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Hi all I was wondering why did Joab take hold of the horns of the altar in 2 Kings 28? Or rather, what is the significance of him doing that? What is he trying to do?

1 Kings 2:28-29 (NIV)

28 When the news reached Joab, who had conspired with Adonijah though not with Absalom, he fled to the tent of the LORD and took hold of the horns of the altar. 29 King Solomon was told that Joab had fled to the tent of the LORD and was beside the altar. Then Solomon ordered Benaiah son of Jehoiada, “Go, strike him down!”

And when Adonijah learned that Solomon was made king, he took hold of the horns of the altar :

1 Kings 1:49-51 (NIV)

49 At this, all Adonijah’s guests rose in alarm and dispersed. 50 But Adonijah, in fear of Solomon, went and took hold of the horns of the altar. 51 Then Solomon was told, “Adonijah is afraid of King Solomon and is clinging to the horns of the altar. He says, ‘Let King Solomon swear to me today that he will not put his servant to death with the sword.’”

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2 Answers 2

This looks like a reference to the manslaughter provision in Exodus:

Exodus 21:12-14

12 He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall be surely put to death.

13 And if a man lie not in wait, but God deliver him into his hand; then I will appoint thee a place whither he shall flee.

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.

By fleeing to the tabernacle and taking ahold of the altar, Joab was claiming that he was not guilty of murdering Absalom (see 2 Samuel 18) and deserved mercy. Apparently Solomon disagreed.

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But Joab said, "I will die here" (1 Kings 2:30) so it looks like he knows he's wrong. –  Pacerier Oct 9 '11 at 5:32
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@Pacerier: This was in response to the king's summons. He knew the king wanted him dead, and he was saying "I'll either stay here the rest of my life or you'll have to kill me here, but I won't go along with you." When you look at the preceding chapters, there's a lot of politics involved here regarding a succession dispute that nearly erupted into civil war. Joab believed he was backing a good candidate and hadn't done anything wrong even though his side lost. The side that won, of course, saw it differently; Joab was considered a traitor and a murderer. –  Mason Wheeler Oct 9 '11 at 12:55

This is a link to a sermon by Spurgeon. It is on this exact subject, and gives insight to the significance: http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/1826.htm. There is also a book by Juanita Bynum in which she shares the meanings of the different furnishings in the tabernacle. The horns of the altar are included, so you may want to check it out too.

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Would you mind summarizing or quoting some relevant bits of the sermon you link? –  wax eagle Sep 17 '12 at 17:58
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This is a good sermon, and Spurgeon may be answering the question, but simply providing a link isn't really providing an answer. If you were to summarize it, it would be better, but as it stands, this isn't an answer. –  David Stratton Sep 22 '12 at 1:02

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