Deuteronomy 21:1

Atonement for an Unsolved Murder

1 If someone is found slain, lying in a field in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess, and it is not known who the killer was,

Read Deuteronomy 21:1 Using Other Translations

If one be found slain in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee to possess it, lying in the field, and it be not known who hath slain him:
"If in the land that the LORD your God is giving you to possess someone is found slain, lying in the open country, and it is not known who killed him,
“When you are in the land the LORD your God is giving you, someone may be found murdered in a field, and you don’t know who committed the murder.

What does Deuteronomy 21:1 mean?

John Gill's Exposition of the Bible
Deuteronomy 21:1

If one be found slain
After public war with an enemy, Moses proceeds to speak of a private quarrel and fight of one man with another, in which one is slain, as Aben Ezra observes:

in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee to possess it;
where murders might be committed more secretly, and remain undiscovered, when they came to live in separate cities, towns, and villages, with fields adjacent to them, than now encamped together:

lying in the field;
where the quarrel begun, and where the fight was fought: or, however, where the murderer met with his enemy, and slew him, and left him; it being common for duels to be fought, and murders committed in a field; the first murder in the world was committed in such a place, ( Genesis 4:8 ) . The Targum of Jonathan is,

``not hidden under an heap, not hanging on a tree, nor swimming on the face of the waters;''

which same things are observed in the Misnah F9, and gathered from some words in the text:

in the land,
and so not under a heap;

lying,
and so not hanging;

in the field,
and so not swimming on the water:

and it be not known who hath slain him;
the parties being alone, and no witnesses of the fact, at least that appear; for, if it was known, the heifer was not beheaded, later mentioned F11; and one witness in this case was sufficient, and even one that was not otherwise admitted.


FOOTNOTES:

F9 Sotah, c. 9. sect. 2.
F11 Maimon. Hilchot Rotzeach, c. 9. sect. 11, 12.
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