Deuteronomy 21:2

2 In such a case, your elders and judges must measure the distance from the site of the crime to the nearby towns.

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 “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.
2 In such a case, your elders and judges must measure the distance from the site of the crime to the nearby towns.
3 When the nearest town has been determined, that town’s elders must select from the herd a heifer that has never been trained or yoked to a plow.
4 They must lead it down to a valley that has not been plowed or planted and that has a stream running through it. There in the valley they must break the heifer’s neck.
5 Then the Levitical priests must step forward, for the LORD your God has chosen them to minister before him and to pronounce blessings in the LORD ’s name. They are to decide all legal and criminal cases.
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