-This chapter covers a couple of things in particular that the children of Israel would also need as they possessed the land that the LORD was giving them. The first issue covered was that of refuge cities for the people who can committed manslaughter without evil intent. To avoid their avengers, they could go to one of three cities dispersed throughout the nation to have a safe haven until a trial and justice should transpire. These who killed innocently did not deserve to die since they had no hatred or animosity in their heart. These were simply accidental mishaps. If the killing was investigated and found to be intentional out of a heart of hatred, the elders could send and have that person taken away from the city of refuge so that the avenger could take care of business. No pity was to be given for the truly guilty. Their punishment would indeed “purge the blood of the innocent from Israel,” that it could well with them. In addition to the three cities in their territory God was giving them, a provision was made for the future to add three more cities in the extended lands God had sworn to their ancestors. This was a conditional promise that would occur IF they carefully observed all His commandments to love the LORD and walk in His ways (Deuteronomy 19:1-13).
-The second issue covered here in this passage deals with laws of landmarks and testimonies. Boundaries were never to be moved which the ancestors had set. This would insure the inheritance for each family and tribe within the land. A single witness could not make a case under the Law in matters of accusation concerning sin. However, on the evidence of two or three, the matter would be confirmed. In the contested case of a malicious witness against a neighbor to accuse of wrongdoing, the priests and judges in office would hear the dispute as they stood before the LORD and under His Law. The matter would be investigated thoroughly. If there was found to be a false witness against his neighbor, he had to have done to him as he had intended to do to his brother. This would certainly make people think twice before accusing their neighbor of something with lies and deception. It would thus “purge the evil” from amongst their society. Fear to do evil was the intention of this whole thing because a strong hand would be dealt to the guilty in any case. For the convicted ones, again there would be no pity: “life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot (Exodus 20:16, Deuteronomy 5:20; 19:14-21).”
-*Application* This passage is often used in a negative fashion compared to the grace God offers in comparison by the New Covenant of His blood in the New Testament. While Jesus’ sacrifice can cleanse the guilty and purify the sinner, the fact remains that if we reject that payment, we remain in our sin and will bear the penalty of spiritual separation from His mercy (Hebrews 10:26-31). Christ’s offering should truly change us. It is not as light a thing as most people think. The God of the Old Covenant is the same and immutable God of the New Covenant. God will always hate and purge evil, but give grace, mercy, and favor to the contrite of heart that seek justice and His loving ways (Psalms 51:17, Isaiah 57:15; 62:2, notice these are OT passages).
Verse to Memorize: Deuteronomy 19:21