-This chapter begins a section on laws for human relations in the country of Israel with significance for all civilizations. First thing covered is the unfortunate event of a manslaying that has gone unwitnessed and unknown. When the Israelis find a slain person lying in the open country in the land, there is a certain prescription with how to handle the situation. The elders and judges will go out and actually measure the distance to the surrounding cities to verify whose city the body is closest to. The closest city will have the elders take a heifer from the herd, which has not worked nor pulled in a yoke, and bring the animal down to a valley with running water, which has not been plowed or sown. They will break the neck of the heifer there in the valley, and then have the Levitical priests of the area, who have been chosen to serve God and bless in His Name and settle every dispute and assault, come near and have the elders wash their hands over the heifer whose neck was broken in the valley. They will then profess that “our hands did not shed this blood, nor did our eyes see it.” They will ask the LORD for forgiveness from the redeeming Father with the expectation that He will not place the innocent blood guiltiness on them. This prescription will remove the guilt of innocent blood from the midst of Israel as they do what is right in the eyes of the LORD (Deuteronomy 21:1-9).
-Next, in the area of domestic relations, God gives provisions for taking a wife from the conquered foes. These desired women should be taken to the man’s home. When there, her head was to be shaved, and her nails trimmed. She was to remove her captivity clothes and remain in the house for a full month so she could mourn her father and mother who was lost. After that, the Hebrew man was allowed to go into her as her husband making her his wife. If the man was not pleased with her, he could let her go wherever she wished, but there was a prohibition that the man could never sell her for money, nor could he mistreat her because he had humbled her (Deuteronomy 21:10-14). Further, in the case of two wives with a preferential partner that was loved more, the man could not pick the firstborn. Jacob would have been an earlier example of the reason for this law (Genesis 29:1-35:29). Therefore, an acknowledgement of the firstborn was objective as he was to be given a double portion of the inheritance, “for he is the beginning of his strength; to him belongs the right of the firstborn (Deuteronomy 21:15-17).”
-Another domestic situation that was covered dealt with stubborn and rebellious sons who would not listen to nor obey their parents even when chastised. These rebels would be seized by their parents and brought to the elders of the city at the gateway of his hometown. In public humiliation the son would be called out as a rebellious, gluttonous, drunkard. Then the men of his city were required to stone him to death for the purpose of removing the evil from their midst. All of Israel will hear of it and fear. Honoring the father and mother was serious business in the land (Deuteronomy 21:18-21).
-A final claim is made which has prophetic implications. “If a man has committed a sin worthy of death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his corpse shall not hang all night on the tree, but you shall surely bury him on the same day (for he who is hanged is accursed of God), so that you do not defile your land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance (Deuteronomy 21:22-23, Matthew 27:57-60, Mark 15:42-47, Luke 23:50-56, John 19:30-42).”
-*Application* Man’s sin has always been an extreme affront to the Holy God of the universe. He deals with it brutally as we see here in these verses. But as just as His condemnation is, and the fear it causes, the grace He shows in sending His only begotten Son to die as a curse in our place shows us the love and mercy of the Father all at the same time (John 3:16). Forgiveness is what mankind needs more than anything else because every single one of us have transgressed His perfection outlined in His Law (Romans 3:23). The wages of sin is physical and spiritual death, but the free gift of God is eternal spiritual life in a resurrected body through the amazing sacrifice of Jesus Christ our LORD (Romans 6:23, 1 Corinthians 15:12-58). We all deserve death, and there is great fear in that. Thank God that perfect love, which comes when we receive His Son, casts out all that fear (1 John 4:15-18).
Verse to Memorize: Deuteronomy 21:23