Deuteronomy 19


Three cities of refuge to be appointed in the midst of the

promised land; the land being divided into three parts, a city

is to be placed in each, a proper way to which is to be

prepared, 1-3.

In what cases of manslaughter the benefit of those cities may be

claimed, 4-6.

Three cities more to be added should the Lord enlarge their

coasts, and the reasons why, 7-10.

The intentional murderer shall have no benefit from these

cities, 11-13.

The landmark is not to be shifted, 14.

One witness shall not be deemed sufficient to convict a man, 15.

How a false witness shall be dealt with-he shall bear the

punishment which he designed should have been inflicted on his

neighbour, 16-20.

Another command to establish the lex talionis, 21.


Verse 2. Thou shalt separate three cities]

See Clarke on Nu 35:11, &c.

Verse 3. Thou shalt prepare thee a way] The Jews inform us

that the roads to the cities of refuge were made very broad,

thirty-two cubits; and even, so that there should be no

impediments in the way; and were constantly kept in good repair.

Verse 9. Shalt thou add three cities more] This was

afterwards found necessary, and accordingly six cities were

appointed, three on either side Jordan. See Jos 21:1-3, &c. In

imitation of these cities of refuge the heathens had their asyla,

and the Catholics their privileged altars.

See Clarke on Ex 21:13; "Ex 21:14"; and "Nu 35:11", &c.

Verse 11. If any man hate his neighbour]

See Clarke on Ex 21:13.

Verse 14. Thou shalt not remove thy neighbour's landmark]

Before the extensive use of fences, landed property was marked out

by stones or posts, set up so as to ascertain the divisions of

family estates. It was easy to remove one of these landmarks, and

set it in a different place; and thus the dishonest man enlarged

his own estate by contracting that of his neighbour. The termini

or landmarks among the Romans were held very sacred, and were at

last deified.

To these termini Numa Pompillus commanded offerings of broth,

cakes, and firstfruits, to be made. And Ovid informs us that it

was customary to sacrifice a lamb to them, and sprinkle them with

its blood:-

Spargitur et caeso communis terminus agno.

FAST. lib. ii., ver. 655.

And from Tibullus it appears that they sometimes adorned them

with flowers and garlands:-

Nam veneror, seu stipes habet desertus inagris,

Seu vetus in trivio florida serta lapis.

ELEG. lib. i., E. i., ver. 11.

"Revere each antique stone bedeck'd with flowers,

That bounds the field, or points the doubtful way."


It appears from Juvenal that annual oblations were made to


-------------Convallem ruris aviti

Improbus, aut campum mihi si vicinus ademit,

Aut sacrum effodit medio de limite saxum,

Quod mea cum vetulo colult puls annua libo.

SAT. xvi., ver. 36.

"If any rogue vexatious suits advance

Against me for my known inheritance,

Enter by violence my fruitful grounds,

Or take the sacred landmark from my bounds,

Those bounds which, with procession and with prayer

And offer'd cakes, have been my annual care."


In the digests there is a vague law, de termino moto, Digestor.

lib. xlvii., Tit. 21, on which Calmet remarks that though the

Romans had no determined punishment for those who removed the

ancient landmarks; yet if slaves were found to have done it with

an evil design, they were put to death; that persons of quality

were sometimes exiled when found guilty; and that others were

sentenced to pecuniary fines, or corporal punishment.

Verse 15. One witness shall not rise up, &c.]

See Clarke on Nu 35:30.

Verse 19. Then shall ye do unto him as he had thought to have

done unto his brother] Nothing can be more equitable or proper

than this, that if a man endeavour to do any injury to or take

away the life of another, on detection he shall be caused to

undergo the same evil which he intended for his innocent


Some of our excellent English laws have been made on this very

ground. In the 37th of Edw. III., chap. 18, it is ordained that

all those who make suggestion shall incur the same pain which the

other should have had, if he were attainted, in case his

suggestions be found evil. A similar law was made in the 38th of

the same reign, chap. 9. By a law of the twelve Tables, a false

witness was thrown down the Tarpeian rock. In short, false

witnesses have been execrated by all nations.

Verse 21. Life-for life, eye for eye, &c.] The operation of

such a law as this must have been very salutary: if a man prized

his own members, he would naturally avoid injuring those of

others. It is a pity that this law were not still in force: it

would certainly prevent many of those savage acts which now both

disgrace and injure society. I speak this in reference to law

generally, and the provision that should be made to prevent and

punish ferocious and malevolent offences. A Christian may always

act on the plan of forgiving injuries; and where the public peace

and safety may not be affected, he should do so; but if law did

not make a provision for the safety of the community by enactment

against the profligate, civil society would soon be destroyed.

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