What did the Lord want Israel to do in the matters of an unsolved murder, women captives, inheritance rights, and a rebellious son? These are some of the topics noted in this chapter.

Procedures to be followed in a case when a person had been killed, but there was no evidence to show who had slain him (21:1-9) – The priests were to be involved in settling “every controversy and every assault” of this sort, calling on the elders of the nearest city to take the lead in killing a heifer (21:5). A premium was placed on atonement and putting away the guilt of innocent blood and doing what was right in the sight of Jehovah (21:8,9)

Taking wives from among their enemies (21:10- 14) – Though the Lord forbid His people to intermarry with the Canaanites, this passage indicates that if the Israelites defeated their enemies in battle, then from among the living captives, a man was allowed to take a woman as his wife. Like Rahab and Ruth later did, the implications would be that such a woman would be required to renounce any former religion and become a follower of the law of Moses. Inheritance rights of the firstborn (21:15-17) – The oldest son was to receive a double portion of the father’s inheritance (21:17). For instance, if there were four brothers, the inheritance would be divided into five parts, with the eldest brother receiving two parts (double what his brothers would get). This inheritance law was to be carried out even in a case where a man may have preferred one wife or son more than others.

What to do with a disobedient son (21:18-21) – It always had been the Lord’s will for a child to honor his father and mother (5:16). If a son would not obey his parents, and even after they chastened him he remained “stubborn and rebellious” (21:18), then he was to be stoned publicly. Why such drastic action? God’s answer to Israel was, “. . . so you shall put away the evil from among you, and all Israel shall hear and fear” (21:21). It is no laughing matter when children do not respect their parents! And, it is neither loving nor helpful when parents allow a child to go undisciplined or act as if he were “the boss.”

What to do with the body of a person who has been hanged (21:22,23) – God considered some violations of His law to be “a sin deserving of death” (21:22). If a person was hanged for a crime committed, he was to be buried the same day. Also, one who died by hanging on a tree was counted as “accursed of God” (21:22). Do you suppose that is why some Jews rejected Jesus, who became a curse for us when He was hanged on a tree? (Galatians 3:13; Acts 5:30).

— Roger D. Campbell