Deuteronomy 21:23

23 his corpse must not remain all night upon the tree; you shall bury him that same day, for anyone hung on a tree is under God's curse. You must not defile the land that the Lord your God is giving you for possession.

Deuteronomy 21:23 Meaning and Commentary

Deuteronomy 21:23

His body shall not remain all night upon the tree
Which is to be understood of any and everyone that was hanged, and not of the rebellious son only; of whom Josephus F12 says, that he was to be stoned by the multitude without the city, and having remained a whole day for a spectacle unto all, was to be buried at night; and indeed such a person was not to remain hanging on the tree any part of the night, but to be taken down at sun setting; so the Targum of Jonathan,

``ye shall bury him at sun setting;''

so says Maimonides F13, they hang a man near the setting of the sun and loose him immediately, and if he continues they transgress a negative precept, "his body shall not remain" yea, according to him and to the Misnah F14, and which agrees with the practice of the Jews to this day, not only those that were put to death by the sanhedrim, but whoever suffered his dead to remain unburied a night transgressed a negative command, unless he kept him for his honour, to get for him a coffin and shroud:

but thou shalt in any wise bury him in that day:
by all means, if possible; malefactors were not buried in the sepulchre of their fathers, but there were two burying places provided by the sanhedrim, one for those that were stoned and burnt, and another for those that were killed with the sword and strangled F15; and even the instruments of their death were to be buried also, as Maimonides F16 relates, the tree on which he is hanged is buried with him, that there may be no remembrance of the evil, and they say, this is the tree on which such an one was hanged; and so the stone with which he is stoned, and the sword with which he is killed, and the napkin with which he is strangled, all are buried in the place where he is put to death, but not in the grave itself:

for he that is hanged is accursed of God:
plainly appears to be so, having committed some foul sin which has brought the curse of God upon him, and which being hanged on a tree was a plain proof and declaration of; and therefore having hereby suffered the rigour of the law, the curse of it, his body was ordered to be taken down; for the words are not a reason of his being hanged, but a reason why being hanged, and so openly accursed, he should not remain hanging, but be taken down and buried: the meaning is not, as Onkelos gives it, that

``because he sinned before the Lord he is hanged,''

and particularly was guilty of blasphemy; which is given as the reason of his being hanged, and as the sense of this passage; on the mention of which it is said F17,

``it is as if he should say, wherefore is he hanged? because he cursed God, and the name of God was found profaned:''

but though this, or any other capital crime, may be allowed to be the reason of the man's being hanged, and so apparently accursed; yet this is not the reason of his being loosed from thence, but his having bore the curse and satisfied the law: and hence this is applied to Christ by the apostle, in ( Galatians 3:13 ) showing, that his hanging on the tree was an indication and proof of his being made sin and a curse for his people, or that he bore the curse of the law for their sins, and that the taking of him down from the tree, and burying him, signified the removing the curse from him and his people for whom he suffered; or that thereby he redeemed them from the curse of the law, as the apostle expresses it:

that thy land be not defiled, which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an
which is another reason for taking down the body from the tree and burying it, lest the land of Canaan, which the Lord had given them for an inheritance, and which was typical of the undefiled inheritance, ( 1 Peter 1:4 ) should be polluted, both in a natural sense, through the putrefaction and corruption, and the disagreeable smell of a dead body, and in a ceremonial sense, as every carcass was defiling, if a person but entered where it was; and therefore a dead body was not to be left hanging openly in the air, and rotting there.


F12 Antiqu. l. 4. c. 8. sect. 24.
F13 Hilchot Sanhedrin, c. 15. sect. 7.
F14 Sanhedrin, c. 6. sect. 5.
F15 Sanhedrin, c. 6. sect. 5.
F16 Ut supra, (Hilchot Sanhedrin, c. 15.) sect. 9.
F17 Misn. Sanhedrin, c. 6. sect. 4.

Deuteronomy 21:23 In-Context

21 Then all the men of the town shall stone him to death. So you shall purge the evil from your midst; and all Israel will hear, and be afraid.
22 When someone is convicted of a crime punishable by death and is executed, and you hang him on a tree,
23 his corpse must not remain all night upon the tree; you shall bury him that same day, for anyone hung on a tree is under God's curse. You must not defile the land that the Lord your God is giving you for possession.