1 Kings 8:31
If any man trespass against his neighbour, and an oath be laid upon him to cause him to swear, and the oath come before thine altar in this house:
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(31, 32) If any man trespass.—These verses deal with the simplest exemplification of the sacredness of the Temple in the case of the oath of expurgation of one accused of crime (see Exodus 22:7). Of these oaths, and the sophistical distinctions between the various forms of them, we have Our Lord’s notice in Matthew 23:16-22. Such an oath has a twofold force—a force purely spiritual, inasmuch as it solemnly recognises the Presence of God, and by such recognition shames all falsehood as a kind of sacrilege; and a force which is “of the Law,” inasmuch as the invocation of God’s punishment in case of falsehood appeals to godly fear. Solomon prays that God will accept the oath under both aspects, and by His judgment distinguish between the innocent and the guilty.

1 Kings 8:31. If any man, &c. — He now puts divers cases in which he supposed application would be made to God in prayer, in or toward this house of prayer; and first that of God’s being appealed to by an oath for the determining of any controverted right between man and man. If any man trespass against his neighbour — If a man be accused of a trespass. And an oath be laid upon him — Either by the judge, or by the party accusing him, or by the accused person himself, claiming the privilege of perjuring himself by an oath from the trespass laid to his charge, which was usual when there were no witnesses. Solomon seems here to refer chiefly to the case of those who were accused of denying that which was said to be deposited with them by their neighbour. And the oath come before thine altar — Where God, who was appealed to as a witness, was supposed to be especially present. Hence the heathen were wont to swear at their altars; calling on their gods to witness to the truth of what they said, and to punish them if they uttered any falsehood therein.

8:22-53 In this excellent prayer, Solomon does as we should do in every prayer; he gives glory to God. Fresh experiences of the truth of God's promises call for larger praises. He sues for grace and favour from God. The experiences we have of God's performing his promises, should encourage us to depend upon them, and to plead them with him; and those who expect further mercies, must be thankful for former mercies. God's promises must be the guide of our desires, and the ground of our hopes and expectations in prayer. The sacrifices, the incense, and the whole service of the temple, were all typical of the Redeemer's offices, oblation, and intercession. The temple, therefore, was continually to be remembered. Under one word, forgive, Solomon expressed all that he could ask in behalf of his people. For, as all misery springs from sin, forgiveness of sin prepares the way for the removal of every evil, and the receiving of every good. Without it, no deliverance can prove a blessing. In addition to the teaching of the word of God, Solomon entreated the Lord himself to teach the people to profit by all, even by their chastisements. They shall know every man the plague of his own heart, what it is that pains him; and shall spread their hands in prayer toward this house; whether the trouble be of body or mind, they shall represent it before God. Inward burdens seem especially meant. Sin is the plague of our own hearts; our in-dwelling corruptions are our spiritual diseases: every true Israelite endeavours to know these, that he may mortify them, and watch against the risings of them. These drive him to his knees; lamenting these, he spreads forth his hands in prayer. After many particulars, Solomon concludes with the general request, that God would hearken to his praying people. No place, now, under the gospel, can add to the prayers made in or towards it. The substance is Christ; whatever we ask in his name, it shall be given us. In this manner the Israel of God is established and sanctified, the backslider is recovered and healed. In this manner the stranger is brought nigh, the mourner is comforted, the name of God is glorified. Sin is the cause of all our troubles; repentance and forgiveness lead to all human happiness.The oath come before ... - "The oath" is equivalent to "the man who swears the oath." A slight alteration in the present Hebrew text gives the sense "and he (the accused) go and swear before thine altar," etc. The threats and the promises, the punishments and calamities of 1 Kings 8:31-38 were distinctly named in the Law. See the margin reference. 1Ki 8:22-61. His Prayer.

22. Solomon stood before the altar—This position was in the court of the people, on a brazen scaffold erected for the occasion (2Ch 6:13), fronting the altar of burnt offering, and surrounded by a mighty concourse of people. Assuming the attitude of a suppliant, kneeling (1Ki 8:54; compare 2Ch 6:24) and with uplifted hands, he performed the solemn act of consecration—an act remarkable, among other circumstances, for this, that it was done, not by the high priest or any member of the Aaronic family, but by the king in person, who might minister about, though not in, holy things. This sublime prayer [1Ki 8:22-35], which breathes sentiments of the loftiest piety blended with the deepest humility, naturally bore a reference to the national blessing and curse contained in the law—and the burden of it—after an ascription of praise to the Lord for the bestowment of the former, was an earnest supplication for deliverance from the latter. He specifies seven cases in which the merciful interposition of God would be required; and he earnestly bespeaks it on the condition of people praying towards that holy place. The blessing addressed to the people at the close is substantially a brief recapitulation of the preceding prayer [1Ki 8:56-61].

If any man trespass, i.e. if he be accused of a trespass.

An oath be laid upon him; either by the judge, or by the party accusing him, or by the accused person himself; which was usual, when there were no witnesses. See Exodus 22:8,11 Num 5:12,15, &c.

And the oath come before thine altar in this house; for here God, who was appealed to as witness, was especially present. Hence the heathens used to swear at their altars.

If any man trespass against his neighbour,.... By being unfaithful in a trust committed to him, or the like:

and an oath be laid upon him to cause him to swear; he denying that ever anything was committed to his trust, and there being no witnesses of it, the judge obliges him to take an oath he never had any:

and the oath come before thine altar in this house; where it was taken, as in the presence of God, and as appealing to him: hence in corrupt times they came to swear by the altar, Matthew 23:20 and so the Heathens used to take their oaths in the temples of their gods, and at their altars, as the instances of Callicrates (c) and Hannibal (d) show, and others Grotius refers to; yea, they also laid hold on the altar, at least touched it when they swore (e) to give the greater sanction to the oath.

(c) Cornel. Nep. Vit. Dion. l. 10. c. 8. (d) Ib. Hannibal. l. 23. c. 2.((e) Vid. Lydii Dissert de Jurament. c. 4. sect. 7.

If any man trespass against his neighbour, {k} and an oath be laid upon him to cause him to swear, and the oath come before thine altar in this house:

(k) That is, the judge or neighbours.

31. If any man trespass] Here Solomon enters on a series of specific petitions, the first of which is concerning any case of trespass, in which he implores that God would uphold the sanctity of an oath. The sense of ‘trespass’ in this verse must be = ‘be supposed to have trespassed.’ The person presumed to have offended is to be challenged to take an oath, and to God is left the punishment of the guilty and the acquittal of the innocent. Cf. Exodus 22:7-11.

and the oath come] It is better to take both words as verbs and supply a copulative. Render “and he come and swear.”

Verse 31. - If any man trespass [The force of the Hebrew (which begins somewhat abruptly) אֵת אֲשֶׁר (LXX. ὅσα α}ν ἁμάρτη) is probably, As for that which, or in all cases in which, i.e., when (as Ewald, 333 a). The chronicler, as usual, simplifies by reading אֵם] against his neighbour, and an oath be laid [Heb. and he (the neighbour) lay an oath, i.e., prescribe a form of adjuration, such as that in Deuteronomy 21:7] upon him to cause him to swear, and the oath come [This translation cannot be maintained. For in the Heb. there is no def. art., as there would be if אָלָה were noun and nominative; and, moreover in that case the verb, to agree with the feminine noun, would be בָּאָה. And as no other meaning can be extracted from the words as they stand, we are driven to suspect a slight corruption of the text, either

(1) the omission of ו between the words, which in that case would have stood ובא ואלה, and would mean, "and he (the accused) come and swear" - a conjecture which is supported by the LXX., καὶ ἔλθῃ καὶ ἐξαγορεύση, or

(2) the omission of the preposition ב, which would yield ובא באלה = and he (the accused) enters into the oath, an expression found in Nehemiah 10:29 and Ezekiel 17:13] before thine altar in this house. [Despite the last words, the altar of sacrifice before the house is probably meant. This was the altar of the Jewish layman, and, moreover it was one visible sign of the covenant. Psalm 1:5; Exodus 24:6-8; cf. 20:24. The altar which afforded shelter to the manslayer, in the same way lent sanctity to the oath. The practice of swearing by the altar (Matthew 23:18) is of later date. 1 Kings 8:31"That Thine eyes may be open upon this house night and day." אל־הבּית, speciali quadam providentia in hanc domum directi (Mich.). The following clause, "upon the place of which Thou hast said, My name shall be there" (namely, 2 Samuel 7:13, implicite), contains within itself the ground upon which the prayer rests. Because the name of God will be in the temple, i.e., because God will manifest His gracious presence there, He will also keep His eyes open upon it, so as to hear the prayer of Solomon directed towards it. הזּה המּקום אל (toward this place): because Solomon also was prayer in the court towards the temple. - In 1 Kings 8:30, "and hear the supplication of Thy servant and of Thy people Israel," he begins by asking that those prayers may be heard which the king and people shall henceforth bring before God in the temple. ושׁמעתּ corresponds to וּפנית in 1 Kings 8:28, and is more precisely defined by the following תּשׁמע ואתּה (as for these prayers), Thou wilt hear them up to the place of Thine abode, to heaven. אל שׁמע is a pregnant expression: to hear the prayer, which ascends to heaven. In the Chronicles we find throughout the explanatory מן. The last words, "hear and forgive," must be left in their general form, and not limited by anything to be supplied. Nothing but forgiveness of sin can remove the curse by which transgression is followed.

This general prayer is then particularized from 1 Kings 8:31 onwards by the introduction of seven special petitions for an answer in the different cases in which, in future, prayers may be offered to God in the temple. The first prayer (1 Kings 8:31, 1 Kings 8:32) has reference to the oaths sworn in the temple, the sanctity of which God is asked to protect. "If a man sin against his neighbour, and an oath be laid upon him, to cause him to swear, and he come (and) swear before the altar in this house, then wilt Thou hear," etc. אשׁר את does not mean either "granted that" (Thenius) or "just when" (Ewald, 533, a.), although אם is used in the Chronicles, and we might render it freely "when;" but את is simply an accusative particle, serving to introduce the following clause, in the sense of "as for," or "with regard to (such a case as) that a man sins" (vid., Ewald, 277, a.). אלה וּבא cannot be taken as anything but an asyndeton. For if אלה were a substantive, it would have the article (האלה) provided it were the subject, and the verb would be written בּאה; and if it were the object, we should have בּאלה, as in Nehemiah 10:30 (cf. Ezekiel 17:13). The prayer refers to the cases mentioned in Exodus 22:6-12 and Leviticus 26:17, when property entrusted to any one had been lost or injured, or when a thing had been found and the finding was denied, or when an act of fraud had been committed; in which cases the law required not only compensation with the addition of a fifth of its value, but also a trespass-offering as an expiation of the sin committed by taking a false oath. But as this punishment could only be inflicted when the guilty person afterwards confessed his guilt, many false oaths might have been sworn in the cases in question and have remained unpunished, so far as men were concerned. Solomon therefore prays that the Lord will hear every such oath that shall have been sworn before the altar, and work (עשׂית), i.e., actively interpose, and judge His servants, to punish the guilty and justify the innocent. The construction השּׁמים תּשׁמע (1 Kings 8:32, 1 Kings 8:34, 1 Kings 8:36, etc.) can be explained more simply from the adverbial use of the accusative (Ewald, 300, b.), than from השּׁמים אל in 1 Kings 8:30. בּראשׁו דּרכּו תּת, to give (bring) his way upon his head, i.e., to cause the merited punishment to fall upon him (cf. Ezekiel 9:10; Ezekiel 11:21, etc.). רשׁע הרשׁרע and צדּיק הצדּיק recall Deuteronomy 25:2. For כּצדקתו לו תּת compare 2 Samuel 22:21, 2 Samuel 22:25. - The following cases are all taken from Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28.

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