Exodus 21:14
But if a man come presumptuously on his neighbor, to slay him with guile; you shall take him from my altar, that he may die.
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(14) If a man come presumptuously.—Rather, if a man come maliciously, or with premeditation. (Vulg., de industria.)

Thou shalt take him from mine altar.—Comp. 1Kings 2:28-34. In most parts of the ancient world a scruple was felt about putting criminals to death when once they had taken sanctuary, and those who did so were regarded as accursed (Herod. v. 71, 72; Thucyd. i. 126; Plut. Vit. Sol., § 12). The Mosaic Law regarded this scruple as a superstition, and refused to sanction it.

Exodus 21:14. If a man come presumptuously — Do this boldly, purposely, and maliciously; for so the word signifies, thou shalt take him from mine altar. God so abhors murder that he will rather venture the pollution of his own altar than the escape of the murderer.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 a man come presumptuously, i.e. do this proudly, boldly, purposely, and maliciously; for so the word signifies.

From mine altar, which not only in the wilderness, but afterward, seems to have been esteemed a place of refuge, 1 Kings 1:50, as it also was among the heathens: but God so far abhors murder, that he will rather venture the pollution of his own altar than the escape of the murderer. See 2 Kings 11:15. But if a man come presumptuously upon his neighbour, to slay him with guile,.... That comes with malice in his heart, with wrath in his countenance, in a bold, daring, hostile manner, using all the art, cunning, and contrivance he can, to take away the life of his neighbour; no asylum, no refuge, not anything to screen him from justice is to be allowed him: hence, a messenger of the sanhedrim, or an executioner, one that inflicts the forty stripes, save one, or a physician, or one that chastises his son or scholar, under whose hands persons may die, do not come under this law; for though what they do they may do wilfully, yet not with guile, as Jarchi and others observe, not with an ill design, but for good:

thou shalt take him from mine altar, that he may die: that being the place which in early times criminals had recourse unto, Joab and others, as well as in later times, to secure them from vengeance; but a man guilty of wilful murder was not to be protected in this way; and the Targum of Jonathan is,"though he is a priest, (the Jerusalem Targum has it, an high priest,) and ministers at mine altar, thou shalt take him from thence, and slay him with the sword,''so Jarchi; but the law refers not to a person ministering in his office at the altar of the Lord, but to one that should flee there for safety, which yet he should not have.

But if a man come presumptuously upon his neighbour, to slay him with guile; thou shalt take him from mine {m} altar, that he may die.

(m) The holiness of the place should not defend the murderer.

14. But the protection of the altar is not to be extended to the wilful murderer. Cf. Deuteronomy 19:11-13; also the more detailed treatment of the case of wilful murder in the law of P (Numbers 35:16-21).

from mine altar] See 1 Kings 1:50; 1 Kings 2:28, which shew that the fugitive would seize hold of the ‘horns’ (see on ch. Exodus 27:2) of the altar, in order to avail himself of its protection. The altar served as an asylum also among the Greeks (Thuc. iv. 98).Verse 14. - Presumptuously. Or "proudly," "arrogantly." Thou shalt take him from mine altar. See the comment on ver. 12. The daughter of an Israelite, who had been sold by her father as a maid-servant (לאמה), i.e., as the sequel shows, as a housekeeper and concubine, stood in a different relation to her master's house. She was not to go out like the men-servants, i.e., not to be sent away as free at the end of six years of service; but the three following regulations, which are introduced by אם (Exodus 21:8), ואם (Exodus 21:9), and ואם (Exodus 21:11), were to be observed with regard to her. In the first place (Exodus 21:8), "if she please not her master, who hath betrothed her to himself, then shall he let her be redeemed." The לא before יעדהּ is one of the fifteen cases in which לא has been marked in the Masoretic text as standing for לו; and it cannot possibly signify not in the passage before us. For if it were to be taken as a negative, "that he do not appoint her," sc., as a concubine for himself, the pronoun לו would certainly not be omitted. הפדּהּ (for הפדּהּ, see Ges. 53, Note 6), to let her be redeemed, i.e., to allow another Israelite to buy her as a concubine; for there can hardly have been any thought of redemption on the part of the father, as it would no doubt be poverty alone that caused him to sell his daughter (Leviticus 25:39). But "to sell her unto a strange nation (i.e., to any one but a Hebrew), he shall have no power, if he acts unfaithfully towards her," i.e., if he do not grant her the promised marriage. In the second place (Exodus 21:9, Exodus 21:10), "if he appoint her as his son's wife, he shall act towards her according to the rights of daughters," i.e., treat her as a daughter; "and if he take him (the son) another (wife), - whether because the son was no longer satisfied, or because the father gave the son another wife in addition to her - "her food (שׁאר flesh as the chief article of food, instead of לחם, bread, because the lawgiver had persons of property in his mind, who were in a position to keep concubines), her raiment, and her duty of marriage he shall not diminish," i.e., the claims which she had as a daughter for support, and as his son's wife for conjugal rights, were not to be neglected; he was not to allow his son, therefore, to put her away or treat her badly. With this explanation the difficulties connected with every other are avoided. For instance, if we refer the words of Exodus 21:9 to the son, and understand them as meaning, "if the son should take another wife," we introduce a change of subject without anything to indicate it. If, on the other hand, we regard them as meaning, "if the father (the purchaser) should take to himself another wife," this ought to have come before Exodus 21:9. In the third place (Exodus 21:11), "if he do not (do not grant) these three unto her, she shall go out for nothing, without money." "These three" are food, clothing, and conjugal rights, which are mentioned just before; not "si eam non desponderit sibi nec filio, nec redimi sit passus" (Rabbins and others), nor "if he did not give her to his son as a concubine, but diminished her," as Knobel explains it.
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