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Deut 22:13“21 and 25:5“10. In the same vein, Josh 20:4, in introducing a
procedure of admission, assigns it to the elders, albeit of the city of refuge,
not the elders of the killer™s city, as in Deut 19:12. This is appropriate since
the elders of the city of refuge are protecting it from the presence of inten-
tional killers. In addition, the elaboration in Josh 20:5“6 that the accidental
slayer will not be delivered to the blood avenger and will live in the city of
refuge, b`yw . . . wrgsyAalw, uses language reminiscent of Deut 23:16“17, which
mandates that an escaped slave will not be delivered over (rygst) to his master
and will live among (b`y Am[) the Israelites.71
How can the presence of a new procedure in Deuteronomic language that
does not appear in Deuteronomy be explained? The simplest explanation is
that Joshua 20 is a Deuteronomic reworking of a Priestly kernel.72 In fact,
one manuscript of the LXX, Codex Vaticanus, contains none of the Deutero-
nomic additions, including Josh 20:4, and therefore provides evidence for the
independent existence of a Priestly pericope. The new procedure in Josh 20:4
was worded in Deuteronomic style, although its content differs signi¬cantly.
While the other versions, Numbers 35 and Deuteronomy 19, eventually re-
strict asylum to accidental killers, Joshua 20 limits initial entrance into
the city of refuge only to accidental killers. The probability of a Deutero-
nomic reworking of Priestly material is further heightened by the fact that
where Joshua 20 has parallels to both Numbers 35 and Deuteronomy 19,
it is invariably closer to, or identical with, Deuteronomy 19. This makes
sense since both are part of the Deuteronomic literature. A Deuteronomic
author, later than both Numbers 35 and Deuteronomy 19, designed this new

71 Rof´ ,
e “Joshua 20: Historico-Literary Criticism Illustrated,” in Empirical Models for Biblical
Criticism (ed. Jeffrey H. Tigay; Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1985), 137“138.
72 Ibid., 141“143.

procedure to allay any anxiety over the presence of intentional killers in a
city of refuge by preventing them from gaining entrance in the ¬rst place.
The intentional slayer has no way of escaping the blood avenger even for a
limited time in a city of refuge until he is convicted and handed over to the
avenger to be killed.
The legal sources of the Pentateuch P and D differ as a direct result of
their distinctive ideological and theological programs. The statute in Joshua
is an attempt to reconcile these differences. I have shown that the cities of
refuge were not a Deuteronomic innovation nor were they an innovation
of the early monarchy. However, there may have been a development from
sanctuary asylum to the cities of refuge at a glacial speed, starting with the
ability of others besides killers to seek sanctuary at an altar and the indication
in the Psalms that the Sanctuary was a place of refuge from danger. The
development of homicide in the Hebrew Bible follows along the lines of a
steady-state theory, with the recognition that even a steady-state universe
experiences change from time to time.

Pollution and Homicide

FOR THE ancient Israelites, the spilling of blood in a homicide was an event
of profound consequence because of the blood itself, not simply because
of the physical harm of the assault. The blood that was spilled polluted.
One of the statutes on homicide concludes with an explicit statement of
the motivation for the statute: The blood of the victim pollutes the land
(Num 35:33, 34):1
You shall not pollute the land in which you are in, for the blood
itself pollutes the land: expiation cannot be made on behalf of the
land for the blood that was shed in it except by the blood of him who
shed it. 34 You shall not de¬le the land in which you are inhabiting,
in which I dwell, for I the Lord dwell among the Israelites.

1 The viewpoint that sin de¬les the land rather than affecting the sanctuary is consistent with
the doctrine of H. Cf. Baruch J. Schwartz, “The Bearing of Sin in Priestly Literature,” in
Pomegranates and Golden Bells: Studies in Biblical, Jewish, and Ancient Near Eastern Ritual,
Law, and Literature in Honor of Jacob Milgrom (ed. David P. Wright, David Noel Freedman,
and Avi Hurvitz; Winona Lake, Indiana: Eisenbrauns, 1995), 6, and Knohl, The Sanctuary of
Silence, 185“186. Ritual impurity and ethical impurity are treated in two discrete crystallizations
of the Priestly traditions, P and H, respectively. It would, however, be incorrect to argue that
only one, H, holds that ethical impurity exists, since there are many references to the polluting
effects of shed blood. Cf. 2 Sam 3:28“29; Isa 26:21; Ps 106:38.


Warnings about purging evil from the midst of the Israelites appear
with frequency in Deuteronomy (Deut 13:6; 17:7, 12; 21:21; 22:21, 22,
24; 24:7), but only with regard to the case of homicide does the warning
specify that it is the blood of the innocent victim that must be removed.
Deut 19:10“13, another of the statutes on homicide, warns the Israelites not
to have pity upon the murderer so that the innocent blood of the victim can
be purged:
The blood of the innocent shall not be shed in the land which the
Lord your God is giving to you, imputing bloodguilt upon you. 11 If
a person is hostile to another and lies in wait and strikes him mortally
so that he dies, and ¬‚ees to one of these towns, 12 the elders of his
town shall send and take him back from there and deliver him to the
blood avenger so that he dies. 13 You shall not have pity on him, but
shall make expiation of the blood of the innocent, and it will be well
with you.
Deut 21:1“9, a rite of absolving the community of responsibility for the
death of an unknown homicide victim, speci¬es that the innocent blood of
the victim is to be sent as far as possible from human habitation so as to be
disposed of:
All the elders of the town nearest to the corpse shall wash their
hands over the heifer whose neck was broken in the wadi. 7 They
shall solemnly declare: “Our hands did not shed this blood nor did
our eyes witness [it]. 8 Make expiation, Lord, for your people Israel
whom you redeemed, and do not allow innocent blood to remain
amidst your people Israel, and let the blood be expiated.” 9 Thus,
you will remove innocent blood from your midst, for you will be
doing what is right in the eyes of the Lord.
In the story of Cain and Abel, it is not an accident that when God con-
fronts Cain about Abel™s murder, God speaks about Abel™s blood crying out
from the ground (Gen 4:10). Blood, !ymd, is not simply a vivid image con-
jured up by a creative author for the tale of Cain. Abel™s blood has a real
existence of its own that must be addressed.
In the Bible, blood is a paradoxical substance: It is the most effective
cleanser while being a pollutant.2 Sacri¬cial blood removes pollution and
sancti¬es. It is the principal means of remedying impurity. The annual cer-
emony of atonement includes the sprinkling of the Tabernacle with blood
in order to purge de¬lement from the Tabernacle (Leviticus 16). This allows
the high priest to enter the inner sanctum without dying (Lev 16:2). Blood
is used in the initial sancti¬cation of the Tabernacle and the ordination of

2 Gordon J. Wenham, The Book of Leviticus (NICOT; Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans,
1979), 188.

Aaron and his sons (Leviticus 8). Blood removes the initial impurity from the
altar and sancti¬es Aaron and his sons for their special station. The covenant
between God and the Israelites is af¬rmed when Moses splashes blood on the
people, signaling the change in status (Exod 24:6“8). The leper is cleansed
by being sprinkled with blood (Lev 14:5“7, 14, 25).
At the same time, blood is also a powerful contaminant. A discharge of
blood, whether in menstruation, in childbirth, or in recovery from childbirth,
renders a woman unclean (Lev 12: 1“8). The other bodily discharge to incur
impurity is semen. What the discharges of blood and semen have in common
is their relationship to being the source of life.3 Semen and blood symbolize
life, and their loss is death. The other two sources of impurities are the state
of death itself and scale disease, which itself manifests death as the body
wastes away.4 In Num 12:12, Aaron reacts to the sight of Miriam af¬‚icted
by scale disease by exclaiming, “Let her not be like the dead, which comes out
of its mother™s womb with half its ¬‚esh eaten away.” Death and that which
resembles death cause de¬lement. Blood represents both life and death and,
therefore, is both a puri¬er and a contaminant.
Furthermore, the Hebrew Bible manifests the belief that the vitality of life
is found in blood.5 This is not simply symbolic. Blood contains human and
animal life in a concrete sense. The very life of an animal is contained in its
blood (Lev 17:10, 14; Deut 12:23).6 Therefore the blood of an animal must
not be eaten (Lev 17:10“14, also 7:26“27).7 In the same concrete sense, the
life of a human being is contained in his blood.8 It has corporeality; it is not
simply a metaphor.9

3 Milgrom, Leviticus 1“16, 767, 1002.
4 Milgrom, “The Dynamic of Impurity in the Priestly System,” in Purity and Holiness: The Her-
itage of Leviticus (ed. M. J. H. M. Poorthuis and J. Schwartz; Jewish and Christian Perspectives
Series II; Leiden: Brill, 2000), 31“32. This is re¬‚ected in the rabbinic statement that scale disease
is tantamount to death (tml hlwq` [t[rx] ayh`, b. Sanhedrin 47a). Cf. b. Nedarim 64b (aynt
h[bra !ynb wl @ya` ymw amwsw [rwxmw yn[ tmk @ybw`j), Tanhuma 94.13; Lamentations Rabbah 3.2; Exo-
dus Rabbah 1.34 (Margalioth 1.105).
5 The ancient Israelites literally attributed physical and psychological functions to particular

organs of the body.
6 The presence of life in the blood may make eating blood invigorating; see David Sperling,

“Blood,” ABD 1.762. This may be the reason why Saul™s weary soldiers consume meat with
the blood in it (1 Sam 14:31“32).
7 This concept is paralleled in other cultures. Cf. James G. Frazer, The Golden Bough (abridged

edition; New York: Macmillan, 1951), 265.
8 This is re¬‚ected in the rabbinic practice of burying a murdered person in his or her blood-

stained clothing. See Shulhan Arukh, Yoreh Deah, 364:4, and Arukh ha-Shulhan, Yoreh Deah,
. .
9 David H. Aaron, Biblical Ambiguities: Metaphor, Semantics, and Divine Imagery (The Brill

Reference Library of Ancient Judaism; Leiden: Brill, 2001), demonstrates how some statements
that modern critics take metaphorically would have been taken literally by readers in biblical
times and proposes an innovative methodology to determine whether a text was meant literally
or metaphorically or both.

Sin also possesses concreteness. Once sin is committed, it is not a past
event but a real object, an odious, foul object that affects human beings and
human society and that requires disposal.10
These factors, the polluting effect of blood and the physical inherence
of life in blood, cognitively mapped with the physicality of sin, generate the
belief that the spilling of the victim™s blood is the physical consequence of the
sin that must be recti¬ed. Accordingly, Num 35:33“34 and Ps 106:38 warn
that the blood of a murdered person pollutes. When God confronts Cain
about Abel™s murder, God emphasizes that Abel™s blood is crying out from
the ground (Gen 4:10). Abel™s blood has a concrete existence, and so the
blood of the victim cries out from the earth for revenge. David recoils from
“the blood falling11 on the head of Joab and his father™s house” and utters a
curse to ensure that the taint would fall on the murderer™s descendants, not
his own (2 Sam 3:28“29; 1 Kgs 2:32“33). According to a prophetic vision,
when iniquity is punished, the earth will reveal the blood that has been shed
on it and will not cover it up again (Isa 26:21). When the brothers of Joseph
consider killing him and blaming a wild beast for his death, they speak of
slaying him and covering up his blood (Gen 37:26). The sight of blood that is
shed stirs God to revenge: It has been put on stone, not on earth, to prevent
it from being covered up by the dust of the earth (Ezek 24:7“9). Job cries
out that the earth should not cover his blood and thereby efface his cry for
justice (Job 16:18). The blood has a physical existence that can be hidden
by being covered, hsk, and can be shown by being revealed, hlg˜ Covering
the blood is a means of hiding the slaying, while uncovering it brings certain
The technical term used to denote culpability for a killing is, therefore,
!ymd or !d, literally “blood.” The singular form denotes both “blood” and
“bloodguilt, culpability for death,” while the plural refers to “bloodguilt,
culpability for death,” the responsibility for the unlawful spilling of blood.
Here, the plural is used to indicate the abstract. The meaning of the plural

10 Baruch J. Schwartz, “˜Term™ or Metaphor “ Biblical arqmb afj/[`p/@w[ a`n” [Hebrew], Tarbiz
63 (1994) 149“171; “The Bearing of Sin in the Priestly Literature,” in Pomegranates and
Golden Bells, 7; and The Holiness Legislation [Hebrew] (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1999), 61“
63. This may be why, in both Hebrew and Akkadian, there are words that denote both sin
and the punishment remedying it “ @/≈ and arnu. Schwartz argues that the putative meaning
“punishment” is identi¬ed only in the phrase @w[ a`n, when in fact the word still means “sin.”
The phrase should still be renderd “to bear (the burden of) sin,” and in this case, the sinner is
forgiven when another, most usually God, bears the sin in place of the sinner.
11 This verb is derived from lwj, which is a homophonous root with three meanings, “to dance,”

“to fall upon,” and “to tremble.” While it is possible to translate the sentence as “the blood
dancing about the head of Joab,” it is more likely that it should be understood as “the blood
falling upon the head of Joab,” because the point of David™s outburst is to lay the blame upon
Joab. Cf. Jer 23:19 (30:23), where the verb is used to indicate the punishment falling upon
the guilty and to make a play on words with the embodiment of divine anger in the form of a

form, !ymd, has been extended to refer to crime in general (e.g., Isa 1:15
and the offenses enumerated in vv. 16“17). The blood of animals is always
referred to in the singular.
The responsibility for knowingly committing an act for which death is
the punishment is imputed in the expressions wb wymd, w`ar l[ wmd, w`arb wmd
“his blood is on his head.” In the case of homicide, the blood of the victim
attaches itself to the responsible party,12 but when a person deserves death
because of his own misdeed, his blood falls on his own head. The expression
w`arb wmd is used in 1 Kgs 2:37, Josh 2:19a, and Ezek 33:4, where the offender,
ignoring a warning, commited an act that subjects him to punishment, and
in Josh 2:19b, where an explicit promise to protect certain individuals from
death is not ful¬lled and the responsibility is accepted by those who made the
promise: here, the idea of clearly knowing that the act committed has made
the one who acted subject to death. 1 Kgs 2:33 refers to the responsibility for
murders where a royal command appears to have been ignored, more clearly
for the death of Abner than for the death of Amasa (cf. 2 Sam 3:24“26). The
phrase w`ar l[ wmd is used in 2 Sam 1:16, where the offender tells the king of
his deed, for which the offender believes he will be rewarded, but the king
decrees that the offender™s own action and admission have condemned him
to death, and in 1 Kgs 2:32 (w`ar l[ wmd), where the offender™s own deeds
have condemned him. The phrase wb wymd is used in Lev 20:9, 11, 12, 13, 16,
27 and Ezek 18:13 to refer to a person™s misdeed for which the punishment
is death.
The concept that the blood of the victim has an objective existence pro-
vides the key to understanding why the avenger is called !dh lag. The primary
meaning of the verb lag is “to restore.”13 Restoration constitutes the role of
another ¬gure in legal actions, the lag, a close male relative who is obli-
gated to reclaim land sold by a member of his extended family (Lev 25:25;
Jer 32:7“8; Ruth 3:12; 4:3“4)14 and to redeem a relative sold into slavery


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