Exodus 21:14
But if a man come presumptuously upon his neighbour, to slay him with guile; thou shalt take him from mine 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. Exodus 21:14"But he who acts presumptuously against his neighbour, to slay him with guile, thou shalt take him from Mine altar that he may die." These words are not to be understood as meaning, that only intentional and treacherous killing was to be punished with death; but, without restricting the general rule in Exodus 21:12, they are to be interpreted from their antithesis to Exodus 21:13, as signifying that even the altar of Jehovah was not to protect a man who had committed intentional murder, and carried out his purpose with treachery. (More on this point at Numbers 35:16.) By this regulation, the idea, which was common to the Hebrews and many other nations, that the altar as God's abode afforded protection to any life that was in danger from men, was brought back to the true measure of its validity, and the place of expiation for sins of weakness (cf. Leviticus 4:2; Leviticus 5:15, Leviticus 5:18; Numbers 15:27-31) was prevented from being abused by being made a place of refuge for criminals who were deserving of death. Maltreatment of a father and mother through striking (Exodus 21:15), man-stealing (Exodus 21:16), and cursing parents (Exodus 21:17, cf. Leviticus 20:9), were all to be placed on a par with murder, and punished in the same way. By the "smiting" (הכּה) of parents we are not to understand smiting to death, for in that case ומת would be added as in Exodus 21:12, but any kind of maltreatment. The murder of parents is not mentioned at all, as not likely to occur and hardly conceivable. The cursing (קלּל as in Genesis 12:3) of parents is placed on a par with smiting, because it proceeds from the same disposition; and both were to be punished with death, because the majesty of God was violated in the persons of the parents (cf. Exodus 20:12). Man-stealing was also no less a crime, being a sin against the dignity of man, and a violation of the image of God. For אישׁ "a man," we find in Deuteronomy 24:7, נפשׁ "a soul," by which both man and woman are intended, and the still more definite limitation, "of his brethren of the children of Israel." The crime remained the same whether he had sold him (the stolen man), or whether he was still found in his hand. (For ו - ו as a sign of an alternative in the linking together of short sentences, see Proverbs 29:9, and Ewald, 361.) This is the rendering adopted by most of the earlier translators, and we get no intelligent sense if we divide the clauses thus: "and sell him so that he is found in his hand."
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