And Adonijah feared because of Solomon
Lest he should seize him as an usurper and traitor, and put him to death:
and arose, and went, and caught hold on the horns of the altar;
either that which was at Gibeon, where the tabernacle now was; see ( 1 Kings 3:4 ) ; so Jarchi; or rather that which was nearest, the altar that David had built in the threshingfloor of Araunah, ( 2 Samuel 24:25 ) ; the altar was a sort of asylum, or refuge, for such who had committed any crime worthy of death; not by divine appointment, but by custom, it being supposed that none would presume to defile with blood that which was sacred to the Lord; or shed the blood of men where the blood of beasts was poured; or use severity and strict justice, but mercy, where sacrifices were offered to atone for sin, and mercy was shown on account of them; these were notions, and this a custom, which obtained very early, and even among the Jews; see ( Exodus 21:14 ) ; as well as among Gentiles; with whom it was usual, as to flee to the statues of their emperors, and to the temples of their deities, so likewise to their altars; this was customary among the Molossians, Samothracians, Crotoniatae, and Messenians; and particularly the altar of Jupiter Servator was an asylum, or place of refuge, to the Ithacians F12. Cornelius Nepos F13 has given us an instance of one that fled to a temple of Neptune, and sat upon the altar for his security, as here Adonijah laid hold on the horns of this, that none might force him from it.
F12 Alexander ab Alex. Genial. Dier. l. 3. c. 20.
F13 Vit. Pausan l. 4. c. 4.