If there be found among you, within any of your gates which the LORD your God gives you, man or woman…
Whether the fact be obvious to all men or not, it is fact that sin against God is also sin against human society. The relation of the Hebrew nation to God, is a type of the relation which God sustains to every nation. He is the Creator of individual life and of individual endowments. He is the Source of all the moral forces which bind men together in civil society. He has appointed to each nation its habitation, and has enriched it with more or less of material good. Hence every nation is under obligation to acknowledge and honor the one creating and reigning God.
I. THE CRIME. The crime consisted in esteeming the creature above the Creator. This was a direct breach of treaty between God and the nation. On God's side the engagement was to bring them into the land of Canaan, and secure them against foes. On Israel's side the engagement was to worship no other Deity but Jehovah. Hence the violation of a covenant so openly made and frequently ratified was a flagrant sin. Yet with every nation such a covenant is made by implication. If life is obtained from the invisible God, it is held on conditions imposed by him, and every item of conduct which is contrary to his known will is an act of rebellion. If rebellion against an earthly king is counted highest crime, incomparably greater is a deed of open rebellion against the King of kings. Idolatry is the root-stem of grossest immorality.
II. THE DETECTION AND PROOF OF THIS CRIME. In proportion to the greatness of the crime must be the carefulness of investigation, No punishment is to be inflicted on the ground of suspicion or prejudice. Human life is to be accounted precious, but the interests of righteousness are more precious still. On both these grounds, the scrutiny must be thorough. To prevent any injury to the sacred cause of justice, through error, or incompetence, or malice, one witness must be incompetent to obtain a verdict. Security against injustice comes from corroborated testimony and from independent witnesses. While every man is bound, in his sphere, to think and act righteously towards his neighbors, he must safeguard himself against hasty judgments and against the whispers of slanderers. In many positions in life we are called to act in the place of God.
III. THE PUNISHMENT DECREED. It was death by stoning. In that early age, and especially in the desert, there were no mechanical contrivances for suddenly extinguishing life. They were largely the children of nature, and possessed but few inventions of civilized life. The sagacity of Supreme Wisdom had placed frail man among natural forces, which might easily be employed in terminating bodily life. This arrangement impresses men with a sense of dependence. His bodily life succumbs to a stone. The unit must be sacrificed to the well-being of the community. "Into man lives for himself."
IV. THE INSTRUMENTS OF THE EXECUTION. The chief witness against an offender, became, by God's appointment, executor of the judicial sentence. This secured economy in the administration of law. It secured, to a large extent, veracity among witnesses, and moral certainty of the rightness of the verdict. Yet, that obloquy might not attach itself to one man alone, the whole community were charged to take part in the execution of the sentence. The deed would thus be the common deed of all. This practice would foster oneness of sentiment, oneness of purpose, and would promote harmonious national life. - D.
Parallel VersesKJV: If there be found among you, within any of thy gates which the LORD thy God giveth thee, man or woman, that hath wrought wickedness in the sight of the LORD thy God, in transgressing his covenant,
WEB: If there be found in the midst of you, within any of your gates which Yahweh your God gives you, man or woman, who does that which is evil in the sight of Yahweh your God, in transgressing his covenant,