1 Kings 1:50
And Adonijah feared because of Solomon, and arose, and went, and caught hold on the horns of the altar.
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(50) The horns of the altar.—The horns were projections from the altar, to which (see Psalm 118:27) the victims were fastened, and on which the blood was sprinkled (Exodus 29:12). To take hold of them was, of course, to claim the right of sanctuary—a right, however, which the Law, ruled as usual by moral considerations, formally denied to wilful murder (Exodus 21:14), and which accordingly (see 1Kings 2:30-31) was refused hereafter to Joab. Adonijah, by the acknowledgment of “King Solomon,” seems to represent his usurpation as one of those acts of haste and inadvertency, to which alone sanctuary was conceded.

1 Kings 1:50-51. Adonijah feared, &c. — He fled to the altar for protection and safety, it being a privileged place; not, indeed, by the appointment of the law, but by the custom of all nations. And caught hold on the horns of the altar — With a resolution, it seems, of not stirring therefrom till Solomon had given his oath, or solemn word, not to take away his life. And by thus doing Adonijah appears to have hindered the offering of sacrifices on the altar till such time as Solomon granted his pardon. Let King Solomon swear that he will not slay his servant — He owns Solomon as his king, and himself as his servant and subject; and being sensible of his guilt, and of the jealousy which kings have of their competitors, could not be satisfied without Solomon’s oath.1:32-53 The people expressed great joy and satisfaction in the elevation of Solomon. Every true Israelite rejoices in the exaltation of the Son of David. Combinations formed upon evil principles will soon be dissolved, when self-interest calls another way. How can those who do evil deeds expect to have good tidings? Adonijah had despised Solomon, but soon dreaded him. We see here, as in a glass, Jesus, the Son of David and the Son of God, exalted to the throne of glory, notwithstanding all his enemies. His kingdom is far greater than that of his father David, and therein all the true people of God cordially rejoice. The prosperity of his cause is vexation and terror to his enemies. No horns of the altar, nor forms of godliness, nor pretences to religion, can profit those who will not submit to His authority, and accept of his salvation; and if their submission be hypocritical, they shall perish without remedy.On the "horns" of the altar, see Exodus 27:2 note. The altar to which Adonijah fled was probably in the "tabernacle" already referred to 1 Kings 1:39. 1Ki 1:50-53. Adonijah, Fleeing to the Horns of the Altar, Is Dismissed by Solomon.

50-53. Adonijah … went, and caught hold on the horns of the altar—most probably the altar of burnt offering which had been erected on Mount Zion, where Abiathar, one of his partisans, presided as high priest. The horns or projections at the four corners of the altar, to which the sacrifices were bound, and which were tipped with the blood of the victim, were symbols of grace and salvation to the sinner. Hence the altar was regarded as a sanctuary (Ex 21:14), but not to murderers, rebels, or deliberate perpetrators. Adonijah, having acted in opposition to the will of the reigning king, was guilty of rebellion, and stood self-condemned. Solomon spared his life on the express condition of his good behavior—living in strict privacy, leading a quiet, peaceable life, and meddling with the affairs of neither the court nor the kingdom.

Either that which was at Gibeon, as appears from 1 Chronicles 16:39 2 Chronicles 1:3; and was made with four horns, Exodus 38:2; to which the sacrifices were bound Psalm 118:27. Or rather, that which set David had lately up in the threshing-floor of Araunah, which doubtless was made after the same form as that at Gibeon; for, first, This was next at hand. Secondly, The altar only is mentioned here, whereas in Joab’s case there is mention of the tabernacle and altar both, 1 Kings 2:28,29, which seems to be noted to distinguish the two altars; for Adonijah being the king’s son, he might safely go to Araunah’s altar, and the people would not be forward to seize upon him, or bring him to justice: but Joab truly thought it was not safe for him to venture himself there, and therefore he fleeth to Gibeon, as a place more remote from Jerusalem. Hither he fled, either to implore God’s mercy; or rather, to avoid Solomon’s rage; supposing that his reverence to that sacred place would not permit him to pollute it with his brother’s blood; or that the consideration of God’s grace and mercy, which himself needed and begged of God, in pardoning his offences, and accepting the sacrifices which he should offer there, would engage and dispose him to show mercy to his offending and now penitent brother; or that his piety would not allow him violently to pluck him as it were out of the arms of God, into which he had put himself. And for these or such-like reasons the altar was esteemed a kind of sanctuary or place of refuge, not only among the Gentiles, but also among the Hebrews, though it be not called by that name, as may be gathered from Exodus 21:14 1 Kings 2:28. And Adonijah feared because of Solomon,.... Lest he should seize him as an usurper and traitor, and put him to death:

and arose, and went, and caught hold on the horns of the altar; either that which was at Gibeon, where the tabernacle now was; see 1 Kings 3:4; so Jarchi; or rather that which was nearest, the altar that David had built in the threshingfloor of Araunah, 2 Samuel 24:25; the altar was a sort of asylum, or refuge, for such who had committed any crime worthy of death; not by divine appointment, but by custom, it being supposed that none would presume to defile with blood that which was sacred to the Lord; or shed the blood of men where the blood of beasts was poured; or use severity and strict justice, but mercy, where sacrifices were offered to atone for sin, and mercy was shown on account of them; these were notions, and this a custom, which obtained very early, and even among the Jews; see Exodus 21:14; as well as among Gentiles; with whom it was usual, as to flee to the statues of their emperors, and to the temples of their deities, so likewise to their altars; this was customary among the Molossians, Samothracians, Crotoniatae, and Messenians; and particularly the altar of Jupiter Servator was an asylum, or place of refuge, to the Ithacians (l). Cornelius Nepos (m) has given us an instance of one that fled to a temple of Neptune, and sat upon the altar for his security, as here Adonijah laid hold on the horns of this, that none might force him from it.

(l) Alexander ab Alex. Genial. Dier. l. 3. c. 20. (m) Vit. Pausan l. 4. c. 4.

And Adonijah feared because of Solomon, and arose, and went, and caught hold on the horns of the {t} altar.

(t) Which David his father had built in the floor of Araunah, 2Sa 24:25.

50. caught hold on the horns of the altar] In his terror Adonijah takes sanctuary, apparently at the altar which had been erected when the ark was brought to Mt. Zion. That an altar was set up there is clear from 2 Samuel 6:17-18, where we have an account of the burnt offerings and peace offerings presented there. As this sanctuary was specially under the care of Abiathar, it was natural that Adonijah should go there. It may have been by Abiathar’s advice.

The horns of the altar are described Exodus 27:2 seqq. They were wooden projections overlaid with brass. On the occasion of a sacrifice the priest with his finger was to smear them with the blood of the victim (Exodus 29:12), and this ceremonial was a sign of atonement (Exodus 30:10). Thus the spot to which Adonijah fled was of special sanctity.Verse 50. - And Adonijah feared because of Solomon and he arose and went and caught hold of the horns of the altar. [Cf. 1 Kings 2:28. Probably the altar of Mount Zion, 1 Kings 3:15; 2 Samuel 6:17. Though it is impossible to say positively whether this or the altar at Gibeon (chap. 3:4) or that recently erected on the threshing floor of Araunah (2 Samuel 24:25) is meant. For the "horns," see Exodus 27:2; Exodus 38:2; and compare Exodus 30:2. They were of shittim (i.e., acacia) wood overlaid with brass, and served a double purpose. Victims were bound to them (Psalm 118:27), and blood was put upon them, Exodus 29:12. As to the altar as a place of sanctuary, see on 1 Kings 2:28. Evidently a right of sanctuary existed amongst both Jews and Gentiles at the time of the Exodus, and probably from time immemorial. It is referred to in Exodus 21:14, but it was much circumscribed by the appointment of the cities of refuge (Numbers 35:10 sqq.) By "laying hold of the horns the offender thereby placed himself under the protection of the saving and helping grace of God" (Bahr, "Symbolik," 1:474) Jonathan replied: אבל, "yea but," corresponding to the Latin imo vero, an expression of assurance with a slight doubt, and then related that Solomon had been anointed king by David's command, and the city was in a joyous state of excitement in consequence (תּהם as in Ruth 1:19), and that he had even ascended the throne, that the servants of the king had blessed David for it, and that David himself had worshipped and praised Jehovah the God of Israel that he had lived to see his son ascend the throne. The repetition of וגם three times (1 Kings 1:46-48) gives emphasis to the words, since every new point which is introduced with וגם raises the thing higher and higher towards absolute certainty. The fact related in 1 Kings 1:47 refers to the words of Benaiah in 1 Kings 1:36 and 1 Kings 1:37. The Chethib אלהיך is the correct reading, and the Keri אלהים an unnecessary emendation. The prayer to God, with thanksgiving for the favour granted to him, was offered by David after the return of his anointed son Solomon to the royal palace; so that it ought strictly to have been mentioned after 1 Kings 1:40. The worship of grey-headed David upon the bed recalls to mind the worship of the patriarch Jacob after making known his last will (Genesis 47:31).
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