Deuteronomy 21:1-9

Expiation of a Crime

21 “If a slain person is found lying in the open country in the land which the Lord your God gives you to [a]possess, and it is not known who has struck him, then your elders and your judges shall go out and measure the distance to the cities which are around the slain one. It shall be that the city which is nearest to the slain man, that is, the elders of that city, shall take a heifer of the herd, which has not been worked and which has not pulled in a yoke; and the elders of that city shall bring the heifer down to a valley with running water, which has not been plowed or sown, and shall break the heifer’s neck there in the valley. Then the priests, the sons of Levi, shall come near, for the Lord your God has chosen them to serve Him and to bless in the name of the Lord; and every dispute and every [b]assault [c]shall be settled by them. All the elders of that city [d]which is nearest to the slain man shall wash their hands over the heifer whose neck was broken in the valley; and they shall answer and say, ‘Our hands did not shed this blood, nor did our eyes see it8 [e]Forgive Your people Israel whom You have redeemed, O Lord, and do not place the guilt of innocent blood in the midst of Your people Israel.’ And the bloodguiltiness shall be [f]forgiven them. So you shall remove the guilt of innocent blood from your midst, when you do what is right in the eyes of the Lord.

It’s interesting that the guilt was placed upon an entire village if someone was dead and no one saw the crime committed. They were very strict about having at least two witnesses to a crime, and it was a serious thing to charge someone with murder. There was to be no speculation, unless it was witnessed, or the guilty came forward, the entire community bore the guilt until a sacrifice was made.

It’s possible this form of punishment was a tool, such as we might use, where the whole group is punished (or has it hanging over them), until the one who did the deed confesses. It almost seems a part of human nature, that folks do not like to see someone else suffer for their crimes.

Obviously there are exceptions, with psychopathic behavior and such. In the same way, there is a punishment that hangs over the entire human race, but in this case we are guilty. We have all sinned, and all have doom hanging over us. But there is a solution, a payment has already been made, and as much as we should wish that our fellow man not to suffer, we should wish to share the good news of Jesus with them.

We should not be silent, as the culprit in these cases might have remained, but we have good news instead, which is for all people. Do not be silent, share it!

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