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Deuteronomy 21

Deuteronomy 21:1-9

1. If one be found slain in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee to possess it, lying in the field, and it be not known who hath slain him;

1. Quum inventum fuerit cadaver hominis occisi in terra quam Jehova Deus tuus dabit tibi ut possideas eam, prostratum in agro, nec cognitum fuerit quis percusserit eum:

2. Then thy elders and thy judges shall come forth, and they shall measure unto the cities which are round about him that is slain.

2. Tunc egredientur seniores tui, et judices tui, et metientur usque ad civitates quae sunt in circuitibus cadaveris hominis illius occisi.

3. And it shall be, that the city which is next unto the slain man, even the elders of that city shall take an heifer, which hath not been wrought with, and which hath not drawn in the yoke;

3. Et seniores urbis, propinquioris urbis illi cadaveri occiso, capient vitulam de armento qua nemo usus fuerit, et quae non traxerit jugum.

4. And the elders of that city shall bring down the heifer unto a rough valley, which is neither card nor sown, and shall strike off the heifer’s neck there in the valley:

4. Et adducent seniores ejus urbis vitulam ad vallem asperare, quae nunquam fuerit arata, neque seminata, et praecident cervicem vitulae illic in valle.

5. And the priests, the sons of Levi, shall come near; (for them the Lord thy God hath chosen to minister unto him, and to bless in the name of the Lord;) and by their word shall every controversy and every stroke be tried

5. Et accedent sacerdotes filii Levi (eos enim elegit Jehova Deus tuus ut ministrent ipsi, et ad benedicendum in nomine Jehovae: et juxta quorum sermonem erit omnis lis atque omnis plaga.)

6. And all the elders of that city, that are next unto the slain man, shall wash their hands over the heifer that is beheaded in the valley:

6. Et omnes seniores ejus urbis ubi accesserint ad cadaver hominis occisi, lavabunt manus suas super vitulam percussam in valle.

7. And they shall answer and say, Our hands have not shed this blood, neither have our eyes seen it.

7. Et testificabuntur, ac dicent, Manus nostrae non effuderunt sanguinem istum, neque oculi nostri viderunt.

8. Be merciful, O Lord, unto thy people Israel, whom thou hast redeemed, and lay not innocent blood unto thy people of Israel’s charge. And the blood shall be forgiven them.

8. Expia populum tuum Israel quem redemisti Jehova, et ne imputes sanguinem innocentem in medio populi tui Israel: et expiabitur ab eis sanguis.

9. So shalt thou put away the guilt of innocent blood from among you, when thou shalt do that which is right in the sight of the Lord.

9. Tu autem auferes sanguinem innocentem e medio tui, quum feceris quod rectum est in oculis Jehovae.


1. If one be found slain in the land. This Supplement: is of a mixed character, relating partly to the civil, and partly to the criminal law. We are informed by it how precious to God is the life of man; for, if a murder had been committed by some unknown person, He requires an expiation to be made, whereby the neighboring cities should purge themselves from the pollution of the crime. Whence it appears that the earth is so polluted by human blood, that those who encourage murder by impunity, implicate themselves in the guilt. The question here is as to a secret crime, the guilt of which attaches to the neighboring cities, until, by the institution of a diligent inquiry, they can testify that the author is not discovered; how much less excusable, then, will they be, if they allow a murderer to escape with impunity? The rite prescribed is, that the elders of the nearest city should take a heifer which had not drawn in a yoke, and bring it into a stony and barren valley, cut off its neck with the assistance of the priests, wash their hands, and bear witness that their hands as well as their eyes are pure, as not being cognizant of the criminal. God chose a heifer that had not born a yoke, in order that the satisfaction made by innocent blood might be represented in a more lively manner; whilst it was to be killed in a desert place, that the pollution might be removed from the cultivated lands. For, if the blood of the heifer had been shed in the middle of the market-place of the city, or in any inhabited spot, the familiarity with the sight of blood would have hardened their minds in inhumanity. For the purpose, therefore, of awakening horror, it was drawn out into a solitary and uncultivated spot, that they might be thus accustomed to detest cruelty. But although, properly speaking, this was not a sacrifice which could be offered nowhere except in the sanctuary, still it nearly approached to the nature of a sacrifice, because the Levites were in attendance, and a solemn deprecation was made; nevertheless, they were not only employed as ministers of the altar, but also as judges, for their office is expressed in the words, that they were “chosen to minister to God, to bless the people, and to pronounce sentence as to every stroke.”

6. And all the elders of that city. The washing of their hands had the effect of stirring them up the more, so that they should not inconsiderately protest in that solemn rite that they were pure and guiltless; for it was just as if they had presented the corpse of the dead mall before God, and had stood themselves opposite to it to purge away the crime. At the same time, also, they ask for pardon, because it might have been through their carelessness that the man was smitten; and again, since, by the sacrilege of Achan alone the whole people were contaminated, it was to be feared lest the vengeance of God should extend more widely on account of the offense committed. And thus they were again taught how greatly God abominates murders, when the people pray that they may be pardoned for the crime of another, as if, by the very looking upon it, they had contracted guilt. God at length declares that He will not impute it to them, when they have duly performed this rite of expiation; not because the heifer was the price of satisfaction to propitiate God, but because in this way they humbly reconciled themselves to Him, and shut the door against murders for the time to come. On this account it is said — “Thou shalt put away the blood from among you;” for if the murder be passed over without observation, there remains a blot upon the people, and the earth itself, in a manner, stinks before God.

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