Summary: This passage of scripture deals with what should be done in ancient Israel when a person was slain and no one was brought to justice. The prayer God instructs for such a case is instructive for us today
Introduction: This PM’s study is one which our society needs to have a taste of. The truths we will examine in regard to prayer swirl around the murder of a person by person(s) unknown. Then, as now, murder was a serious offense against the person and the society where it took place. Unfortunately, the same attitude by the community where a murder takes place is the not same as it was in the OT days. In our time murder is seen as a horrible sin, but it happens so often that people don’t give a second thought to it. It is an unfortunate event but the person murdered may have hurried on their own demise by their own sinful behaviour and actions. One thing is certain, the truths found in the Word of God, such as here, have definitely played a very important part in laws being enacted and enforced in our land and others concerning how a murder is treated and how the murderer will be treated. Praise the Lord, we still have a country that deals harshly with murderers when they are proven beyond a doubt as guilty, but there are still, I believe, serious flaws in how such people are not dealt with quickly.
The passage before us instructed the OT Israelites in what they should do when a murdered person was found and the murderer is never brought to justice by judges and man’s laws. Of course, such a person never gets away with such a wicked deed, for they will have to answer to God one day. This passage is interesting because it not only instructed them in what needed to be done to atone for the life that was lost and removing the guilt from themselves, but it also presents an excellent picture of what Jesus Christ did for us. We also have an excellent example of imputation of sin in two directions. Let’s look at the text alittle closer and ultimately the prayer that needed to be offered in such circumstances.
I. THE INQUEST--21:1-2
Just as it is necessary for the corinor to arrive upon the scene of any death and determine whether it was by natural or unnatural means, so too in the Bible days. Verse 1 obviously points to the fact that steps were taken to determine who had done the killing. They would not have had the sophisticated technology available today to the modern murder sleuth, but the means available to them would have been exhausted forcing them to come to the conclusion that they did not have a clue as to who had committed this particular murder. The shedding of innocent blood upon the land which God had given to the Israelites was a great travisty and needed recogning with.
What we find in verse two in the OT investigation process is alittle different from today’s methods but it makes total sense. The judges from the surrounding cities and towns would descend upon the site where the murder had taken place, and determine which city or town lay the closest to the spot where the murdered person was found. Often those who are murdered are found not far from where they live or from where the murderer lived, but that is not the point any longer here. The point is to atone for the innocent blood which has been shed. The guilt for this must be laid somewhere, and the closests city or town had to bear the burden of this horrible sin. God’s view on murder was that it needed to be imputed in one direction or another. It couldn’t just sit there with nothing being done. Can you imagine the uproar that would result if such a law were passed in our land today? In one way there is a similarity with our laws. When a murder takes place in a particular local, the legal work involving this murder will take place in that local or state. Only when certain things are true about the murder do we see the matter referred to higher levels.
Many have probably scoffed at God’s means of attaching guilt in this manner. They reason that the murderer could have killed the person along ways away from where the body was dumped, thus bringing this scene upon a town or city that was really not close to the scene of the murder. But again that is not the point here. The buck has to stop somewhere.
II. THE IMPUTATION--21:3-9
1. A heifer that has never been used for work or put into a yoke was to be chosen. This would have been a very valuable animal to the owner but it was more valuable to God for the cleansing of this sin of murder.
2. This heifer would be brought to a "rough valley". Several books that I studied from in preparation for this study said that the rough valley referred to a valley or revine where a perpectual stream ran. When water is added to the equation it is understandable that the valley would be rough. All we need to do is walk around on the hills of our own area to see the truth of this.