- The expiation of an uncertain murder, verse 1-9.
- The usage of a captive taken to wife, verse 10-14.
- The first-born to not to be disinherited, verse 15-17.
- A stubborn son to be put to death, verse 18-21.
- Bodies of malefactors to be buried, verse 22.
The field - Or, in the city, or any place: only the field is named, as the place where such murders are most commonly committed.
Thy elders and judges - Those of thy elders who are judges: the judges or rulers of all the neighbouring cities. Measure - Unless it be evident which city is nearest; for then measuring was superfluous.
Which hath not drawn in the yoke - A fit representative of the murderer, in whose stead it was killed, who would not bear the yoke of God's laws. A type also of Christ, who was under the yoke, but what he had voluntarily taken upon himself.
A rough valley - That such a desert and horrid place might beget an horror of murder and of the murderer. Strike off the neck - To shew what they would and should have done to the murderer if they had found him.
Every controversy - Of this kind: every controversy which shall rise about any stroke, whether such a mortal stroke as is here spoken of, or any other stroke or wound given by one man to another.
They shall answer - To the priests who shall examine them. This blood - This about which the present enquiry is made: or this which is here present: for it is thought the corps of the slain man was brought into the same place where the heifer was slain. Nor have we seen or understood how or by whom this was done.
Forgiven - Though there was no mortal guilt in this people, yet there was a ceremonial uncleanness in the land, which was to be expiated and forgiven.
Enemies - Of other nations, but not of the Canaanites.
Hast a desire unto her - Or, hast taken delight in her: which may be a modest expression for lying with her, and seems probable, because it is said, Deuteronomy 21:14, that he had humbled her. And here seem to be two cases supposed, and direction given what to do in both of them, 1. that he did desire to marry her, of which he speaks, Deuteronomy 21:11-13. 2. that he did not desire this, of which he speaks, Deuteronomy 21:14.
She shall shave her head - In token of her renouncing her heathenish idolatry and superstition, and of her becoming a new woman, and embracing the true religion.
Raiment of captivity - Those sordid raiments which were put upon her when she was taken captive. Bewail her father and mother - Either their death, or which was in effect the same, her final separation from them.
If thou have no delight in her - If thou dost not chuse to marry her. Thou shalt not make merchandise of her - Make gain of her, either by using her to thy own servile works, or by prostituting her to the lusts or to the service of others.
Two wives - This practice, though tolerated, is not hereby made lawful; but only provision is made for the children in this case. Hated - Comparatively, that is, less loved.
His father and mother - The consent of both is required to prevent the abuse of this law to cruelty. And it cannot reasonably be supposed that both would agree without the son's abominable and incorrigible wickedness, in which case it seems a righteous law, because the crime of rebellion against his own parents did so fully signify what a pernicious member he would be in the commonwealth of Israel, who had dissolved all his natural obligations. Unto the elders - Which was a sufficient caution to preserve children from the malice of any hard-hearted parents, because these elders were first to examine the cause with all exactness, and then to pronounce the sentence.
A glutton and a drunkard - Under which two offences others of a like or worse nature are comprehended.
On a tree - Which was done after the malefactor was put to death some other way, this publick shame being added to his former punishment.
He is accursed of God - He is in a singular manner cursed and punished by God's appointment with a most shameful kind of punishment, as this was held among the Jews and all nations; and therefore this punishment may suffice for him, and there shall not be added to it that of lying unburied. And this curse is here appropriated to those that are hanged, to so signify that Christ should undergo this execrable punishment, and be made a curse for us, Galatians 3:13, which though it was to come in respect to men, yet was present unto God. Defiled - Either by inhumanity towards the dead: or by suffering the monument of the man's wickedness, and of God's curse, to remain publick a longer time than God would have it, whereas it should he put out of sight, and buried in oblivion.