Deuteronomy 25:14-16

Blaine Robison, M.A.

Delivered 2 September 2017


Differing Weights Banned


"You are not to have in your house differing measures, large and small, 15 but you shall have a full and just weight, a full and just measure you shall have: in order that your days may be lengthened in the land which ADONAI your God gives to you. 16 For all who do such things, all who do injustice, are an abomination to ADONAI your God." (Devarim/Deuteronomy 25:14-16 mine)

HAFTARAH: "5 For your Maker is your husband, Adonai-Tzva’ot is His Name, and your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, will be called God of all the earth. … 7 For a brief moment I deserted you, but with great mercies I will gather you. 8 In a moment of wrath I hid My face from you, but with everlasting covenant loyalty I will have compassion," says ADONAI your Redeemer." (Yeshayahu/Isaiah 54:5, 7-8 mine)


Parashah Kee Tetze provides guidelines for a wide variety of subjects and the thread that runs through all of them is the concern for doing justice. The particular passage before us concerns the practice of buying and selling using a scale and in particular the fraudulent practice of using unequal weights, the lighter to sell with and the heavier to buy with. In verse 14 and 15 the word "measure" is eiphah, which refers to a measure used by farmers to sell grain. The prophet Amos criticized his hearers for making the eiphah small and the shekel great (Amos 8:5). In modern culture we call this practice price gouging, which is charging greatly inflated prices for basic necessities. We've heard stories of it recently in relation to the disaster in Texas.

Well, God called price gouging an abomination. The Hebrew word toebah in its normal meaning referred to something that stinks in the nostrils and is totally repulsive. In the Torah there are a number of behaviors God considers detestable. Most of them are capital crimes requiring the death penalty. Therefore God classifies price gouging and dishonest business practices as among the worst sins, as Solomon said, "Dishonest scales are an abomination to ADONAI, but an accurate weight is His delight" (Prov 11:1 TLV).

In verse 15 God used two adjectives to describe the kind of measure He wants. The first word Heb. shaleim, refers to giving a full or accurate weight. The second adjective is tsedeq, which means rightness, righteous or just. In relation to the weight tsedeq implies being right according to a defined standard. A few versions translate tsedeq with "fair" instead of "just," but in my view "fair" is an inadequate interpretation. In modern language "fairness" generally means getting what I want. However, justice is getting what God wants. There's a big difference between the two words.

God prefers one measure or one standard, not differing standards for His people. It is noteworthy that verse 14 says "in your house," which can be taken in two ways. Many times in the Tanakh the nation is referred to has the "house of Israel," meaning the household of Jacob (Isa 46:3). The Haftarah reminds us that ADONAI was the maker of the house of Israel, but it was because of their abominations that He hid His face from them. That is, He did not prevent the nation from suffering the wages of sin.

Yet, even in judgment ADONAI promised everlasting faithfulness to His covenant. God intended to gather His people back to Himself and back to their Land. In order to be brought back Israel would have to stop having differing weights. As Elijah challenged the people of his day, "How long will you waver between two opinions? If ADONAI is God, follow Him; but if Baal is, follow him" (1Kgs 18:21 TLV).

We should also consider that "house" is meant to be individual and personal. My house. Your house. God expects that our marriages and our homes will be characterized by a single unifying value system, at the center of which is devotion to the God of Israel. This is why God prohibited Israel from intermarrying with the idolatrous pagan tribes [Deut 7:3] and Paul echoed this rule for believers not to be unequally yoked [2Cor 6:14]. No house can survive being pulled in opposite directions.

Differing weights is like being double-minded, which Yeshua's brother Jacob warned brings instability [Jas 1:8]. Being double minded refers to being indecisive. I realize that is a weakness of men on a lot of subjects, but there should be no uncertainty in our basic values. God desires that we have a pure heart [Matt 5:8], that is, a heart that is single toward Him.

God offered a good motivation to obey His law. Doing justice and equity will bring down the blessing and presence of God. The way to have our days lengthened, and to prosper, is to live by His standard and be just and loving in all our dealings. To do that we need the commitment of Joshua, "As for me and my household we will serve ADONAI" (Josh 24:15 TLV).

Barukh Hashem

Copyright © 2017 by Blaine Robison. All rights reserved.