In the Parasha we read that Moses prophesied the 78,600 judges. According to all Meforshim each one was appointed to a specific group of people.

But did he also prophesied the division of the Israeli nation into groups of tens and fifties and hundreds and thousands? If no, what's in the name of the judges, if yes, what was the division based on? (A bonus question - the tribes did not count full thousands and even hundreds - did some judges worked with more that one tribe?)

  • Wrong number again. I also don't understand why he would need to divide the nation into groups of 10, 50, 100 and 1000. What does that have to do with anything? Feb 5, 2018 at 18:41
  • @רבות This is how we understood the job titles - Sarei Asarot - one to ten people (actually nine families, excluding his own) etc. Otherwise, how do you think they divided the work?
    – Al Berko
    Feb 7, 2018 at 0:17
  • They divided the work based on whoever would come to them. Only the choosing of the judges was done at a ratio of 1 to 10/50/100/1000, not that only those people could come to them. Feb 7, 2018 at 3:00
  • @רבותמחשבות Do you mean like -"Yosi, you're Sar Meot!", -"Oh, great, what Meah? Who's the Meah?" - "Doesn't matter, you got the job!".
    – Al Berko
    Dec 8, 2018 at 16:45
  • yes, exactly. Sort of like we have beis din nowadays, anyone can come. Dec 8, 2018 at 23:54

1 Answer 1


Rav Hirsch points out that the way this was done was to choose

not one placed over a thousand but rather one picked out of a thousand as "the best and most capable". A שר אלף was one chosen out of a thousand, a שר מאה one chosen out of a hundred etc. It is evident that if one first gathers the nation in groups of of a thousand and extracts the best of each thousand, then in groups of a hundred and picks out the best of each group, an so on until groups of ten, there will be four groups of men, each group being superior in character and ability to the preceding one. If we consider, as seems to be deduced from Deut. I,13 that all these men who were to receive appointment were nominated by the people themselves, and only confirmed and appointed by Moses - there it says "choos", literally give - for yourselves men of wisdom and insight, who are known to yoour tribes, them I will set at you head" - then this mode of choosing seems even more to the point. Each thousand had first to pick out the best and most efficient man and then each hundred and so on until the smallest voting groups of tens So that four grades of efficiency and trustworthiness were formed, each one superior to the next.

From memory, there are those who say that from five groups of שרי עשר , the best person was chosen to be a שר חמישים. From two of those groups, the best was chosen as a שר מאה and from ten of those a שר אלף.

Thanks to @רבות מחשבות for pointing to Why does Yisro recommend so many judges? and Yisro 18:21

However, there are those who say that this is not so (but more like Rav Hirsch) That the groups of the tens got together to vote on the best and so forth. This is because each group had specific duties which did not overlap as the different groups of judges (up to the Sanhedrin in Yerushalaim) were set up in Eretz Yisrael.


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