So shall you put away the guilt of innocent blood from among you, when you shall do that which is right in the sight of the LORD.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Deuteronomy 21:9. So shalt thou put away the guilt of innocent blood — Till this was done, the guilt was to be looked upon as national; but upon this being solemnly performed, the government was deemed to have done its duty, and the nation cleared of all guilt in this matter. No doubt the chief end of the appointment of this ceremony was to beget and preserve in the minds of men an abhorrence of murder, and a care to prevent or detect it.Genesis 45:6 note and references. The word is derived from the Latin, and is in frequent use by English writers of the fifteenth and two following centuries.
Strike off the heifer's neck - Rather, "break its neck" (compare Exodus 13:13). The mode of killing the victim distinguishes this lustration from the sin-offering, in which there would be of course shedding and sprinkling of the blood.
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.
when thou shalt do that which is right in the sight of the Lord; as it was to observe this law concerning the beheading of the heifer, with all the rites and ceremonies belonging to it here enjoined; as well as every other command, statute, and ordinance of the Lord, which are all right to be done, Psalm 19:8.So shalt thou put away the guilt of innocent blood from among you, when thou shalt do that which is right in the sight of the LORD.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)9. So shalt thou put away] Heb. and thou, thou shalt put away, an emphatic variation of the formula with which D usually closes similar laws (see Deuteronomy 13:5, (6), Deuteronomy 19:13, etc.), as if he only now resumed his own words.
when thou shalt do, etc.] To make the construction right we should prefix to this clause, the words that it may be well with thee. See Deuteronomy 6:18.Verse 9. - In this way they were to deliver themselves as a nation from blood-guiltiness. "Expiation was made by the killing of the transgressor when he could be found (Deuteronomy 19:13; Numbers 35:33); when he was not known, by the process here described. Of course, if afterwards he were apprehended, he would suffer the penalty he had incurred" (Knobel); so also Keil, Herxheimer, etc., after the Talmud ('Sota,' 9:7). Numbers 19:2), and bring it down into a brook-valley with water constantly flowing, and there break its neck. The expression, "it shall be that the city," is more fully defined by "the elders of the city shall take." The elders were to perform the act of expiation in the name of the city. As the murderer was not to be found, an animal was to be put to death in his stead, and suffer the punishment of the murderer. The slaying of the animal was not an expiatory sacrifice, and consequently there was no slaughtering and sprinkling of the blood; but, as the mode of death, viz., breaking the neck (vid., Exodus 13:13), clearly shows, it was a symbolical infliction of the punishment that should have been borne by the murderer, upon the animal which was substituted for him. To be able to take the guilt upon itself and bear it, the animal was to be in the full and undiminished possession of its vital powers. The slaying was to take place in a איתן נחל, a valley with water constantly flowing through it, which was not worked (cultivated) and sown. This regulation as to the locality in which the act of expiation was to be performed was probably founded upon the idea, that the water of the brook-valley would suck in the blood and clean it away, and that the blood sucked in by the earth would not be brought to light again by the ploughing and working of the soil.
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