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The relationship between slavery, homicide and asylum in biblical law

Pages 234 - 236



1 I am grateful to Professor Bernard Jackson (University of Manchester, England) for his comments on an earlier draft of this article. The usual disclaimers apply.

2 See generally D. Daube, The Exodus Pattern in the Bible, London 1963.

3 J. Burnside, Exodus and Asylum: Uncovering the relationship between biblical law and narrative, JSOT (forthcoming).

4 Although Israel enjoys various resting places along the way (the wilderness of Shur, Marah, Elim and the wilderness of Sin; Exod. 15,22–18,27) these do not constitute asylum. Asylum is where one comes to a stop and from where one does not go any further. This means that Sinai is the terminal point and is thus Israel's place of refuge.

5 B. Jackson, Wisdom-Laws: A Study of the Mishpatim of Exodus 21,1–22,16, Oxford 2006, 447.

6 The connections between slavery, asylum and homicide in the Exodus story may be seen as a form of thematic repetition. For example, Joseph's brothers try to kill him and this starts a chain of events which explains why the Israelites come to Egypt for asylum and are ultimately enslaved, whilst in Exod. 2,11–22 Moses sees his people enslaved which leads to homicide and to Moses' experience of asylum.

7 M. Weinfeld, Social Justice in Ancient Israel, Jerusalem 1995, 7–15.

8 Weinfeld, Social Justice in Ancient Israel, 122 notes that the structure of the English words ‚asylum‘ and ‚emancipation‘ both convey the idea of being ‚put out of the hand (of the power of the master)‘, that is, to be ‚free of seizure‘. ‚Asylum‘ is related to the Greek asylon (which literally means ‚without violence or right of seizure‘) whilst the English word ‚emancipation‘ is derived from the Latin ex mancipare (‚freedom from sale or transfer‘).

9 Cf. Cain's unlimited exile (Gen. 4,15), although we should not exclude the possibility that the asylum-seeker could have remained in the city of refuge permanently.


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