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Harmony of the Law - Volume 3
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Deuteronomy 21

Deuteronomy 21:22, 23

22. And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be to be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree;

22. Quum fuerit in aliquo peccatum ad judicium mortis, et interficiendus fuerit, et suspenderis illum in ligno:

23. His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God;) that thy land be not defiled, which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.

23. Non pernoctabit cadaver ejus in ligno, sed sepeliendo sepelies eodem die: quia maledictio est Dei qui suspenditur, et non contaminabis terram tuam quam Jehova Deus tuus dat tibi in haereditatem.

 

The object of this precept was to banish inhumanity and barbarism from the chosen people, and also to impress upon them horror even of a just execution. And surely the body of a man suspended on a cross is a sad and hideous spectacle; for the rights of sepulture are ordained for man, both as a pledge and symbol of the resurrection, and also to spare the eyes of the living, lest they should be defiled by the sight of so horrible a thing. Moses does not here speak generally, but only of those malefactors who are unworthy of the honor of burial; yet the public good is regarded in the burial even of such as these, lest men should grow accustomed to cruelty, and thus become more ready to commit murder. Moreover, that they may take more careful heed in this matter, he declares that the land would be defiled, if the corpse should be left hanging on the cross, since such inhumanity pollutes and disgraces the land. And this was more intolerable in Judea, which God had given as an inheritance to his elect people, that he might be there worshipped reverentially, and purely, every profanation being excluded. The man so hanged is called 4242     See margin, A. V. “the curse of God,” because this kind of punishment is detestable in itself. God, indeed, does not forbid criminals to be crucified, or hanged on a gallows, but rather gives His sanction to this mode of punishment; He only, by His own example, exhorts the Israelites to abhor all atrocity. Although, therefore, He does not disapprove of the punishment, He still says that lie abominates those that are hanged on a tree, that the scandal may be immediately removed; nor does He call them accursed, as if their salvation was to be despaired of, but because the hanging was a mark of His curse. This passage Paul applies to Christ, to teach us that He was made κατάρα (a curse) for us, that He might deliver us from the curse of the Law. (Galatians 3:13.) For, since all are guilty of transgression, and thus the whole race of mankind is implicated in the curse, there was no other mode of deliverance, except that Christ should substitute Himself in our place. Nor was God unmindful of His sentence, when He suffered His only-begot, tea Son to be crucified. Hence it follows that He submitted Himself to our condition, in order; that we might receive God’s blessing; since He was

made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness
of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21.)


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