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Bible Commentaries

Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary

Deuteronomy 19

Verses 1-3

DEUTERONOMY - CHAPTER NINETEEN

Verses 1-3:

This text was to implement the instructions God had given from Mount Horeb, regarding a place of safety for one charged with manslaughter, until his guilt or innocence could be determined, Exodus 21:13.

Moses had earlier delivered the law of the manslayer and the Cities of Refuge, and had designated three cities on the east of Jordan for this purpose, Numbers 35:9-15. These three cities are named in Deuteronomy 4:41-43.

This text instructs Israel to implement the plan already given by designating three cities on the west of Jordan These were Hebron in Judah, Shechem in Ephraim, and Kedesh in Naphtali, Joshua 20:7-8. They were named in keeping with the instructions, that the Land would be divided into three districts, and the cities located as nearly as possible so that regardless of where one was in the Land, he would never be more than one day’s journey (about thirty miles) from a City of Refuge.

The "way" refers to a well-maintained road leading to the cities. The roads were to be kept open and clear of obstructions, and plainly marked.

Verses 4-7

Verses 4-7:

This text affirms the purpose of the Cities of Refuge: to provide a place of safety for a manslayer, until a judicial inquiry could determine if the death were accidental or if it were premeditated murder, see Numbers 35:22-29.

This text suggests a hypothetical case as an example of one who was responsible for the accidental death of another.

Verses 8-10

Verses 8-10:

God promised Abraham that his descendants would inherit a territory much greater than the Land of Canaan, even under its most extended boundaries under David and Solomon, see Genesis 15:8. Occupation of this extended territory was contingent upon love for Jehovah God and obedience to His commands.

In the event of their occupation of this extended region, Israel was to designate three other cities as Cities of Refuge. The implication is that the same conditions applied to these as to the other six.

Verses 11-13

Verses 11-13:

The Cities of Refuge were not places of sanctuary for those guilty of willful, premeditated murder, see Numbers 35:16-21; Numbers 35:30-34. A murderer who fled to a City of Refuge would not be allowed to remain there. A trial was to be held in his own home city. If the judicial inquiry determined that he was indeed guilty of premeditated murder, he would be delivered to the "avenger of blood," for the execution of the death sentence.

Verse 14

Verse 14:

This text is the law which prohibits the removal or alteration of property boundaries.

"Landmark," debul, "border," some definitive mark or monument to denote property boundaries. These were held sacred, and Scripture sternly prohibits any alteration or tampering with them, see Deuteronomy 7:7; Proverbs 22:28; Proverbs 23:10; Hosea 5:10.

Landmarks usually consisted of moveable objects, such as a stone, or a pillar. An unscrupulous neighbor could shift the location of the marker, and rob one of a part of his inheritance and means of livelihood. This was considered as theft, Job 24:2, and as such was a violation of the Eighth Commandment, "Thou shalt not steal," Exodus 20:15.

Verse 15

Verse 15:

This rule of evidence was introduced in Numbers 35:30 regarding testimony in a murder case. It is repeated in Deuteronomy 17:6, in the matter of a charge of idolatry. This text expands it to include property disputes.

Jesus referred to this law, in answering the Pharisees who sought to discredit His testimony, John 8:31. He found this principle upon His churches today, in matters of dispute between brethren, Matthew 18:15-16.

Christians today would do well to practice this principle regarding rumors or gossip which they may hear.

Verses 16-21

Verses 16-21:

"Wrong" sarah, "a turning aside, defection," translated "rebellion," Jeremiah 28:16; Jeremiah 29:32, and "revolt," Isaiah 1:5; Isaiah 31:6; Isaiah 59:13. Use of this term implies a defection to idolatry, or rebellion against Jehovah.

The text deals with a case in which one is falsely accused of defection or rebellion, by another. Both the accused and accuser must appear at the Temple or sanctuary (before Jehovah), before the priests and the judges, where the case would be tried in the highest court.

"Diligent inquisition," darash yatab, "thorough inquiry."

If the court of inquiry determined the accusation to be false, the sentence was that it should be done to the accuser as he had intended for the accused. No deviation was to be allowed from this law. The purpose of this was to engender respect and reverence for God and His Law.

Compare verse 21 with Exodus 21:23-25 and Leviticus 24:19; Leviticus 24:21.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Blessed Hope Foundation and the Baptist Training Center.
Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 19". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/deuteronomy-19.html. 1985.