Deuteronomy 21:22-23 Hanging From a Tree
Posted by adventbiblestudy on August 15, 2013
Deuteronomy 21:22-23 NLTse (22) “If someone has committed a crime worthy of death and is executed and hung on a tree, (23) the body must not remain hanging from the tree overnight. You must bury the body that same day, for anyone who is hung is cursed in the sight of God. In this way, you will prevent the defilement of the land the LORD your God is giving you as your special possession.
As prophecies about Jesus’ life and ministry progress through the Bible, we come to another verse with an obvious interpretation. Instantly we know the tree points to the cross and the time Jesus suffered on it. The time may not have been long, but the pain was more than many people experience. After a mock trial conducted by Jewish priests, Jesus was beaten, then taken to Pilate for civil trial. Once again the priests influence wins out. Contrary to Pilate’s better judgment, he sentences Jesus to die by crucifixion.
John 19:16-20 NLTse Then Pilate turned Jesus over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus away. (17) Carrying the cross by himself, he went to the place called Place of the Skull (in Hebrew, Golgotha). (18) There they nailed him to the cross. Two others were crucified with him, one on either side, with Jesus between them. (19) And Pilate posted a sign over him that read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” (20) The place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek, so that many people could read it.
Jesus hung on His cross for hours listening to the ridicule and challenges from the religious leaders gathered to watch Him die. Nails through His hands and feet were placed to inflict the maximum amount of pain. It was a form of torture designed to discourage all types of crime. Not only was the punishment painful, it was humiliating. Sun beat down on the Savior’s body. Just as the sun reached its peak, darkness covered the land, providing a small sense of relief.
How often has God used darkness to convey a message? During the flood, the earth was covered in darkness. The ark itself was covered in black tar known as pitch. Look up the word for yourself. It is a Hebrew word with two meanings, It can refer to tar. It can also refer to an atonement. While the ark was tossed and turned by a million tidal waves caused when the mountains were formed, God protected the ark like a mother protects her baby inside her womb. In total darkness the baby is safe from the world. In total darkness, God gave His Son a form of protection.
As Jesus hung on the cross, the world was covered in darkness. Many people thought it was the end of the world. Fear gripped their hearts. Had the world gone too far? Did God withdraw His love from the world, plunging it into eternal darkness? As minute after minute passed, total darkness appeared more permanent. When it finally lifted, many sat in awe wandering what it meant. They looked up. Jesus was dead.
What purpose did total darkness serve at the cross? Why did God take light away from the world for hours as His Son hung on the cross? The religious leaders cursing, jeering, and challenging Jesus could not longer see Him. Maybe He did come down? Maybe He was standing over them? Behind them? Fear has a way of taking over the mind in pitch darkness. Jesus could not see them. It was time for Jesus to make His final decision. Did the world deserve His death on the cross? Satan was doing everything to get Jesus to abandon the cause. Satan knew, if Jesus simply died, the war between himself and Jesus was over forever. Satan’s time was running out.
Is there a sort of new beginning in darkness? This world began in darkness. Then there was water. The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. Then he separated the light from the darkness. (Genesis 1:2-4 NLTse). God’s Spirit is compared to water covering the entire earth. Then there was light. And God separated the light from the darkness. Is this what God was doing at the cross? Was God using darkness then light to separate Jesus’ followers from His enemies? Or was God using darkness as a symbol pointing to a greater meaning? Is this a question each individual has to answer?
John 19:30-42 NLTse When Jesus had tasted it, he said, “It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and released his spirit. (31) It was the day of preparation, and the Jewish leaders didn’t want the bodies hanging there the next day, which was the Sabbath (and a very special Sabbath, because it was the Passover). So they asked Pilate to hasten their deaths by ordering that their legs be broken. Then their bodies could be taken down. (32) So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the two men crucified with Jesus. (33) But when they came to Jesus, they saw that he was already dead, so they didn’t break his legs. (34) One of the soldiers, however, pierced his side with a spear, and immediately blood and water flowed out. (35) (This report is from an eyewitness giving an accurate account. He speaks the truth so that you also can believe.) (36) These things happened in fulfillment of the Scriptures that say, “Not one of his bones will be broken,” (37) and “They will look on the one they pierced.” (38) Afterward Joseph of Arimathea, who had been a secret disciple of Jesus (because he feared the Jewish leaders), asked Pilate for permission to take down Jesus‘ body. When Pilate gave permission, Joseph came and took the body away. (39) With him came Nicodemus, the man who had come to Jesus at night. He brought seventy-five pounds of perfumed ointment made from myrrh and aloes. (40) Following Jewish burial custom, they wrapped Jesus‘ body with the spices in long sheets of linen cloth. (41) The place of crucifixion was near a garden, where there was a new tomb, never used before. (42) And so, because it was the day of preparation for the Jewish Passover and since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.
Jesus hung on the cross. His body near death felt the pain of generations sin. It felt as if He bore the pain of 400 years of oppression in Egypt in a matter of hours. Heat, anguish, pain, and suffering all centered on a single body. Jesus’ weight pulled on the nails in His hands and feet. Wounds and bruises on His back sent shocks of pain through His body every time he worked to draw another breath. Nailed in position on the cross made every muscle ache. Arms felt like they were trying to hold up His weight for hours. His legs cramped with indescribable pangs. Jesus’ lungs felt heavy. His body was fatigued from lack of sleep. Satan studied every twitch of Jesus’ body as he waited, looking for the right opening like the flies buzzing around those on their crosses. Birds or prey circled overhead waiting for their chance to dine. Religious leaders gathered below, celebrating what they considered as their greatest victory. To cope with the situation, Jesus focused on one thing. The plan of salvation He planned with His Father and Spirit in Heaven.
To understand the story behind the prophecies, we have to learn to look back at previous texts in both the New and Old Testament chapters. We have to see what led to both the fulfillment of prophecy and the prophecies themselves. This is what leads to a greater understanding of the overall message. It is a simple process of spending more time with God’s Spirit, who is able to reveal everything. How much more will God’s Spirit want to reveal all the details surrounding Jesus’ life, ministry, sacrifice, and resurrection. When we look back in Deuteronomy 21, we see details which pose questions, possibly clues about their spiritual fulfillment.
Deuteronomy 21:1-9 NLTse (1) “When you are in the land the LORD your God is giving you, someone may be found murdered in a field, and you don’t know who committed the murder. (2) In such a case, your elders and judges must measure the distance from the site of the crime to the nearby towns. (3) When the nearest town has been determined, that town’s elders must select from the herd a young cow that has never been trained or yoked to a plow. (4) They must lead it down to a valley that has not been plowed or planted and that has a stream running through it. There in the valley they must break the young cow’s neck. (5) Then the Levitical priests must step forward, for the LORD your God has chosen them to minister before him and to pronounce blessings in the LORD’s name. They are to decide all legal and criminal cases. (6) “The elders of the town must wash their hands over the young cow whose neck was broken. (7) Then they must say, ‘Our hands did not shed this person’s blood, nor did we see it happen. (8) O LORD, forgive your people Israel whom you have redeemed. Do not charge your people with the guilt of murdering an innocent person.’ Then they will be absolved of the guilt of this person’s blood. (9) By following these instructions, you will do what is right in the LORD’s sight and will cleanse the guilt of murder from your community.
Is there a connection between this verse in Deuteronomy 21 and another in the New Testament? “Why?” Pilate demanded. “What crime has he committed?” But the mob roared even louder, “Crucify him!” Pilate saw that he wasn’t getting anywhere and that a riot was developing. So he sent for a bowl of water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. The responsibility is yours!” And all the people yelled back, “We will take responsibility for his death–we and our children!” So Pilate released Barabbas to them. He ordered Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip, then turned him over to the Roman soldiers to be crucified. (Matthew 27:23-26 NLTse).
Some of the details are worth looking into. One innocent man was murdered in a field. Jesus was taken outside of Jerusalem to be crucified. The elders were to measure the distance to the nearest town. If they measured the distance to Jerusalem, wouldn’t they be placing guilt on themselves? Strange as it may seem, look what the elders said in Deuteronomy 21: “Our hands did not shed this person’s blood, nor did we see it happen,” seems to be the opposite of what the elders and priests instructed people to say at Jesus’ trial. “We will take responsibility for his death–we and our children!”
Another verse in Deuteronomy 21 adds more detail when we look back at previous studies about the prophecies Jesus fulfilled. Looking back to the Passover, we see a relationship between the death of Egypt’s firstborn and how the priesthood was taken from the Levites, God’s chosen firstborn, when Jesus died on the last Passover. “Look, I have chosen the Levites from among the Israelites to serve as substitutes for all the firstbornsons of the people of Israel. The Levites belong to me, for all the firstborn males are mine. On the day I struck down all the firstborn sons of the Egyptians, I set apart for myself all the firstborn in Israel, both of people and of animals. They are mine; I am the LORD.” (Numbers 3:12-13 NLTse). It may seem strange to find other texts in Deuteronomy 21, explaining how to deal with a stubborn and rebellious son.
Deuteronomy 21:18-21 NLTse (18) “Suppose a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father or mother, even though they discipline him. (19) In such a case, the father and mother must take the son to the elders as they hold court at the town gate. (20) The parents must say to the elders, ‘This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious and refuses to obey. He is a glutton and a drunkard.’ (21) Then all the men of his town must stone him to death. In this way, you will purge this evil from among you, and all Israel will hear about it and be afraid.
In between we see the study on the law condemning a man on the testimony of two witnesses. Of course Jesus was condemned even thought witnesses disagreed. Once again the religious leaders failed to follow details of God’s law. Next were instructions telling the Levites they were not to own land in the promised land. Instead they were to rely on God for everything. They were supposed to show the world how God will provide enough for them to share. Levites were to share with widows, poor people, and strangers. Another example of God’s love they were to display. In the next prophecy, religious leaders were shown to look for a prophet. They were given not one, but two prophets. John was sent to announce Jesus’ ministry.
As we look back, we see a distinct sequence. God tells the priest there will be false witnesses at Jesus’ trial and how to deal with them. The priests were reminded how God gave them everything and how they were to display mercy and share. The high priest was also given the breastplate of judgment to consult God whenever an important matter was brought before the priests. Finally God told the priests they were to look for a prophet. Instead of consulting scripture, priests choose to ignore God and His Word. The people God chose to stand between Himself and His people abandoned God. Finally they hung Jesus on a cross. Darkness fell on the land. A signal for a new beginning. Once again evil reached its limit and God’s plan of salvation moved on without them.