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The Law of Equal Weights and Measures

Dec 17, 2007

One of the more "weighty" laws in the Bible is found in Lev. 19:35-36. However, this law almost seems out of place, for it is positioned immediately after verse 34, which at first glance appears to be an entirely different law. But once we understand it, we can then see the relationship between these two laws:

(34) "The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God."

(35) "You shall do no wrong in judgment, in measurement of weight, or capacity. (36) You shall have just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin; I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt."

In practical life, the law of just weights and measures meant that there was to be a single standard of weights of measures, and of capacity in measuring out an "ephah" or a "hin". An ephah was a unit of "dry" measure used for grain, equal to about 8 quarts. A hin was a unit of liquid measure, equal to about one gallon.

The law does not specify that an ephah or a hin must have any particular capacity. But whatever the nation uses, it must be consistent and equal. Such a law is important. Suppose gasoline stations today each advertised its price in gallons, but they each made up their own definition of a gallon. The gasoline stations could reduce their gallons instead of raising their prices, in order to look more competitive.

So the practical, literal application of this law is very important even today, and every nation recognizes this. But then there is the spiritual application of this law. Jesus said in Matt. 7:1, 2,

" (1) Do not judge [krino], lest you be judged. (2) For in the way you judge, you will be judged, and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you."

Jesus was applying the law of equal weights and measures to one's relationship with others. It is said that we tend to judge others by their actions and ourselves by our intentions. When we do wrong, we want others to know that our intentions were good, but we often judge the actions of others without first learning their intentions. Jesus was telling us that in the Divine Court, we will all be judged according to our own standard of measure--according to how we judge others.

If we use the picture of a balance, which is used to weigh things, let us say that we want to weigh our own sin. We put our sin on one side of the balance, and put a huge weight on the other side. This makes it look like our sin is really quite light in comparison to the big weight on the other side. But when we weigh someone else's sin, we use a lighter weight in order to make it look like their sin is much heavier.

This is a picture of judging the gravity of sin differently, and it is how we violate this law. In the Divine Court, there is equal justice for all. God looks not only upon the action but also upon the heart, and He does so equally with all men. The Divine Court is our standard of Christian behavior. We judge countless little things every day, for the word also means "discernment." Judgment has to do with the discernment process, which can be either good or bad, depending upon HOW one judges.

Much of the Christian life is about learning how to judge righteously. Jesus was not telling us to refrain from all judgment, but to refrain from unjust judgment. Man looks on the outside; God looks upon the heart. In John 5:30, Jesus said, "as I hear, I judge." The same word, krino, is used here as in Matt. 7:1. He told the people in John 7:24, "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment."

Later, Paul said in 1 Cor. 6:2 that "the saints will judge the world." So Matt. 7:1 should not be taken as an absolute prohibition upon all judgment, for then we would not be able to discern or determine truth from falsehood. I believe that Matt. 7:1 should be interpreted by Jesus' words in John 7:24 (above). He is saying that we should be very careful to judge all things in the way that God would judge, because we will be judged by that same standard of measure.

In other words, if I misjudge others and perhaps falsely accuse others of something, God will probably see to it that I myself am falsely accused and misjudged, so that I will come to learn how false accusation affects others. Then I will not be so quick to judge others.

When we link the law of equal weights and measures with the previous verse (Lev. 19:34), as Moses did, we see that this law is to be applied equally between Israelites and non-Israelites. Some have tried to argue that "aliens" refers to Israelites living abroad, but the verse itself tells us the true purpose and application of the law when it says, "for you were aliens in the land of Egypt." In other words, you Israelites know how you were mistreated in Egypt, because you were aliens there. I caused the Egyptians to mistreat you as aliens, so that you would know what it felt like to be treated unequally. For this reason, I say that you are not to mistreat any alien living in your country.

This law has application to the "chosen people" concept. I do not deny that there is a "chosen people" in Scripture, for even the New Testament speaks of them as "the elect" or "the election." These "elect" are the ones called to rule--that is, elected to rule impartially. As I said in my book, Who are the Israelites?, it has to do with being overcomers--those called to reign with Christ and to judge the world righteously.

Impartiality in judgment is one of the main criteria of being an overcomer. It is the primary law of all rulers in the law (Ex. 23:1-9; James 2:1-4). In Exodus 23:9 the instruction about judging impartially and righteously ends with: "And you shall not oppress a stranger, since you yourselves know the feelings of a stranger, for you also were strangers in the land of Egypt."

It is unfortunate that in later years Jews got so hung up on their special status with God that they thought of all non-Jews as "dogs," "beasts," and "cattle" (in the Jewish Talmud). They obviously did not understand the divine law by the mind of Christ. The only recollection they had of the Egyptian bondage was how badly the Egyptians treated God's chosen ones. They thought that the Messiah would come to enthrone the rabbis and priests over all those despised aliens and turn them into slaves. So they missed God's purpose for the Egyptian bondage, revealed in Ex. 23:9.

God loves His entire creation, and in the Age to come, He will not put anyone into a position of rulership over them unless they LOVE all of His creation. If the laws of equal weights and measures are not written on their hearts, they will not qualify as overcomers and priests in the first resurrection. Salvation is not the issue, of course; rulership is the issue, along with determining WHEN believers will be given immortality (life).

This law also has application to immigrants in any nation. Of course, the problem of illegalimmigration is a separate issue, and we do not have the time to discuss it here. But even so, whether with legal or illegal immigrants, we ought to treat them as Jesus would. We should not despise or mistreat them as people.

Being judgmental toward others is evidence that one is using the law with a carnal mindset, rather than with the mind of Christ. The law is not the problem; the problem is its interpretation and application. Only when we are able to see the law through the eyes of Christ will we truly know the intent of the law and be able to apply it with equal justice for all.

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Category: God's Law

Dr. Stephen Jones

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