Deuteronomy 21:6

Hebrew Bible

4 and bring the heifer down to a wadi with flowing water, to a valley that is neither plowed nor sown. There at the wadi they are to break the heifer’s neck. 5 Then the Levitical priests will approach (for the Lord your God has chosen them to serve him and to pronounce blessings in his name, and to decide every judicial verdict) , 6 and all the elders of that city nearest the corpse must wash their hands over the heifer whose neck was broken in the valley. 7 Then they must proclaim, “Our hands have not spilled this blood, nor have we witnessed the crime. 8 Do not blame your people Israel whom you redeemed, O Lord, and do not hold them accountable for the bloodshed of an innocent person.” Then atonement will be made for the bloodshed.

Psalm 26:6

Hebrew Bible

4 I do not associate with deceitful men, or consort with those who are dishonest. 5 I hate the mob of evil men, and do not associate with the wicked. 6 I wash my hands in innocence,11 so I can appear before your altar, O Lord, 7 to give you thanks, and to tell about all your amazing deeds. 8 O Lord, I love the temple where you live, the place where your splendor is revealed.

 Notes and References

"... Deuteronomy 21:1–9 presents a case of homicide with no evidence and in open country where questions of jurisdiction need to be resolved. Once it is determined that they shoulder the responsibility, the elders of the nearest city grasp their liability for the crime. A complicated ritual ensues that involves the killing of a heifer by breaking its neck. The elders wash their hands over the heifer while testifying that they did not commit the murder nor were they witnesses to the murder (Deuteronomy 21:6–7; compare Psalm 26:6). Though it is not stated outright, the elders implicitly assert that no one in their city is criminally responsible, either as an accessory to the murder or complicit in some other way (e.g., harboring the fugitive). Overseeing these legal disclaimers are the priests who are chosen to be God’s judicial representatives to settle such a dispute involving assault (Deuteronomy 21:5). Yet no mention is made of their verdict. Instead the narrative centers on the Ultimate Judge, the only one who can truly decide such a case with so many unknowns. After their ritual actions, the elders beseech God for absolution of the blood guilt (literally “innocent blood”), absolution that only God can provide. Such a purge of blood guilt is “exercising what is just in the estimation of Yahweh” (Deuteronomy 21:9)— a favorite Deuteronomic expression (compare 6:18; 12:25, 28; 13:19) for Yahweh as the giver of law and its absolute judge ..."

Lewis, Theodore J. The Origin and Character of God: Ancient Israelite Religion through the Lens of Divinity (pp. 528-529) Oxford University Press, 2020

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