Death punishment, was Monotheism was: "admittedly syncretistic..

Jonathan D. Safren yon_saf at
Sun Jan 27 14:07:04 EST 2002

[Liz Fried]This is my understanding as well. Therefore, a person who murders his slave isnot subject to a legal proceeding. If the slave has a family member to avenge his death,then the family member can try to do so, I suppose. But how likely is it?A slave then does not have the status a free person, which is no different from Hammurabi's Code. 

[LizFried]} I'm not sure about this.It seems if so, then it would say mut, yamut. I don't think a punishment,

[Bearpecs at] I think Milgrom would say that 'mot yumat' applies to judicial execution by a court following a trial, whereas "naqom yenaqem" applies to blood vengeance by a family member.   
Milgrom maintains that "karet" means that G-d will cut off the guilty party's bloodline, and possibly also that he will be denied an afterlife. ---

Not having Milgrom's commentary (do you mean his Anchor Bible commentary on Leviticus or his JPS Torah COmmentary on Numbers?) at home, I wouldn't venture to guess what he might say on this matter.
But I suggest you both compare the murder law in Ex. 21:12-14 to the murder/cities of refuge law in Lev. 35:9-34. Both specify the punishment as "mot yumat" (and not, as I mistakenly wrote, "mot yamut").
In both cases the murderer flees to a place of refuge; Exodus has "place" and "altar", while Numbers has "cities of refuge". 

In Num. 35, the murderer can indeed be judged by a court, but this happens only if the murderer reaches  the city of refuge. If the court finds the suspect guilty, then he is not allowed to stay in the city and the "blood redeemer" can kill him when/wherever he finds him. This is so also if the murderer does not reach the city of refuge, or leaves it even after havng been found innocent..
In Exodus likewise, even though a court is not specified, a deliberate murderer may be taken from the altar to die.

Because of the similarity of the two laws, because the term "mot yumat" is used in both laws, because execution by "blood redeemer" is mentioned in the supposedly late Priestly law of Num. 35, because the murderer in Ex. 21 has to "flee to a place", I conclude that both in Exodus and Leviticus, execution is carried out by a family member, the blood redeemer, as blood vengeance.

Jonathan D. Safren
Dept. of Biblical Studies
Beit Berl College

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