King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Deuteronomy 19

The cities of refuge, The man-slayer, The murderer. (1-13) Landmarks not to be removed. (14) The punishment of false witnesses. (15-21)

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The cities of refuge, The man-slayer, The murderer

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;

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

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.

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;

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:

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.

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

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;

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:

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.

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:

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.

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.

Landmarks not to be removed

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.

The punishment of false witnesses

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.

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

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;

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

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.

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

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.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 2. Cities. These were Hebron, Sichem, and Cades, on the west side of the Jordan. Jos. xx. 7. Those on the east were already appointed. C. iv. 41. Three others might also have been added, (v. 8. C.) in case the Hebrews had gotten full possession of the countries as far as the Euphrates. H. — The cities of refuge were not above forty-five miles distant from each other, in the land of Chanaan. Those in Galaad were not so far off, as the territory was smaller. C.

Ver. 3. Way, and keeping all in good repair, with guide-posts at the crossroads, on which Oleaster says moklot, “escape,” was written. See Num. xxxv.

Ver. 6. Grief. The law granted so much to the sudden passion of a relation, who met the man slayer out of the cities of refuge, as not to punish him if he gave way to the dictates of vengeance, how unjust soever. C.

Ver. 7. At equal, &c. This addition is not in Heb. (C.) or the Sept.; (H.) but is conformable to the regulation given, v. 3. C.

Ver. 8. And when. Sept. “but if.” This condition was never fulfilled, at all times; (v. 9,) and therefore the Israelites could blame only themselves, if the promises which God had made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, (Gen. xv. xxvi. xxviii. and xxxv.) were not realized. H. — Though the country was conquered under David and Solomon, the Israelites did not drive out the former inhabitants, (C). nor did they keep possession for any long time. H.

Ver. 12. His city. Strict enquiry was made into the circumstances attending the manslaughter. Num. xxxv. 12. If the refugee was proved guilty, he was delivered up to the next relation of the deceased to be put to death. H.

Ver. 13. Innocent. Many Latin copies have “guilty blood,” noxium. By putting the offender to death, Israel was expiated from the blood which had been shed unjustly. C.

Ver. 14. Landmarks, either which divided the tribes, or the inheritance of individuals. The former were strictly kept up till after the captivity. Those who removed the latter were to be scourged for theft, and again for disobeying this law. Seld. Jur. vi. 3. Josephus (iv. 8) understands that encroachments on the territories of others, which give rise to many wars, are hereby prohibited. C. — So are likewise innovations in religion. The Romans had a superstitious veneration for these landmarks, which they adored under the name of the god Terminus, (H.) crowning them with flowers, and offering cakes and sacrifices to them. Spargitur et c┼ôso communis Terminus agno. Ovid. Fast. — They punished the crime of removing them either with death, banishment, or a fine.

Ver. 15. One would suffice to make an enquiry into the affair, and to oblige the person accused, in pecuniary matters, to take an oath that he owed nothing. Maimonides. — Stand. This expression was become proverbial, to denote the certainty of a thing. Mat. xviii. 16. 2 Cor. xiii. 1. Two witnesses can not so easily carry on a cheat, (C.) as was seen in the case of Susanna. H. — The law is satisfied with moral certainty. C.

Ver. 16. Transgression against the law, by apostacy or by idolatry, (Junius) or by any other grievous crime. The person accused might, in this case, be examined, but he could not be condemned unless another witness appeared. Demosthenes (c. Aristocrat.) informs us how (C.) the Athenians (H.) required the witness in criminal matters, to swear on the flesh of a wild boar, ram, and bull, that he spoke the truth, and to utter horrible imprecations against himself and family, if he did otherwise. C.

Ver. 17. Lord, in the tabernacle. M. — Judges. Hence it appears evidently that the priests were to pass sentence in all difficult questions, as well in those which regarded individuals, as in those which attacked the worship of God; since the false accuser is to lose his life or limb, according as he had attempted to injure his neighbour; (v. 21,) and the Lord ratifies their sentence. C.

Ver. 20. Things. This is the design of penal laws, to render justice to the innocent, and to prevent the spreading of a contagious evil, by cutting off the hopes of impunity. Grot. Jur. ii. 10. 9. — “I would cause the criminal’s throat to be cut, says Seneca, (de Ira ii.) with the same countenance and mind as I kill serpents and venomous animals.”

Ver. 21. Pity. This regarded the judge, who must act with impartiality. W. — The law admits of no mitigation, but inflicts the same punishment on the calumniating witness, as he intended should fall upon his brother. Lyran. &c. — Some Rabbins (apud Fag.) pretend that this was executed with rigour, only when the innocent had sustained some real injury. See Ex. xxi. 24. C.