Deuteronomy 21 Commentary
There is a special process for the community of God’s people to declare themselves innocent of murder. This is in an event of a murder case where the murderer is not known. We can sense the seriousness with which the LORD looks at every murder case. Human life belongs to the LORD. It also gives us a chance to look at how the LORD looks at leadership. It is about taking responsibility.
The LORD knows exactly what has happened. Both the killer and the circumstances of the killing are known to the LORD. Yet the LORD ordains this very much human ‘hit or miss’ process of exoneration for the town closest to the murder case. The key thought is that the community must take care of its own people and take responsibility when there is failure and a murder occurs.
We have human processes that are operated in nearly total ignorance. The LORD is ok with it. We don’t have to know everything.
The regulations concerning female prisoners of war provide an insight into the high standards of justice demanded of Israel. Later in the scripture, a pagan nation would describe Israel’s kings as being merciful. The LORD imposed on Israel a justice system that reflected the heart of the LORD, even in the imperfection of state governance.
Stoning a rebellious son to death appears harsh but he is a law breaker. By being rebellious he dishonors his parents. He has sinned against the LORD hence the heavy penalty. While many sins are committed against yourself, spouses, children, friends, companies, communities, governments, races, nature or even humanity at large, sin is always an offense against the LORD. It is always serious. The need for genuine repentance cannot be over-emphasized.
Yet one may wonder why the LORD seems to like the death penalty for just about any serious offense. It doesn’t become any easier when you consider the fact that the same LORD is very serious about every life. Even when the killer is not known, the elders of the community nearest to the scene of crime must exonerate themselves in repentance.
Could it be that we are looking at the same workspace from different angles? Regardless, we can guess the gravity of sin and begin to appreciate the mind of the LORD over sin. The chapter closes with references to the crucifixion process. “If someone guilty of a capital offense is put to death and their body is exposed on a pole, you must not leave the body hanging on the pole overnight. Be sure to bury it that same day, because anyone who is hung on a pole is under God’s curse. You must not desecrate the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.” Verses 22 and 23. Are we looking at Calvary?
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