Posted by: mattcolvin | September 13, 2011

Mishpat in Judges 13 and 1 Samuel 8


It is interesting that when Samuel warns Israel about what they will suffer from the king they so greatly desire (1 Samuel 8), he introduces his speech with the words:

זה יהיה משפט המלך

It’s the second to last word that is interesting. It is mishpat, usually rendered as “justice.” But the behavior in question is anything but justice: the confiscation of property, the “taking” of sons and daughters for service.

Perhaps it is illuminating to see another use of the word in Judges 13. Manoah asks the angel of God, מה-יהיה משפט-הנער , that is “What shall be the mishpat of the boy?” the angel’s response is to repeat the prohibitions on cutting hair and eating the fruit of the vine which he had previous spoken to Manoah’s wife: these things constitute the “justice” of Samson.

Something like “regimen” or “usual behavior” seems to fit.


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