We have explained in our article
Biblical Formatting located on the world wide web at
that the Biblical Author indicated bullets
by using repeating keywords.
That is, if a modern
author wanted to get a point across using bullets -
a list of similar but contrastive items -
then the Biblical
Author would use repeating keywords.
Today's verse illustrates this principle.
Bullets whether indicated through modern notation or
through the Biblical method of repeating keywords always indicate
contrastive emphasis - that is, each bullet is presumed
to be a distinct item contrasted to the other items on the list. Very often
the bullets are also used to indicate that the entire list is exhaustive
of some spectrum.
the prohibition of taking bribes from murderers
Do not take bribes
The repeated underlined phrase
creates a bullet effect. The bullet effect in turn
creates an emphasis on the distinctness of all enumerated items.
Rashi interprets the distinctness as follows
It is prohibited to take bribes neither from
[from a willful murder who should not go to a refuge city]
of fleeing to his refuge city
[from a negligent murder who must stay in the refuge city]
of returning and dwelling in the land
- a willful murderer, who should not be given asylum in the refuge cities, but wants asylum there nor from
- a negligent murderer, who must remain in the refuge city, but wants to return home.
This is a rare opportunity. Rashi does not explain the verse this way. In fact Rashi explicitly says
I am forced to interpret the infinitive - for purposes of fleeing - as referring to someone who fleed.
There are several precedents. The reason I am forced to interepret the infinitive this way is that the verse would
not read correctly if we translated Don't take bribes in order to flee to a refuge city in order
to return to his homeland.
Rashi finds this translation odd since he interprets the two occurrences of in order as sequential
acts of the same person -
don't take bribes from person X in order to flee to a refuge city so that person X can return. That doesn't make sense.
However we can solve Rashi's problem by using the bullet method. We
can interpret the two occurrences of in order in the verse as referring to
two different situations. Don't take bribes (1) from a willful murderer who should not go to a refuge city, in order to
enable him to go or (2) from a negligent murderer who should remain in the city, in order to allow him to escape. Such
use of bullets is common in the Bible!! Our approach also allows preservation of translation of the infinitive without
seeking exotic alternative translations.
This is exciting - we have solved a problem preventing Rashi from interpreting the verse in a simple grammatical manner and
given a simple natural interpretation consistent with grammar and Jewish law.