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Bible Dictionaries

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary

Murder

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Among the Hebrews murder was always punished with death; but involuntary homicide, only by banishment. Cities of refuge were appointed for involuntary manslaughter, whither the slayer might retire and continue in safety till the death of the high priest, Numbers 35:28 . Then the offender was at liberty to return to his own house, if he pleased. A murderer was put to death without remission, and the kinsman of the murdered person might kill him with impunity. Money could not redeem his life: he was dragged away from the altar, if he had there taken refuge. When a dead body was found in the fields of a person slain by a murderer unknown, Moses commanded that the elders and judges of the neighbouring places should resort to the spot, Deuteronomy 21:1-8 . The elders of the city nearest to it were to take a heifer which had never yet borne the yoke, and were to lead it into some rude and uncultivated place, which had not been ploughed or sowed, where they were to cut its throat. The priests of the Lord, with the elders and magistrates of the city, were to come near the dead body, and, washing their hands over the heifer that had been slain, were to say, "Our hands have not shed this blood, nor have our eyes seen it shed. Lord, be favourable to thy people Israel, and impute not to us this blood, which has been shed in the midst of our country." This ceremony may inform us how much horror they conceived at the crime of murder; and it shows their fear that God might avenge it on the whole country; which was supposed to contract pollution by the blood spilt in it, unless it were expiated, and avenged on him who had occasioned it, if he could be discovered.

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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Murder'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/wtd/m/murder.html. 1831-2.

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