Deuteronomy 20-23

Today’s reading begins with commands regarding how to conduct wars and concludes with laws concerning vows.

The passage for today again covers a wide variety of topics and laws for conduct. One that I’ve always been fascinated with was the law for atonement for the murder of a man who’s assailant is unknown. As referenced in a previous passage, innocent bloodshed was and is a curse of the land in which it occurs. The shedding of innocent blood was not to be left unpunished.

The LORD gives a prescription for how to deal with this scenario. The elders and judges of Israel were to meet at the site where the body of the dead person was found. They were then to measure the distances to surrounding cities. The elders of the city that was measured to be closest to the place where the dead person lay were then to bring a heifer that had never worked or been subject to the yoke to a valley with flowing water where the land has not been farmed, and the heifer’s neck is to be broken.

The priests were then come forward with the elders of the city and the elders were to wash their hands over the heifer and declare before the LORD that they did not shed the innocent blood, and their eyes did not see who had shed the innocent blood. They were then to ask the LORD to accept the atoning sacrifice of the heifer for the blood that had been shed.

All this was done for the sole purpose of making certain that innocent blood was atoned for and that the shed blood would not be a curse to the people of Israel. God was indeed serious about the taking of innocent life, and that all life to him was precious. Life could only be taken if He commanded it, and if taken outside of that parameter, it was to be punished or atonement made for it.

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