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In Yerushalmi Sanhedrin 6:7 (also found in bYevamot 79a with an alternate girsa) King David uses the altar to indicate which of Shaul's son's should be given over to the Gibeonim.

אמר להן הריני מעבירן לפני המזבח כל שהמזבח קולטו הרי הוא שלו מפני מפיבושת שהיה גדול בתורה לפני המזבח וקלטו.

My question is the meaning of the phrase "מזבח קולטו" was this something miraculous? How exactly did the altar indicate which person should be given over and which should be spared?

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    If the Aron held them back they were given over if not they were spared.How can that not be understood as something miraculous?
    – Schmerel
    Feb 3, 2020 at 1:06
  • @Schmerel 1. It appears the correct girsa is the altar 2. there is a principle that one who grabs the horns of the altar may not be removed to be killed Feb 3, 2020 at 1:12
  • As the Gemara Yevamot 79A says, according to the Torah they never should have been killed to begin with. This was a special situation where they had to.
    – Schmerel
    Feb 3, 2020 at 14:39
  • Yehoshua used a similar process to find who took from the city of עי.
    – N.T.
    Nov 25, 2021 at 20:00

1 Answer 1

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According to Rabbi Steinsaltz's commentary on the version in the Bavli, they were all passed near the Ark, brushing against it and whoever had to die stayed glue to the Ark and couldn't move. Therefore, we may say that according to the Yerushalmi (this version, by the way, also appears in Bamidbar Rabbah 8:4 and in Yerushalmi Kiddushin 42b), the people who had to die became glued to the altar upon brushing against it.

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