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Palestine: "A computation is generally made of the losses on either side by death, wounds, etc., and the balance is paid to the victors."1 Burton describes similarly the custom in Arabia.2

It is the same in individual cases as in tribal conflicts. An accepted payment for blood fully restores the balance between the aggrieved parties and the slayer. As Pierotti says: "This charm will teach the Arab to grasp readily the hands of the slayer of his father or his son, saying, 'Such an one has killed my father, but he has paid me the price of his blood." This in itself shows that it is not revenge, but restitution, that is sought after by the goel; that he is not the blood-avenger, but the blood-balancer.


It is true that, still, in some instances, all money payment for blood is refused; but the avowed motive in such a case is the holding of life as above price-the very idea which the Mosaic law emphasized. Thus Burton tells of the excited Bed'ween mother who dashes the proffered blood-money to the ground, swearing "by Allah, that she will not eat her son's blood."4 And even where the blood of the slayer is insisted on, there are often found indications that the purpose of this choice rests on the primitive belief that the lost life is

1 Surv. of West. Pal., “Special Papers,” p. 342.

2 A Pilgrimage to Mec. and Med., 357.

3 Cust, and Trad. of Pal., p. 221.

A Pilgrimage, p. 367.



made good to the depleted family by the newly received blood. Thus, in the region of Abyssinia, the


blood of the slayer is drunk by the relatives of the one first slain;2 and, in Palestine, when the goel has shed the blood of an unlawful slayer, those who were the losers of blood by that slayer dip their handkerchiefs in his blood, and so obtain their portion of his life.3

In short, apart from the specific guards thrown around the mission of the goel, in the interests of justice, by the requirements of the Mosaic law, it is evident that the primal idea of the goel's mission was to restore life for life, or to secure the adjusted equivalent of a lost life; not to wreak vengeance, nor yet to mete out punishment. The calling of the goel, in our English Bible, a “revenger" of blood, is a result of the wide-spread and deep-rooted error concerning the primitive and Oriental idea of blood and its value; and that unfortunate translation tends to the perpetuation of this error.


Because the primitive rite of blood-covenanting was well known in the Lands of the Bible, at the time of the writing of the Bible, for that very reason we are not to look to the Bible for a specific explanation of 1See pages 126–133, supra. 2 See page 132 f., supra.

3 Pierotti's Cust. and Trad. of Pal. p. 216.

the rite itself, even where there are incidental references in the Bible to the rite and its observances; but, on the other hand, we are to find an explanation of the biblical illustrations of the primitive rite, in the understanding of that rite which we gain from outside sources. In this way, we are enabled to see in the Bible much that otherwise would be lost sight of.


The word for "covenant," in the Hebrew, bereeth (), is commonly so employed, in the sacred text, as to have the apparent meaning of a thing "cut," as apart from, or as in addition to, its primary meaning of a thing “eaten.” This fact has been a source of confusion to lexicographers. But when we consider that the primitive rite of blood-covenanting was by cutting into the flesh in order to the tasting of the blood, and that a feast was always an accompaniment of the rite, if, indeed, it were not an integral portion of it, the two-fold meaning of "cutting" and "eating" attaches obviously to the term "covenant"; as the terms “carving," and "giving to eat," are often used interchangeably, with reference to dining; or as we speak of a "cut of beef" as the portion for a table.

The earliest Bible reference to a specific covenant between individuals, is in the mention, at Genesis 14: 13, of Mamre, Eshcol, and Aner, the Amorites,

1 Comp. Gen. 15:18; Jer. 34: 18; 2 Sam. 12: 17.
2 See Gesenius, Fuerst, Cocceius, s. v.


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who were in covenant with-literally, were masters of the covenant of "-" Abram the Hebrew." this, comes the record of a covenant between Abraham and Abimelech, at the wells of Beer-sheba. Abimelech sought that covenant; he sought it because of his faith in Abraham's God. "God is with thee in all that thou doest," he said: "Now, therefore, swear unto me here by God, that thou wilt not deal falsely with me, nor with my son, nor with my son's son: but according to the kindness that I have done unto thee, thou shalt do unto me, and to the land wherein thou hast sojourned. And Abraham said, I will swear." Then came the giving of gifts by Abraham, according to the practice which seems universal in connection with this. rite, in our own day? "And Abraham took sheep and oxen, and gave them unto Abimelech." And they two "made a covenant,”—or, as the Hebrew is, "they two cut a covenant." This covenant, thus cut between Abraham and Abimelech-patriarchs and sovereigns as they were—was for themselves and for their posterity. As to the manner of its making, we have a right to infer, from all that we know of the manner of such covenant-making among the people of their part of the world, in the earliest days of recorded history.

Herodotus, who goes back well-nigh two-thirds of the way to Abraham, says, that when the Arabians 1 Gen. 21: 22-24. 2 See pages 14, 16, 20, 22, 25, 27, etc., supra.

would covenant together, a third man, standing between the two, cuts, with a sharp stone, the inside of the hands of both, and lets the blood therefrom drop on seven stones which are between the two parties.1 Phicol, the captain of Abimelech's host, was present, as a third man, when the covenant was cut between Abimelech and Abraham; at Beer-sheba-the Well of the Seven, or the Well of the Oath.2 Instead of seven stones as a "heap of witness "3 between the two in this covenanting," seven ewe lambs" were set apart by Abraham, that they might "be a witness"-a symbolic witness to this transaction.

In the primitive rite of blood-covenanting, as it is practised in some parts of the East, to the present time, in addition to other symbolic witnesses of the rite, a tree is planted by the covenanting parties, "which remains and grows as a witness of their contract."5 So it was, in the days of Abraham. "And Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beer-sheba, and called there on the name of the Everlasting God. And Abraham sojourned [was a sojourner] in the land of the Philistines many days ""—while that tree, doubtless, remained and grew as a witness of his bloodcovenant compact with Abimelech the ruler of the

1 See page 47, supra.

3 Comp. Gen. 31: 44-47.

5 See page 53, supra.

2 Gen. 21: 31.

4 Gen. 21: 30.

6 Gen. 21: 33.

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