Numbers 35:30
Whoso killeth any person, the murderer shall be put to death by the mouth of witnesses: but one witness shall not testify against any person to cause him to die.
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(30) By the mouth of witnesses.—The number of witnesses is not here specified. In Deuteronomy 17:6 it is ordained that the crime of idolatry should be punished with death “at the mouth of two witnesses, or of three witnesses;” and in Deuteronomy 19:15 it is ordained in general terms that “one witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established.”

Numbers 35:30-31. By the mouth of witnesses — A wise precaution to prevent the shedding of innocent blood. If we may credit the Jews, where there was but one witness, and the person accused of murder could not, therefore, be put to death, yet he did not escape without punishment, but was thrown into a very strait prison, and there fed with bread and water. Ye shall take no satisfaction — This rigid severity of the law served to impress the minds of the people with a deep sense of the heinousness of the crime of murder, since nothing less than the blood of the murderer could compensate for the crime, and cleanse the land from its pollution. And it is but just in itself that life should pay for life.

35:9-34 To show plainly the abhorrence of murder, and to provide the more effectually for the punishment of the murderer, the nearest relation of the deceased, under the title of avenger of blood, (or the redeemer of blood,) in notorious cases, might pursue, and execute vengeance. A distinction is made, not between sudden anger and malice aforethought, both which are the crime of murder; but between intentionally striking a man with any weapon likely to cause death, and an unintentional blow. In the latter case alone, the city of refuge afforded protection. Murder in all its forms, and under all disguises, pollutes a land. Alas! that so many murders, under the name of duels, prize-fights, &c. should pass unpunished. There were six cities of refuge; one or other might be reached in less than a day's journey from any part of the land. To these, man-slayers might flee for refuge, and be safe, till they had a fair trial. If acquitted from the charge, they were protected from the avenger of blood; yet they must continue within the bounds of the city till the death of the high priest. Thus we are reminded that the death of the great High Priest is the only means whereby sins are pardoned, and sinners set at liberty. These cities are plainly alluded to, both in the Old and New Testament, we cannot doubt the typical character of their appointment. Turn ye to the strong hold, ye prisoners of hope, saith the voice of mercy, Zec 9:12, alluding to the city of refuge. St. Paul describes the strong consolation of fleeing for refuge to the hope set before us, in a passage always applied to the gracious appointment of the cities of refuge, Heb 6:18. The rich mercies of salvation, through Christ, prefigured by these cities, demand our regard. 1. Did the ancient city rear its towers of safety on high? See Christ raised up on the cross; and is he not exalted at the right hand of his Father, to be a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance and remission of sins? 2. Does not the highway of salvation, resemble the smooth and plain path to the city of refuge? Survey the path that leads to the Redeemer. Is there any stumbling-block to be found therein, except that which an evil heart of unbelief supplies for its own fall? 3. Waymarks were set up pointing to the city. And is it not the office of the ministers of the gospel to direct sinners to Him? 4. The gate of the city stood open night and day. Has not Christ declared, Him that cometh unto me I will in nowise cast out? 5. The city of refuge afforded support to every one who entered its walls. Those who have reached the refuge, may live by faith on Him whose flesh is meat indeed, and whose blood is drink indeed. 6. The city was a refuge for all. In the gospel there is no respect of persons. That soul lives not which deserves not Divine wrath; that soul lives not which may not in simple faith hope for salvation and life eternal, through the Son of God.By the mouth of witnesses - i. e. two witnesses, at the least (compare the marginal references). The provisions of this and the following verses protect the enactments of this chapter from abuse. The cities of refuge were not intended to exempt a criminal from deserved punishment. 29-34. these things shall be for a statute of judgment unto you throughout your generations—The law of the blood-avenger, as thus established by divine authority, was a vast improvement on the ancient practice of Goelism. By the appointment of cities of refuge, the manslayer was saved, in the meantime, from the blind and impetuous fury of vindictive relatives; but he might be tried by the local court, and, if proved guilty on sufficient evidence, condemned and punished as a murderer, without the possibility of deliverance by any pecuniary satisfaction. The enactment of Moses, which was an adaptation to the character and usages of the Hebrew people, secured the double advantage of promoting the ends both of humanity and of justice. No judge shall condemn any man to death upon a single testimony.

Whoso killeth any person,.... Willingly, and through enmity and malice:

the murderer shall be put to death by the mouth of two witnesses; which is repeated partly to show, that this law concerning the cities of refuge was not designed to screen a murderer, who was guilty through malice prepense; and partly for the sake of what is added to it, that two witnesses are required in such a case, where a man's life is at stake, to prove the fact against him; which shows how careful the Lord is, and men should be, of the lives of his creatures, that no man suffer wrongfully; which is repeated again and again, that it might be observed, see Deuteronomy 17:6 but one witness shall not testify against any person, to cause him to die; which looks as if in other cases, in pecuniary matters, and the like, where life is not concerned, one witness may be sufficient; though it is always best and safest to have more if they can be had, that at the mouth of two or three witnesses everything may be established, Deuteronomy 19:15.

Whoso killeth any person, the murderer shall be put to death by the mouth of witnesses: but one witness shall not testify against any person to cause him to die.
30. one witness shall not testify &c.] This re-enforces the law of Deuteronomy 17:6. In Deuteronomy 19:15 three, or at least two, witnesses are required to substantiate any charge (cf. Matthew 18:16).

Verse 30. - By the mouth of witnesses, i.e., of two at least (cf. Deuteronomy 17:6). Numbers 35:30If, therefore, the confinement of the unintentional manslayer in the city of refuge was neither an ordinary exile nor merely a means of rescuing him from the revenge of the enraged goel, but an appointment of the just and merciful God for the expiation of human blood even though not wilfully shed, that, whilst there was no violation of judicial righteousness, a barrier might be set to the unrighteousness of family revenge; it was necessary to guard against any such abuse of this gracious provision of the righteous God, as that into which the heathen right of asylum had degenerated.

(Note: On the asyla, in general, see Winer's Real-Wrterbuch, art. Freistatt; Pauly, Real-encyckl. der class. Alterthums-wissenschaft, Bd. i. s. v. Asylum; but more especially K. Dann, "ber den Ursprung des Asylrechts und dessen Schicksale und Ueberreste in Europa," in his Ztschr. fr deutsches Recht, Lpz. 1840. "The asyla of the Greeks, Romans, and Germans differed altogether from those of the Hebrews; for whilst the latter were never intended to save the wilful criminal from the punishment he deserved, but were simply established for the purpose of securing a just sentence, the former actually answered the purpose of rescuing the criminal from the punishment which he legally deserved.")

The instructions which follow in Numbers 35:29-34 were intended to secure this object. In Numbers 35:29, there is first of all the general law, that these instructions (those given in vv. 11-28) were to be for a statute of judgment (see Numbers 27:11) for all future ages ("throughout your generations," see Exodus 12:14, Exodus 12:20). Then, in Numbers 35:30, a just judgment is enforced in the treatment of murder. "Whoso killeth any person (these words are construed absolutely), at the mouth (the testimony) of witnesses shall the murderer be put to death; and one witness shall not answer (give evidence) against a person to die;" i.e., if the taking of life were in question, capital punishment was not to be inflicted upon the testimony of one person only, but upon that of a plurality of witnesses. One witness could not only be more easily mistaken than several, but would be more likely to be partial than several persons who were unanimous in bearing witness to one and the same thing. The number of witnesses was afterwards fixed at two witnesses, at least, in the case of capital crimes (Deuteronomy 17:6), and two or three in the case of every crime (Deuteronomy 19:15; cf. John 8:17; 2 Corinthians 13:1; Hebrews 10:28). - Lastly (Numbers 35:31.), the command is given not to take redemption money, either for the life of the murderer, who was a wicked man to die, i.e., deserving of death (such a man was to be put to death); nor "for fleeing into the city of refuge, to return to dwell in the land till the death of the high priest:" that is to say, they were neither to allow the wilful murderer to come to terms with the relative of the man who had been put to death, by the payment of a redemption fee, and so to save his life, as is not unfrequently the case in the East at the present day (cf. Robinson, Pal. i. p. 209, and Lane's Manners and Customs); nor even to allow the unintentional murderer to purchase permission to return home from the city of refuge before the death of the high priest, by the payment of a money compensation.

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