“1 If in the land that the LORD your God is giving you to possess someone is found slain, lying in the open country, and it is not known who killed him, 2 then your elders and your judges shall come out, and they shall measure the distance to the surrounding cities. 3 And the elders of the city that is nearest to the slain man shall take a heifer that has never been worked and that has not pulled in a yoke. 4 And the elders of that city shall bring the heifer down to a valley with running water, which is neither plowed nor sown, and shall break the heifer’s neck there in the valley.”
In the Old Testament, if a man was found dead in a field and it was not known how he died, God had specific instructions as to how to handle the situation which we in the 21st century might find a little strange. As usual the Holy Spirit, Who is the Author, has specific intent for everything He dictated to His Jewish secretaries in the Bible. Not one word in scripture is arbitrary or there just to make the book thicker.
Why is this story in part of Holy Writ? He is painting pictures of Jesus!
Instructions Regarding A Slain Man.
In our day and age, it may seem odd but, once upon a time, we were actually responsible for our fellow man. Truth be told, we still really are 😉, but in those days they took that responsibility to a whole different level in a very tangible way.
God made man in His image, as you know. You see, each life is so valuable to Him as to be priceless, as it should be to us. You can clearly see the value He places on mankind particularly in this law.
When a body was discovered, the elders and judges of the city in which the person lived who found the man had to come and measure the distance to the surrounding cities. The one nearest to the scene was then obligated to make a sacrifice to atone for the death.
The elders and judges of that city were then to bring a young heifer that had never been worked and that had not pulled with a yoke, bring it down to a valley with running water, which had neither been plowed or sown, and break its neck. Let’s continue reading to learn what’s next.
Judges, Elders, And Priests.
“5 Then the priests, the sons of Levi, shall come forward, for the LORD your God has chosen them to minister to him and to bless in the name of the LORD, and by their word every dispute and every assault shall be settled. 6 And all the elders of that city nearest to the slain man shall wash their hands over the heifer whose neck was broken in the valley, 7 and they shall testify, ‘Our hands did not shed this blood, nor did our eyes see it shed. 8 Accept atonement, O LORD, for your people Israel, whom you have redeemed, and do not set the guilt of innocent blood in the midst of your people Israel, so that their blood guilt be atoned for.’ 9 So you shall purge the guilt of innocent blood from your midst, when you do what is right in the sight of the LORD.”
Judges and elders in the Bible are custodians of God’s justice. They, in essence, speak FOR God to the people, which is bad news for man if he has no advocate. They mete out whatever justice or punishment is warranted without prejudice. That means “No mercy; no special circumstances.” You did it, you pay for it.
However….afterward, the priests were also called, which is good news for mankind. You see, priests represent us TO God, opposite of judges and elders. As such, they are a picture of Jesus, our Great High Priest Who acts as our go-between before God. They are OT types of our Lord Jesus.
When the priests got involved in the proceedings and offered the prescribed sacrifice, according God’s instructions, all the elders of the nearest city were to wash their hands over the heifer and testify as follows:
“Our hands did not shed this blood, nor did our eyes see it shed. Accept atonement, O LORD, for your people Israel, whom you have redeemed, and do not set the guilt of innocent blood in the midst of your people Israel, so that their blood guilt be atoned for.’ (Remember this for later.)
The Mystery Of The Slain Man.
As you can see, we don’t know who this slain man was or how he died. We only know he is dead and is lying in a field outside of any city. That word, “Outside,” actually gives us a BIG clue in identifying the man in the story.
As you know, though the Bible was written down by many different people, there is only ONE Author: The Holy Spirit, and we know Who He wrote about. He tells the matchless story of Jesus and His work of redemption over and over again and over again in the stories and types of the Old Testament.
Just as this unknown man was found OUTSIDE the city gates, so Jesus was crucified OUTSIDE the city gates. It’s certainly no mystery what city is closest to the site of His death: Jerusalem. Per the law concerning a slain man, atonement must be made for His death so that the guilt for the slain man’s blood is not accorded to that city and her people.
Amazingly, there are 365 Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament. No doubt that the rabbis were well aware of all of them. Over and over again the Jewish people were promised that God would send His Champion to His people. The problem was that there seemed to be conflicting accounts of Who He would be, i.e. Suffering Savior or Conquering King. Little did they know, He would be both.
Even the OT prophets didn’t have full revelation of what they wrote. They simply documented faithfully what the Holy Spirit told them to write. Anyone interested in more on that topic may follow the link below: https://emmausroadministries.international/2021/05/28/ancient-prophecies-part-7-of-16-rightly-dividing-the-word-of-god/
Now obviously you and I know Who the slain Man is, but the Jewish people, for the most par, did not recognize Him. Most are still unaware, though more have come to know Jesus in these last days than at any time in history. Because their minds were clouded, they did not see His true identity.
Since Jerusalem is the city closest to this slain Man, they are liable for his blood if they do not offer a sacrifice to atone for it. In this law, Jesus is revealed in a TYPOLOGY, two in one: He is both the VICTIM and the OFFERER, just as it is pictured in the Gospel story in the stars.
(For more on that topic, you may follow the link below:
If you do not believe in Him as your perfect sacrificial offering, guess what? YOU ARE GUILTY OF SHEDDING HIS BLOOD. YIKES!!! 😭
Jesus Before Pilate.
15 Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. 16 And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. 17 So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” 18 For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. 19 Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.”
20 Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. 21 The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” 22 Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” 23 And he said, “Why? What evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”
It was bad enough that the Jewish leadership rejected Jesus as their Messiah, but at His so-called “trial,” they chose to have a murderous criminal, “Barabas,” released instead! 😮 He was the worst of the worst kind of criminal, not the guy you’d want living next door. His name actually means, “Son of the Father.” Folks, he is a typology of you and I, the ones who went free while another took the stripes and paid the price for our freedom. 😭
As if that weren’t bad enough, look what else the frenzied crowd shouted to Pilate:
24 So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” 25 And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” 26 Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified. 😲🤯
Those are some of the saddest words in the entire Bible. 😭 There is only more VERY public declaration these clueless leaders made which really sealed their fate. It is found in only one place: John 19:15. Take a look 👇🏻
14 Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” 15 The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” So he delivered him over to them to be crucified. 😭
No King But Caesar?
God had just given up His ONLY SON, Who suffered the most horrific death in history; and they “Have no king but Caesar?” 🤦🏼♀️ He gave his people chance after chance to receive their Messiah, the true King of Israel. 40 years He gave them, more than generous. (In case you were unaware, “40,” in Biblical numerics, is the number of probation.) Yet time after time they stubbornly rejected Him. (For more on that topic, you may follow the link below:
So, after 40 years of consistently slapping God’s hand away, He turned with broken heart away from His people, temporarily of course, back to the Gentiles. You and I have been the benefactors of that rejection ever since.
Sadly also, because Israel rejected her King, they were without an atoning sacrifice for His death and thereby liable for it. And His wasn’t just any death: He is the Son of God! 😭
Jesus’ sacrifice was for everyone. You DON’T want to be on the wrong side of it.
That final parting declaration became the hallmark of their long and tragic history, from then until they came back as a nation in 1948. For 2,000 or so years, they were ruthlessly ruled by “Caesar after Caesar,” the most heinous of whom was Adolf Hitler.
BUT…..woe to the nation that harmed them in any way. They have always been the apple of His eye. Every nation that conquered, subjugated, or acted with cruelty toward them has either waned in prominence in the world or disappeared altogether.
Why didn’t God step in and stop their suffering and slaughter? Because since they rejected His help, which came in the body of His beloved Son, they only had a partial covenant with Him. To really understand what it means to be in full covenant with God, you might want to click on the link below. It’s a touchy and complicated topic that needs some background to understand the whole issue:
Israel Becomes A Nation!
Unlike all those nations that oppressed her, Israel was not only uniquely preserved as a nation but her ancient language is in common use today. No other nation has that claim to fame! The prophet Isaiah could actually walk into a modern restaurant and, though he might not know what a pastrami sandwich was, he could definitely read the menu. 😁 This is the place where the Jewish people are safest: Their own land. Like fish out of water, they languish and die outside of her “waters.”
It is so evident that God had once again turned again to this tiny, ancient nation. Miracle after miracle occurred after the state of Israel was born, an event heralded by some but terrifying to others. If you’re interested more on the miraculous events of this tiny nation’s tumultuous history, you may follow the link below: nternational/2020/04/18/the-19th-book/
One day very soon, Our wonderful Jesus will call for His Church and we will be caught up in the clouds with Him, never to be parted again. The remnant of Jewish people left behind will be dealt with during the final 7 years (the tribulation) before Jesus returns to earth, with the Church in tow. They will finally recognize Jesus as their Messiah, He will rescue them from total annihilation, and the entire nation will be saved in a single day. HALLELUJAH!
In conclusion, even though this is a tragic story and really hard to tell, it has a good ending. At last God’s ancient people will have an acceptable sacrifice to answer for the death of the “Man Slain In A Field.”