|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
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.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Then thy elders and thy judges shall come forth,.... From the city or cities near to which the murder was committed, to make inquiry about it, and expiation for it; so Aben Ezra interprets it of the elders of the cities near, but others understand it of the elders of the great sanhedrim at Jerusalem; so the Targum of Jonathan,"then shall go out from the great sanhedrim two of thy wise men, and three of thy judges;''and more expressly the Misnah (l),"three go out from the great sanhedrim in Jerusalem;''R. Judah says five,"it is said "thy elders" two, and "thy judges" two,''and there is no sanhedrim or court of judicature equal (or even), therefore they add to them one more:
and they shall measure unto the cities which are round about him that is slain; that is, from the place where the slain lies, as Jarchi rightly interprets it; on all sides of it, from the four corner's, as the Targum of Jonathan, the cities round about the slain. Maimonides (m) says, they do not behead the heifer for, nor measure, but to a city in which there is a sanhedrim: if it is found between two cities (that is, at an equal distance), both bring two heifers (Maimonides (n) says they bring one between them, which is most reasonable); but the city of Jerusalem does not bring an heifer to be beheaded: the reason is, because it was not divided to the tribes (o). This measuring, one would think, should be only necessary when it was not certain which was the nearest city; and yet Maimonides (p) says, even when it was found on the side of a city, which was certainly known to be nearest, they measured; the command, he observes, is to measure.
(l) Sotah, c. 9. sect. 1.((m) Hilchot Rotzeach, c. 9. sect. 4. (n) Ib. sect. 8. (o) Maimon Hilchot Rotzeachs, c. 9. sect. 8. (p) lb. c. 9. sect. 1.
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