As when a man goeth into the wood with his neighbour to hew
A wood is a place common to men, and cutting down wood a business which any man might do; whereas a private place, where a man had no right to be, and doing what he had no business with, rendered a case suspicious, and such a man was liable to be taken up when any affair happened of the kind here spoken of; so the Jewish writers observe F20,
``a wood is a public place for him that hurts and him that is hurt to enter there;''both had a right to go thither, the one as well as the other, he to whom the accident came, and he by whom it came; but they say, a court that belongs to a master of a house (a private court) is excepted, where there is no power or liberty for him that hurts or for him that is hurt to enter. Abba Saul says, What is hewing wood? It is what a man has a right to do, or is in his power; it is what is public and common, and not peculiar to any:
and his hand fetcheth a stroke with the axe to cut down the tree;
lifts up the axe and is about to strike with it, in order to cut down the tree pitched upon by him or by his neighbour, or both:
and the head slippeth from the halve;
the head of the axe from the handle of it,
or the iron from the wood
F21; the iron part of the axe, which is properly the head, from the wooden part, which is laid hold on by the hand; and this not being well fastened, slips and falls off as the blow is fetching, or the stroke just ready to be given:
and lighteth upon his neighbour, that he die;
hits him in some part as he stands by him, which proves fatal:
he shall flee unto one of these cities, and live;
be safe and secure from the avenger of blood; such an one might have the benefit of one of these cities, for, for such they were designed: the rule with the Jews is, what is done by way of descent (i.e. which comes down and lights upon a man, and is not levelled against him, or thrown up at him) he is to be exiled (or to have the benefit of a city of refuge), but what is not by way of descent, he is not to have it. Some think this is spoken of the wood which is cleaved, and not of the wood in which the iron is fixed; but the wise men say it is to be so understood F24; in which they are right.
F20 Misn. Maccot, c. 2. sect. 2.
F21 (Ueh Nm lzrbh) "ferrum e ligno", Pagninus, Montanus.
F24 Misn. Maccot, c. 2. sect. 1. Maimon. & Bartenora in ib.