Abraham asked the question, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” (Genesis 18.25).
Deuteronomy set forth statutes that declare with a resounding voice, “Yes. The Judge of all the earth does what is just and expects his people to live up to his standard.”
— Deuteronomy 16.18-20 – Judges were to show no favoritism, take no bribes, and render just decisions for the people.
— Deuteronomy 19.1-13 – Cities of refuge were provided to limit revenge.
God set forth requirements for the testimony of witnesses.
The witness acted as both witness and the prosecuting attorney in the ancient world. One witness was not enough to influence the decision of the court. Two truthful witnesses were needed.
— Deuteronomy 19.15-19 – A single witness shall not suffice to convict a person of any crime or wrongdoing in connection with any offense that may be committed. Only on the evidence of two or three witnesses shall a charge be sustained.
If a malicious witness comes forward to accuse someone of wrongdoing, then both parties to the dispute shall appear before the Lord, before the priests and the judges who are in office in those days,
And the judges shall make a thorough inquiry. If the witness is a false witness, having testified falsely against another,
Then you shall do to the false witness just as the false witness had meant to do to the other. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.
You can imagine that one witness would be a case of “their word against mine” and would be invalid. Two or three witnesses were needed for a valid court case.
One of the Ten Commandments was concerned with being a false witness: “Neither shall you bear false witness against your neighbor” (Deuteronomy 5.20).
This passage states the penalty for a false witness is to experience the judgment they were conspiring against another person.
False Witnesses and Jesus
When Jesus stood before the religious authorities, who were charged with providing justice to the nation, false witnesses were employed.
Matthew 26.59-61 – Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for false testimony against Jesus so that they might put him to death,
But they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward
And said, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.’”
In the very place where justice was supposed to be employed, injustice reigned. In violation of the law those who were charged with upholding the law perverted it.
Later when they stood before Pilate, he told them, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.”
Pilate knew the evil schemes of the religious authorities and he declared his innocence of their plot.
The religious authorities were joined by the crowd and said, “His blood be on us and on our children!'” (Matthew 27.24-25).
Whether they realized it or not, they were condemning themselves according to Deuteronomy 19.19, “Then you shall do to the false witness just as the false witness had meant to do to the other.”
God’s Creative Justice
The justice of Deuteronomy was retributive. It said, “Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot” (Deuteronomy 19.21).
An “eye for an eye” and “tooth for tooth” were not cruel retribution. If an eye was lost, only an eye could be taken. The reaction to a crime was limited to the exact harm created by the perpetrator.
God has another kind of justice for humans. His justice absorbs the hurt of the crime, extends forgiveness, and creates a new person.
Paul knew God’s creative justice and wrote, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation;
That is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself,[d] not counting their trespasses against them (2 Corinthians 5.17-19).
Praise God for his justice and his loving creative justice.
About This Blog
Rudy Ross has studied the role of two witnesses for many years. The YouTube video that Rudy and I have produced will add to your understanding of two witnesses. It can be found on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel.
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