronomy 17:10 And you shall do according to the sentence which they declare to you from that place which Jehovah shall choose. And you shall be careful to do according to all that they tell you.
Deuteronomy 17:11 According to the sentence of the law which they shall teach you and according to the judgment which they shall tell you, you shall do. You shall not turn aside from the sentence which they shall show you, to the right hand or the left.
Deuteronomy 17:12 And the man that acts proudly and will not listen to the priest who stands to minister there before Jehovah your God, or to the judge, even that man shall die. And you shall put away the evil from Israel.
Deuteronomy 17:13 And all the people shall hear and fear, and not be presumptuous anymore.
Moses was Israel’s first judge and his sentences became law. So while our forefathers were committing crimes against each other in the wilderness and even back in Egypt, and wanting retribution and vengeance, Moses was judging those matters and declaring sentences that became judgments, Mishpatim AKA the Law of Retaliation and part of our torah.
Retaliation in Israel began with the conflict between Esau and Jacob and then between Jacob’s 12 sons who have been at each other’s throats for over 3700 years. Look what they did to Joseph. He could have retaliated exceedingly but he didn’t. They thought he might. Why didn’t Joseph retaliate? It goes forward to Matthew 5:1-12. Blessed be the, blessed are the… Joseph understood way back then what Moses understood later but had to write into Law and Yeshua would teach on the Mountain of Beatitudes.
Later, the Israelites were at each other’s throats in Egypt which is why they could not stand up united against Pharoah and avoid their slavery. The slavery in itself was a “natural results” punishment that happened because they would not love each other. They were looking for retaliation and vengeance every time they brought a conflict to Moses. The fact that he had to judge these matters tells us what they were doing to each other in Egypt even before the Exodus and what they brought out of Egypt with them.
Unresolved conflicts divide and division causes defeat! A house divided cannot stand. The only way that first generation became united was when the lamb’s blood was put on the doorpost and they left Egypt together. But as soon as they were out of Egypt, it was back to the same old confrontations until Moses was wearing himself out trying to fix everyone’s problems with each other!
Their hard hearts and desire to do harm for harm done led to the addition of these Mishpatim, the judgments.
Like Moses at Mount Sinai, Yeshua began His ministry on a mountain by addressing the issues and conflicts facing the Israelites in Judea. Fifteen hundred years later, those same issues were still not only unresolved but had grown to much greater proportions. Their continued disunity was so great that they had been unable to have a united 12-tribed Kingdom in that 1500 year period for no more than 40 years under King David. So, Yeshua addressed the retaliation and vengeance issues of that day, but He gave them another choice.
Matthew 5:38 You have heard that it was said: “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth;” Ex. 21:24; Lev. 24:20; Deut. 19:21
Matthew 5:39 but I say to you, Do not resist the evil; but whoever strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other to him also.
Matthew 5:40 And to him desiring to sue you, and to take your tunic, allow him also to have the coat.
Matthew 5:41 And whoever shall compel you to go one mile, go two with him.
Matthew 5:42 He asking you to give, and he wishing to borrow from you, do not turn away.
Yeshua addressed their desire for retaliation and vengeance part of which was the seeking of a Messiah to rescue them from Rome. They first needed to rescue themselves from their own wickedness.
What did Yeshua say before He addressed the “eye for an eye” Law of Retaliation in Mishpatim?
Matthew 5:2 And opening His mouth, He taught them, saying:
Matthew 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit! For theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.
Blessed are those who recognize their own spiritual poverty because they are operating out of the folly of the natural man. The Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who recognize the evil of their natural desires but instead choose to operate through YHVH’s Spirit like Moses did.
Matthew 5:4 Blessed are the ones who mourn! For they shall be comforted.
This goes back to Ezekiel 9 to those who mourn over the destruction of the altar. In Yeshua’s day, the altar was defiled because of the ruination of the entire Temple system. But it wasn’t just this that the people mourned over. They also mourned over their unresolved conflicts with each other and the fact that they still have a captor, Rome. And they had Rome a captor for the same reason their ancestors were captives in Egypt.
Matthew 5:5 Blessed are the meek! For they shall inherit the earth. Psa. 37:11
The Hebrew word for ‘meek’ is ‘anav’. Its first use in scripture is when Miriam got Aaron to help her oppose Moses because of her jealousy of him in Numbers 12. Moses was ‘anav’, humble, the most humble man on the face of the earth. But what does that mean? It means that he did not defend himself or seek retaliation or vengeance. Sitting on that mountain judging conflicts and seeing that the natural man will not be satisfied with any punishment handed out taught Moses to let YHVH handle situations.
David also understood that falling into the hands of men was far worse than being punished by YHVH. When he had sinned in doing the census, the prophet Gad offered David 3 options: 7 years of famine, fleeing for 3 months before his enemies, or 3 days of plague.
2 Samuel 24:14 And David said to Gad, I am in great distress. Let us fall now into the hand of Jehovah, for His mercies are great. And do not let me fall into the hand of man.
Such is man’s natural hatred and wickedness that it cannot be satisfied even through Laws designed to do just that.
The Law of Retaliation is YHVH’s answer, through Moses, to the hideousness of man’s desire for unlimited punishment of others and is there to show us how we are not to act. It is there for our education, just like Paul said of the schoolmaster in the same chapter 3 of Galatians from where I quoted earlier.
Matthew 5:6 Blessed are they who hunger and thirst after righteousness! For they shall be filled.
Matthew 5:7 Blessed are the merciful! For they shall obtain mercy.
Matthew 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart! For they shall see God.
Matthew 5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers! For they shall be called sons of God.
Mishpatim, judgments, the Law of Retaliation, are designed for people to collect a debt through punishment of the one who harmed them. But…
Matthew 6:9 Therefore pray in this way: Our Father, who is in Heaven, Hallowed be Your name.
Matthew 6:10 Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.
Matthew 6:11 Give us this day our daily bread;
Matthew 6:12 and forgive us our debts as [or like] we also forgive our debtors.
Luke says it this way:
Luke 11:4 and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
That is what Yeshua spoke even before He got to the “eye for an eye” law, the Mishpatim judgments.
We have all done hurts to others and they have done hurts to us. Is the solution more and more and greater and greater punishment of each other? Or is the solution forgiveness of each other? This is the Spirit of the Law of Mishpatim, the judgments, the Law of Retaliation. Forgiveness, not retribution.
Forgiveness is the opposite of the Mishpatim judgments, the laws regulating retaliation, isn’t it? It appears to oppose Mishpatim, doesn’t it? Yes, it does. Was Yeshua doing away with Mishpatim, then?
No, but He was explaining what 1500 years of spiritual blindness could not see. There is a choice between the natural and spiritual inclinations of man. Both are legal in YHVH’s Kingdom but which serves the Kingdom better? The option that a person chooses shows whether he is operating from the natural or spiritual. Is he following the letter of the Law, the natural inclination, or is he making the spiritual and wiser choice of forgiveness?
Let’s read again the Law of Retaliation which summarizes all of what Mishpatim is about:
Exodus 21:23 And if any injury occurs, then you shall give life for life,
Exodus 21:24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot,
Exodus 21:25 burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.
Oh! There’s one. Yeshua’s stripes. Has He retaliated for His undeserved stripes on our behalf? No! He took our deserved stripes! You see, there is another choice. You do not have to retaliate for injuries to yourself. In fact, the law of love says you will absorb the injury and let YHVH deal with it.
Matthew 24:35 The heaven and the earth shall pass away, but My Words shall not pass away.
So, His Law is His Law. It will all remain. Mishpatim, the judgments, will always be with us even if it’s only as a reminder of what we once were (and still are at this point). His lesson in the Beatitudes is one of choosing what Moses chose – non-retaliation for what others do to us and even going a step further to bless and pray for those who hurt us (Matthew 5:43-48).
Why would YHVH allow retaliation when non-retaliation is the better choice? Because of how many of His people walk after the natural rather than the spiritual. YHVH is so merciful that He allows people to be blind to what is better until such time as they cry out for what is better! In fact, scripture says in many places that YHVH Himself blinds their eyes because of their stubbornness.
Isaiah 6:9 He said, “Go, and tell this people, ‘You hear indeed, but don’t understand; and you see indeed, but don’t perceive.’
That’s the natural man. Hears but does not understand; sees and does not perceive. The manifestation of this is in those who “just don’t get it” when it comes to YHVH’s Word.
Isaiah 6:10 Make the heart of this people fat. Make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and turn again, and be healed.”
The Spirit Of Mishpatim In Mishpatim
All that said, Mishpatim does not start with the Law of Retaliation. While the Law of Retaliation does exist in this Torah Portion, it starts with the Spirit of the Law. It starts with how YHVH wants his people to be – servants to each other.
Exodus 21:1 And these are the judgments [mishpatim] which you shall set before them.
This is YHVH speaking to Moses. YHVH is giving these Mishpatim judgments. But I just said they came from Moses. How can that be?
Matthew 18:15 But if your brother shall trespass against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.
Matthew 18:16 But if he will not hear you, take one or two more with you, so that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
Matthew 18:17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he neglects to hear the church, let him be to you as a heathen and a tax-collector.
Matthew 18:18 Truly I say to you, Whatever you shall bind on earth shall occur, having been bound in Heaven; and whatever you shall loose on earth shall occur, having been loosed in Heaven.
The Matthew 18 protocol for conflict resolution binds and looses in heaven whatever is bound or loosed on the earth when this protocol is followed. Matthew 18 comes from Deuteronomy 17 which, after a matter has been judged, it becomes Law. In other words, it is bound in Heaven.
YHVH was telling Moses to announce the judged matters and their sentences that they had been bringing to them on the mountain. But first, YHVH would tell Moses, “Start with this. This is how I really want my people to behave”.
Exodus 21:2 If you buy a Hebrew servant [ebed], he shall serve six years. And in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing.
YHVH’s Kingdom is a service Kingdom. Everyone are servants, even Israel’s King, Yeshua.
Matthew 20:28 even as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.
Israel is called the servant of YHVH in Leviticus 25:55, Isaiah 41:8, 44:1 and 49:3, and Luke 1:54.
YHVH is trying to create a service-oriented and equality-based Kingdom where everyone takes care of everyone else and cares more about the other guy than himself. This is how everyone remains equal in this Covenant.
Additionally, the Law about how to treat servants is YHVH explaining how He will treat His people and this is how we are to treat each other. It was this from which Yeshua drew on the Mountain of Beatitudes.
James well explains the better spiritual theme of Mishpatim.
James 2:14 My brothers, what profit is it if a man says he has faith and does not have works? Can faith save him?
James 2:15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food,
James 2:16 and if one of you says to them, Go in peace, be warmed and filled, but you do not give them those things which are needful to the body, what good is it?
We are all servants and we each should be taking care of everyone else more than ourselves.
Philippians 2:3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves.
I have said it over the years and will say many more times, I’m sure. If each individual will make sure everyone else is taken care of first, every individual will have all of their own needs met. In a room with 100 people, and I am making sure all of those other 99 are fed, have water, clothing, places to live away from the elements, are protected, provided for, encouraged, loved and happy, then all of my own needs will be met automatically because 99 other people are looking out for me! I look out for the 99 and the 99 look out for me! This is Yeshua’s justice and this is the Covenant He made with the children of Israel at Mount Sinai. That Covenant is not just rules, it is the Spirit of the Kingdom of Israel, the Spirit of our God and King.
No one is better or more important than anyone else. We have different jobs to do in the Kingdom and the Kingdom needs everyone doing the job that is assigned to us, but our jobs do not make some more important than others on the social scale.
We are not to be served, but to serve. Servants who are busy serving others don’t have time for the nonsense of conflicts. Servants want to resolve the conflicts, be peace makers, and move on to be about their Father’s business, the business of running the Kingdom so that Gentiles can be saved and enter. Service is another word for love.
John 13:34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. As I have loved you, you should also love one another.
John 13:35 By this all shall know that you are My disciples, if you have love [give service] toward one another.
And what does love in YHVH’s Kingdom look like? It does have an external appearance. So what does love look like? If we serve one another, the world will say we love one another other. If we don’t serve one another, the world will say we hate each other. It is really that simple. This is the spiritual understanding of the law of Hebrew servants.
In Exodus 21:1-2, YHVH has made provision for one of His needy servants to get help from another of His not-so-needy servants. Our King provides help for His people through other people. This is a service Kingdom and culture.
This is part of YHVH’s economic system, too, but it has regulations for mutual benefit of both parties, the one who needs a do-over and the one who can provide the do-over. YHVH made this a judgment, a mishpat, because of how oppressors turn others into slaves.
YHVH does not allow slavery, the lifetime oppression of people. In YHVH’s system, servant have rights and anything less that the kind of treatment specified in the judgments, the mishpatim, is sin, a crime against the people and the Kingdom.
If there is to be a lifelong commitment to the one called “master”, it must come from the servant whom the master helped. It must never be imposed by the master. The Jews made this terrible mistake of imposing lifetime slavery on their Hebrew brethren in Jeremiah 34 for which YHVH sent the sword of Babylon after them.
Now let’s talk about the Hebrew maiden and the prevention of her mistreatment.
Exodus 21:8 If she does not please her master, who has betrothed [lo ya’ad] her to himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He shall have no power to sell her to a strange nation, since he has dealt deceitfully [bagad] with her.
There are two problems with most of the English translations. The first is that the Hebrew he is NOT betrothed to her. The Hebrew word, ‘lo’, Strong’s H3808, means ‘no’ and ‘not’ but it is left untranslated in most English versions.
The Literal Standard and Young’s Literal versions both have this correct, that this man is not betrothed to this maiden. He doesn’t owe her the rights of betrothal.
Ellicott’s Commentary says “The reading is to be preferred which gives the opposite sense–“who hath not betrothed her”.
Perhaps there was supposed to be a future offer of betrothal but, at this point, he has not betrothed her. About this situation, the translations say, “He has dealt deceitfully with her”.
The Hebrew word there is ‘bagad’, bet gimel dalet, Strong’s H897, which is translated as treachery throughout scripture. But remembering that ancient Hebrew has no vowel points, we may come to understand this mistake.
There is another Hebrew word from the same root which means “covering” or “to cover”. It is Strong’s H899, ‘beged’, again bet gimel dalet. This covering is not the same word used for most articles of clothing, although a beged in ancient Israel was the outer garment they wore. But I think there is a different meaning here.
What is a covering, spiritually speaking? It is her protection and provision. If we put ourselves in her shoes for a moment, I think we can understand this.
She is a maiden, never married, and probably sold to this man by her family for up to 6 years (not forever) and they will get her back after that time. The man will provide the maiden with provision of food, clothing, lodging and protection of her life, security. In other words, he was her covering, her beged.
Selling her would have been done by her father to help a bad financial situation. He sold her to the man in exchange for money with the understanding that the man will be free to marry her if he so chooses. If he does not choose to marry her, he has options.
You see, YHVH does not leave us with no options. Instead, He gives us options. This man’s options are to let her be redeemed by her family or give her to his son (Exodus 21:8).
Since he was her covering, he cannot mistreat her by enforcing the Law of Retaliation against her because she displeased him, by selling her to a foreigner of another nation. This is to prevent her from becoming a slave of any kind, including a sex slave.
Exodus 21:9 And if he has betrothed her to his son, he shall deal with her as with daughters.
She becomes his daughter. She cannot be mistreated by this man for any reason even if she displeases him. The most he can do is let her family redeem her or allow his son to take her as his wife. Mercy. If the son takes her, he cannot ever reduce her provision and protection including her conjugal rights which make it possible to bear children (Exodus 21:10).
If the son does not continue taking care of her properly, then she can go free (Exodus 21:11). But this will shine the light on what kind of man he is.
Isaiah tells what Mishpatim will look like in our future.
Isaiah 52:1 Awake! Awake! Put on your strength, Zion; put on your beautiful robes, O Jerusalem, the holy city. For never again shall uncircumcised and unclean ones come to you.
Isaiah 52:2 Shake yourself from the dust; rise up! Sit, Jerusalem; free yourself from your neck bands, O captive daughter of Zion.
Isaiah 52:3 For so says Jehovah: You were sold for nothing, and you will not be redeemed with silver.
Isaiah 52:4 For so says the Lord Jehovah: My people went down to Egypt at the first, to reside there, and without cause Assyria oppressed him.
Isaiah 52:5 So then what is to Me here, declares Jehovah? For My people is taken for nothing; those ruling howl, declares Jehovah. And My name is continually despised, every day.
Isaiah 52:6 So My people shall know My name thus in that day; for I am He speaking. Behold Me!
Isaiah 52:7 How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of him proclaiming good news, making peace heard, bearing tidings of good, making heard salvation, saying to Zion, Your God reigns.
Isaiah 52:8 The voice of your watchmen, they lift the voice together, they sing aloud. For they shall see eye to eye when Jehovah brings back Zion.
Eye TO eye rather than eye FOR eye.
The reason we cannot find love among us is because we still refuse to serve, we refuse to put others before ourselves. This selfishness has consequences for everyone in the past, present and future.
Let’s talk about what our Covenant is supposed to be and what is will be in the future.
Matthew 25:31 But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He shall sit on the throne of His glory.
Matthew 25:32 And all nations shall be gathered before Him. And He shall separate them from one another, as a shepherd divides the sheep from the goats.
He is talking about the end of the 6,000 years going into the 7th Millennium when He will judge His people and all nations just as He is arriving on the earth. Why is He judging the nations with His people? Because Israel has been scattered in the nations for 2700+ years and He now wants to see if Israel has taught the Covenant to the nations and if the nations have learned the Covenant.
From the time of the giving of the Law, Israel was supposed to teach the nations YHVH’s justice, and they were supposed to be able to progress toward understanding and doing the spirit of the law rather than adhering to the letter of it. The reason the Talmud exists is because of spiritual blindness. The Jews’ spiritual blindness is the result of continuing only in the letter of the law to the satisfaction of the natural man over progressing to walk in the Spirit of the Law which satisfies the spiritual man.
Matthew 25:33 And indeed He shall set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats off the left.
Being set on His right hand has to do with whether or not we created in us a righteous and resurrectable seed. The sheep will enter His Kingdom, the goats will not.
Matthew 25:34 Then the King shall say to those on His right hand, Come, blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
Matthew 25:35 For I was hungry, and you gave me food; I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and you took Me in;
Matthew 25:36 I was naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.
When did YHVH say these are the things Israelites are supposed to do? In Exodus 21 to 24, in the Torah Portion called Mishpatim.
Matthew 25:37 Then the righteous shall answer Him, saying, Lord, when did we see You hungry, and fed You? Or thirsty, and gave You drink?
Matthew 25:38 When did we see You a stranger, and took You in? Or naked, and clothed You?
Matthew 25:39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and came to You?
It is interesting that those who serve do so to the point that they don’t view their service as somehow extraordinary.
Matthew 25:40 And the King shall answer and say to them, Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brothers, you have done it to Me.
Who is protected the most in YHVH’s Spirit of the Law? The least among us.
Who identifies others as “least” and “great”? The natural man! The spiritual man doesn’t see “least”, “not as good”, “not as worthy”, etc.. Those are labels that come from the natural and rebellious man. The spiritual man sees everyone as equal or better.
Matthew 25:41 Then He also shall say to those on the left hand, Depart from Me, you cursed, into everlasting fire prepared for the Devil and his angels.
Those who never progress to the Spirit of the Law cannot enter the Kingdom because, in the final analysis, the Kingdom is a service nation. Those who refuse to humble themselves to serve others just won’t fit in there. The unrighteous, the non-servants, will be told to depart from Him because they neither learned to serve or care for others.
Matthew 25:42 For I was hungry, and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty, and you gave Me no drink;
Matthew 25:43 I was a stranger and you did not take Me in; I was naked, and you did not clothe Me; I was sick, and in prison, and you did not visit me.
Matthew 25:44 Then they will also answer Him, saying, Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to You?
Matthew 25:45 Then He shall answer them, saying, Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.
You nations, your justice is perverted and skewed toward the greatest, not the least!
Matthew 25:46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into everlasting life.
What more can be said?
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