And it be told you, and you have heard of it, and inquired diligently, and, behold, it be true, and the thing certain…
I. THE RIGHT OF THE CRIMINAL TO A PAIR AND PULL TRIAL. The right is asserted in the Law of Moses as strenuously as it could be anywhere. However abhorrent his crime, the criminal had every protection against unjust treatment which the Law could afford him. He must be formally impeached, tried before judges, and legally convicted under stringent conditions of proof. The evidence of one witness, however apparently conclusive, was not to be accepted as sufficient. A second must confirm it. The principle is a plain dictate of justice. Suspicion, rumor, dislike of the individual, or even moral certainty of his guilt, form no sufficient ground for condemnation. He is entitled to demand that his crime be proved under legal forms. A person really guilty may thus occasionally escape, but better this should happen than that the innocent should suffer. Lessons:
1. The rule of criminal jurisprudence should be the rule of our private thoughts, and of our expressed opinions about others. We are entitled to hold no man guilty of deeds for which we have not explicit proof.
2. While moral certainty of guilt may be created by proof which would not warrant judicial condemnation, we should beware of admitting as proof that which at the most only seems to tell against the person under suspicion.
3. Where no better ground exists for unfavorable judgment than vague, unsifted rumor, or the dislikes and prejudices with which a person is regarded, it is the grossest unfairness, and often great cruelty to the person concerned, to entertain evil reports, or even to allow them in the slightest degree to influence us.
4. Where opportunity for investigating reports to the discredit of another does not exist, or where we have no call to undertake such investigation, our duty is not to judge at all (Matthew 7:1). The utmost we should do is to exercise caution.
II. THE GRAVE RESPONSIBILITY WHICH RESTS ON WITNESSES. This was well brought out by requiring that the hands of the witnesses should be first upon the condemned person to put him to death. We may note:
1. That those who prefer serious accusations against others, ought to be prepared publicly to substantiate them. Were this more insisted on than it is, it would quash in the birth not a few malicious accusations.
2. That blood-guiltiness rests on those who, by false testimony, whether borne publicly or in private, effect another's ruin. - J.O.
Parallel VersesKJV: And it be told thee, and thou hast heard of it, and inquired diligently, and, behold, it be true, and the thing certain, that such abomination is wrought in Israel: