Our nation is once again in the midst of controversy regarding the appointing of a Supreme Court justice. Those on the left and those on the right will wrangle and grapple through the process, each having their own opinions on what makes a good judge. But does the Bible have any guidance for us on the matter?
In Exodus 18:13-23, the appointing of judges was suggested by Moses’ father-in-law as a way to take the burden off of the prophet. The hopeful outcome of this system was that “all this people will also go to their place in peace” (Ex. 18:23). Jethro’s advice to Moses was to choose men with certain qualities. They were to be:
Able. This meant they were to be competent and able to perform their duties; men who would do their work with all their strength (Ecc. 9:10; Col. 3:17). A good judge would use their skills to the maximum!
Reverent. Reverence is seen in God’s people throughout the Bible. Examples such as the Hebrew midwives (Exodus 1:17-21) who valued life because they fear God, and men like Job who withstood hardship because he feared the Lord (Job 1:1). Good judges will be people who have wisdom (Psalm 111:10) and know the meaning of life (Ecc. 12:13) because they understand that God is supreme.
True. To be a lover of truth means to recognize there is right and wrong, and judge accordingly (John 7:24). Good judges will be lovers of God’s word (John 17:17; Psalm 119:160), not inventors of ways to let evil off the hook (Romans 1:32), and not hypocrites who don’t practice what they prescribe for others (Rom. 2:1-3).
Honest. Bribery has always been an issue among judges, apparently. Israel’s sins included judges taking bribes (Micah 7:3). The judges Moses appointed were to be “haters of covetousness,” which meant they would value justice over materialism, thus rejecting bribes.
These values from the Old Testament account are descriptive of general principles for righteous judges in our own time. Since a Supreme Court justice would certainly be a part of the civil legal system that Romans 13:1-7 covers, we understand that biblical morals would be a great benefit to being “God’s minister to you for good” (Rom. 13:4). Let us pray for our nation during this time, that judges with these qualities may be found!