21:12 1 “Whoever strikes someone 2 so that he dies 3 must surely be put to death. 4 21:13 But if he does not do it with premeditation, 5 but it happens by accident, 6 then I will appoint for you a place where he may flee. 21:14 But if a man willfully attacks his neighbor to kill him cunningly, 7 you will take him even from my altar that he may die.
1 sn The underlying point of this section remains vital today: The people of God must treat all human life as sacred.
2 tn The construction uses a Hiphil participle in construct with the noun for “man” (or person as is understood in a law for the nation): “the one striking [of] a man.” This is a casus pendens (independent nominative absolute); it indicates the condition or action that involves further consequence (GKC 361 §116.w).
3 tn The Hebrew word וָמֵת (vamet) is a Qal perfect with vav consecutive; it means “and he dies” and not “and killed him” (which require another stem). Gesenius notes that this form after a participle is the equivalent of a sentence representing a contingent action (GKC 333 §112.n). The word shows the result of the action in the opening participle. It is therefore a case of murder or manslaughter.
4 sn See A. Phillips, “Another Look at Murder,” JJS 28 (1977): 105-26.
5 tn Heb “if he does not lie in wait” (NASB similar).
6 tn Heb “and God brought into his hand.” The death is unintended, its circumstances outside human control.
7 tn The word עָרְמָה (’ormah) is problematic. It could mean with prior intent, which would be connected with the word in Prov 8:5, 12 which means “understanding” (or “prudence” – fully aware of the way things are). It could be connected also to an Arabic word for “enemy” which would indicate this was done with malice or evil intentions (U. Cassuto, Exodus, 270). The use here seems parallel to the one in Josh 9:4, an instance involving intentionality and clever deception.