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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Deuteronomy 21:4

 

 

and the elders of that city shall bring the heifer down to a valley with running water, which has not been plowed or sown, and shall break the heifer's neck there in the valley.

Adam Clarke Commentary

Shall bring down the heifer unto a rough valley - איתן נחל nachal eythan might be translated a rapid stream, probably passing through a piece of uncultivated ground where the elders of the city were to strike off the head of the heifer, and to wash their hands over her in token of their innocence. The spot of ground on which this sacrifice was made must be uncultivated, because it was considered to be a sacrifice to make atonement for the murder, and consequently would pollute the land. This regulation was calculated to keep murder in abhorrence, and to make the magistrates alert in their office, that delinquents might be discovered and punished, and thus public expense saved.


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Bibliography
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 21:4". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/deuteronomy-21.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Eared - i. e., plowed; compare Genesis 45:6 note and references. The word is derived from the Latin, and is in frequent use by English writers of the fifteenth and two following centuries.

Strike off the heifer‘s neck - Rather, “break its neck” (compare Exodus 13:13). The mode of killing the victim distinguishes this lustration from the sin-offering, in which there would be of course shedding and sprinkling of the blood.


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Bibliography
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 21:4". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/deuteronomy-21.html. 1870.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

The elders of that city shall bring down the heifer unto a rough valley,.... Cities being generally built on hills, and so had adjacent valleys, to which there was a descent; but here a rough valley, or the rougher part of it, was selected for this purpose. As a valley is low, and this a rough one, it may be an emblem of Christ's being brought into this lower world, from heaven to earth, to do the will of his Father, which was to work out the salvation of his people; and of his coming into the lower parts of the earth, the womb of the virgin, at his incarnation, and to the grave at his death, Psalm 139:15, and of the low estate he came into by the assumption of human nature; through appearing in the form of a servant, being in indigent circumstances, and ministered to by others, and needing the assistance of angels in the wilderness and garden, by which it appeared he was made lower than they; by his being despised of men, and forsaken by his Father; all which are proofs of the low estate he was brought into, fitly signified by a valley, and which was a rough valley to him; in which he was roughly treated, his life being sought after in his infancy by Herod, which obliged the flight of his parents with him into Egypt; and being not received, but rejected by his own, as the King Messiah, whom they would not have to reign over them, and loaded with opprobrious names by them; and who often sought and attempted by various ways to take away his life; and when apprehended and examined before the high priest, and in Pilate's hall, was used in the rudest manner, being spit upon, buffeted, and scourged; and when led out to be crucified, was treated in the most barbarous and scornful manner, and was put to death in the most painful and shameful way; and, above all, was severely handled by the justice of God, being numbered among the transgressors, when the sword of justice was awaked against him, and he was not in the least spared, but wrath came upon him to the uttermost for the sins of his people; so that this world he was brought into proved a rough valley indeed to him. This some take to be an emblem of the hard heart of the murderer who had committed such a barbarous and cruel action as to kill a man; or of the hard heart of a sinner, into which Christ is brought through the ministry of the word; or of the infamous place, Calvary, where Christ was brought to suffer death; but the former is best. Some interpret it, a "strong stream"F17אל נחל איתן "ad torrentem fortem", Montanus. , or "rapid torrent"; so MaimonidesF18Hilchot Rotzeach, c. 9. sect. 2, so Abarbinel in Muis. & Ben Melech. and others; and indeed in valleys there are generally streams or brooks of water, but this seems not so well to agree with what follows:

which is neither cared nor sown; that is, neither ploughed nor sown, but quite an uncultivated place; and this the Jews understand not of what it had been, or then was, but what it should be hereafter; that from henceforward it should never be manured, but lie barren and useless; so it is said in the MisnahF19Ut supra. (Sotah, c. 9. sect. 5.) , the place is forbid sowing or tilling, but is free to dress flax in, or to dig stones out of it: so R. Joseph KimchiF20Apud D. Kimchi, Sepher Shorash, rad. איח interprets this of a fat and fruitful valley, which was not to be tilled nor sown from thenceforward for time to come; the reason of which he thinks was, that they might be the more careful of their countries and borders, and how they encouraged bloody minded men to dwell among them; that no slain person might be found there, and so they lose a choice part of their possessions; and to the same purpose MaimonitiesF21Moreh Nevochim, par. 3. c. 40. : and this became true of the fruitful land of Judea and Jerusalem, after the sufferings and death of Christ there, Luke 21:24.

and shall strike off the heifer's neck there in the valley; with an axe, on the back part of it, in the midst of the valley, as the Targum of Jonathan, and the same is said in the MisnahF23Ut supra. (Sotah, c. 9. sect. 5.) : in this it was a type of Christ, who was put to death at the instigation of the elders of the Jewish nation, Matthew 27:1 and without the gates of Jerusalem at Golgotha; see Hebrews 13:11.


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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rightes Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855

Bibliography
Gill, John. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 21:4". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/deuteronomy-21.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

And the elders of that city shall bring down the heifer unto a rough b valley, which is neither eared nor sown, and shall strike off the heifer's neck there in the valley:

(b) That the blood shed of the innocent beasts in a solitary place, might make them abhor the fact.

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Bibliography
Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 21:4". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/deuteronomy-21.html. 1599-1645.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

And the elders of that city shall bring down the heifer unto a rough valley, which is neither eared nor sown, and shall strike off the heifer's neck there in the valley:

A rough valley — That such a desert and horrid place might beget an horror of murder and of the murderer.

Strike off the neck — To shew what they would and should have done to the murderer if they had found him.


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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.

Bibliography
Wesley, John. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 21:4". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/deuteronomy-21.html. 1765.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Deuteronomy 21:4 And the elders of that city shall bring down the heifer unto a rough valley, which is neither eared nor sown, and shall strike off the heifer’s neck there in the valley:

Ver. 4. Which is neither eared nor sown.] That is, that afterwards should neither be tilled nor sown, for horror and hatred of the innocent blood there spilled. So the mountains of Gilboah. [2 Samuel 1:6]


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Bibliography
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 21:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/deuteronomy-21.html. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Ver. 4. Unto a rough valley, &c.— Unto a watered valley. Schult, p. 248. The heifer was to be brought into an uncultivated ground, (probably with a brook running through it, as the elders are required to wash their hands over the heifer, ver. 6.) as some say, to represent the horridness of the murder. We are told, that the place might never be plowed or sown thereafter; which made the owners of the ground employ their utmost diligence to find out the murderer, that their land might not lie waste for ever. But a more just explication is, that some desolate piece of ground was to be chosen, because the blood of the victim would have polluted cultivated ground: for this was a kind of expiatory sacrifice, whereby the land was cleansed from the legal pollution of murder; and such sacrifices rendered every person or thing unclean which touched them. See Leviticus 16:26-27. In this valley they were to strike off the neck of the heifer, as an emblem of the punishment which the assassin deserved, and as a representation of his crime.


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Bibliography
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 21:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/deuteronomy-21.html. 1801-1803.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Neither eared nor sown; partly to represent the hard and unprofitable and untutored heart of the murderer; and partly that such a desert and horrid place might beget a horror of murder and of the murderer.

Strike off the heifer’s neck, to show what they would and should have done to the murderer if they had found him.


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Bibliography
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Deuteronomy 21:4". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/deuteronomy-21.html. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

4. A rough valley — The Hebrew term which is here rendered valley also means a stream, and many critics have rendered the expression a perennial stream.

Neither eared nor sown Eared is the old term for ploughed. The heifer was to be brought to a valley through which flowed a perennial stream, a valley that had never been cultivated, and here be slain. This putting to death of the heifer was not, properly speaking, expiatory. It was symbolical, and calculated to impress upon the people the sacredness of human life.


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Bibliography
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 21:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/deuteronomy-21.html. 1874-1909.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Deuteronomy 21:4. Unto a rough valley — The Hebrew word נחל, nachal, here used, signifies either a valley or a torrent; and most probably is here meant of a valley with a brook running through it. For (Deuteronomy 21:6) the elders are required to wash their hands over the heifer, which seems to intimate that there was running water in the place. Which is neither eared nor sown — Rough, uncultivated ground, fitly representing the horribleness of the murder. The Jews say, that unless, after this, the murderer was found, this valley was never to be tilled nor sown, which made the owners of the ground employ their utmost diligence to find out the murderer, that their land might not be waste for ever. But it is more natural to suppose, that such a rough and waste place was chosen partly that the horridness of it might beget a horror of the murder, and of the murderer, and partly because the blood of the victim would have polluted cultivated ground. For, though not slain at the altar, this was a kind of expiatory sacrifice, whereby the land was to be purged from the legal pollution contracted by the murder; and such sacrifices rendered every person or thing unclean that touched them. Shall strike off the heifer’s neck — To show what they should and would have done to the murderer, if they had found him.


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Bibliography
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 21:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/deuteronomy-21.html. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Valley. In such places murders are most frequently perpetrated. Hebrew may signify, "a desert," deep or inaccessible torrent, (Haydock) on the side of which the heifer was to be slain, and its body was then, it seems, thrown into the water. The ancients first washed their hands over her. Thus the victim of malediction against those who break a covenant, is buried in a ditch, or cast into the sea. (Homer, Iliad i.) --- Was. Some translate the Hebrew "shall be," as if the place was to be hereafter considered as unclean and accursed. (Calmet) --- The roughness and depth of the valley, denote the hardness of the murderer's heart, and the depth of his malice. (Menochius) --- Strike off, or cœdent, "cut the neck," (Haydock) at the top, without perhaps separating it entirely from the body. Blood was given for blood, and this was the chief design of the bloody sacrifices. For this reason, the Egyptians impressed a seal upon the horns of the victim, representing a man kneeling, with his hands tied behind his back, as if ready to receive the stroke of death. (Plut.[Plutarch,?] Isis.)


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Bibliography
Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 21:4". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/deuteronomy-21.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

rough valley = ravine, or rough gully.

eared = ploughed. Old English idiom.

strike off = behead, or break the neck.


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Bibliography
Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 21:4". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/deuteronomy-21.html. 1909-1922.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

And the elders of that city shall bring down the heifer unto a rough valley, which is neither eared nor sown, and shall strike off the heifer's neck there in the valley:
a rough valley
As the word nachal signifies both a torrent, and the valley or glen through which it flows, nachal aithan may be rendered a rapid torrent. Many torrents in Judea are dry during a great part of the year; when not only their banks but their beds may be ploughed, and yield a crop. Hence there is no impropriety in specifying that such a place should be one that "is neither cared nor sown;" while the circumstance that the elders were to wash their hands over the heifer, whose head had been struck off into the stream, confirms this interpretation. The spot of ground where this sacrifice was made must be uncultivated, because it was considered as a sacrifice for the atonement of murder, and, consequently, would pollute the land.
shall strike
1 Peter 2:21-24; 3:18

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Bibliography
Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Deuteronomy 21:4". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/deuteronomy-21.html.

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