CITY OF REFUGE (Deb. 'ir miylat). A town reserved as a temporary asylum for homi cides fleeing from the vengeance of the avenger of blood. The phrase refers particularly to the Jewish form of the right of asylum, which has existed, in most primitive societies, as a device for mitigating the excesses of private vengeance and for securing some form of legal inquiry into the offense charged. Such asylum, sanctioned and protected by law, is clearly a survival from the protection which the man-slayer sought and found in his own family or tribe, early law per mitting the lex talionis, or right of retaliation, on behalf of the injured family or tribe, so as the malefactor was at large. Asylum once having been gained, the responsibility for the crime was transferred to the pro tecting the wrong-doer, the compensation due be ing a money payment, the amount of which was regulated by la W.
According to biblical law, there were six cities in any one who committed murder unin tentionally could find an asylum (Num. xxxv.). Three of these cities—Bezer, Ramoth in Gilead, and Golan in Bashan—were east of the Jordan: the other three—Kedesh in Galilee. Sheelient, and liebron—were to the west. If the murderer reached any of these cities, he was safe from the blood-avenger (Num. xxxv. 12; Dent. iv. 41-43; Joshua xx. 2-9; Ex. xxi. 13; Dent. xix. 4-10). While the Law itself, in its present form in the Book of Numbers, belongs to the post exilic period, there arc certain features of it which are more ancient. The three refuge cities to the west of the Jordan are all ancient sanctuaries, and were probably, from a much older period even than the Hebrew con quest of Palestine. asylums under the protection of the deities worshiped in the phi ces named. The city of refuge is thus an institution grow ing out of the ancient custom. widely prevalent, made every sacred spot. every altar as the resting-plaec of a deity. a place of refuge. within whose domain even animals welt' safe from the attacks of inan. The oldest Ilebre•
legislation (Ex. xxi. 12-14) recognizes this law ofasyluni, while excluding from its protection the willful murderer. who is to be seized even at the altar of Jehovah (Ex. xxi. 14). it was the purpose of the religions reforms in stituted by King Josiah (q.v.) to recognize the sanctity of only one sanetuary—that of dent salem—the asylums connected with the numer ous sacred places naturally lost their force. Accordingly, to overcome the difficulty involved in obliging a murderer in any part of the coun try to tlee to •Ierusalem, the six cities above men tioned were recognized as places of refuge, with eventual provision of three more in Philistia. Phomieia. and Cale-Syria (Dent. xix. 8-10). In the legislation in Numbers (chap. xxxv.), which is later than further provision is made: (1) The murderer is not to go un punished, but is to be taken from his asylum to be tried in piddle, in order to check lawless. floss. which prevailed through the survival of the blood-feud customs to a late day: (2) the man-slayer who had been acquitted was safe, upon the death of the high-priest in whose time the murder was committed, to return to his home. All privileges of the blood-avenger ceased with the death of the high-priest, and any violence on the part of the bluod•avenger would be regarded as willful murder: whereas, previous to the death of the high-priest. the manslayer, even after acquittal, had to be on his guard. and if slain by the blood-avenger, his death could not be punished. It is doubtful whether the system provided for in Numbers was ever actually car ried out, though in the days of Greek and Roman supremacy many cities of Syria enjoyed special privileges as asylums, and according to Josephus (Antiq. xiii. 2. 3) Jerusalem was in Anded in the number. Consult Fi:rster, hestsylis tirlecorum (Berlin). See. also, RIGHT OF; IILOOD•FEUD; 131.00D-MONEY.