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Another gleam of the primitive truth, that blood is life and not death, and that the transference of blood is the transference of life, is found in the various Mosaic references to the goel (), the person who is authorized to obtain blood for blood as an act of justice, in the East. And another proof of the prevailing error in the Western mind, through confounding blood with death, and justice with punishment, is the common rendering of the term goel, as "avenger," or "revenger," in our English Bible, wherever that term applies to the balancing of a blood account; although the same Hebrew word is in other connections commonly translated "redeemer," or "ransomer."4

Lexicographers are confused over the original import of the word goel;5 all the more, because of this confusion in their minds over the import of blood in its relation to death and to justice. But it is agreed on all hands, that, as a term, the word was, in the East, applied to that kinsman whose duty it was to secure 1 Num. 35: 12; Deut. 19: 6, 12; Josh. 20: 3, 5, 9.

2 Num. 35: 19, 21, 24, 25, 27; 2 Sam. 14: 1I.

3 Job 19: 25; Psa. 19: 14; 78: 35; Prov. 23: II; Isa. 41: 14; 43: 14; 44: 6, 24; 47: 4; 48: 17; 49: 7, 26; 54: 5, 8; 59: 20; 60: 16; 63: 16; Jer. 50: 34.

Comp. Isa. 51: 11; Jer. 31: II.

5 "A term of which the original import is uncertain.

The very

obscurity of its etymology testifies to the antiquity of the office which it denotes." (Speaker's Com. at Num. 35: 12.)

justice to the injured, and to restore, as it were, a normal balance to the disturbed family relations. Oehler well defines the goel as "that particular relative whose special duty it was to restore the violated family integrity, who had to redeem not only landed property that had been alienated from the family (Lev. 25: 25 ff.), or a member of the family that [who] had fallen into slavery (Lev. 25: 47 ff.), but also the blood that had been taken away from the family by murder." Hence, in the event of a depletion of the family by the loss of blood-the loss of a life-the goel had a responsibility of securing to the family an equivalent of that loss, by other blood, or by an agreed payment for its value. His mission was not vengeance, but equity. He was not an avenger, but a redeemer, a restorer, a balancer. And in that light, and in that light alone, are all the Oriental customs in connection with blood-cancelling seen to be consistent.

All through the East, there are regularly fixed tariffs for blood-cancelling; as if in recognition of the relative loss to a family, of one or another of its supporting members. This idea, of the differences in ran

1 Cited from Herzog's B. Cycl., in Keil and Delitzsch's Bib. Com. on the Pent., at Num. 35: 9-34.

2 See Niebuhr's Beschreibung von Arabien, p. 32 f.; Burckhardt's Beduinen und Wahaby, pp. 119-127; Lane's Thousand and One Nights, I., 431, note; Pierotti's Customs and Traditions of Palestine, pp. 220-227; Mrs. Finn's "The Fellaheen of Palestine," in Surv. of West Pal., "Special Papers," pp. 342-346.



soming-value between different members of the family, is recognized, in the Mosaic standards of ritual-ransom; although the accepting of a ransom for the blood of a blood-spiller was specifically forbidden in the Mosaic law." This prohibition, in itself, however, seems to be a limitation of the privileges of the goel, as before understood in the East. The Qurân, on the other hand, formally authorizes the settlement of manslaughter damages by proper payments.3


Throughout Arabia, and Syria, and in various parts of Africa, the first question to be considered in any case of unlawful blood-shedding is, whether the lost life shall be restored-or balanced-by blood, or by some equivalent of blood. Von Wrede says of the custom of the Arabs, in concluding a peace, after tribal hostilities: "If one party has more slain than the other, the shaykh on whose side the advantage lies, says [to the other shaykh]: 'Choose between blood and milk' [between life, and the means of sustaining life]; which is as much as to say, that he may [either] avenge the fallen [take life for life]; or accept blood-money.” 5 Mrs. Finn says, similarly, of the close of a combat in 1 Comp. Exod. 21: 18–27; 22: 14-17; Lev. 27: 1–8. Num. 35: 30-34.

3 Sooras, 2 and 17.

Livingstone and Stanley on several occasions made payments, or had them made, to avoid a conflict on a question of blood. See, e. g. Trav. and Res. in So. Africa, pp. 390, 368–370, 482 f., The Congo, I., 520–527. 5 Reise in Hadhramaut, p. 199.

Palestine: "A computation is generally made of the losses on either side by death, wounds, etc., and the balance is paid to the victors." 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.'"3 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.

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

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

1 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; 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 2 See page 132 f., supra.

1 See pages 126-133, supra.

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

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