Deuteronomy 21:1 [study!]
American Standard Version (ASV 1901) 
If one be found slain in the land which Jehovah thy God giveth thee to possess it, lying in the field, and it be not known who hath smitten him;
King James Version (KJV 1769)
If [one] be found slain in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee to possess it, lying in the field, [and] it be not known who hath slain him:
New American Standard Bible (NASB ©1995)
“If a slain person is found lying in the open country in the land which the LORD your God gives you to possess, [and] it is not known who has struck him,
Webster's Revision of the KJB (WEB 1833)
If [one] shall be found slain in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee to possess it, lying in the field, [and] it be not known who hath slain him:
Darby's Translation (DBY 1890)
If one be found slain in the land which Jehovah thy God giveth thee to possess, lying in the field, [and] it be not known who hath smitten him,
Rotherham's Emphasized Bible (EBR 1902)
When there shall be found one slain, on the soil which Yahweh thy God is giving unto thee to possess, lying prostrate in the field,it not being known who smote him,
Young's Literal Translation (YLT 1898)
'When one is found slain on the ground which Jehovah thy God is giving to thee to possess itfallen in a fieldit is not known who hath smitten him,
Douay-Rheims Challoner Revision (DR 1750)
When there shall be found in the land, which the Lord thy God will give thee, the corpse of a man slain, and it is not known who is guilty of the murder,
Original King James Bible (AV 1611) 
If [one] bee found slaine in the lande, which the LORD thy God giueth thee to possesse it, lying in the fielde, [and] it bee not knowen who hath slaine him:
Brenton Greek Septuagint (LXX, Restored Names)
And if one be found slain with the sword in the land, which the Lord thy God gives thee to inherit, having fallen in the field, and they do not know who has smitten [him];
Full Hebrew Names / Holy Name KJV (2008)  
If [one] be found slain in the land which Yahweh thy Elohim giveth thee to possess it, lying in the field, [and] it be not known who hath slain him:
A primitive particle (the full form of the prepositional prefix) indicating causal
relations of all kinds, antecedent or consequent; (by implication) very widely used as a relative conjugation or adverb; often largely modified by other particles annexed.
] be found
A primitive root; properly to come
forth to, that is, appear
; transitively to attain
, that is, find
; figuratively to occur
or be present
Stem - Niphal (See H8833
Mood - Imperfect (See H8811
Count - 1602
(especially to death); figuratively polluted
in the land
(from its general redness
A primitive relative pronoun (of every gender and number); who
; also (as adverb and conjunction) when
, in order that
; (the) self Existent
or eternal; Jehovah
, Jewish national name of God.
Plural of H0433
in the ordinary sense; but specifically used (in the plural thus, especially with the article) of the supreme God
; occasionally applied by way of deference to magistrates
; and sometimes as a superlative.
A primitive root; to give
, used with great latitude of application (put
Stem - Qal (See H8851
Mood - Participle Active (See H8814
Count - 5386
thee to possess
A primitive root; to occupy
out previous tenants, and possessing
in their place); by implication to seize
, to rob
, to inherit
; also to expel
, to impoverish
, to ruin
Stem - Qal (See H8851
Mood - Infinitive (See H8812
Count - 4888
A primitive root; to fall
, in a great variety of applications (intransitively or causatively, literally or figuratively).
Stem - Qal (See H8851
Mood - Participle Active (See H8814
Count - 5386
in the field,
From an unused root meaning to spread
out; a field
] it be not
; a primitive particle; not
(the simple or abstract negation); by implication no
; often used with other particles.
A primitive root; to know
(properly to ascertain by seeing
); used in a great variety of senses, figuratively, literally, euphemistically and inferentially (including observation
; and causatively instruction
Stem - Niphal (See H8833
Mood - Perfect (See H8816
Count - 1429
An interrogitive pronoun of persons, as H4100
is of things, who?
(occasionally, by a peculiar idiom, of things); also (indefinitely) whoever
; often used in oblique construction with prefix or suffix.
A primitive root; to strike
(lightly or severely, literally or figuratively).
Stem - Hiphil (See H8818
Mood - Perfect (See H8816
Count - 2675
_ _ Deuteronomy 21:1-9. Expiation of uncertain murder.
_ _ If one be found slain ... lying in the field, and it be not known who hath slain him The ceremonies here ordained to be observed on the discovery of a slaughtered corpse show the ideas of sanctity which the Mosaic law sought to associate with human blood, the horror which murder inspired, as well as the fears that were felt lest God should avenge it on the country at large, and the pollution which the land was supposed to contract from the effusion of innocent, unexpiated blood. According to Jewish writers, the Sanhedrin, taking charge of such a case, sent a deputation to examine the neighborhood. They reported to the nearest town to the spot where the body was found. An order was then issued by their supreme authority to the elders or magistrates of that town, to provide the heifer at the civic expense and go through the appointed ceremonial. The engagement of the public authorities in the work of expiation, the purchase of the victim heifer, the conducting it to a “rough valley” which might be at a considerable distance, and which, as the original implies, was a wady, a perennial stream, in the waters of which the polluting blood would be wiped away from the land, and a desert withal, incapable of cultivation; the washing of the hands, which was an ancient act symbolical of innocence the whole of the ceremonial was calculated to make a deep impression on the Jewish, as well as on the Oriental, mind generally; to stimulate the activity of the magistrates in the discharge of their official duties; to lead to the discovery of the criminal, and the repression of crime.
_ _ Care had been taken by some preceding laws for the vigorous and effectual persecution of a wilful murderer (Deuteronomy 19:11 etc.), the putting of whom to death was the putting away of the guilt of blood from the land; but if this could not be done, the murderer not being discovered, they must not think that the land was in no danger of contracting any pollution because it was not through any neglect of theirs that the murderer was unpunished; no, a great solemnity is here provided for the putting away of the guilt, as an expression of their dread and detestation of that sin.
_ _ I. The case supposed is that one is found slain, and it is not known who slew him, Deuteronomy 21:1. The providence of God has sometimes wonderfully brought to light these hidden works of darkness, and by strange occurrences the sin of the guilty has found them out, insomuch that it has become a proverb, Murder will out. But it is not always so; now and then the devil's promises of secresy and impunity in this world are made good; yet it is but for a while: there is a time coming when secret murders will be discovered; the earth shall disclose her blood (Isaiah 26:21), upon the inquisition which justice makes for it; and there is an eternity coming when those that escaped punishment from men will lie under the righteous judgment of God. And the impunity with which so many murders and other wickednesses are committed in this world makes it necessary that there should be a day of judgment, to require that which is past, Ecclesiastes 3:15.
_ _ II. Directions are given concerning what is to be done in this case. Observe,
_ _ 1. It is taken for granted that a diligent search had been made for the murderer, witnesses examined, and circumstances strictly enquired into, that if possible they might find out the guilty person; but if, after all, they could not trace it out, not fasten the charge upon any, then, (1.) The elders of the next city (that had a court of three and twenty in it) were to concern themselves about this matter. If it were doubtful which city was next, the great sanhedrim were to send commissioners to determine that matter by an exact measure, Deuteronomy 21:2, Deuteronomy 21:3. Note, Public persons must be solicitous about the public good; and those that are in power and reputation in cities must lay out themselves to redress grievances, and reform what is amiss in the country and neighbourhood that lie about them. Those that are next to them should have the largest share of their good influence, as ministers of God for good. (2.) The priests and Levites must assist and preside in this solemnity (Deuteronomy 21:5), that they might direct the management of it in all points according to the law, and particularly might be the people's mouth to God in the prayer that was to be put up on this sad occasion, Deuteronomy 21:8. God being Israel's King, his ministers must be their magistrates, and by their word, as the mouth of the court and learned in the laws, every controversy must be tried. It was Israel's privilege that they had such guides, overseers, and rulers, and their duty to make use of them upon all occasions, especially in sacred things, as this was. (3.) They were to bring a heifer down into a rough and unoccupied valley, and to kill it there, Deuteronomy 21:3, Deuteronomy 21:4. This was not a sacrifice (for it was not brought to the altar), but a solemn protestation that thus they would put the murderer to death if they had him in their hands. The heifer must be one that had not drawn in the yoke, to signify (say some) that the murderer was a son of Belial; it must be brought into a rough valley, to signify the horror of the fact, and that the defilement which blood brings upon a land turns it into barrenness. And the Jews say that unless, after this, the murderer was found out, this valley where the heifer was killed was never to be tilled nor sown. (4.) The elders were to wash their hands in water over the heifer that was killed, and to profess, not only that they had not shed this innocent blood themselves, but that they knew not who had (Deuteronomy 21:6, Deuteronomy 21:7), nor had knowingly concealed the murderer, helped him to make his escape, or been any way aiding or abetting. To this custom David alludes, Psalms 26:6, I will wash my hands in innocency; but if Pilate had any eye to it (Matthew 27:24) he wretchedly misapplied it when he condemned Christ, knowing him to be innocent, and yet acquitted himself from the guilt of innocent blood. Protestatio non valet contra factum Protestations are of no avail when contradicted by fact. (5.) The priests were to pray to God for the country and nation, that God would be merciful to them, and not bring upon them the judgments which the connivance at the sin of murder would deserve. It might be presumed that the murderer was either one of their city or was now harboured in their city; and therefore they must pray that they might not fare the worse for his being among them, Numbers 16:22. Be merciful, O Lord, to thy people Israel, Deuteronomy 21:8. Note, When we hear of the wickedness of the wicked we have need to cry earnestly to God for mercy for our land, which groans and trembles under it. We must empty the measure by our prayers which others are filling by their sins. Now,
_ _ 2. This solemnity was appointed, (1.) That it might give occasion to common and public discourse concerning the murder, which perhaps might some way or other occasion the discovery of it. (2.) That it might possess people with a dread of the guilt of blood, which defiles not only the conscience of him that sheds it (this should engage us all to pray with David, Deliver me from blood-guiltiness), but the land in which it is shed; it cries to the magistrate for justice on the criminal, and, if that cry be not heard, it cries to heaven for judgment on the land. If there must be so much care employed to save the land from guilt when the murderer was not known, it was certainly impossible to secure it from guilt if the murderer was known and yet protected. All would be taught, by this solemnity, to use their utmost care and diligence to prevent, discover, and punish murder. Even the heathen mariners dreaded the guilt of blood, Jonah 1:14. (3.) That we might all learn to take heed of partaking in other men's sins, and making ourselves accessory to them ex post facto after the fact, by countenancing the sin or sinner, and not witnessing against it in our places. We have fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness if we do not reprove them rather, and bear our testimony against them. The repentance of the church of Corinth for the sin of one of their members produced such a carefulness, such a clearing of themselves, such a holy indignation, fear, and revenge (2 Corinthians 7:11), as were signified by the solemnity here appointed.
The field Or, in the city, or any place: only the field is named, as the place where such murders are most commonly committed.
If [one] be found (a) slain in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee to possess it, lying in the field, [and] it be not known who hath slain him:
(a) This law declares how horrible murder is, seeing that because of one man a whole country will be punished, unless remedy is found.
Thou shalt destroy
them that speak leasing: the LORD will abhor the bloody and deceitful man.
Psalms 9:12 When
he maketh inquisition for blood, he remembereth them: he forgetteth
not the cry of the humble
A man that doeth violence to the blood of [any
] person shall flee to the pit; let no man stay him.
For, behold, the LORD cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity: the earth also
shall disclose her blood
, and shall no more cover her slain.
And when the barbarians
saw the [venomous
hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt
this man is a murderer
, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live.
WWW Chat Bible Commentary
User-Posted Comments on Deuteronomy 21:1