by email

in reader




Some incorrectly think that the avenger of blood was an agent of the family, and was engaged in a blood-feud with the man who killed his kin. They see the Bible as permitting this kind of feuding, but only within carefully restricted bounds.  However, (1) the Bible eliminates clan feuding by insisting that cases of alleged murder be tried before a court of the congregation (Num. 35:24, 25).  If the man were found guilty of murder, he was taken even from the very altar of God (1 Kings 2:28ff., Rev. 6:9-10, 9:13-14), and turned over to his hometown elders (Deut. 19:12).  Clan vengeance is a manifestation of pagan familism, which absolutizes the family at the expense of the proper role of Church and state.  (2) The avenger of blood is an agent of God, enlisted to be an agent for the land.  Blood, even blood spilled accidentally, “pollutes the land” (Num. 35:32-34, cf. Gen. 4:10-11).  The connection between humanity and earth is that humanity is made of the earth and commanded to rule over the earth (Gen. 1:28, 2:7, 3:19).  Land and family are tied together under the Old Covenant, and when Israel entered Canaan, the land was divided into family plots, which were inalienable (Lev. 25).  Because the land was tied to the family, the next of kin was commandeered to act as avenger of blood.  Someone not related to the dead man might not take his job so seriously.  Yet his specific task is to make sure the land is available and undefiled, and in that sense he is really an agent for the land.  However, the Bible also indicates that the death does not defile only the plot on which it occurred, but defiles the entire land. Thus, a killing on unclaimed property would still have to be avenged. 2 Sam. 14:4-11 indicates that the avenger was next of kin of the dead man, rather than the owner of the property on which the killing took place.

- James Jordan, The Law of the Covenant 100-101, 103 (1984), at http://www.garynorth.com/freebooks/:  HTML, DjVu.