Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible
back to: Deuteronomy
Book: Deuteronomy
Chapter: 21

The Expiation of uncertain Murder. (1-9) Respecting a Captive
taken to Wife. (10-14) The First-born not to be disinherited for
private Affection. (15-17) A stubborn son to be stoned. (18-21)
Malefactors not to be left Hanging all night. (22,23)

1-9 If a murderer could not be found out, great solemnity is
provided for putting away the guilt from the land, as an
expression of dread and detesting of that Sin. The Providence of
God has often wonderfully brought to Light these hidden Works of
Darkness, and the Sin of the guilty has often strangely found
them out. The dread of Murder should be deeply impressed upon
every Heart, and all should join in detecting and punishing
those who are guilty. The elders were to profess that they had
not been any way aiding or abetting the Sin. The priests were to
pray to God for the country and nation, that God would be
merciful. We must empty that Measure By our prayers, which
others are filling By their sins. All would be taught By this
solemnity, to use the utmost care and diligence to prevent,
discover, and punish Murder. We may all learn from hence to take
heed of partaking in other men's sins. And we have Fellowship
with the unfruitful Works of Darkness, if we do not reprove

10-14 By this Law a soldier was allowed to marry his Captive,
if he pleased. This might take place upon some occasions; but
the Law does not show any approval of it. It also intimates how
binding the laws of Justice and honour are in Marriage; which is
a sacred engagement.

15-17 This Law restrains men from disinheriting their eldest
sons without just cause. The principle in this case as to
children, is still binding to parents; they must give children
their right without partiality.

18-21 Observe how the criminal is here described. He is a
stubborn and rebellious son. No Child was to fare the worse for
weakness of capacity, slowness, or dulness, but for wilfulness
and obstinacy. Nothing draws men into all manner of wickedness,
and hardens them in it more certainly and fatally, than
drunkenness. When men take to drinking, they forget the Law of
honouring parents. His own Father and mother must complain of
him to the elders of the City. Children who forget their duty,
must thank themselves, and not blame their parents, if they are
regarded with less and less Affection. He must be publicly
stoned to Death By the men of his City. Disobedience to a
parent's authority must be very evil, when such a Punishment was
ordered; nor is it less provoking to God now, though it escapes
Punishment in this world. But when young people early become
slaves to sensual appetites, the Heart soon grows hard, and the
Conscience callous; and we can expect nothing but rebellion and

22,23 By the Law of Moses, the touch of a dead body was
defiling, therefore dead bodies must not be left Hanging, as
that would defile the land. There is one reason here which has
reference to Christ; "He that is hanged is accursed of God;"
that is, it is the highest degree of disgrace and reproach.
Those who see a Man thus Hanging between Heaven and Earth, will
conclude him abandoned of both, and unworthy of either. Moses,
By the Spirit, uses this phrase of being accursed of God, when
he means No more than being treated most disgracefully, that it
might afterward be applied to the Death of Christ, and might
show that in it he underwent the Curse of the Law for us; which
proves his Love, and encourages to Faith in him.