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pensation. The victim™s family has the power to allow the accidental slayer

29 E.g., Erwin Merz, Die Blutrache bei den Israeliten (BWAT 20; Leipzig: J. C. Hinrich, 1916),
132; N. M. Nicolsky, “Das Asylrecht in Israel,” 168“171.
30 The term “anointed priest” is H™s term for head priest. Cf. Lev 16:32.
31 This concept is re¬‚ected in rabbinic sources. Cf. b. Makkot 11b.
32 While ancient Greek culture held that the accidental killer incurred pollution, once he reached

foreign soil he was puri¬ed without the need for an expiatory ritual (Parker, Miasma, 118).
33 Driver, Deuteronomy, 232.
34 Rof´ , “History of the Cities of Refuge,” 235.

freedom of movement. Although compensation is not explicitly mentioned
in Deuteronomy, Rof´ notes that it is assumed as part of the process of rec-
onciliation in lesser degrees of unlawful death. Thus, ransom is explicitly
preserved in the law of the goring ox, Exod 21:29“30, and the person who
accidentally pushes a pregnant woman and causes harm in Exod 21:22 must
pay a pecuniary mulct (as Rof´ interprets the passage). The problem with
Rof´ ™s proof is that in these examples, a person redeeming himself by means
of this payment is under the sentence of death. The accidental killer, by con-
trast, has not been sentenced to death. The implication of the other statutes
on homicide is that victims™ families were not permitted to take compensa-
tion at all. For Rof´ to prove his claim, clearer evidence is required.
There is simply not enough evidence to ¬ll in details about the fate of the
accidental slayer according to Deuteronomy with one exception. Whatever
happens to the killer according to Deuteronomy 19, he is not required to
wait until the death of the high priest to leave the city of refuge. There is no
religious element to his stay there. Deuteronomy and Numbers concur on
the punishment of the accidental slayer, his being forced for a period of time
to stay in a city of refuge, but disagree on the reason; they concur on the fate
of the accidental killer, but vary on the reason for his fate and concomitantly
the timing of his eventual release.
Deuteronomy as a whole evinces a general lack of interest in pollution
and the sanctity of place and focuses on the holiness of the people.35 The
statutes on homicide in Deuteronomy 19 display, therefore, two concerns:
1) insuring that the intentional killer is put to death so that the evil is removed
from the midst of the Israelites; and 2) protecting the accidental homicide
from being killed so that his innocent blood is not spilled, imperiling the
Israelites yet again.
At the same time, the polluting effects of blood itself are not ignored
in Deuteronomy.36 The rite of the elimination of bloodguilt mandated by
Deut 21:1“9 re¬‚ects the perception that the blood of the victim has a physi-
cal reality that must be removed, as well as the concept that a slaying could
pollute those in whose midst it occurred. The blood must be removed ritu-
ally because the killer cannot be found and executed, the usual method of
If, in the land which the Lord your God is giving to you, a corpse
is found lying in open country, and it is not known who struck him

35 Weinfeld argues that the distinction between P and D in this regard is that P is theocentric
and D is anthropocentric (Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomic School, 189), while Eyal Regev
contends that for P, holiness is dynamic and, therefore, impurity is also dynamic, in contrast to
D, for which holiness is a static quality (“Priestly Dynamic Holiness and Deuteronomic Static
Holiness,” VT 51 [2001], 243“261). They are both approaching the same phenomena from
different directions, illuminating different aspects of P and D.
36 This concept is also the basis for the stipulation that the corpse of an executed criminal should

not be left exposed overnight (Deut 21:23).

down, 2 your elders and judges shall go out and measure the distance
from the corpse to the surrounding towns. 3 The elders of the town
nearest to the corpse shall take a heifer which has never been worked
and has never pulled a yoke, 4 and the elders of that town shall bring
the heifer down to an ever-¬‚owing/perennial wadi which has not been
tilled or sown and shall break the neck of the heifer in the wadi. 5 The
priests, the sons of Levi, shall come forward, for the Lord your God
has chosen them to minister to him and to bless in his name, and every
lawsuit and physical af¬‚iction is subject to their ruling. 6 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].
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.

When the animal is killed in an uncultivated area and the elders wash their
hands of the blood, this act relocates the blood to an area far from hu-
man concern.37 The drainage of the blood into the perpetually ¬‚owing
brook, carrying the blood away, removes the blood even farther.38 Wash-
ing hands is a sign of innocence,39 and by so doing the elders demon-
strate the community™s blamelessness. The ceremony is undertaken because
the expiation cannot be gained from executing the killer. The community
nearest the spot where the corpse was found must undo the de¬lement
and establish that it is not responsible for the crime. The representa-
tives of the community perform the rite on its behalf in order to re-
move the blood and the bloodguilt. The killing of the animal is a ritual
reenactment of the slaying in a place where the de¬lement will be least
As we have seen, the biblical term, !dh lag, manifests anxiety over the
polluting effects of the blood itself. Biblical law extends the contamination
of the victim™s blood by conceiving of it as polluting the Israelite people or

37 Cf. David P. Wright, “Deuteronomy 21:1“9 as a Rite of Elimination,” CBQ 49 (1987), 387“
38 The same concept is assumed by Mic 7:19 “ when sins are cast into the depths of the sea,
they are disposed of.
39 Cf. Pss 26:6 and 73:13. By washing their hands over the animal after it is killed, the elders are

formally displaying their innocence, not transferring their guilt to the animal. In rituals in which
guilt is conveyed to an animal, such as sending a goat to Azazel (Leviticus 16), the washing of
hands is done before the animal is slaughtered.
40 Tigay, Deuteronomy, 472“475; Wright, “Deuteronomy 21:1“9,” 393“399. Ziony Zevit, “The

«Egla Ritual of Deuteronomy 21:1“9,” JBL 95 (1976), 377“390, discusses reconstructions of
the pre-Israelite ritual on which the Deuteronomic ritual may have been based.

the Land of Israel. The stain is removed by blood in its capacity as purifying
agent: The intentional killer is executed, and the accidental killer must wait
until the death of the high priest for his release from the city of refuge. Even
Deuteronomy, with its tendency toward secularization, mandates that the
community in which an unsolvable slaying has occurred must perform a
ritual to wash away the blood.
The Mesopotamian material contains a pale re¬‚ection of the concern
with the damaging effects of the victim™s blood. In ABL 753, r. 5, a petitioner
implores the king not to ignore the blood of his murdered subjects:
. . . 2 I d 30-ib-ni i-na me-x-x-x 3 sa UNUGki lu UNUGki -a-a i-du-ku
u hu-bu-us-su-nu ih-bu-tu LUGAL be-l´-a 5 da-mu sa IRmeˇ -ˇ u la s
` ˇ
± s
˜ s-ˇ a -ar SA-u 6 ˜
ˇ ` ´ a-ga-nim-ma sad-da-giˇ I d 30-ib-ni 7 lu URIMki -
´ ˇ
u-maˇ s 8 s
´s s
a-a ki-i i-du-ku man-ma a-na UGU LUGAL be-l´-ia ul u-ˇ ak-ˇ i-du
9 lu ki 10
` ´
u NUN -u-a ki-i i-du-ku man-ma-a-ma a-na LUGAL be-l´-a ul ±
11 lu ki 12
` ˇ
iq-bi u en-na UNUG -a-a id-du-uk LUGAL be-l´-a di-i-ni sa ±
s `ˇ ` meˇs 13 14
URU-ˇ u u sa IR -ˇ u li-pu-uˇ a-na LUGAL be-l´-ia [al-tap]-ra
s s ±
LUGAL be-l´-a lu-u i-di
Sin-ibni in the . . . of Uruk has killed the people of Uruk and plun-

dered their goods. Let the king, my lord, not ignore the blood of his
servants. 6“10 When sometime ago Sin-ibni killed the people of Ur, no
one informed the king, my lord, and when he killed the people of
Sippar, no one told the king, my lord. 11“14 Now, he has killed the
people of Uruk. May the king my lord render justice for his city and
his servants. I have sent [this message] to the king my lord so that the
king my lord may know.
In ADD 321, the delivery of the compensation “washes away the blood.”
On rare occasions, a person is described as being “polluted with blood,” ina
damˆ ballu,41 but it is not clear that this individual is even a killer:
a-na be-l´-ia 2 q´-b´-ma 3 um-ma ki-ib-ri-d da-gan 4 IR-ka-a-ma 5 a-
± ±±
wa-tam mi-im-ma le-mu-ut-ta-am eˇ -me 6 li-ib-bi ma-di-iˇ ih-hi-id 7 a-
s s
´s . ˜˜
d 8
ˇ ˇ ˇ ´ .´
sa-ar s[u-q]´-im sa-a-tu sa da-gan u-ha-al-la-q[u-ˇ ]u sa-bu-um i-su-
9 10
um u-u[l i]s-sa-ab-ba-at sa-bu-um [m]a-du-um-ma is-sa-ab-ba-at
.. . ..
´ b[e-e]l [a]r-nim 12 sa i-na [da-m]i-im sa-a-[t]u
` ˇ ˇ
u i-[na-an-na] LU
´ sa-gi-[e-
13 14 15
ba-al-lu-ma mu-s´-ˇ u i-sa-ah-hu-ru u ki-ma UR.DUR ˇ
` `
.± s
˜ ˜ 17 i-na-an-na as-[s]u-ur-ri 18 be-l´
´ ´
em] a-ˇ a-ar i-na-aˇ -ˇ a-ku u-ul i-de
s ss ±
19 20
i-ha-am-mu-ut-ma iˇ -tu e-kal-lim a-na zu-q´-im it-t[a]-s´ a-di sa-
s ± .±
. .
˜ 21
ˇ ´` s`
ba-am su-nu-ti be-l´ l[a u-s]a-an-ni-qu-ma a-ia-bi-ˇ u u le-em-ni-[ˇ ]u
± s

41 SeeBauer Asb. 71 (Theodore Bauer, Das Inschriftenwerk Assurbanipals [Leipzig: J. C.
´ˇ ˇ
Hinrichs, 1933], 71:13), sa ina US.MES asakku ballu.

a-na sa-pa-al se-p´-ˇ u 23 la iˇ -ku-nu-ma u ka-la-ˇ u-nu 24 a-na ne-
ˇ ˇ ±s `
s s
25 26
pa-ri-im la u-ˇ e-ri-bu UD 3 KAM UD 4 KAM b[e-l´ i-na] li-ib-bi
e-kal-li-ˇ u la us-s´
´´ s . .±
To my lord, say: Thus says Kibri-Dagan, your servant. 5“10 I have
heard about an evil affair, and my heart is troubled. Wherever that
street [may be] which Dagan will destroy, not a small troop but a
large troop should be taken prisoner. 11“16 And now, that criminal
who was polluted with that blood is looking around to make his
escape, and like a vicious dog, I do not know where he will bite
[next]. 17“19 Now, certainly my lord will wish to leave the palace
in a hurry. 20“27 As long as my lord does not put pressure on that
troop, and [as long as] he has not brought his enemies and those
who wish him evil into submission and has not put all of them
into the workhouse, my lord must not leave his palace for 3 or
4 days.
It is equally possible that this refers to actual bloodshed or is a vivid descrip-
tion of a vicious offender.
There are a number of other references that might refer to the de-
¬lement caused by bloodshed, but it must be acknowledged that these
references are oblique. A text from the El-Amarna archive, from the four-
teenth century b.c.e., EA 8, refers to “returning the blood.” In this let-
ter, Burnaburiyash II, the Kassite king of Babylonia (Karaduniyash), dis-
patches a letter to Naphu™rureya (Amenophis IV/Akhenaten), the king of
Egypt, demanding action on behalf of Babylonian merchants who have
been killed in Canaan, an area under Egyptian rule. Burnaburiyash II
offers two reasons: One is that the blood of the victims must be re-
turned. Another text, CCT IV 30a, from the Old Assyrian period, de-
clares that since the king in question has spilled blood, his throne is
a-na i-na-a qi-bi-ma 2 um-ma e-la-ni-ma iˇ -tu 3 a-li-ka-ni i-d´-ku-bu- `
s ±
um 4 u ILLAT-su U-tum sa ha-hi-im 5 u a-na-ku a-na E.GAL-lim 6 ni-
` ´ ˇ `


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