Deuteronomy 21:3
And it shall be, that the city which is next to the slain man, even the elders of that city shall take an heifer, which has not been worked with, and which has not drawn in the yoke;
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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.The requirements as regards place and victim are symbolic. The heifer represented the murderer, so far at least as to die in his stead, since he himself could not be found. As hearing his guilt the heifer must therefore be one which was of full growth and strength, and had not yet been ceremonially profaned by human use. The Christian commentators find here a type of Christ and of His sacrifice for man: but the heifer was not strictly a sacrifice or sin-offering. The transaction was rather figurative, and was so ordered as to impress the lesson of Genesis 9:5. 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.

A fit vicegerent and representative of the murderer, in whose stead it was killed, who by this act hath shown himself to be a son of Belial, who would not bear the yoke of God’s law. A type also of Christ, who was obliged to no work, and under no yoke, but what he had voluntarily taken upon himself. And it shall be, that the city which is next unto the slain man,.... And so suspected, as the Targum of Jonathan, of the murder; or the murderer is in it, or however belonged to it:

even the elders of the city shall take an heifer; of a year old, as the same Targum, and so Jarchi; and in this the Jewish writers agree, that it must be a year old, but not two; though heifers of three years old were sometimes used in sacrifice, Genesis 15:9 a type of Christ, in his strength, laboriousness, and patience; see Numbers 19:2.

which hath not been wrought with; in ploughing land, or treading out corn:

and which hath not drawn in the yoke, which never had any yoke put upon it; or however, if attempted to be put upon it, it would not come under it, and draw with it: no mention is made, as usual, that it should be without blemish: because though in some sense expiatory, yet was not properly a sacrifice, it not being slain and offered where sacrifices were; hence it is said in the Misnah (q), that a blemish in it did not make it rejected, or unlawful for use: nevertheless, this heifer may be a type of Christ, whose sufferings, bloodshed, and death, atone for secret and unknown sins, as well as for open and manifest ones, even for all sin; and its being free from labour, and without a yoke, may signify the freedom of Christ from the yoke of sin, and the service of it, and from human traditions; that he was not obliged to any toil and labour he had been concerned in, or to bear the yoke of the law, had he not voluntarily undertaken it of himself; and that he expiated the sins of such who were sons of Belial, children without a yoke; and for the same reason, this heifer not being required to be without blemish, might be because Christ, though he had no sin of his own, was made sin for his people, and reckoned as if he had been a sinner; though indeed, had this been the design of the type, all the sacrifices which typified Christ would not have required such a qualification, to be without blemish, as they did.

(q) Ut supra, (Sotah, c. 9.) sect. 5.

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. and it shall be, etc.] Lit. and it shall be as regards the city which … that the elders of that city shall take, etc. Similar construction in Deuteronomy 12:11, Deuteronomy 18:19.

an heifer of the herd] 1 Samuel 16:2, Genesis 15:9 (a three year old) for sacrifice.

which hath not been wrought with] Heifers were used for work, Jdg 14:18, Hosea 10:11, Jeremiah 50:11, but this one, destined for a sacred use, must not have been so profaned: cp. Deuteronomy 15:19, of firstlings, Numbers 19:2, of the red heifer.Verse 3. - An heifer, which hath not boon wrought with, and which hath not drawn in the yoke; a young cow which had not been rendered unfit for consecration, nor had its vital force impaired, by being subjected to forced labor (cf. Numbers 19:2). It was in this way that Israel was to act with towns that were far off; but not with the towns of the Canaanites ("these nations"), which Jehovah gave them for an inheritance. In these no soul was to be left alive; but these nations were to be laid under the ban, i.e., altogether exterminated, that they might not teach the Israelites their abominations and sins (cf. Deuteronomy 7:1-4; Deuteronomy 12:31). כּל־נשׁמה, lit., every breath, i.e., everything living, by which, however, human beings alone are to be understood (comp. Joshua 10:40; Joshua 11:11, with Deuteronomy 11:14).
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