if the thing follow not, nor come to pass; as the prophecy of Hananiah, Jeremiah 28:3 that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken; or otherwise it would have come to pass, unless when a condition is either expressed or implied, as the repentance or disobedience of a people; see Jeremiah 18:7.
but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously; in a bold and daring manner, with great impiety and impudence, out of his own head and heart, being a mere device and imagination of his own, which, not having the fear of God, he delivered as coming from the Lord:
thou shall not be afraid of him; not only to reprove him for his wickedness, but also to punish him for it; showing no regard to the high character he assumes, nor to the great pretensions he makes to sanctity, knowledge, and familiarity with God.
INTRODUCTION TO Deuteronomy 19
This chapter contains an order to separate three cities of refuge in the land of Canaan, for such that killed a man unawares to flee to, of which those who were guilty of murder purposely were to have no benefit, Deuteronomy 19:1, a law is given against removing landmarks, Deuteronomy 19:14, and others concerning witnesses, that they should be more than one; be two, or three, Deuteronomy 19:15, and that a false witness, on conviction, should be punished, Deuteronomy 19:16.
and thou succeedest them, and dwellest in their cities, and in their houses; should possess their land in their stead, by virtue of the gift of it to them by the Lord, and inhabit their cities and houses built by them.
which the Lord thy God giveth thee to possess it: which as it is often mentioned when this land is spoken of, so it carries in it a reason here why this order of the Lord's should be readily complied with, the whole land and all the cities of it being the gift of his to them.
and divide the coasts of thy land, which the Lord thy God giveth thee to inherit, in three parts; in each of which was to be a city of refuge, and those at an equal distance: so Jarchi observes, that this was done that there might be from the beginning of the border (of the land) unto the first city of the cities of refuge, according to the measure of a journey, that there is from that to the second, and so from the second to the third, and so from the third to the other border of the land of Israel: of the situation of these cities, so as to answer to those on the other side Jordan; see Gill on Numbers 35:14,
that every slayer may flee thither; to that which is nearest and most convenient for him, that is, who had slain a man unawares, as follows.
(r) Misn. Shekalim, c. 1. sect. 1.((s) Maimon. & Bartenora in ib.
whoso killeth his neighbour ignorantly; without intention, as the Targum of Jonathan, did not design it, but was done by him unawares:
whom he hated not in time past; had never shown by words or deeds that he had any hatred of him or enmity to him three days ago; so that if there were no marks of hatred, or proofs of it three days before this happened, it was reckoned an accidental thing, and not done on purpose, as this phrase is usually interpreted; see Exodus 21:29.
and his hand fetcheth a stroke with the axe to cut down the tree; lifts up the axe and is about to strike with it, in order to cut down the tree pitched upon by him or by his neighbour, or both:
and the head slippeth from the halve; the head of the axe from the handle of it:
or the iron from the wood (u); the iron part of the axe, which is properly the head, from the wooden part, which is laid hold on by the hand; and this not being well fastened, slips and falls off as the blow is fetching, or the stroke just ready to be given:
and lighteth upon his neighbour, that he die; hits him in some part as he stands by him, which proves fatal:
he shall flee unto one of these cities, and live; be safe and secure from the avenger of blood; such an one might have the benefit of one of these cities, for, for such they were designed: the rule with the Jews is, what is done by way of descent (i.e. which comes down and lights upon a man, and is not levelled against him, or thrown up at him) he is to be exiled (or to have the benefit of a city of refuge), but what is not by way of descent, he is not to have it. Some think this is spoken of the wood which is cleaved, and not of the wood in which the iron is fixed; but the wise men say it is to be so understood (x); in which they are right.
(t) Misn. Maccot, c. 2. sect. 2.((u) "ferrum e ligno", Pagninus, Montanus. (x) Misn. Maccot, c. 2. sect. 1. Maimon. & Bartenora in ib.
while his heart is hot; by reason of the loss of his relation, upon which his passions being raised, his heart becomes inflamed with wrath and anger; which pushes him upon an eager and hasty pursuit of the slayer, before he sits down and coolly considers and deliberates on the affair:
and overtake him, because the way is long, and slay him; wherefore it was proper that everything should be done to make the way to these cities as easy and as short as it could be:
whereas he was not worthy of death; had not committed an action deserving of it, it being done ignorantly and without notice, as follows:
inasmuch as he hated him not in time past; See Gill on Deuteronomy 19:4.
(as he hath sworn unto thy fathers), and give thee all the land which he promised to give unto thy, fathers: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; see Genesis 15:19.
to love the Lord thy God; which is the source and spring of genuine obedience to the commands of God:
and to walk ever in his ways; noting constancy and perseverance in them; now all this is mentioned as the condition of the enlargement of their coast, which would be the case if a due and constant regard was had to the laws of God:
and then shall thou add three cities more besides these three; three more in the land of Canaan, besides the three now ordered to be separated in it, and besides the three on the other side of Jordan; so that there would have been nine in all, if these had been ever added; but that time never came: the Jews expect the addition of these three cities in the days of the Messiah (y) but the Messiah is already come, and all those cities, as they were typical of him, have had their accomplishment in him the antitype of them, of which See Gill on Numbers 35:29.
(y) Maimon. Hilchot Rotzeach, c. 8. sect. 4.
which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance; to be enjoyed by them and their children after them, provided they did not defile it by their sins, but observed the commands of the Lord to obey them and
so blood be upon thee; the guilt of innocent blood crying for vengeance, as would be the case if such a man's blood was shed as before described; it seems as if the guilt would rather affect the whole land, for not having a proper provision of "asylums" for such persons, than the avenger of blood.
and lie in wait for him knowing and expecting he will come by in such a way at such a time:
and rise up against him; out of the place where he lay in wait, just at the time he is passing by:
and smite him mortally that he die; or smite him
in soul or life (z); in such a part where life is in danger, and the consequence of it is that he dies:
and fleeth into one of these cities; for shelter from the avenger of blood.
(z) "anima", Montanus, Vatablus.
and deliver him into the hand of the avenger of blood, that he may die; that is, after the examination and trial of him, and when he is found guilty, and sentence is passed upon him, then he was to be delivered into the hands of the avenger of blood, to be the executioner of that sentence.
but thou shall put away the guilt of innocent blood from Israel; by which they would be defiled, and be liable to punishment for it; see Numbers 35:33, the Targum of Jonathan is,"shall put away those that shed innocent blood out of Israel;''put them away by death:
that it may go well with thee; with the whole land and its inhabitants, and with the city particularly, and the magistrates, and men of it, to which the murderer condemned to death belonged, being continued in the enjoyment of all temporal blessings and mercies.
which they of old have set in thine inheritance, which thou shall inherit in the land that the Lord thy God giveth thee to possess it; the land of Canaan: this is thought to refer to the bounds and limits set in the land by Eleazar and Joshua, and those concerned with them at the division of it; when not only the tribes were bounded; and distinguished by certain marks, but every man's estate, and the possession of every family in every tribe which though not as yet done when this law was made, yet, as it respects future times, might be said to be done of old, whenever there was any transgression of it, which it cannot be supposed would be very quickly done; and it is a law not only binding on the inhabitants of the land of Canaan, but all others, it being agreeably to the light and law of nature, and which was regarded among the Heathens, Proverbs 22:28.
at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established; either for acquittance or condemnation; and the witnesses may not, as Jarchi says, write their testimony in a letter, and send it to the sanhedrim, nor may an interpreter stand between the witnesses and the judges; See Gill on Deuteronomy 17:6.
to testify against him: that which is not true of him, let it be in what case it will; Aben Ezra instances in idolatry, but it holds good of any other.
shall stand before the Lord; as in the presence of him, the omniscient God, and as represented by judges and civil magistrates, whose vicegerents they are; so it seems to be explained in the next words, which are exegetical of these:
before the priests and the judges which shall be in those days; which shall compose the sanhedrim, or court of judicature; and this seems to confirm it, that by priest and judge, in Deuteronomy 17:9 are meant priests and judges; Jarchi says, this Scripture speaks of witnesses, that is, of the false witness that testifies wrong against a man, and another that contradicts his testimony, and teaches that there is no witness by women; and so it is elsewhere said (a), an oath of witness is made by men, and not by women; on which it is observed (b) that a woman is not fit to bear witness, as it is written:
then both the men,.... men and not women; and the above writer remarks further, that it teaches that they ought to bear testimony standing.
(a) Misn. Shebuot, c. 4. sect. 1.((b) Bartenora in ib.
and, behold, if the witness be a false witness, and hath testified falsely against his brother; it appears plainly by full evidence that he has testified a falsehood of him.
so shalt thou put the evil away from among you; the evil man that bears a false testimony of his brother, or the guilt of sin which would be incurred by conniving at him.