u ki-ma ar-ni-╦ç u GAZ 10 u E-╦ç u a-na E.GAL 11 i-ru-ub I sa-tu-wa
it-tal-kam u a╦ç -╦ç um mi-im-me- -╦ç u-ma 6 ka-qa-ru URUDU HI-A
u 2 GIR ZABAR il-q┬┤-╦ç u-nu 15 u i╦ç -tu UD-mi an-ni-im 16 I niq-me-
pa I sa-tu-wa i-[pu-ul]-╦ç u 17 i-na EGIR-ki UD-mi di-nu-[ . . . ] 18 I sa-
tu-wa i-na mi-[ . . . ] IGI a-pu-[ . . . ] IGI (d) X-EN IGI du-ra
19 20 21
╦ç ╦çs ┬┤
SES-╦ç u 22 IGI ir-kab-tu IGI i-ri-hal-pa 23 IGI LU-ia IGI sar-ru-wa
Seal of Niqmepa (2ÔÇ“6) Shatuwa son of Suwa of Luba has made a
payment to Apra40 for his daughter[-in-law?] and according to the
decree of Aleppo has brought a gift. 7ÔÇ“11 Apra has turned against
a private enemy and as his punishment has killed him. Therefore
his property has been con´¬üscated by the palace. 11ÔÇ“14 Shatuwa has
come and received what is his, namely 6 talents of copper and 2
bronze daggers. 15ÔÇ“16 Therefore from this day Niqmepa has satis´¬üed
Shatuwa. 17ÔÇ“18 In future . . . Shatuwa will [bring no further claims].
40 Apra is mentioned in texts 139, 167, 170, but no further information about him can be
gleaned from these.
42 HOMICIDE IN THE BIBLICAL WORLD
Witness: Apu-x. Witness: x-b┬» l. Witness: Dura his brother.
Witness: Irkabtu. Witness: Irihalpa. Witness: LU-ia. Witness: Shar-
ruwa the scribe.
It can be speculated that the palace refunds the bride-price to the father
because the daughter might become a slave as compensation for the slaying,
and the father does not want to get involved in litigation.
Although in Neo-Assyria the private parties were required to assume
greater initiative than elsewhere in Mesopotamia, the crown still maintained
control. When the private parties involved asserted their rights, acknowl-
edged their responsibilities, and assented to the negotiations, the monarchy
managed them by de´¬üning the limits of their rights, serving as a mediat-
ing body for the disputants, and ensuring that the obligation was properly
ful´¬ülled.41 There was an of´¬ücial recording institution of the monarchy at
which outstanding homicide obligations were deposited, pending the claim
of the victimÔÇ™s family (ADD 618 and 321). Next, the parties negotiated the
amount of compensation with the intervention of a mediating authority,
an of´¬ücer of the crown (ADD 164). Finally, when a speci´¬üc amount had
been agreed upon, the obligation was paid in the presence of an of´¬ücial
authority, a crown of´¬ücial (ADD 806 and PPA 95). In sum, once the state
became involved, the participation of others in the process became less active.
The monarchy, in essence, managed the case as it proceeded to its conclu-
sion. It must be recognized that for Assyrians, homicide was not entirely
a state crime nor was it entirely a private offense. It had ´¬ürst signi´¬ücance
for the kin or community groups affected, whom the state, then, tried to
In Mesopotamian law in general, the king himself appeared as an actor in
the judicial realm. In the Nippur Murder Trial, the case was presented before
the king,43 who then sent it back to the Assembly of Nippur for adjudication.
In CT 29 42, lower courts were the appropriate venue for the ´¬ürst two trials,
but the ´¬ünal appeal was made to the king, who then dispatched the case to
41 Roth, ÔÇťHomicide in the Neo-Assyrian Period,ÔÇŁ 362ÔÇ“363.
42 A role for community groups in Mesopotamia exists in a single statute in the Laws of
Hammurapi. Statute 24 addresses the case in which a killer has not been arrested. The man-
date here is that if a person is killed in the course of a robbery, the city and governor
must pay sixty shekels to the victimÔÇ™s kinsman if the robber is not arrested. The commu-
nal authorities must compensate the victimÔÇ™s family when the killer himself cannot be forced
to. Otherwise, in Mesopotamia, the state managed one individualÔÇ™s claims against another
43 The king was in Isin even though it appeared that the homicide occurred in Nippur because
Nippur was under the political domination of Isin at that time. Cf. the analysis of the situation
in late 1900s b.c.e in Georges Roux, Ancient Iraq (3d edition; London: Penguin Books, 1992),
BLOOD FEUD AND STATE CONTROL
be tried in a cultic setting. The case recounted in BBSt 9 was brought before
the king: no lower court intervened:
i-na MU 2 KAM d nin-urta-NIG.DU-URU3 2 I IR-d IMIN.BI
DUMU I at-rat-ta╦ç 3 [har]-mi-tu sa I bu-ru-╦ç a lu ZADIM 4 sa
s s┬┤ ╦ç
EN-DINGIR.MES-URU3 a-na a╦ç -╦ç u-ti a-hu-zu i-na sil-ta-hi
im-has-ma i-duk-[╦ç i] i-na IGI nin-ib-NIG.DU-URU3 LUGAL
7I ╦˜ `
bu-ru-╦ç a lu ZADIM u I IR-d IMIN.BI DUMU I at-rat-ta╦ç 8 di-na s
d 9 d
id-bu-bu-ma nin-urta-NIG.DU-URU3 LUGAL a-na IR- IMIN.BI
ki-a-am iq-bi 10 um-ma a-lik-ma 7 a-mi-lu-ta a-na I bu-ru-╦ç a 11 i- s
I` d 12 I
din IR- IMIN.BI a-mi-lu-ta na-da-[na] la i-╦ç i-ma bu-ru-╦ç a 7
a-mi-[l]u-t[a] i-na muh-hi-╦ç u u-kin-ma a-na SA-bi a-m[i-lu-ti]
In the second year of Ninurta-kudurri-usur, the king, Arad-Sibitti,
son of Atrattash, attacked the harm┬»tu-woman of Burusha, the maker
of bows and arrows, whom Bel-ilani-usurshu had married, with an
arrow and killed [her]. 6ÔÇ“8 Before Ninurta-kudurri-usur, the king,
Burusha, the maker of bows and arrows, and Arad-Sibitti, son of
Atrattash, met in litigation. 8ÔÇ“11 Ninurta-kudurri-usur, the king, said
to Arad-Sibitti: ÔÇťGo and give 7 slaves to Burusha.ÔÇŁ 11ÔÇ“14 Arad-Sibitti
did not complete the payment of slaves. Burusha succeeded in his
claim against him for 7 slaves although he was angry about the slave
woman. . . .
There is no clear pattern for determining when a case would be han-
dled by the king or by a functionary of the central government. It appears
impossible to draw conclusions about royal participation vis-a-vis a partic-
ular time period or location because of the danger of homogenizing all these
cases stretched over considerable time and place. However, it is possible
to measure the congruence of one kingÔÇ™s legal function to the evidence from
other monarchs. In the light of the extensive documentation of HammurapiÔÇ™s
participation in the judicial process, W. F. Leemans categorized the ways
a king could dispose of a case: 1) The king could himself act as a court
and render a judgment; 2) the king could determine the law but remit the
case to local judicial authorities for the determination of the facts; 3) the
king could remit the entire case to the appropriate local authorities.44 Al-
though Leemans dealt mostly with disputes over land tenure and revenues,
the ways in which the king participated in these cases were parallel to
the way in which the king participated in homicide cases. In BBSt 9, the
king acted as judge. In CT 29 42, the king issued a ruling as to how the
44 W.F. Leemans, ÔÇťKing Hammurapi as Judge,ÔÇŁ in Symbolae iuridicae et historicae Martino
David dedicatae II (ed. J. A. Ankum, R. Feenstra, W. F. Leemans; Leiden: Brill, 1968), 110.
44 HOMICIDE IN THE BIBLICAL WORLD
third appeal was to be handled and assigned it to a particular court. In
the Nippur Murder Trial, the king assigned the case to the local assembly.
Furthermore, even though this paradigm is constructed from cases involv-
ing one particular king, Hammurapi, it ´¬üts the evidence we have for lesser
documented kings. The Neo-Assyrians, for example, appear to have been
able to appeal to their king in person, who then disposed of the case as he
In sum, the Mesopotamian documents con´¬ürm the involvement of the
state in remedying homicide concomitant with the initiation of the legal
process by individuals. The victimÔÇ™s family had the right to make a claim,
but there does not seem to have been anxiety engendered by the specter of a
blood avenger waiting to pounce. By contrast, feud operated in biblical law,
and cities of refuge were required for the slayerÔÇ™s protection. The central
administration and the king were generally not involved.
These differences can be attributed to the social, political, and economic
differences between Israel and Mesopotamia. A pivotal characteristic of
Mesopotamian society was urbanism,46 embodying a social organization
that was centralized, bureaucratic, and specialized, whereas the constituent
parts of the Bible re´¬‚ect a decentralized, unspecialized, mildly bureaucratic,
rural society. This is so, even though the cities of Mesopotamia were highly
dependent on a massive agricultural base and biblical Israel was at times a
rump state centered on Jerusalem.
The essential urbanism of Mesopotamian society was pervasive.47 Urban
centers in Mesopotamia lay in sight of one another: Cities were densely
concentrated. The city was the seat of culture, and by de´¬ünition, nonurban
life was uncultured. A bucolic countryside did not lie outside the city in
Mesopotamian thought. Nomads were held in contempt.48 The idea that
urbanism was the only social structure was so persistent that the destruction
of a rival political power was portrayed as the destruction of cities, even if the
enemy lacked cities to destroy.49 The great literary works re´¬‚ect the climate
and temper of city life, not an earlier period of preurban/tribal life.50 The Epic
45 Cf. J. N. Postgate, ÔÇťÔÇ˜Princeps IudexÔÇ™ in Assyria,ÔÇŁ RA 74 (1980), 180ÔÇ“182.
46 Marc Van de Mieroop, The Ancient Mesopotamian City (Oxford: Clarendon, 1997), 1ÔÇ“19;
A. Leo Oppenheim, Ancient Mesopotamia (rev. edition; completed by Erica Reiner; Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1977), 79; Karel van der Toorn, Sin and Sanction in Mesopotamia
and Israel (Studia Semitica Neerlandica; Assen/Maastricht: Van Gorcum, 1985), 3.
47 Benno Landsberger, Three Essays on the Sumerians (intro. and trans. Maria deJ. Ellis; MANE
1/2; 1943; reprint, Los Angeles: Undena, 1974), 3.
48 Toorn, Sin and Sanction, 155, nn. 5ÔÇ“8.
49 Cf. the Assyrian campaign in 714 b.c.e. against the Mannaeans, south of Lake Urmia (F.
Thureau-Dangin, Une relation de la huiti` me campagne de Sargon [TCL 3; Paris: Paul Geuthner,
1912], 16 col.i, ll. 89ÔÇ“90), or a campaign in the marshes at the head of the Arabian Gulf (D.
Luckenbill, The Annals of Sennacherib [OIP; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1924], 35
col. iii, ll. 65ÔÇ“70).
50 Toorn, Sin and Sanction, 3.
BLOOD FEUD AND STATE CONTROL
of Gilgamesh, for example, celebrates urban life through the acculturation
of Enkidu and the exaltation of the city of Uruk.
One of the characteristics of urbanism is the substitution of a society or-
ganized politically on territorial principles for one based on ties of kinship.51
This type of society was divided by class and ruled by an elite, whether mil-
itary, religious, or political. This was certainly true for Mesopotamia. A
Mesopotamian city was a society organized hierarchically along territorial
or political lines, not along lines of kinship.52 Identifying oneself as part of
a lineage lessened in importance early in Mesopotamian history.53 People
acted primarily as individuals in the social and legal spheres: Lineages did
not dominate economic or political life. The most basic social unit was the
family, not lineage. This accounts for the absence of blood feud and the pres-
ence of the central government and crown in the Mesopotamian adjudication
It must be noted that although urbanism and the concomitant dissolution
of kinship ties were primary characteristics of Mesopotamian society, there
was some variation over time and geography. Although extensive urbanism
was already the norm early on, literary texts did refer to clans, im-ru-a, but
they are rarely mentioned in administrative documents.54 In the Old Baby-
lonian period, there is some evidence from land sales that there were cases
of joint ownership of land. The issue with these particular cases is whether
this signi´¬ües that a lineage was involved or whether it was a resuscitation
of family ties in order to comply with a legal requirement that was nothing
more than an archaic relic of the role of the lineage.55 There was a marked
decline in urbanism in Babylonia in the late second millennium and ´¬ürst
millennium b.c.e. By contrast, the Neo-Assyrian empire witnessed a massive
expansion of cities. Undoubtedly, kinship ties in general were more signi´¬ü-
cant for seminomadic people who lived outside of the settled, urban areas.56
What is striking, though, is that with the partial exception of Assyria, vari-
ation in the extent of urbanism and kinship ties over time appears not to be
re´¬‚ected in the adjudication of homicide.
51 V. Gordon Childe, ÔÇťThe Urban Revolution,ÔÇŁ The Town Planning Review 21 (1950), 16;
Robert McC. Adams, The Evolution of Urban Society (Chicago: Aldine, 1966), 87, 110.
52 Van de Mieroop, The Ancient Mesopotamian City, 100ÔÇ“104.
53 I. M. Diakonoff, ÔÇťExtended Families in Old Babylonian Ur,ÔÇŁ ZA 75 (1985), 52; Elizabeth
Stone, ÔÇťTexts, Architecture and Ethnographic Analogy: Patterns of Residence in Old Babylonian
Nippur,ÔÇŁ Iraq 43 (1981), 19ÔÇ“33; Norman Yoffee, ÔÇťAspects of Mesopotamian Land Sales,ÔÇŁ
American Anthropologist 90 (1988), 119ÔÇ“130.
54 Nicholas Postgate, Early Mesopotamia: Society and Economy at the Dawn of History
(London: Routledge, 1992), 83; ├…ke Sjoberg, ÔÇťZu einigen Verwandtschaftsbezeichnungen im
sumerischen,ÔÇŁ in Heidelberger Studien zum Alten Orient (ed. D. O. Edzard; Wiesbaden: Otto
Harrassowitz, 1967), 201ÔÇ“231.
55 Postgate, Early Mesopotamia, 94ÔÇ“96.
56 Samuel Greengus, ÔÇťLegal and Social Institutions of Ancient Mesopotamia,ÔÇŁ in CANE, 469.