Deuteronomy 21:1
Verse (Click for Chapter)
New International Version
If someone is found slain, lying in a field in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess, and it is not known who the killer was,

New Living Translation
"When you are in the land the LORD your God is giving you, someone may be found murdered in a field, and you don't know who committed the murder.

English Standard Version
“If in the land that the LORD your God is giving you to possess someone is found slain, lying in the open country, and it is not known who killed him,

New American Standard Bible
"If a slain person is found lying in the open country in the land which the LORD your God gives you to possess, and it is not known who has struck him,

King James Bible
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:

Holman Christian Standard Bible
If a murder victim is found lying in a field in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess, and it is not known who killed him,

International Standard Version
"If a murder victim is found fallen in the open country of the land that the LORD your God is about to give you to possess, and it is not known who killed him,

NET Bible
If a homicide victim should be found lying in a field in the land the LORD your God is giving you, and no one knows who killed him,

New Heart English Bible
If one be found slain in the land which the LORD your God gives you to possess it, lying in the field, and it isn't known who has struck him;

GOD'S WORD® Translation
This is what you must do if you find a murder victim lying in a field in the land that the LORD your God is giving you. If no one knows who committed the murder,

JPS Tanakh 1917
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 smitten him;

New American Standard 1977
“If a slain person is found lying in the open country in the land which the LORD your God gives you to possess, and it is not known who has struck him,

Jubilee Bible 2000
When one is found dead in the land which the LORD thy God gives thee to inherit, lying in the field, and it is not known who has slain him,

King James 2000 Bible
If one be found slain in the land which the LORD your God gives you to possess, lying in the field, and it is not known who has slain him:

American King James Version
If one be found slain in the land which the LORD your God gives you to possess it, lying in the field, and it be not known who has slain him:

American Standard Version
If one be found slain in the land which Jehovah thy God giveth thee to possess it, lying in the field, and it be not known who hath smitten him;

Douay-Rheims Bible
When there shall be found in the land, which the Lord thy God will give thee, the corpse of a man slain, and it is not known who is guilty of the murder,

Darby Bible Translation
If one be found slain in the land which Jehovah thy God giveth thee to possess, lying in the field, [and] it be not known who hath smitten him,

English Revised Version
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 smitten him:

Webster's Bible Translation
If one shall 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:

World English Bible
If one be found slain in the land which Yahweh your God gives you to possess it, lying in the field, and it isn't known who has struck him;

Young's Literal Translation
'When one is found slain on the ground which Jehovah thy God is giving to thee to possess it -- fallen in a field -- it is not known who hath smitten him,
Study Bible
The Atonement for an Unsolved Murder
1"If a slain person is found lying in the open country in the land which the LORD your God gives you to possess, and it is not known who has struck him, 2then your elders and your judges shall go out and measure the distance to the cities which are around the slain one.…
Cross References
Genesis 4:10
He said, "What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to Me from the ground.

Deuteronomy 19:10
"So innocent blood will not be shed in the midst of your land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance, and bloodguiltiness be on you.

Deuteronomy 20:20
"Only the trees which you know are not fruit trees you shall destroy and cut down, that you may construct siegeworks against the city that is making war with you until it falls.

Deuteronomy 21:2
then your elders and your judges shall go out and measure the distance to the cities which are around the slain one.
Treasury of Scripture

If one be found slain in the land which the LORD your God gives you to possess it, lying in the field, and it be not known who has slain him:

Psalm 5:6 You shall destroy them that speak leasing: the LORD will abhor the …

Psalm 9:12 When he makes inquisition for blood, he remembers them: he forgets …

Proverbs 28:17 A man that does violence to the blood of any person shall flee to …

Isaiah 26:21 For, behold, the LORD comes out of his place to punish the inhabitants …

Acts 28:4 And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, …

XXI.

Deuteronomy 21:1-9. UNDETECTED HOMICIDES.

(1) If one be found slain--It is remarkable that in our own time the most effectual remedy against outrages of which the perpetrators cannot be discovered is a fine upon the district in which they occur.

(2) Thy elders and thy judges shall come forth.--Rashi says these were to be special commissioners, members of the great Sanhedrin.

(3-4) An heifer, which hath not been wrought with . . . a rough valley which is neither eared nor sown.--Rashi's note on this is curious: "The Holy One, blessed be He! said, 'A yearling heifer which hath borne no fruit shall come and be beheaded in a place which yieldeth no fruit, to atone for the murder of the man whom they did not suffer to bear fruit.' Some have thought that the valley was neither to be eared (ploughed) nor sown from that time forward." The verbs are not past in the Hebrew, and the words may bear this meaning. If so, the district in which the murder occurred would be mulcted in that portion of land for ever.

(5) And the priests.--See on Deuteronomy 21:8.

(7) Our hands have not shed this blood, neither have our eyes seen it.--"Not that the chief magistrates of the city are supposed to have shed this blood; but that they have not contrived or procured the murder by any maintenance or partnership in the deed" (Rashi). We cannot but feel how impossible such solemn public declarations would be if the murderer had been harboured by the inhabitants of the place.

(8) Be merciful, O Lord.--In the sense of the publican's prayer in St. Luke 18 "be propitiated," literally, cover. The mercy seat is the "covering" of the Law, which protects Israel from it. The sacrifices are a "covering" for the sinner from a punishment of sin. According to Rashi, the prayer in the eighth verse is spoken by the priests; and it seems probable enough. No part in the transaction is assigned to them, unless it be this. And their presence was certainly necessary.

And the blood shall be forgiven them.--Literally, shall be covered for them. Not the same expression as Leviticus 4:20; Leviticus 4:26; Leviticus 4:31; Leviticus 4:35. But we can hardly follow the Jewish commentators into the question whether, if the perpetrator of the murder were afterwards discovered, the blood of the heifer which had been shed already could be allowed to atone for it, so that the murderer need not be punished.

Verses 1-9. - If a body was found lying dead from a wound, and it was not known by whom the wound had been inflicted, the whole land would be involved in the guilt of the murder, unless it was duly expiated as here directed. First, the elders and judges (presumably of the neighboring towns; of Josephus, 'Antiq.' 4:8, 16) were to meet, the former as magistrates representing the communities, the latter as administrators of the law, and were to measure the distance from the body of the slain man to each of the surrounding towns, in order to ascertain which was the nearest. This ascertained, upon that town was to be laid the duty of expiating the crime. If one be found slain,.... After public war with an enemy, Moses proceeds to speak of a private quarrel and fight of one man with another, in which one is slain, as Aben Ezra observes:

in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee to possess it; where murders might be committed more secretly, and remain undiscovered, when they came to live in separate cities, towns, and villages, with fields adjacent to them, than now encamped together:

lying in the field; where the quarrel begun, and where the fight was fought: or, however, where the murderer met with his enemy, and slew him, and left him; it being common for duels to be fought, and murders committed in a field; the first murder in the world was committed in such a place, Genesis 4:8. The Targum of Jonathan is,"not hidden under an heap, not hanging on a tree, nor swimming on the face of the waters;''which same things are observed in the Misnah (i), and gathered from some words in the text:

in the land, and so not under a heap:

lying, and so not hanging:

in the field, and so not swimming on the water:

and it be not known who hath slain him; the parties being alone, and no witnesses of the fact, at least that appear; for, if it was known, the heifer was not beheaded, later mentioned (k); and one witness in this case was sufficient, and even one that was not otherwise admitted.

(i) Sotah, c. 9. sect. 2.((k) Maimon. Hilchot Rotzeach, c. 9. sect. 11, 12. CHAPTER 21

De 21:1-9. Expiation of Uncertain Murder.

1-6. If one be found slain … lying in the field, and it be not known who hath slain him—The ceremonies here ordained to be observed on the discovery of a slaughtered corpse show the ideas of sanctity which the Mosaic law sought to associate with human blood, the horror which murder inspired, as well as the fears that were felt lest God should avenge it on the country at large, and the pollution which the land was supposed to contract from the effusion of innocent, unexpiated blood. According to Jewish writers, the Sanhedrin, taking charge of such a case, sent a deputation to examine the neighborhood. They reported to the nearest town to the spot where the body was found. An order was then issued by their supreme authority to the elders or magistrates of that town, to provide the heifer at the civic expense and go through the appointed ceremonial. The engagement of the public authorities in the work of expiation, the purchase of the victim heifer, the conducting it to a "rough valley" which might be at a considerable distance, and which, as the original implies, was a wady, a perennial stream, in the waters of which the polluting blood would be wiped away from the land, and a desert withal, incapable of cultivation; the washing of the hands, which was an ancient act symbolical of innocence—the whole of the ceremonial was calculated to make a deep impression on the Jewish, as well as on the Oriental, mind generally; to stimulate the activity of the magistrates in the discharge of their official duties; to lead to the discovery of the criminal, and the repression of crime.21:1-9 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.
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