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 19:1. From enforcing the laws enacted against idolatry, and calculated to preserve and promote the purity of divine worship, Moses now proceeds to inculcate some important duties belonging to the second table, but not in any exact order, nor without interspersing some precepts respecting ceremonial matters. He begins with some regulations appointed to secure the preservation of the most important part of the property of a fellow- creature, his life.
Thou shalt separate three cities for thee in the midst of thy land, which the LORD thy God giveth thee to possess it.Deuteronomy 19:2. Thou shalt separate three cities for thee — There were to be six cities of refuge in all, but Moses had already appointed three on that side of Jordan where they now were. See Numbers 35:14-15;
Deuteronomy 4:41. In the midst of thy land — That is, in the midst of the several parts or districts of thy land, or within thy land; for had they been all three in the very heart of the country, the very intention of them would have been counteracted: which was, that they should be so conveniently placed in several parts of the country, that men might easily and speedily flee to them.
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 19:3. Thou shalt prepare thee a way — Make a plain road to them, keep it in good repair, and distinguish it by evident marks, to prevent delays and mistakes, that the manslayer might meet with no difficulty in escaping to the nearest city. And divide the coasts of thy land — Thy possessions on the west of Jordan into three equal parts, and in the central part of each open a place of refuge, which being nearly at an equal distance with respect to the inhabitants of that district, all might have the same benefit by it.
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;
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:
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.
Wherefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt separate three cities for thee.
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 19:8-9. If the Lord thy God enlarge thy coast — As far as the Euphrates. If thou shalt keep all these commandments — This shows that the promise of enlarging their border was conditional, and the condition not being performed the promise was never accomplished, so that there was no need for three more cities of refuge. This the Jewish writers themselves own. “Yet the holy blessed God,” say they, “did not command it in vain, for in the days of Messiah the Prince, they shall be added.” They expect it in the letter: but we know it has in Christ its spiritual accomplishment. For the borders of the gospel Israel are enlarged according to the promise: and in the Lord our righteousness, refuge is provided for all that by faith flee to him.
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:
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.
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:
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 19:12. The elders of his city — The city of the manslayer. The sense is, that upon any information or suspicion of murder, laid against any one that had taken refuge in any of these cities, the magistrates of the town or district where the fact was committed, should send for the person out of the refuge-city, bring him to a fair trial, and, upon clear evidence of wilful murder, condemn him to death, and cause execution to be done without fear, partiality, or affection; as they valued the divine blessing, and desired to be free of the guilt of innocent blood, which otherwise would be required at their hands.
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.
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.Deuteronomy 19:14. Thou shalt not remove thy neighbour’s land-mark — Having provided for the preservation of the lives of innocent persons against such as might be disposed to take them away, he proceeds to give a charge for securing every man’s right and property in other matters; and especially forbids all encroachments upon boundaries of lands and estates. Josephus considers this as a prohibition, not only against removing any land-mark of an Israelite, but also any that might distinguish their territories from those of any of the neighbouring nations, with whom they might be at peace, the breaking in upon these bounds being generally the occasion of wars and insurrections, which arise from the covetousness of men, who would thus fraudulently enlarge their possessions.
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.Deuteronomy 19:15-17. One witness shall not rise up — Or, be established, as the same word is rendered in the end of the verse; that is, shall not be accepted or owned as sufficient. If a false witness rise up — A single witness, though he speak truth, is not to be accepted for the condemnation of another man; but if he be convicted of bearing false witness, it is sufficient for his own condemnation. Both the men shall stand before the Lord — That is, shall come to the supreme court, which consisted partly of priests, and partly of other great persons, who, it seems, in Moses’s time, sat at the door of the tabernacle, and so the men, in standing before them, might properly be said to stand before the Lord.
If a false witness rise up against any man to testify against him that which is wrong;
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;
And the judges shall make diligent inquisition: and, behold, if the witness be a false witness, and hath testified falsely against his brother;
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.
And those which remain shall hear, and fear, and shall henceforth commit no more any such evil among you.
And thine eye shall not pity; but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.Deuteronomy 19:21. An eye for an eye — What punishment the law allotted to the accused, if he had been convicted, the same was the false accuser to bear.