Exodus 21:15
And he that smites his father, or his mother, shall be surely put to death.
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(15-17) And he that smiteth his father . . .-With homicide are conjoined some other offences, regarded as of a heinous character, and made punishable by death: viz. (1), striking a parent; (2) kidnapping; and (3) cursing a parent. The immediate sequence of these crimes upon murder, and their punishment by the same penalty, marks strongly God’s abhorrence of them. The parent is viewed as God’s representative, and to smite him is to offer God an insult in his person. To curse him implies, if possible, a greater want of reverence; and, since curses can only be effectual as appeals to God, it is an attempt to enlist God on our side against His representative. Kidnapping is a crime against the person only a very little short of murder, since it is to deprive a man of that which gives life its chief value—liberty. Many a man would prefer death to slavery; and to almost all the passing into the slave condition would be a calamity of the most terrible kind, Involving life-long misery. Its suddenness and unexpectedness, when the result of kidnapping, would augment its grievousness, and render it the most crushing of all misfortunes. Joseph’s history shows us how easy it was to sell a free man as a slave, and obtain his immediate removal into a distant country (Genesis 37:25-28). The Egyptian annals tell us of bloody wars carried on for kidnapping purposes (Lenormant, Histoire Ancienne, vol. i., pp. 423, 424). In the classical times and countries, the slaves offered for sale in the markets had usually been obtained in this way. The stringent law of the Mosaic code (Exodus 21:16) was greatly needed to check an atrocious crime very widely committed.

Exodus 21:15. He that smiteth his father, &c. — So sacred and inviolable is that reverence which children owe to their parents, that, by the law of God, it was death not only to strike them, but even to curse or outrageously revile them, Exodus 21:17, and Matthew 15:4. The reason of this law is, that such crimes are a sign of most audacious wickedness. It appears, however, from Deuteronomy 21:18, that children were not to be put to death for the first offence of this kind, but if, after repeated admonitions from their parents, they still persisted in their undutiful carriage, without hope of reformation, then, upon the accusation of their parents, they were to be put to death.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.The following offences were to be punished with death:

Striking a parent, compare Deuteronomy 27:16.

Cursing a parent, compare the marginal references.

Kidnapping, whether with a view to retain the person stolen, or to sell him, compare the marginal references.

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.

He that smiteth; either,

1. So as is before mentioned, Exodus 21:12, so as they die. And to smite sometimes signifies to kill, as Genesis 4:15 2 Kings 14:5, compared with 2 Chronicles 25:3. And this may be here added by way of distinction: q.d. That killing of another man which is punished with death, must be done presumptuously; but the killing of parents, though not done presumptuously, is a capital crime. Or,

2. The mere smiting of them, to wit, wilfully and dangerously. Nor will any think this law too severe, that considers that this is an act full of horrid impiety against God, who hath so expressly and emphatically commanded children to honour their parents; of highest and most unnatural ingratitude, and utterly destructive to human society. And he that smiteth his father or his mother,.... With his fist, or with a stick, or cane, or such thing, though they died not with the blow, yet it occasioned any wound, or caused a bruise, or the part smitten black and blue, or left any print of the blow; for, as Jarchi says, the party was not guilty, less by smiting there was a bruise, or weal, made, or any mark or scar: but if so it was, then he

shall be surely put to death; the Targum of Jonathan adds, with the suffocation of a napkin; and so Jarchi says with strangling; the manner of which was this, the person was sunk into a dunghill up to his knees, and two persons girt his neck with a napkin or towel until he expired. This crime was made capital, to show the heinousness of it, how detestable it was to God, and in order to deter from it.

And he that smiteth his father, or his mother, shall be surely put to death.
15. Striking a parent. Notice that the mother is placed on an equality with the father.

smiteth] simply, without killing: the murder of a parent would fall under the general rule of v. 12. The severity of the penalty was in accordance with the high respect paid to both parents in ancient Israel: see Exodus 20:12, and cf. Deuteronomy 21:18-21. Hạmmurabi (§ 195) ordained that if a son struck his father—no mention is made of his mother—his hands should be cut off. The older Sumerian laws said1[188]: ‘If a son has said to his father, Thou art not my father [i.e. repudiated him], he may brand him, lay fetters upon him, and sell him. If a son has said to his mother, Thou art not my mother, one shall brand his forehead, drive him round the city, and expel him from the house.’ At Athens γονέων κάκωσις (‘maltreatment of parents’) was actionable, and might be punished with ἀτιμία, or loss of civil rights (Andoc. de Myst. § 74, cf. Demosth. adv. Timocr. §§ 103, 105, p. 732 f.); and Plato (Legg. ix. 881 b–d), if any one struck a parent, would have any one who witnessed the act, and failed to interfere, severely punished, and the offender himself condemned to perpetual exile, or death if he ever returned home. Solon (Cic. Rosc. 25) is said to have made no mention of such a crime, on the ground that he considered its occurrence impossible (Kn.).

[188] Winckler, Gesetze Hamm. (1904), p. 85; Pinches, op cit. [p. 212 n.], p. 190 f.Verses 15-17. - Other capital offences. The unsystematic character of the arrangement in this chapter is remarkably shown by this interruption of the consideration of different sorts of homicide, in order to introduce offences of quite a different character, and those not very closely allied to each other - e.g.,

1. Striking a parent;

2. Kidnapping;

3. Cursing a parent. Verse 15. - He that smiteth his father, etc. To "smite" here is simply to "strike" - to offer the indignity of a blow - not to kill, which had already been made capital (ver. 12), not in the case of parents only, but in every case. The severity of the law is very remarkable, and strongly emphasises the dignity and authority of parents. There is no parallel to it in any other known code, though of course the patria potestas of the Roman father gave him the power of punishing a son who had struck him, capitally. 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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