“Thou shalt not remove thy neighbour's landmark, which they of old time have set in thine inheritance, which thou shalt inherit in the land that the LORD thy God giveth thee to possess it.” (Deuteronomy 19:14)
Since the earliest of times. People have designated individual areas as belonging to an individual or group. A tribe might claim and area from a specific river to a certain mountain as their grazing land. Later, farmers would set large stones or plant trees to mark the corners of their property. Today, survey stakes and markers serve the same purpose. They marked the boundaries and thus were called landmarks. Our modern term refers to some specific attraction and has little to do with the original meaning of the word.
Even today, it is not uncommon for people to try to cheat their neighbors by relocating the markers on their property. Because it would be nearly impossible to get the markers back in exactly the same place, God forbid moving them for any reason. The establishment of permanent reference points by the U.S. Geodetic survey, modern surveying equipment and GPS systems have reduced the problem but a margin of error still remains.
“One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established.” (Deuteronomy 19:15)
It was specified in Deuteronomy 17:6 that a person could not be executed solely on the testimony of one person. Here God makes it clear that no one can be convicted of any crime solely on the basis of a single witness. It is a well known fact that even the most careful observant witness can make mistakes, or be confused by the way questions are asked. Most of the convictions that have been overturned due to new evidence have been based on circumstantial evidence and the testimony of a single witness. Most cases involved a witness who unknowingly made and incorrect identification, often doubting it even at the time. Others were based on testimony by criminals attempting to get a lesser sentence by implicating someone else.
“If a false witness rise up against any man to testify against him that which is wrong; Then both the men, between whom the controversy is, shall stand before the LORD, before the priests and the judges, which shall be in those days; And the judges shall make diligent inquisition: and, behold, if the witness be a false witness, and hath testified falsely against his brother; Then shall ye do unto him, as he had thought to have done unto his brother: so shalt thou put the evil away from among you. And those which remain shall hear, and fear, and shall henceforth commit no more any such evil among you. And thine eye shall not pity; but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.” (Deuteronomy 19:16-21)
If there was reason to question the witness, investigation and interrogation was to be made to determine who was telling the truth before God, the Judges and the priests. The purpose is much like the cross examination before our courts, except that modern court procedures often hamper discovering the truth by excluding certain evidence or lines of inquiry.
If a witness was determined to have intentionally lied, then he was to be sentenced to whatever penalty would have been laid on the accused, whether fine, imprisonment, or execution. I can only imagine the difference such a policy would make in American courts if plaintiffs knew that they would be assessed the same judgment they would have been awarded if they were determined to have filed a bogus claim. While there would be less plea bargains, criminals would be less likely to implicate innocent people for fear they would increase their own punishment. Most lawsuits today are settled out of court because even if they win, the defendant will spend a huge amount of money in his own defense while still taking the chance of losing and false suits are filed to capitalize on the situation.