Deuteronomy 21

1 If someone is found slain in the land which the LORD your God gives you to possess, lying in the field, and it isn’t known who has struck him; 2 then your elders and your judges shall come out, and they shall measure to the cities which are around him who is slain. 3 It shall be that the elders of the city which is nearest to the slain man shall take a heifer of the herd, which hasn’t been worked with, and which has not drawn in the yoke. 4 The elders of that city shall bring the heifer down to a valley with running water, which is neither plowed nor sown, and shall break the heifer’s neck there in the valley. 5 The priests the sons of Levi shall come near; for them the LORD your God has chosen to minister to him, and to bless in the LORD’s name; and according to their word shall every controversy and every assault be decided. 6 All the elders of that city, who are nearest to the slain man, shall wash their hands over the heifer whose neck was broken in the valley. 7 They shall answer and say, “Our hands have not shed this blood, neither have our eyes seen it. 8 Forgive, the LORD, your people Israel, whom you have redeemed, and don’t allow innocent blood amongst your people Israel.” The blood shall be forgiven them. 9 So you shall put away the innocent blood from amongst you, when you shall do that which is right in the LORD’s eyes. 10 When you go out to battle against your enemies, and the LORD your God delivers them into your hands, and you carry them away captive, 11 and see amongst the captives a beautiful woman, and you have a desire to her, and desire to take her as your wife; 12 then you shall bring her home to your house. She shall shave her head and trim her nails. 13 She shall take the clothing of her captivity off of herself, and shall remain in your house, and bewail her father and her mother a full month. After that you shall go in to her and be her husband, and she shall be your wife. 14 It shall be, if you have no delight in her, then you shall let her go where she desires; but you shall not sell her at all for money. You shall not deal with her as a slave, because you have humbled her. 15 If a man has two wives, the one beloved, and the other hated, and they have borne him children, both the beloved and the hated; and if the firstborn son is hers who was hated; 16 then it shall be, in the day that he causes his sons to inherit that which he has, that he may not give the son of the beloved the rights of the firstborn before the son of the hated, who is the firstborn; 17 but he shall acknowledge the firstborn, the son of the hated, by giving him a double portion of all that he has; for he is the beginning of his strength. The right of the firstborn is his. 18 If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son, who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and though they chasten him, will not listen to them; 19 then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city, and to the gate of his place. 20 They shall tell the elders of his city, “This our son is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey our voice. He is a glutton and a drunkard.” 21 All the men of his city shall stone him to death with stones. So you shall remove the evil from amongst you. All Israel shall hear, and fear. 22 If a man has committed a sin worthy of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree; 23 his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall surely bury him the same day; for he who is hanged is accursed of God; that you don’t defile your land which the LORD your God gives you for an inheritance.

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Questions about today’s reading? See if Matthew Henry can help.
Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, 1706

Verses 1–9

If a murderer could not be found out, great solemnity is provided for putting away the guilt from the land, as an expression of dread and detesting of that sin. The providence of God has often wonderfully brought to light these hidden works of darkness, and the sin of the guilty has often strangely found them out. The dread of murder should be deeply impressed upon every heart, and all should join in detecting and punishing those who are guilty. The elders were to profess that they had not been any way aiding or abetting the sin. The priests were to pray to God for the country and nation, that God would be merciful. We must empty that measure by our prayers, which others are filling by their sins. All would be taught by this solemnity, to use the utmost care and diligence to prevent, discover, and punish murder. We may all learn from hence to take heed of partaking in other men’s sins. And we have fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, if we do not reprove them.

Verses 10–14

By this law a soldier was allowed to marry his captive, if he pleased. This might take place upon some occasions; but the law does not show any approval of it. It also intimates how binding the laws of justice and honour are in marriage; which is a sacred engagement.

Verses 15–17

This law restrains men from disinheriting their eldest sons without just cause. The principle in this case as to children, is still binding to parents; they must give children their right without partiality.

Verses 18–21

Observe how the criminal is here described. He is a stubborn and rebellious son. No child was to fare the worse for weakness of capacity, slowness, or dulness, but for wilfulness and obstinacy. Nothing draws men into all manner of wickedness, and hardens them in it more certainly and fatally, than drunkenness. When men take to drinking, they forget the law of honouring parents. His own father and mother must complain of him to the elders of the city. Children who forget their duty, must thank themselves, and not blame their parents, if they are regarded with less and less affection. He must be publicly stoned to death by the men of his city. Disobedience to a parent’s authority must be very evil, when such a punishment was ordered; nor is it less provoking to God now, though it escapes punishment in this world. But when young people early become slaves to sensual appetites, the heart soon grows hard, and the conscience callous; and we can expect nothing but rebellion and destruction.

Verses 22–23

By the law of Moses, the touch of a dead body was defiling, therefore dead bodies must not be left hanging, as that would defile the land. There is one reason here which has reference to Christ; “He that is hanged is accursed of God;” that is, it is the highest degree of disgrace and reproach. Those who see a man thus hanging between heaven and earth, will conclude him abandoned of both, and unworthy of either. Moses, by the Spirit, uses this phrase of being accursed of God, when he means no more than being treated most disgracefully, that it might afterward be applied to the death of Christ, and might show that in it he underwent the curse of the law for us; which proves his love, and encourages to faith in him.

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