|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
21:12-21 God, who by his providence gives and maintains life, by his law protects it. A wilful murderer shall be taken even from God's altar. But God provided cities of refuge to protect those whose unhappiness it was, and not their fault, to cause the death of another; for such as by accident, when a man is doing a lawful act, without intent of hurt, happens to kill another. Let children hear the sentence of God's word upon the ungrateful and disobedient; and remember that God will certainly requite it, if they have ever cursed their parents, even in their hearts, or have lifted up their hands against them, except they repent, and flee for refuge to the Saviour. And let parents hence learn to be very careful in training up their children, setting them a good example, especially in the government of their passions, and in praying for them; taking heed not to provoke them to wrath. Through poverty the Israelites sometimes sold themselves or their children; magistrates sold some persons for their crimes, and creditors were in some cases allowed to sell their debtors who could not pay. But man-stealing, the object of which is to force another into slavery, is ranked in the New Testament with the greatest crimes. Care is here taken, that satisfaction be made for hurt done to a person, though death do not follow. The gospel teaches masters to forbear, and to moderate threatenings, Eph 6:9, considering with Job, What shall I do, when God riseth up? Job 31:13,14.
Verse 16. - He that stealeth a man. Kidnapping, or stealing men to make them slaves, was a very early and very wide-spread crime. Joseph' s brothers must be regarded as having committed it (Genesis 37:28); and there are many traces of it in the remains of antiquity. (See Herod. 4:183; Strab. 7. p. 467; Sueton. Octav. § 32; etc.) Most kidnapping was of foreigners; and this was a practice of which the laws of states took no cognizance, though a certain disrepute may have attached to it. But the kidnapping of a fellow-country-man was generally punished with severity. At Athens it was a capital offence. At Rome it made a man infamous. We may gather from Deuteronomy 24:7, that the Mosaic law was especially levelled against this lena of the crime, though the words of the present passage are general, and forbid the crime altogether. Man-stealing, in the general sense, is now regarded as an offence by the chief civilised states of Europe and America, and is punished by confiscation of the stolen goods, and sometimes by imprisonment of the man-stealers.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And he that stealeth a man, and selleth him,.... One of the children of Israel, as the Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan, and so the Septuagint version: but though this law was given to the Israelites primarily, yet was made for men stealers in general, as the apostle observes, who plainly has reference to it, 1 Timothy 1:9,
or if he be found in his hand; before the selling of him, as Jarchi notes, since he stole him in order to sell him, he was guilty of death, as follows:
he shall surely be put to death; with strangling, as the same Jewish writer remarks, as on the preceding verse; and Jarchi sets it down as a rule, that all death in the law, simply expressed, is strangling.
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