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Contrasting Conceptions of Asylum in Deuteronomy 19 and Numbers 35

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image of Vetus Testamentum

This essay argues that the Deuteronomic and Holiness laws granting asylum to unintentional killers (Deut 19:1-13; Num 35:9-34) differ markedly in their procedures and purposes. The differences between these laws reflect different underlying conceptions of bloodguilt. For Deuteronomy, bloodguilt is created only in the presence of homicidal intention. For the Holiness legislators, bloodguilt is created whenever human blood is shed. These differing conceptions of bloodguilt are reflected in the status each law accords to the manslayer, the role of the blood avenger, the purpose and duration of asylum, and the features of asylum locations.

Affiliations: 1: University of Wisconsin-Madison


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