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Expiation of a Crime
21:1 If [one] be found slain in the land which Adonai Eloheicha gives you to yaresh (possess ירשׁ) it, lying in the field, [and] it be not known who has slain him:
21:2 Then your zekenim (elders) and your judges shall come forth, and they shall measure to the cities which [are] round about him that is slain:
21:3 And it shall be, [that] the city [which is] next to the slain man, even the zekenim (elders) of that city shall take an heifer, which has not been wrought with, [and] which has not drawn in the yoke;
21:4 And the zekenim (elders) of that city shall bring down the heifer to a rough valley, which is neither eared nor sown, and shall strike off the heifer's neck there in the valley:
21:5 And the Kohenim benai Levy shall come near; for them Adonai Eloheicha has chosen to minister to him, and to baruch b'shem Adonai; and by their word shall every controversy and every stroke be [tried]:
21:6 And all the zekenim (elders) of that city, [that are] next to the slain [man], shall wash their hands over the heifer that is beheaded in the valley:
And they shall answer and say, Our hands have not shed this blood, neither have our eyes seen [it].
21:8 Be merciful, O Adonai, to your people Yisrael, whom you hast redeemed, and lay not innocent blood to your people of Yisrael's mishmeret (charge). And the blood shall be forgiven them.
21:9 So shall you put away the [guilt of] innocent blood from among you, when you shall do [that which is] right in the sight of Adonai.
This Torah portion contains 74 commandments, which is more than in any other Torah portion.
21:10 (i) Going out to Capture
Female Prisoners of War (21:10-14)
Ki-tetze lamilkhamah al-oi veikha unetano YHVH Eloheikha beyadekha veshavita shivyo:
When you go out to war against your enemies, and Adonai your Elohim delivers them into your hand, and you take them captive,
21:11 And you see among the captives a beautiful woman, and desire her and would take her for your wife,
21:12 Then you shall bring her home to your house, and she shall shave her head and pare her nails;
21:13 She shall put off the clothes of her captivity, remain in your house, and mourn her father and her mother a full month; after that you may go in to her and be her husband, and she shall be your wife.
21:14 And it shall be, if you have no delight in her, then you shall set her free, but you certainly shall not sell her for money; you shall not treat her brutally, because you have humbled her.
Rights of the Firstborn (21:15-17)
Ki-tihyeina leish shetei nashim haakhat ahuvah vehaakhat senuah veyaldu-lo vanim haahuvah vehasnuah vehaya haben habekhor lasniah:
"If a man has two wives, the one loved and the other unloved, and both the loved and the unloved have borne him children, and if the firstborn son belongs to the unloved,
21:16 Then it shall be, when he makes his sons to inherit [that] which he has, [that] he may not make son of the beloved bachor before son of the hated, [which is indeed] the bachor:
21:17 But he shall acknowledge son of the hated [for] the bachor, by giving him a double portion of all that he has: for he [is] the beginning of his strength; the right of the bachor [is] his.
21:18 If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not shama (obey) the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and [that], when they have chastened him, will not shama (hearken) to them:
21:19 Then shall his avi and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out to the zekenim (elders) of his city, and to the gate of his place;
21:20 And they shall say to the zekenim (elders) of his city, This our son [is] stubborn and rebellious, he will not shama (obey) our voice; [he is] a glutton, and a drunkard.
21:21 And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shall you put evil away from among you; and all Yisrael shall Shema, and fear.
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21:22 (ii) Sins that kill
And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be to be put to death, and you hang him on a tree:
21:23 His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but you shall in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged [is] accursed of Elohim;) that your land be not defiled, which Adonai Eloheicha gives you [for] an nachalah (inheritance).
Go to Index pageIn this Torah portion, we see a plethora of laws concerning many seemingly small details regarding human life.
Many Christians have the tendency to broadly sweep away many of these commandments with such dismissive cliches as, “We’re now under grace …” or “We’re not under the law anymore …..”
But please observe how many of the civil laws of our nation regulating actions between various members of society are based upon YHVH’s laws found in the Torah.
As we make our way back to a more biblically-based lifestyle and orientation, we begin to see that (a) YHVH cares about the details of our lives and (b) these laws, while sometimes hard to understand, are for our own well-being and blessing.
Do you still nurse a “pick and choose” or “have it your own way” mentality with regard to YHVH’s biblical commandments choosing to follow the ones you want and making excuses why you can’t (or don’t want to) follow the rest?
By doing so, what blessings are you depriving yourself of, and how are you hindering your love relationship with YHVH?B’rit Chadashah
The right of the firstborn.
Monogamy was always the divine ideal for marriage in the Torah (Beresheet 2:20-24).
Polygamy, though practiced by some, never appears in a positive light in the Tenakh; the scripture never describes a truly happy polygamous marriage. One reason was that one of the wives would always be loved more than the other(s). The husband was forbidden in this case to follow his feelings and disregard the Torah. His firstborn son must be given the double share of the father’s inheritance even though he was the son of his father’s unloved wife.
A rebellious son.
An extreme violation of the fifth commandment, “Honor your father and your mother” (Devarim 5:16), was to be punished by death. In view here was not an occasional lapse into disobedience but a persistent rebellion against one’s father and mother even after the parents had warned their son of the consequences of his rebellious actions. The son was ultimately rebelling against Adonay’s authority and therefore attacking the foundations of the covenant community. The legislation here was not cruel nor did it give parents a right to abuse their children.
The son was to be taken to the elders at the gate (i.e., the place where the Law was administered; cf. Devarim 22:15; Jos_20:4; Job 29:7). The elders were required to make an impartial judgment. The son was not judged for being a profligate and a drunkard, but for being rebellious. His self-indulgent living and drunkenness were simply examples of his rebellion against parental authority. All the men (rather than the parents) were required to stone the son if the charges were proved correct. Again mention is made of the deterrent effects of capital punishment: All Israel will hear of it and be afraid (cf. Devarim 13:11; Devarim 17:13). No record in the Bible or in extrabiblical literature has come to light which indicates that this punishment was ever carried out. The fear of death apparently deterred Jewish sons from being stubborn rebels.
c. Various laws (21:22-22:12)
(1) A hanged corpse.
Hanging a criminal on a tree was not for the purpose of putting him to death. Rather, after he was executed for a capital offense… his body was hanged on a tree as a warning to all who saw it not to commit the same offense. The criminal was under Elohim’s curse not because his body was hung on a tree but because he had broken Elohim’s Law by committing a crime worthy of death. Therefore his body was not to be left on the tree overnight. This text was used by the Rav Shaul (Galates 3:13) to support the teaching of Mashiach’s penal substitutionary death for sinners. Mashiach’s being under Elohim’s curse (cf. comments on Mar_15:34) enabled Him to redeem “us from the curse of the Law.”