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God, Justice, and SocietyAspects of Law and Legality in the Bible$
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Jonathan Burnside

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199759217

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199759217.001.0001

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Homicide And Vengeance

Homicide And Vengeance

(p.253) 8 Homicide And Vengeance
God, Justice, and Society

Jonathan Burnside

Oxford University Press

This chapter shows how biblical law distinguishes between premeditated, spur of the moment, and accidental homicide, and thus tries to strike a particular balance between harm and culpability. Central to this is the operation of the biblical laws of asylum, either at a divinely-approved altar or at a city of refuge. Biblical law takes seriously the value of human life—both the value of the victim's life and the need to protect the life of the offender, in certain circumstances. This is consistent with the limits that are set to blood vengeance and to other forms of vengeance, as expressed in the lex talionis. This is concerned with both quantitative and qualitative proportionality. The discussion includes some key biblical narratives, including the story of Cain and Abel.

Keywords:   asylum, altar, Cain and Abel, cities of refuge, homicide, lex talionis, vengeance

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