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Deuteronomy Nineteen

by Dr. Henry M. Morris

(taken from the Defender's Study Bible)

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Deuteronomy 19:1 When the LORD thy God hath cut off the nations, whose land the LORD thy God giveth thee, and thou succeedest them, and dwellest in their cities, and in their houses;

Deuteronomy 19:2 Thou shalt separate three cities for thee in the midst of thy land, which the LORD thy God giveth thee to possess it.

three cities. On the cities of refuge, see also Numbers 35:9-15 and Deuteronomy 4:41-43. There were to be three cities on the east side of Jordan and three on the west side. The “three cities more” (Deuteronomy 19:9) were evidently to be added later, after further expansion of Israel’s territory, but no further mention is made of them.

Deuteronomy 19:3 Thou shalt prepare thee a way, and divide the coasts of thy land, which the LORD thy God giveth thee to inherit, into three parts, that every slayer may flee thither.

Deuteronomy 19:4 And this is the case of the slayer, which shall flee thither, that he may live: Whoso killeth his neighbour ignorantly, whom he hated not in time past;

Deuteronomy 19:5 As when a man goeth into the wood with his neighbour to hew wood, and his hand fetcheth a stroke with the axe to cut down the tree, and the head slippeth from the helve, and lighteth upon his neighbour, that he die; he shall flee unto one of those cities, and live:

helve. An axe-handle.

Deuteronomy 19:6 Lest the avenger of the blood pursue the slayer, while his heart is hot, and overtake him, because the way is long, and slay him; whereas he was not worthy of death, inasmuch as he hated him not in time past.

Deuteronomy 19:7 Wherefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt separate three cities for thee.

Deuteronomy 19:8 And if the LORD thy God enlarge thy coast, as he hath sworn unto thy fathers, and give thee all the land which he promised to give unto thy fathers;

Deuteronomy 19:9 If thou shalt keep all these commandments to do them, which I command thee this day, to love the LORD thy God, and to walk ever in his ways; then shalt thou add three cities more for thee, beside these three:

three cities more. See Joshua 20:7, where the three cities of refuge east of Jordan were designated. The three west of the Jordan were named in Deuteronomy 4:43.

Deuteronomy 19:10 That innocent blood be not shed in thy land, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance, and so blood be upon thee.

Deuteronomy 19:11 But if any man hate his neighbour, and lie in wait for him, and rise up against him, and smite him mortally that he die, and fleeth into one of these cities:

Deuteronomy 19:12 Then the elders of his city shall send and fetch him thence, and deliver him into the hand of the avenger of blood, that he may die.

Deuteronomy 19:13 Thine eye shall not pity him, but thou shalt put away the guilt of innocent blood from Israel, that it may go well with thee.

Deuteronomy 19:14 Thou shalt not remove thy neighbour's landmark, which they of old time have set in thine inheritance, which thou shalt inherit in the land that the LORD thy God giveth thee to possess it.

landmark. Evidently, even though the children of Israel were to receive their promised inheritance by driving out the Canaanites who then inhabited the land, they were to divide it on the basis of ancient “landmarks” already established. These were probably the same as “the border [same Hebrew word] of the Canaanites” (Genesis 10:19) established when “by these were the nations divided in the earth after the flood” (Genesis 10:32).

Deuteronomy 19:15 One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established.

two witnesses. Although two or more reliable witnesses were required to establish guilt in relation to a criminal charge, it was not always essential that these be eye-witnesses of the actual crime—otherwise many criminals could escape conviction by being careful to commit their acts when no more than one witness was present. The witness could, if necessary, be some other type of relevant evidence (compare Leviticus 5:1, which refers to evidence either seen or known; also Exodus 22:13, which speaks of some physical evidence as witness). See also note on Deuteronomy 17:6.

Deuteronomy 19:16 If a false witness rise up against any man to testify against him that which is wrong;

Deuteronomy 19:17 Then both the men, between whom the controversy is, shall stand before the LORD, before the priests and the judges, which shall be in those days;

Deuteronomy 19:18 And the judges shall make diligent inquisition: and, behold, if the witness be a false witness, and hath testified falsely against his brother;

inquisition. That is, a “diligent inquiry.”

a false witness. It was vitally important that the testimony of witnesses be trustworthy, particularly in view of the serious penalties (frequently even execution) specified for many crimes. The ninth of the Ten Commandments was a command not to bear false witness. Many years later, it was the testimony of false witnesses which provided an excuse for the Council to condemn Jesus to death (Matthew 26:59-61).

Deuteronomy 19:19 Then shall ye do unto him, as he had thought to have done unto his brother: so shalt thou put the evil away from among you.

Deuteronomy 19:20 And those which remain shall hear, and fear, and shall henceforth commit no more any such evil among you.

Deuteronomy 19:21 And thine eye shall not pity; but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

eye for eye. See note on Leviticus 24:20.