Bible Verse Explanations and Resources


Deuteronomy 21:4

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Shall bring down the heifer unto a rough valley - איתן נחל nachal eythan might be translated a rapid stream, probably passing through a piece of uncultivated ground where the elders of the city were to strike off the head of the heifer, and to wash their hands over her in token of their innocence. The spot of ground on which this sacrifice was made must be uncultivated, because it was considered to be a sacrifice to make atonement for the murder, and consequently would pollute the land. This regulation was calculated to keep murder in abhorrence, and to make the magistrates alert in their office, that delinquents might be discovered and punished, and thus public expense saved.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible

Eared - i. e., plowed; compare Genesis 45:6 note and references. The word is derived from the Latin, and is in frequent use by English writers of the fifteenth and two following centuries.

Strike off the heifer‘s neck - Rather, “break its neck” (compare Exodus 13:13). The mode of killing the victim distinguishes this lustration from the sin-offering, in which there would be of course shedding and sprinkling of the blood.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
If a murderer could not be found out, great solemnity is provided for putting away the guilt from the land, as an expression of dread and detesting of that sin. The providence of God has often wonderfully brought to light these hidden works of darkness, and the sin of the guilty has often strangely found them out. The dread of murder should be deeply impressed upon every heart, and all should join in detecting and punishing those who are guilty. The elders were to profess that they had not been any way aiding or abetting the sin. The priests were to pray to God for the country and nation, that God would be merciful. We must empty that measure by our prayers, which others are filling by their sins. All would be taught by this solemnity, to use the utmost care and diligence to prevent, discover, and punish murder. We may all learn from hence to take heed of partaking in other men's sins. And we have fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, if we do not reprove them.