Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 2. Cities.
These were Hebron, Sichem, and Cades, on the west side of the Jordan, Josue xx. 7. Those on the east were already appointed,
chap. iv. 41. Three others might also have been added, (ver. 8.; Calmet) in case the Hebrews had gotten full possession of
the countries as far as the Euphrates. (Haydock) --- 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. (Calmet)
Ver. 3. Way,
and keeping all in good repair, with guide-posts at the crossroads, on which Oleaster says moklot, "escape," was written.
See Numbers 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. (Calmet)
Ver. 7. At
equal, &c. This addition is not in Hebrew (Calmet) or the Septuagint, (Haydock) but is conformable to the regulation
given, ver. 3. (Calmet)
Ver. 8. And
when. Septuagint, "but if." This condition was never fulfilled at all times; (ver. 9,) and therefore the Israelites
could blame only themselves, if the promises which God had made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, (Genesis xv., xxvi., xxviii.,
and xxxv.,) were not realized. (Haydock) --- Though the country was conquered under David and Solomon, the Israelites did
not drive out the former inhabitants, (Calmet) nor did they keep possession for any long time. (Haydock)
Ver. 12. His
city. Strict enquiry was made into the circumstances attending the manslaughter, Numbers xxxv. 12. If the refugee was
proved guilty, he was delivered up to the next relation of the deceased to be put to death. (Haydock)
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. (Calmet)
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. (Selden, Jur. vi. 3.) Josephus
([Antiquities?] iv. 8,) understands that encroachments on the territories of others, which give rise to many wars, are hereby
prohibited. (Calmet) --- 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, (Haydock) crowning them with flowers, and offering cakes and sacrifices
to them. Spargitur et cœso 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,
Matthew xviii. 16., and 2 Corinthians xiii. 1. Two witnesses cannot so easily carry on a cheat, (Calmet) as was seen in the
case of Susanna. [Daniel xiii.] (Haydock) --- The law is satisfied with moral certainty. (Calmet)
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 (contra Aristocrat.) informs us how
(Calmet) the Athenians (Haydock) 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. (Calmet)
Ver. 17. Lord,
in the tabernacle. (Menochius) --- 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; (ver. 21,) and the Lord
ratifies their sentence. (Calmet)
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. (Grotius, 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. (Worthington) --- The law admits of no mitigation, but inflicts the
same punishment on the calumniating witness, as he intended should fall upon his brother. (Lyranus; &c.) --- Some Rabbins
(apud Fag.) pretend that this was executed with rigour, only when the innocent had sustained some real injury. See Exodus
xxi. 24. (Calmet)