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Bible Commentaries
Deuteronomy 19

Grant's Commentary on the BibleGrant's Commentary

Verses 1-21



We have seen in Deuteronomy 4:41-43 that Moses set aside three cities east of the Jordan as cities of refuge. Now Moses gives instructions to Israel that, when God should cut off the nations of the land and Israel was established there, they should separate three cities on that side of Jordan, each in a distinct area, as cities of refuge (vs.1-2).

They were to divide the land into three parts on that side of Jordan, with roads that would be helpful in denoting the bounds of those divisions as well as making it more simple to flee to a city of refuge when a road led in that direction (v.3).

Now God carefully repeats the proper terms under which one could claim the shelter of the city of refuge. It was a provision for a manslayer, not for a murderer. He might kill another unintentionally. An example of this is given here also. One might swing his axe to cut down a tree, and the axe head slip off the handle, accidentally killing another person (vs.4-5). In such a case he could flee to the city of refuge where he would be safe from "the avenger of blood." This person would be a close relative or friend of the victim, and might feel himself justified in taking vengeance on the manslayer.

These three cities are spoken of inJoshua 20:7; Joshua 20:7 as Kadesh in Galilee, in the north, Shechem, about midway in the land, and Hebron in the south. Added in verses 8 and 9 is the promise that if the Lord enlarged their territory and if they would keep His commandments, they were to add three more cities of refuge. It seems this refers to the same three cities that Moses set apart in Deuteronomy 4:41-42. Perhaps they had not yet been established at that time, however, in spite of being indicated.

God by means of these cities showed His concern that one must not suffer unfairly (v.10). But on the other hand, a murderer could not be allowed to take advantage of this provision. If one had been guilty of motives of hatred or intentionally murdering another, if he fled to the city of refuge, then the elders of his own city must send to the city of refuge, where the guilty person must be given up to return to his own city and face the retribution of the avenger of blood (vs.11-13).

There is a typical lesson in this that we must observe. All mankind has been guilty of the death of the Lord Jesus. Yet He could say, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do" (Luke 23:34). If our guilt is through ignorance, there is a refuge for us and forgiveness in now receiving Christ as Savior. But if we have rejected Him through malicious hatred, "there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment" (Hebrews 10:26-27). Thus the murderer was not to be spared, not to be pitied (v.13), for only by his death could Israel put away the guilt of innocent blood.



If one did not respect the life of his neighbor, it might well be that he would not respect his neighbor's landmarks, so Israel is warned not to remove these. These were marks to indicate the borders of the people's possessions. They had been established by "men of old." These are typical of truths that are basic to the testimony of the Church of God, -- truths that will enable us to remain within the borders that God has prescribed for the order of His Church. These may be called traditions, but true traditions are good. If they are merely men's traditions, we must refuse them. But too often efforts are made to negate truths that are taught in Scripture by calling them "traditions." This is removing the old landmarks. May we not be guilty of this.



Two or three witnesses are necessary as regards making a decision in any matter. One witness may be mistaken or prejudiced, or even dishonest. If two people have a controversy, they must stand before the judges and have the matter thoroughly investigated. If one testified falsely, he must suffer the judgment he desired against his opponent (vs.18-19). Under law there was no mercy -- eye for eye, tooth for tooth.

Bibliographical Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 19". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lmg/deuteronomy-19.html. 1897-1910.
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