Deuteronomy 19:5
As when a man goeth into the wood with his neighbour to hew wood, and his hand fetcheth a stroke with the axe to cut down the tree, and the head slippeth from the helve, and lighteth upon his neighbour, that he die; he shall flee unto one of those cities, and live:
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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.With the axe - literally, "with the iron." Note the employment of iron for tools, and compare Deuteronomy 3:11 note.3. Thou shalt prepare thee a way—The roads leading to them were to be kept in good condition and the brooks or rivers to be spanned by good bridges; the width of the roads was to be thirty-two cubits; and at all the crossroads signposts were to be erected with the words, Mekeleth, Mekeleth, "refuge, refuge," painted on them.

divide the coasts of thy land … into three parts—the whole extent of the country from the south to the north. The three cities on each side of Jordan were opposite to each other, "as two rows of vines in a vineyard" (see on [157]Jos 20:7).

No text from Poole on this verse.

As when a man goeth into the wood with his neighbour to hew wood,.... A wood is a place common to men, and cutting down wood a business which any man might do; whereas a private place, where a man had no right to be, and doing what he had no business with, rendered a case suspicious, and such a man was liable to be taken up when any affair happened of the kind here spoken of; so the Jewish writers observe (t),"a wood is a public place for him that hurts and him that is hurt to enter there;''both had a right to go thither, the one as well as the other, he to whom the accident came, and he by whom it came; but they say, a court that belongs to a master of a house (a private court) is excepted, where there is no power or liberty for him that hurts or for him that is hurt to enter. Abba Saul says, What is hewing wood? It is what a man has a right to do, or is in his power; it is what is public and common, and not peculiar to any:

and his hand fetcheth a stroke with the axe to cut down the tree; lifts up the axe and is about to strike with it, in order to cut down the tree pitched upon by him or by his neighbour, or both:

and the head slippeth from the halve; the head of the axe from the handle of it:

or the iron from the wood (u); the iron part of the axe, which is properly the head, from the wooden part, which is laid hold on by the hand; and this not being well fastened, slips and falls off as the blow is fetching, or the stroke just ready to be given:

and lighteth upon his neighbour, that he die; hits him in some part as he stands by him, which proves fatal:

he shall flee unto one of these cities, and live; be safe and secure from the avenger of blood; such an one might have the benefit of one of these cities, for, for such they were designed: the rule with the Jews is, what is done by way of descent (i.e. which comes down and lights upon a man, and is not levelled against him, or thrown up at him) he is to be exiled (or to have the benefit of a city of refuge), but what is not by way of descent, he is not to have it. Some think this is spoken of the wood which is cleaved, and not of the wood in which the iron is fixed; but the wise men say it is to be so understood (x); in which they are right.

(t) Misn. Maccot, c. 2. sect. 2.((u) "ferrum e ligno", Pagninus, Montanus. (x) Misn. Maccot, c. 2. sect. 1. Maimon. & Bartenora in ib.

As when a man goeth into the wood with his neighbour to hew wood, and his hand fetcheth a stroke with the axe to cut down the tree, and the head slippeth from the helve, and lighteth upon his neighbour, that he die; he {c} shall flee unto one of those cities, and live:

(c) That murder not be committed on murder.

5. as when a man goeth] Heb. and who goeth, continuing the construction of the previous clause; but EVV.’s rendering is possible by a slight emendation of the Heb.

forest] As in most instances in which forest is used by EVV., the term misleads. Heb. ya‘ar was one antithesis to fertile or cultivated land (Isaiah 29:7) and, as evident from the conditions of Palestine today as well as those reflected in the O.T. (HGHL, 80 f., Jerus. i. 78, 305), must usually have meant copse or jungle or, at the most, woodland. The Ar. wa‘ar is ‘rocky ground,’ whether with or without bush.

and his hand fetcheth a stroke] Heb. is driven, or lets drive, with the axe.

helve] R.V. marg., tree; which offers the alternative meaning, that the edge of the axe slipped aside from the tree which it struck. But Heb. ’çṣ, which = both tree (as in the previous clause) and piece of wood, means here the latter, and the vb is to be translated slippeth off from (Exodus 3:5, Joshua 5:15 of the sandal from the foot; cp. Deuteronomy 7:1; Deuteronomy 7:22; Deuteronomy 28:40). LXX falleth off (probably reading naphal for nashal, cp. 2 Kings 6:5). ‘One sees exactly how the law grows out of the actual relations of everyday life’ (Berth.).

he shall flee unto one of these cities and live] Joshua 20:4 (a deuteron. addition to P’s law) says that he shall first, at the gate, state his case to the elders.

Deuteronomy 19:5As Moses had already set apart the cities of refuge for the land on the east of the Jordan (Deuteronomy 4:41.), he is speaking here simply of the land on the west, which Israel was to take possession of before long; and supplements the instructions in Numbers 35:14, with directions to maintain the roads to the cities of refuge which were to be set apart in Canaan itself, and to divide the land into three parts, viz., for the purpose of setting apart these cities, so that one city might be chosen for the purpose in every third of the land. For further remarks on this point, as well as with regard to the use of these cities (Deuteronomy 19:4-7), see at Numbers 35:11. - In Deuteronomy 19:8-10 there follow the fresh instructions, that if the Lord should extend the borders of Israel, according to His promise given to the patriarchs, and should give them the whole land from the Nile to the Euphrates, according to Genesis 15:18, they were to add three other cities of refuge to these three, for the purpose of preventing the shedding of innocent blood. The three new cities of refuge cannot be the three appointed in Numbers 35:14 for the land on this side of the Jordan, nor the three mentioned in Numbers 35:7 on the other side of Jordan, as Knobel and others suppose. Nor can we adopt Hengstenberg's view, that the three new ones are the same as the three mentioned in Deuteronomy 19:2 and Deuteronomy 19:7, since they are expressly distinguished from "these three." The meaning is altogether a different one. The circumstances supposed by Moses never existed, since the Israelites did not fulfil the conditions laid down in Deuteronomy 19:9, viz., that they should keep the law faithfully, and love the Lord their God (cf. Deuteronomy 4:6; Deuteronomy 6:5, etc.). The extension of the power of Israel to the Euphrates under David and Solomon, did not bring the land as far as this river into their actual possession, since the conquered kingdoms of Aram were still inhabited by the Aramaeans, who, though conquered, were only rendered tributary. And the Tyrians and Phoenicians, who belonged to the Canaanitish population, were not even attacked by David.
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