Published on
October 3, 2023

Deuteronomy 21

“If anyone is found guilty of an offense deserving the death penalty and is executed, and you hang his body on a tree, you are not to leave his corpse...”

Author Photo
Steve Wiggins
Author Photo
Steve Wiggins
Read Time
4 minutes
Deuteronomy 21
“If anyone is found guilty of an offense deserving the death penalty and is executed, and you hang his body on a tree, you are not to leave his corpse on a tree overnight but are to bury him that day, for anyone hung on a tree is under God’s curse. You must not defile the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.” Deuteronomy 21:22-23 (HCSB)

Deuteronomy, chapter 21, covers five somewhat obscure Messianic themes: Forgiveness of innocent bloodshed, Fair treatment of captured women, the right of the firstborn between two wives (one loved and one hated), the purging (stoning) of an unrepentant rebellious son, and the display of executed people. Let’s review how Jesus relates to each of those five themes.

Jesus’ first statement from the Roman cross was, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” He was declaring to God that Israel’s hands were not directly involved in His murder. In fact, it was technically the Romans who crucified Jesus. Jesus was absolving Israel, corporately, of their collective responsibility in His death.

When you consider the “cross” as the great victory of spiritual warfare, all those from among the nations who have been redeemed are spoils of war. The Church is called the “bride of Messiah,” and the fair treatment of Gentile believers is acknowledged here.

Often in Scripture, both Israel and the Church are referred to as a “young virgin” or a “bride.” God neither condones nor practices divorce. With the consideration of the “Church as bride” mentality, provision must be made for God’s favor towards each “bride’s” offspring, with respect to blessing and rights of first birth. Hence, God’s covenant is extended to every new believer, whether Jewish or Gentile.

Jesus was considered to be a rebellious son by the Sanhedrin. In contrast, the religious leaders compelled the crowd to urge Pilate to release Barabas, who was an actual rebel. Instead of purging Israel of evil, they preferred to retain evil and dispense with righteousness.

While the “cross” remains the worldwide symbol of Christianity, the “tree” is actually more thematically appropriate as the Hebrew Biblical image of cursed suffering. The cross was, after all, made of wood. There is a curse against anyone hung on a tree and against the land if that person was to remain on the tree overnight. Consider this Scripture:

“There was a good and righteous man named Joseph, a member of the Sanhedrin, who had not agreed with their plan and action. He was from Arimathea, a Judean town, and was looking forward to the kingdom of God. He approached Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Taking it down, he wrapped it in fine linen and placed it in a tomb cut into the rock, where no one had ever been placed. It was preparation day and the Sabbath was about to begin.” Luke 23:50-54 (HCSB)

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