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Deuteronomy Chapter 21
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The Unsolved Murder
21:1 [This is what you must do] when a corpse is found fallen in the field in the land that God your Lord is giving you to occupy, and it is not known who the murderer is.
21:2 Your elders and judges must go out and measure the distance to the cities around the corpse.
21:3 The elders of the city closest to the corpse must then bring a female calf, which has never been worked, and which has never drawn a load with a yoke.
21:4 The elders of the city shall bring the calf to a swiftly flowing stream, [the land around which] must never be worked or sown. There at the stream, they shall decapitate the calf.
21:5 The priests from the tribe of Levi shall then come forth. (It is these [priests] whom God has chosen to serve Him and to pronounce blessings in God's name, and who are entrusted to decide in cases of litigation and leprous signs.)
21:6 All the elders of the city closest to the corpse shall wash their hands over the decapitated calf at the stream.
21:7 [The elders] shall speak up and say, 'Our hands have not spilled this blood, and our eyes have not witnessed it.'
21:8 [The priests shall then say,] 'Forgive Your people, whom You, God, have liberated. Do not allow [the guilt for] innocent blood to remain with your people Israel.'

The blood shall thus be atoned for.

21:9 You shall thus rid yourself of [the guilt of] innocent blood in your midst, since you will have done that which is morally right in God's eyes.

Woman Captives
21:10 When you wage war against your enemies, God will give you victory over them, so that you will take captives.
21:11 If you see a beautiful woman among the prisoners and desire her, you may take her as a wife.
21:12 In such a case, when you bring her home, she must shave off her head and let her fingernails grow.
21:13 She must take off her captive's garb and remain in your house a full month, mourning for her father and mother. Only then may you be intimate with her and possess her, making her your wife.
21:14 If you do not desire her, however, you must send her away free. Since you have had your way with her, you may not sell her for cash or keep her as a servant.

The First-Born's Share
21:15 [This is the law] when a man has two wives, one whom he loves and one whom he dislikes, and both the loved and unloved wives have sons, but the first-born is that of the unloved one.
21:16 On the day that [this man] wills his property to his sons, he must not give the son of the beloved wife birthright preference over the first-born, who is the son of the unloved wife.
21:17 [Even if] the first-born is the son of the hated wife, [the father] must recognize him so as to give him a double portion of all his property. Since [this son] is the first fruit of [his father's] manhood, the birthright is legally his.

The Rebellious Son
21:18 When a man has a wayward, rebellious son, who does not obey his father and mother, they shall have him flogged. If he still does not listen to them,
21:19 then his father and mother must grasp him and bring him to the elders of his city, to that area's supreme court.
21:20 [The parents] must declare to the elders of his city, 'Our son here is wayward and rebellious. He does not listen to us, and is an [exceptional] glutton and drunkard.'
21:21 All the men of his city shall then pelt him to death with stones, so that you will rid yourself of the evil in your midst. When all Israel hears about it, they will fear.

Hanging and Burial
21:22 When a man is legally sentenced to death and executed, you must then hang him on a gallows.
21:23 However, you may not allow his body to remain on the gallows overnight, but you must bury it on the same day. Since a person who has been hanged is a curse to God, you must not [let it] defile the land that God your Lord is giving you as a heritage.



Commentary:

elders and judges
  A total of five members of the Sanhedrin (Yad, Rotze'ach 9:1).

calf
  Under two years old (Yad, Rotze'ach 10:2).

swiftly flowing
  (Yad, Rotze'ach 9:2; Ralbag; HaKethav VeHaKabbalah) Ethan in Hebrew; cf. Exodus 14:27, Psalms 74:15 (Chizzkuni). Or, 'harsh' (Sotah 45b; Rashi; cf. Numbers 21:24), 'fertile' (Radak, Sherashim; cf. Amos 5:24), or, 'rough' (Septuagint).

stream
  (Yad, Rotze'ach; Radak, Sherashim; cf. Midrash Aggadah). Nachal in Hebrew. Or, 'valley' (Rashi; Septuagint), 'field' (Targum Yonathan), or, 'wadi' (Ibn Janach). See above note.

the land around which
  (Chizzkuni; cf. Minchath Chinukh 531).

must never be
  (Sefer HaMitzvoth, Negative 309; Makkoth 22a). There is a question as to whether the forbidden distance around the place where the calf was killed must be four cubits or fifty cubits (Yerushalmi, Sotah 9:5).

decapitate
  Araph in Hebrew (see Yerushalmi, Sotah 9:5). See note on Exodus 13:13. However, there is a Midrashic opinion, that the calf is merely struck on the back of the neck so that it will run away and find the house of the murderer (Midrash Aggadah; Bachya).

The elders
  (Sotah 46a; Yad, Rotze'ach 9:3).

The priests
  (Ibid.; Targum).

Forgive
  Or, 'reveal the truth' (Midrash Aggadah; Bachya).

The blood...
  (see note on Deuteronomy 21:7).

the guilt of
  (Ibn Ezra).

as a wife
  He can marry her immediately if she agrees to convert to Judaism (Yevamoth 47b; Yad, Melakhim 8:5). However, some maintain that he must still wait three months before being intimate with her (Kesef Mishneh ad loc.). See note on Deuteronomy 21:13.

In such a case
  That is, if she does not immediately wish to convert (Yad, ibid.).

shave off her head
  To make her less attractive (Ibn Ezra). Also as a sign of purification and new status; see Leviticus 14:8, Numbers 8:7 (Chizzkuni).

let her fingernails grow
  (Targum; Rashi; Yad, Melakhim 8:5). Literally, 'make her nails.' Or, 'cut her fingernails' (Chizzkuni; Septuagint). Both opinions are found in the Talmud (Yevamoth 48a; Sifri; cf. HaKethav VeHaKabbalah).

take off her captive's garb
  To remove from her any taint of idolatry (Midrash Aggadah). Also to make her less attractive (Rashi; Rashbam; Ibn Ezra).

a full month
  Actually, the man could not marry her for 90 days (Yevamoth 48b; Yad, Melakhim 8:5). He thus would have to wait an additional two months after her mourning period was over.

her father and mother
  As well as their idolatrous religion, which she must abandon (Yevamoth 48b; Yad, Melakhim 8:5; Ramban). This is an act of mercy (Moreh Nevukhim 3:41). This delay also gives the girl a chance to accustom herself to Judaism and refrain from mentioning idolatrous deities (Midrash Aggadah). Thirty days is a normal mourning period; see Numbers 20:29.

Only then...
  After converting her to Judaism. She is given 12 months to make up her mind to convert, after which she is sent away (Yad, Melakhim 8:7). However, others maintain that she may be converted against her will (Ramban).

making her your wife
  Some say through a regular marriage ceremony (Yad, Melakhim 8:6), while others maintain that she becomes his wife through intercourse alone (Ramban). In either case, she has the full rights of a wife, as in Exodus 21:10 (Sifri).

away free
  However, she must agree not to return to idolatry (Ramban; Ralbag). Some also maintain that she cannot be forcibly sent back to her parents (Ramban). If she is married, she requires a divorce like any other woman (Lechem Mishneh on Yad, Melakhim 8:6). However, those who maintain that she is forcibly converted and married by intercourse alone maintain that she might not need a formal divorce (Ramban: Tur).

had your way with her
  Or, 'violated;' see Deuteronomy, 22:24.

keep her as a servant
  Or, 'enjoy her services' (Sifri; Rashi; Radak, Sherashim; Yad, Melakhim 8:6). Hithamar in Hebrew; see Deuteronomy 24:7. Or, 'lord over her' (Ramban; Saadia); 'do business with her' (Targum; Rashbam; Ibn Janach); 'deceive her' (Ibn Ezra), or, 'treat her contemptuously' (Septuagint).

Even if
  Since this is the law for all first-born (Yad, Nachaloth 2:1).

manhood
  See Genesis 49:3.

son
  This rule applies only to a boy between the ages of 13 and 13 (Sanhedrin 68b; Yad, Mamrim 7:5). It does not apply to a girl (Yad, Mamrim 7:11).

flogged
  With 39 lashes (Yad, Mamrim 7:7). The boy is flogged only if he eats the 'meal of a rebellious son' (see note on Deuteronomy 21:20), which is forbidden by Leviticus 19:26 (Hagahoth Maimonioth ad loc.; Sanhedrin 63a).

grasp him
  That is, both must agree to bring him (Bachya).

supreme court
  (Targum). Literally, 'gate.' This is the local supreme court of 23 judges. There must be two witnesses to the 'meal of the rebellious son' besides the parents (Yad, Mamrim 7:7).

exceptional
  (Saadia). See Proverbs 23:20,21 (Midrash HaGadol).

glutton
  This alludes to the 'meal of the rebellious son.' By tradition he must steal money from his father, and buy 50 dinars of meat, eating it rare outside his father's property and in bad company. This is the act that must be witnessed for the son to be put to death (Yad, Mamrim 7:2; Sanhedrin 70a).

drunkard
  He must also drink log (5oz.) of wine with the meal (Ibid.). It is therefore forbidden for a boy of this age to eat such a meal at any time (Sefer HaMitzvoth, Negative 195).

man
  But not a woman (Sifri). Hanging is imposed only in the case of a blasphemer (Leviticus 24:16) and an idolator (Yad, Sanhedrin 15:6). Some say that it is true of all who incur the penalty of stoning (Rashi). Both opinions are found in the Talmud (Sanhedrin 45b).

hang him
  After he is put to death, he is hung up by his hands. He is hung up just before sunset and immediately taken down again (Yad, Sanhedrin 15:7).

gallows
  (Targum; Saadia). Cf. Esther 5:14 (Chizzkuni). The gallows consisted of a pole sunk into the ground, with a beam projecting from its side (Sanhedrin 47a,b).

bury it on the same day
  If this is true of a criminal, it is all the more true of an innocent person. Immediate burial is therefore the Jewish norm (Sanhedrin 46b; Yerushalmi, Nazir 7:1).

a curse to God
  (literally). Or, 'an extraordinarily great curse' (Adereth Eliahu; HaKethav VeHaKabbalah).





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