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In a similar incident Solomon had spared the life of his brother Adonijah.

1 Kings 1:50-53 (NKJV)

50 Now Adonijah was afraid of Solomon; so he arose, and went and took hold of the horns of the altar. 51 And it was told Solomon, saying, “Indeed Adonijah is afraid of King Solomon; for look, he has taken hold of the horns of the altar, saying, ‘Let King Solomon swear to me today that he will not put his servant to death with the sword.’ ” 52 Then Solomon said, “If he proves himself a worthy man, not one hair of him shall fall to the earth; but if wickedness is found in him, he shall die.” 53 So King Solomon sent them to bring him down from the altar. And he came and fell down before King Solomon; and Solomon said to him, “Go to your house.”

But on the other hand he went on to kill Joab whilst he was holding onto the horns

1 Kings 2:28-31 (NKJV)

28 Then news came to Joab, for Joab had defected to Adonijah, though he had not defected to Absalom. So Joab fled to the tabernacle of the LORD, and took hold of the horns of the altar. 29 And King Solomon was told, “Joab has fled to the tabernacle of the LORD; there he is, by the altar.” Then Solomon sent Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, saying, “Go, strike him down.” 30 So Benaiah went to the tabernacle of the LORD, and said to him, “Thus says the king, ‘Come out!’ ” And he said, “No, but I will die here.” And Benaiah brought back word to the king, saying, “Thus said Joab, and thus he answered me.” 31 Then the king said to him, “Do as he has said, and strike him down and bury him, that you may take away from me and from the house of my father the innocent blood which Joab shed.

What could have been the significance of holding the horns of the altar?

Could there be some biblical,extra biblical or historical citations on the significance of holding the horns?

  • It would seem pertinent to mention here the question's assumption that the altar in both cases referenced that of the Mosaic tabernacle, and not that which David constructed upon Mt. Moriah(2 Sam. 24:18, 2 Chr. 3:1). – user21676 Feb 17 '18 at 21:03
  • 1
    See Exodus 21:14 – Bach Feb 18 '18 at 3:39
  • @Bach,thank you for that one,had missed it – collen ndhlovu Feb 18 '18 at 9:46
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UNDER THE LAW GIVEN TO MOSES NO SANCTUARY COULD BE GIVEN TO A WILLFUL MURDERER.

In ancient times churches of Christendom became sanctuaries for criminals who deliberately violated God's law,such as murderers , this was not the case in Israel, no sanctuary could be given to a willful murderer.

Deuteronomy 19:11-13 (NASB)

11 “But if there is a man who hates his neighbor and lies in wait for him and rises up against him and strikes him so that he dies, and he flees to one of these cities,"

12 "Then the elders of his city shall send and take him from there and deliver him into the hand of the avenger of blood, that he may die."

13 "You shall not pity him, but you shall purge the blood of the innocent from Israel, that it may go well with you."

Ransom could not be paid for a murderer, he must be put to death.

Numbers 35:31 (NASB)

"Moreover, you shall not take ransom for the life of a murderer who is guilty of death, but he shall surely be put to death."

Under the law in ancient Israel, criminals could not seek sanctuary, not even the sacred altar of burnt offerings could provide protection for Joab. Joab was guilty of the murder of Abner the commander of Israel's army and Amasa the commander of the army of Judah.

Joab Executed

1 Kings 2:28-34 (NASB)

28 "Now the news came to Joab, for Joab had followed Adonijah, although he had not followed Absalom. And Joab fled to the tent of the Lord and took hold of the horns of the altar. 29 It was told King Solomon that Joab had fled to the tent of the Lord, and behold, he is beside the altar. Then Solomon sent Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, saying, “Go, fall upon him.”

30 "So Benaiah came to the tent of the Lord and said to him, “Thus the king has said, ‘Come out.’” But he said, “No, for I will die here.” And Benaiah brought the king word again, saying, “Thus spoke Joab, and thus he answered me.” 31 The king said to him, “Do as he has spoken and fall upon him and bury him, that you may remove from me and from my father’s house the blood which Joab shed without cause."

32 "The Lord will return his blood on his own head, because he fell upon two men more righteous and better than he and killed them with the sword, while my father David did not know it: Abner the son of Ner, commander of the army of Israel, and Amasa the son of Jether, commander of the army of Judah."

33 "So shall their blood return on the head of Joab and on the head of his [a]descendants forever; but to David and his [b]descendants and his house and his throne, may there be peace from the Lord forever.” > 34 Then Benaiah the son of Jehoiada went up and fell upon him and put him to death, and he was buried at his own house in the wildern."

Adonijah pardoned.

In the case of Adonijah, King Solomon gave him a pardon, on condition of his good behavior.(1 King 1:52-53) Even so, after his pardon Adonijah had desires for the throne , he requested David’s youthful nurse and companion, Abishag, as his wife. And since in ancient east , the wives and cocubines of the king could only belong to the legal successor to the throne. Solomon considered this as such, and so had Adonijah executed by Benaiah the son of Jehoiada.​ (1 King 2:22-25.)

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