When thou buildest a new house
Which is to be understood of a house to dwell in, not of a granary, barn, or stable, or such like, and every house that is not four cubits square, as Maimonides observes F6:
then thou shalt make a battlement for thy roof;
in the Talmud F7 it is asked, what is the meaning of, or why is it said, "thy roof?" to except synagogues and schools; the gloss upon which is, synagogues do not belong to any single person, and besides are no dwelling place. A battlement, as Jarrift describes it, was a fence round the roof; or, as more fully described by Kimchi F8, it was an edifice made for a roof round about it, ten hands high, or more, that a person might not fall from it; so Ben Melech from him. The reason of this law was, because the roofs of houses in those countries were flat, on which they used to walk for diversion and recreation, or retire for devotion, meditation, prayer, and social conversation; such they were in the times of the Canaanites, ( Joshua 2:6 ) and in the times of Saul and David, ( 1 Samuel 9:25 ) ( 2 Samuel 11:2 ) ( 16:21 ) and in the times of the New Testament; (See Gill on Matthew 10:27), (See Gill on Matthew 24:17), (See Gill on Mark 2:4), (See Gill on Acts 10:9), and so in later times, and to this day. Rauwolff F9, traveller in those parts, relates, that at Tripoli in Phoenicia,
``they have low houses, ill built, and flat at the top, as they are generally in the east; for they cover their houses with a flat roof or floor, so that you may walk about as far as the houses go, and the neighbours walk over the tops of their houses to visit one another; and sometimes in the summer they sleep on the top of them.''Now to prevent falling from thence, and mischief thereby, such a battlement as before described was ordered:
that thou bring not blood upon thy house;
be not the occasion of blood being shed, or contract guilt of blood through negligence of such a provision the law directs to, the guilt of manslaughter, or of shedding innocent blood in thy house, as the Targums of Jonathan and Jerusalem; hence the Talmudists F11 extend this to other things, and by this law also they suppose men are bound to guard against all dangers in any other way; as if a man had a well or pit of water in his courtyard, he ought either to put a cover over it, or to make a fence round it as high as this battlement F12:
if any man fall from thence;
that is, if a man walking on the roof of an house should make a slip or a false step, and stumble and reel, and so be falling, and fall from thence; which might have been prevented, even his falling from thence or to the ground, if such a battlement had been made.
F6 Hilchot Rotzeach, c. 11. sect. 1.
F7 T. Bab. Cholin, fol. 136. 1. So Maimonides, ib. sect. 2.
F8 Sepher Shorash. rad. (hqe) .
F9 Travels, par. 1. c. 2. p. 17. Ed. Ray.
F11 T. Bab. Bava Kama, fol. 15. 2.
F12 Maimon. Hilchot Rotzeach, c. 11. sect. 4.