Deuteronomy 21:2

2 your leaders and judges are to go out and measure the distance from the body to the nearest cities.

Deuteronomy 21:2 Meaning and Commentary

Deuteronomy 21:2

Then thy elders and thy judges shall come forth
From the city or cities near to which the murder was committed, to make inquiry about it, and expiation for it; so Aben Ezra interprets it of the elders of the cities near, but others understand it of the elders of the great sanhedrim at Jerusalem; so the Targum of Jonathan,

``then shall go out from the great sanhedrim two of thy wise men, and three of thy judges;''

and more expressly the Misnah F12,

``three go out from the great sanhedrim in Jerusalem;''

R. Judah says five,

``it is said "thy elders" two, and "thy judges" two,''

and there is no sanhedrim or court of judicature equal (or even), therefore they add to them one more:

and they shall measure unto the cities which are round about him that
is slain;
that is, from the place where the slain lies, as Jarchi rightly interprets it; on all sides of it, from the four corner's, as the Targum of Jonathan, the cities round about the slain. Maimonides


F13 says, they do not behead the heifer for, nor measure, but to a city in which there is a sanhedrim: if it is found between two cities (that is, at an equal distance), both bring two heifers (Maimonides F14 says they bring one between them, which is most reasonable); but the city of Jerusalem does not bring an heifer to be beheaded: the reason is, because it was not divided to the tribes F15. This measuring, one would think, should be only necessary when it was not certain which was the nearest city; and yet Maimonides F16 says, even when it was found on the side of a city, which was certainly known to be nearest, they measured; the command, he observes, is to measure.

F12 Sotah, c. 9. sect. 1.
F13 Hilchot Rotzeach, c. 9. sect. 4.
F14 Ib. sect. 8.
F15 Maimon Hilchot Rotzeachs, c. 9. sect. 8.
F16 lb. c. 9. sect. 1.

Deuteronomy 21:2 In-Context

1 If a dead body is found on the ground, this ground that God, your God, has given you, lying out in the open, and no one knows who killed him,
2 your leaders and judges are to go out and measure the distance from the body to the nearest cities.
3 The leaders and judges of the city that is nearest the corpse will then take a heifer that has never been used for work, never had a yoke on it.
4 The leaders will take the heifer to a valley with a stream, a valley that has never been plowed or planted, and there break the neck of the heifer.
5 The Levitical priests will then step up. God has chosen them to serve him in these matters by settling legal disputes and violent crimes and by pronouncing blessings in God's name.
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved.