Deuteronomy 19:12
Then the elders of his city shall send and fetch him thence, and deliver him into the hand of the avenger of blood, that he may die.
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Deuteronomy 19:12. The elders of his city — The city of the manslayer. The sense is, that upon any information or suspicion of murder, laid against any one that had taken refuge in any of these cities, the magistrates of the town or district where the fact was committed, should send for the person out of the refuge-city, bring him to a fair trial, and, upon clear evidence of wilful murder, condemn him to death, and cause execution to be done without fear, partiality, or affection; as they valued the divine blessing, and desired to be free of the guilt of innocent blood, which otherwise would be required at their hands.

19:1-13 Here is the law settled between the blood of the murdered, and the blood of the murderer; provision is made, that the cities of refuge should be a protection, so that a man should not die for that as a crime, which was not his willing act. In Christ, the Lord our Righteousness, refuge is provided for those who by faith flee unto him. But there is no refuge in Jesus Christ for presumptuous sinners, who go on still in their trespasses. Those who flee to Christ from their sins, shall be safe in him, but not those who expect to be sheltered by him in their sins.
Deuteronomy 19:8, 9Provision is here made for the anticipated enlargement of the borders of Israel to the utmost limits promised by God, from the river of Egypt to the Euphrates (Genesis 15:18, note; Exodus 23:31, note). This promise, owing to the sins of the people, did not receive its fulfillment until after David had conquered the Philistines, Syrians, etc.; and this but a transient one, for many of the conquered peoples regained independence on the dissolution of Solomon's empire. 8, 9. And if the Lord thy God enlarge thy coast—Three additional sanctuaries were to be established in the event of their territory extending over the country from Hermon and Gilead to the Euphrates (see Ge 15:18; Ex 23:31). But it was obscurely hinted that this last provision would never be carried into effect, as the Israelites would not fulfil the conditions, namely, "that of keeping the commandments, to love the Lord, and walk ever in his ways." In point of fact, although that region was brought into subjection by David and Solomon, we do not find that cities of refuge were established; because those sovereigns only made the ancient inhabitants tributary, instead of sending a colony of Israelites to possess it. The privilege of sanctuary cities, however, was given only for Israelites; and besides, that conquered territory did not remain long under the power of the Hebrew kings. The elders of his city; either of the slain person, who were most likely to prosecute the murderer; or of the murderer, because God would oblige even his own fellow citizens to prosecute him to death, that it might appear how hateful murder and the murderer is to God, and ought to be to all men.

Fetch him thence; demand him of the elders of the city of refuge, who upon the hearing of the cause and the evidence of the murder were obliged to deliver the offender to justice.

Then the elders of his city shall send and fetch him thence,.... The Targum of Jonathan is,"the wise men of his city,''the sanhedrim, or court of judicature, or at least the civil magistrates of that city, to which such a murderer belonged, had a power to send to the city of refuge whither he was fled, and demand the delivering of him up to them, that his case might be tried before them, and it might appear whether he was a proper person to receive the benefit of the city of refuge or not, and if not, to pass sentence of death upon him, and see it executed as follows:

and deliver him into the hand of the avenger of blood, that he may die; that is, after the examination and trial of him, and when he is found guilty, and sentence is passed upon him, then he was to be delivered into the hands of the avenger of blood, to be the executioner of that sentence.

Then the {f} elders of his city shall send and fetch him thence, and deliver him into the hand of the avenger of blood, that he may die.

(f) The magistrates.

12. the elders of his city, etc.] It is not said who are to judge if wilful murder has been committed (for this see Joshua 20:4-9), but the elders of the murderer’s town are responsible for his delivery into the hands of the avenger; it is assumed that they are satisfied as to his guilt. The control of the old custom—in which the punishment of a murderer was a family duty—is in the hands of the public authorities. This is not without analogies among the Semitic nomads (Musil, Ethn. Ber. 361 ff.). Elders also appear in Deuteronomy 21:2 ff, Deuteronomy 21:6; Deuteronomy 21:19 f., Deuteronomy 22:15-18, Deuteronomy 25:7-9, with judicial or executive functions. On their relations to the judges see on Deuteronomy 16:18. Doughty (II. 368) mentions a case of murder at Aneyza, where the father was commanded by the Emir and elders to slay the murderess and declined, whereupon she was executed by the public authorities.

Deuteronomy 19:12But whatever care was to be taken by means of free cities to prevent the shedding of blood, the cities of refuge were not to be asyla for criminals who were deserving of death, nor to afford protection to those who had slain a neighbour out of hatred. If such murderers should flee to the free city, the elders (magistrates) of his own town were to fetch him out, and deliver him up to the avenger of blood, that he might die. The law laid down in Numbers 35:16-21 is here still more minutely defined; but this does not transfer to the elders the duty of instituting a judicial inquiry, and deciding the matter, as Riehm follows Vater and De Wette in maintaining, for the purpose of proving that there is a discrepancy between Deuteronomy and the previous legislation. They are simply commanded to perform the duty devolving upon them as magistrates and administrators of local affairs. (On Deuteronomy 19:13, see Deuteronomy 8:8 and Deuteronomy 8:5.)
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