Exodus 21:13
And if a man lie not in wait, but God deliver him into his hand; then I will appoint thee a place whither he shall flee.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(13) If a man lie not in wait, but God deliver him into his hand.—If, that is, without malice aforethought, a man happen upon his enemy, God’s providence bringing the two into contact without man’s contrivance, and the result is that one slay the other, then the law of the refuge or asylum shall come in. A place is to be provided whither the man-slayer may flee, and where he may be safe, at any rate until the cause is inquired into. Hitherto, throughout the East, it had been regarded as the duty of the next of kin to avenge homicide of whatever kind, and blood had been exacted for blood, however sudden, however provoked, however excusable had been the homicide. No right of asylum, so far as we know, had ever been established before. The Sinaitic legislation for the first time interposed the “city of refuge,” between the “avenger of blood” and his victim. It was for the elders of the city to see that the privilege was not abused. Where the case was doubtful, the man-slayer had to be remitted for trial to the elders of his own town (Numbers 35:22-25); where the elders considered his claim made out, he was entitled to protection.

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.There was no place of safety for the guilty murderer, not even the altar of Yahweh. Thus all superstitious notions connected with the right of sanctuary were excluded. Adonijah and Joab 1 Kings 1:50; 1 Kings 2:28 appear to have vainly trusted that the common feeling would protect them, if they took hold of the horns of the altar on which atonement with blood was made Leviticus 4:7. But for one who killed a man "at unawares," that is, without intending to do it, the law afterward appointed places of refuge, Numbers 35:6-34; Deuteronomy 4:41-43; Deuteronomy 19:2-10; Joshua 20:2-9. It is very probable that there was some provision answering to the cities of refuge, that may have been based upon old usage, in the camp in the Wilderness. Ex 21:7-36. Laws for Maidservants.

7-11. if a man sell his daughter—Hebrew girls might be redeemed for a reasonable sum. But in the event of her parents or friends being unable to pay the redemption money, her owner was not at liberty to sell her elsewhere. Should she have been betrothed to him or his son, and either change their minds, a maintenance must be provided for her suitable to her condition as his intended wife, or her freedom instantly granted.

If it appear that the manslayer did not intend nor desire it, but only it fell out by his heedlessness, or by some casualty, or by some unexpected providence; or, God, and not man, God without the man’s contrivance or design; for otherwise, in a general sense and way, God delivered Christ into the hands of Judas and the Jews, who did advisedly and maliciously kill him.

A place whither he shall flee, i.e. a city or place of refuge, Numbers 35:11 Deu 19:5.

And if a man lie not in wait,.... For the life of another to take it away; or does not do it willingly, as the Septuagint version, does not seek after it, nor design it:

but God delivers him into his hand; it being suffered and ordered by the providence of God, without whose knowledge and will nothing comes to pass, even what may seem to be a contingent thing, or matter of chance, to us; or it is so brought about in providence, that one man falls into the hands of another, and his life is taken away by him, though not purposely and maliciously; because, as Aben Ezra expresses it, for another sin which he has committed, and for which he must die in this way, though not intended by the person the more immediate cause of his death:

then I will appoint thee a place whither he shall flee; and there be safe both from the avenger of blood, and the civil magistrate; which place, while Israel were in the wilderness, was the camp of the Levites, according to Jarchi, or the altar, as follows; but when they were come to Canaan's land, there were cities of refuge appointed for such persons, that killed a man unawares, to flee to, and where they were safe from private vengeance, and falling a sacrifice to public justice.

And if a man lie not in wait, but {l} God deliver him into his hand; then I will appoint thee a place whither he shall flee.

(l) Though a man be killed unawares, yet it is God's providence that it should so be.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
13. Manslaughter, and the right of asylum. The distinction, not found in Homer, but thus early drawn among the Hebrews, between intentional and unintentional homicide is noteworthy: it is insisted on in all the codes (Deuteronomy 19:1-13; Numbers 35:9-34 P).

liein wait] 1 Samuel 24:11 (RVm.)†: cf. the derivative, ‘with lying in wait’ (i.e. with malicious intent), in P’s law of homicide, Numbers 35:20; Numbers 35:22 (‘without’)†. In Dt. and D2[187] the idea of ‘unintentional’ is expressed by unawares (lit. without knowledge), Deuteronomy 4:42; Deuteronomy 19:4, Joshua 20:3; Joshua 20:5; P says unwittingly (lit. in error), Numbers 35:11; Numbers 35:15, Joshua 20:3; Joshua 20:9.

[187] Deuteronomic passages in Josh., Jud., Kings.

deliver] in the Heb. a rare word, meaning properly, as Arabic shews, bring opportunely (cf. the derivative opportunity, Jdg 14:4). The meaning of the clause is (as we should express it), if he kills him accidentally. Cf. Ḥamm. § 249 ‘if God have struck it (a hired ox), and it die,’ 266 ‘a stroke of God’ (killing a sheep), below, p. 423.

a place whither he shall flee] i.e. an asylum where he may be safe from the avenger of blood. V. 14, which speaks of the fugitive as having taken refuge at an altar, shews that the place meant can only be the sacred place at which the altar stood. In the later legislation of Dt. (Deuteronomy 19:1-13) fixed cities are appointed for the purpose and regulations for their use are laid down. The technical term, ‘cities of refuge,’ first occurs in P (Numbers 35:6; Numbers 35:11 ff.). In ancient times ‘the right of asylum was possessed by different sanctuaries in various degrees, depending on prescription, the holiness of the place, and other circumstances; it sometimes extended to an entire city, or even to a mark beyond its walls.… In the Greek period, and later (under Roman rule), many Hellenistic cities in Syria enjoyed the privileges of asylums, the title ἄσυλος appearing on their coins’ (Moore, in EB. Asylum). Cf. Rel. Sem. 148. Moslems, adhering to the tradition of heathen times, treat tombs, esp. those of ancestors, notabilities, and saints, as asylums.

Verse 13. - God deliver him into his hand. This does not seem to mean more than, "if he chance upon him without seeking him." God' s providence does in fact bring about the meetings which men call accidental. I will appoint thee a place. When we first hear of the actual appointment, the number of the places was six - three on either side of Jordan. (See Joshua 20:7, 8; and compare Numbers 35:10-15, and Deuteronomy 19:2.) Thus there was always a city of refuge at a reasonable distance. Exodus 21:13Still higher than personal liberty, however, is life itself, the right of existence and personality; and the infliction of injury upon this was not only prohibited, but to be followed by punishment corresponding to the crime. The principle of retribution, jus talionis, which is the only one that embodies the idea of justice, lies at the foundation of these threats.

Exodus 21:12-13

A death-blow was to be punished with death (cf. Genesis 9:6; Leviticus 24:17). "He that smiteth a man and (so that) he die (whether on the spot or directly afterwards did not matter), he shall be put to death." This general rule is still further defined by a distinction being drawn between accidental and intentional killing. "But whoever has not lain in wait (for another's life), and God has caused it to come to his hand" (to kill the other); i.e., not only if he did not intend to kill him, but did not even cherish the intention of smiting him, or of doing him harm from hatred and enmity (Numbers 35:16-23; Deuteronomy 19:4-5), and therefore did so quite unawares, according to a dispensation of God, which is generally called an accident because it is above our comprehension. For such a man God would appoint places of refuge, where he should be protected against the avenger of blood. (On this point, see Numbers 35:9.).

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