CHAPTER TWO. Blood Feud and State Control

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EACH OF the legal sources in the Pentateuch refers to homicide and assumes

that the life of the manslayer was in grave danger. The Priestly law stipulates

(Num 35:9–34):

9 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 10 Speak to the Israelites and say

to them: when you cross the Jordan into the land of Canaan, 11 you

shall make accessible1 for yourselves cities to serve as cities of refuge

for you, to which a slayer who strikes down a person by mistake may

flee. 12 The cities shall be as a refuge from the avenger, so that the

1The use of the root hrq in Hiphil in this passage is problematic. Ibn Janah and Ibn Ezra associate

it with hryq, “city,” and Ibn Ezra renders the verb as “you shall build (cities).” Saadiah connects it

with a-r-q, “to name,” understanding it as “you shall appoint.” The Targums and Rashi render

it with @x· z· , translating it apparently as “you shall provide/prepare.” (So Rashi understands Gen

27:20.) BDB defines the verb as “to cause cities to occur rightly for yourselves, i.e. select cities

as suitable” (899). Although the other occurrences of the root in Hiphil in Gen 24:12; 27:20

are generally rendered “to cause/grant success,” the verb in these verses more likely indicates a

chance or unanticipated occurrence. Gen 24:12 would, therefore, read: “The Lord, God of my

master Abraham, I beseech you, make it appear before me.” In Gen 27:20, Esau explains his

quick return from hunting: “for the Lord, your God, made it appear before me.” The Hiphil

hrqh, therefore, has the connotation of easy accessibility. See Baruch A. Levine, Numbers 2136

(AB; Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 2001), 554.

slayer shall not die before he has stood2 trial before the assembly.

13 The cities which are appointed shall be six cities of refuge in total.

14 Three you shall appoint beyond the Jordan, and three you shall

appoint in the land of Canaan: they shall be cities of refuge. 15 The

six cities shall be as refuge for the Israelites and the resident alien

among them, so that anyone who kills unintentionally may flee there.

16 If a person strikes another with an iron tool so that [the victim]

dies, he is a murderer3 – the murderer shall surely be put to death.

17 If a person strikes another with a stone tool that can kill so that

the victim dies, he is a murderer – the murderer shall surely be put to

death. 18 If a person strikes another with a wooden tool that can kill

so that the victim dies, he is a murderer – the murderer shall surely

be put to death. 19 The blood avenger himself shall put the murderer

to death: whenever he meets him he shall put him to death. 20 If a

person pushed him in hatred or aimed something at him on purpose,

21 or struck him with his hand in enmity, so that the victim dies, he is

a murderer – the blood avenger shall kill him when he meets him. 22 If

he pushed him suddenly without enmity or aimed an object at him

unintentionally, 23 or without4 looking dropped an object of stone

that can kill, so that the victim dies – though he was not his enemy

and did not seek his harm5 – 24 the assembly shall judge between the

slayer and the blood avenger according to these rules. 25 The assembly

shall protect the slayer from the blood avenger, and the assembly shall

return him to the city of refuge to which he fled; he shall remain there

until the death of the high priest who was anointed with the sacred

oil. 26 If the slayer ever goes outside the limits of the city of refuge to

which he has fled, 27 and the blood avenger comes upon him outside

the limits of his city of refuge, and the blood avenger kills the slayer,

there is no bloodguilt. 28 For he must remain in his city of refuge until

the death of the high priest: after the death of the high priest, the slayer

may return to his ancestral land. 29 These shall be as your ordinance

of procedure throughout the generations in all your settlements. 30 If

anyone strikes down a person, the killer shall be killed only on the

2The verb appears to be a legal term for trial (Num 27:2; Deut 19:17; Josh 20:6; Isa 50:8). See

Jacob Milgrom, Numbers (The JPS Bible Commentary; Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication

Society, 1989), 331.

3The normal order of a verbless clause is predicate-subject. Cf. Waltke-O’Connor, An Introduction

to Biblical Hebrew Syntax, 132–134. The order is reversed here to emphasize the word

jxr, “murderer.”

4The negation of an infinitive construct is ytlb as in Gen 3:11. Here, the negation al is part of

an unusual preposition alb, “without,” which is also found in Prov 19:2. Cf. GKC, §152.

5The usual negation of nominal clauses, especially with a participle, is @ya (e.g., Deut 4:12) –

the use of al here is apparently influenced by the circumstantial character of the verse. Circumstantial

clauses are negated by al.

testimony of witnesses: a single witness shall not be sufficient for a

sentence of death. 31You shall not accept compensation for the life

of a killer who is guilty of a capital offense, for he shall surely be

put to death. 32You shall not take compensation from one who has

fled to a city of refuge to return to live at large before the death of

the high priest. 33You shall not pollute the land in which you are

in, for the blood itself pollutes the land: expiation cannot be made

on behalf of the land for the blood that was shed in it except by

the blood of him who shed it. 34You shall not defile the land which

you are inhabiting, in which I dwell, for I the Lord dwell among the


The book of Deuteronomy declares (Deut 19:1–13):

1When the Lord your God has cut down the nations whose land

the Lord your God is giving to you, and you dispossess them and

settle in their cities and homes, 2 you shall set apart three cities in

your land, which the Lord your God is giving you to inherit. 3 You

shall determine the distance and divide the limits of your land, which

the Lord your God has allotted to you, into three, so that any slayer

may flee there. 4 This is the type of slayer who may flee there and live:

whoever slays his fellow without intent and was not hostile to him in

the past. 5 Whoever came with his fellow into the forest to cut wood:

as his hand swings the ax to cut down the tree, the ax-head falls off

the handle and hits the other so that he dies – that man shall flee to

one of these cities and live, 6 lest the blood avenger pursuing him in

his hot anger, overtakes him and slays him because the distance is too

great, yet he was not liable to the death penalty because he was not

hostile to him in the past. 7 Therefore, I command you to set apart

three cities. 8 If the Lord your God extends your boundaries, as he

swore to your fathers, and gives you all the land which he promised

to them, 9 because you observe the instruction that I command you

this day, to love the Lord your God and to walk in his ways at all

times, you shall add three more cities to these three. 10 The blood

of the innocent shall not be shed in the land which the Lord your

God is giving to you, imputing bloodguilt upon you. 11 If a person

is hostile to another and lies in wait and strikes him mortally so

that he dies, and flees to one of these towns, 12 the elders of his

town shall send and take him back from there and deliver him to the

blood avenger so that he dies. 13You shall not have pity on him, but

shall make expiation of the blood of the innocent, and it will be well

with you.

The threat of the family’s agent is assumed by the statute in the Book of the

Covenant, Exod 21:12–14:

12 Whoever fatally strikes a man shall surely be put to death. 13 If [the

killer] did not lie in wait,6 but God caused it to meet his hand, then

I will appoint for you a place to which he may flee. 14 But if a man

willfully attacks a man to kill him treacherously, you shall take him

from my altar to be put to death.

In biblical Israel, the victim’s family assumed primary responsibility for

ensuring that the slayer was held accountable for his offense. A member of

the family had the right and responsibility to kill the slayer and could do

so with impunity under certain conditions. This agent of justice was called

!dh lag, generally translated as “the blood avenger.”

It is best to understand this process as self-redress or blood feud, when

the victim’s kin avenges the killing by killing the slayer. This label allows us

to link this process to two essential characteristics of blood feud: It is local in

nature, and it is rule-bound.7 These characteristics are interrelated because

blood feud is a legal mechanism that both assures the redress of wrongs

and controls the violence to a level tolerable in a community. Blood feud

6The root h-r-x is a synonym for the more common root ·b-r-a. However, it stresses the aspect

of planning and watching for an opportunity to entrap, rather than the aspect of hiding. Cf.

Lam 4:18; 1 Sam 24:12; Num 35:20, 22. (Zeph 3:6 is derived from a homophonous root

meaning “to lay waste”.) Menahem, according to Rashi, associates it with hunting.

7Max Gluckman, “The Peace in the Feud,” Past and Present 8 (1955), 1–14. An alternate

version of this article is found in the author’s Custom and Conflict in Africa (Oxford: Basil

Blackwell, 1965), 1–26. The term feud has been used to characterize a bewildering variety

of phenomena, from an individual’s single act of retaliation, both lethal and nonlethal, for

murder, injury, and insult to continuous acts of full-scale aggression between large groups. Cf.

E. E. Evans-Pritchard, The Nuer: A Description of Their Modes of Livelihood and Political

Institutions of a Nilotic People (Oxford: Clarendon, 1940), 151–160; Gluckman, “The Peace

in the Feud,” 6–9; Gluckman, Politics, Law and Ritual in Tribal Society (Oxford: Basil

Blackwell, 1977), 111–112; Marc Bloch, Feudal Society (trans. L. A. Manyon; Chicago:

University of Chicago Press, 1974 [1961]), 138; Jenny Wormald, “The Blood Feud in Early

Modern Scotland,” in Disputes and Settlements: Law and Human Relations in the West

(ed. John Bossy; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983), 113, 115–116; Jacob

Black-Michaud, Cohesive Force: Feud in the Mediterranean and the Middle East (Oxford:

Basil Blackwell, 1975), 23; J. M. Wallace-Hadrill, “The Blood Feud of the Franks,” in

The Long-Haired Kings (Medieval Academy Reprints for Teaching 11; Toronto: University

of Toronto Press, 1982 [1962]), 143; Norbert Rouland, Legal Anthropology (trans.

Phillippe G. Planel; Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994), 277; Bernice Calmes Caudill,

Pioneers of Eastern Kentucky: Their Feuds and Settlements (Cincinnati, Ohio: Privately

printed, 1969); Keith F. Otterbein and Charlotte Swanson Otterbein, “An Eye for an Eye,

A Tooth for a Tooth: A Cross-Cultural Study of Feuding,” American Anthropologist 67

(1965), 1470–1482; J. K. Campbell, Honour, Family, and Patronage: A Study of Institutions

and Moral Values in a Greek Mountain Community (Oxford: Clarendon, 1964), 97, 173,

194, 196–197, 264; Joseph Ginat, Blood Disputes Among Bedouin and Rural Arabs in

Israel (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1987), 21–27, 40–59; Thomas M. Kiefer,

is not a paroxysm of rage, careening out of control. The biblical texts that

deal with homicide assume that there are constraints on the power of the

victim’s family to effect vengeance. The actions of the blood avenger were

to be channeled into certain options: His actions were not unfettered. They

were not wild justice or a step outside the law.

The rule-boundedness of blood feud was manifest in the limitation on

which individuals were involved. Only the slayer was subject to action, not

anyone else, whether having a connection to him or not. Only a specific

member of the victim’s family, !dh lag, had the right and responsibility to kill

the slayer with impunity.

Another major restriction on the actions of the avenger in the Hebrew

Bible was the existence of a place of sanctuary for the killer.8 From the

The Tausug: Violence and Law in a Philippine Moslem Society (Case Studies in Cultural

Anthropology; New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc., 1972).

Objections have been made to subsuming such varied phenomena under the rubric of feud.

First, the limited violence that occurs in many societies when a murder has occurred has led

to reservations about calling such events manifestations of feud. Second, some observers have

hesitated to identify feud as law because of the lack of an authority imposing a settlement. Cf.

Leopold Posp´ıˇsil, Anthropology of Law: A Comparative Theory (New Haven, Connecticut:

HRAF Press, 1974), 4–5, 8–9; E. Adamson Hoebel, The Law of Primitive Man: A Study in

Comparative Legal Dynamics (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1954),


Formulating a clear distinction between a chain of revenge and a single act of retribution

executed on the offender is useful in highlighting the varying magnitudes of violence. However,

it must be noted that prolonged violence in general is rare and, therefore, using this definition

of feud removes it, at least on a semantic level, from most traditional, preindustrial societies.

In fact, the word “feud” continues to be used by most anthropologists for self-redress because

of the potential threat of violence without the emphasis on prolonged violence. This appears

correct in my judgment.

8Even though I have cast this in terms of restriction, it is incorrect to posit the existence of

completely unfettered blood feud. Biblical scholars have argued that originally, vengeance could

be taken of any killler, whether intentional or unintentional, and was only later restricted to

the intentional offender in the development of restrictions on blood vengeance in ancient Israel

(cf. Brevard Childs, The Book of Exodus [OTL; Philadelphia: Westminster, 1974], 457, 470;

Baruch Halpern, “Jerusalem and the Lineages in the Seventh Century BCE: Kinship and the

Rise of Individual Moral Responsibility,” in Law and Ideology in Monarchic Israel [JSOTSup

124; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1991], 11–107; Henry McKeating, “Development of

the Law of Homicide in Ancient Israel,” VT 25 [1975], 46–47, and Milgrom, Numbers, 291).

But such a stage in social development is based on theoretical assumptions about the growth

of primitive societies, a type of inquiry generally abandoned by contemporary anthropologists.

Most recent anthropologists have shied away from producing evolutionary theories and have

concentrated on the synchronic analysis of the societies they study. Cf. Laura Nader, “The

Anthropological Study of Law,” in Law and Anthropology (ed. Peter Sack and Jonathan Aleck;

The International Library of Essays in Law and Legal Theory; New York: New York University

Press, 1992), 3–32; June Starr and Jane F. Collier, “Historical Studies of Legal Change,” in Law

and Anthropology, 105–110; Norman Yoffee, “Too Many Chiefs? (or, Safe Texts for the 90s),”

in Archaeological Theory: Who Sets the Agenda? (ed. Norman Yoffee and Andrew Sherratt;

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 1993), 60–78. The contemporary study of disputes

moment of the killing itself, the slayer was threatened by the blood avenger.

The family’s assumption of the initiative in remedying the wrong was the

direct motivation for the existence of sanctuary and was tempered by the

existence of sanctuary. The fugitive’s arrival in a place of refuge put a hold

on the actions of the blood avenger. He could not lay a hand on the fugitive.

By having impunity to kill the slayer whatever the circumstances from the

time of the killing until the slayer reached a place of sanctuary, the agent of

the victim’s family ensured that the slayer would go to a refuge and thereupon

be judged for his actions. The violence of self-redress acted as a threat: It

was an impetus to a formal trial and away from violence.

The slayer’s intention was not taken into account at this stage of the

process, and the only way he could attempt to claim mitigating circumstances

was to seek refuge in a place of sanctuary and acknowledge that he was the

killer. Ironically, only by going to a sanctuary and thereby identifying himself

as the killer without any denial or dissembling on his part could the killer

claim that the death was accidental.

Another major restriction was the interference of others in judging

whether the accused killer was guilty. Once the slayer entered the city of

refuge, he was subject to trial to determine whether he was an intentional

or an accidental slayer (Num 35:24; Deut 19:12). This decision limited the

ability of !dh lag to effect vengeance because if the slayer was judged to be

an accidental killer, he was permitted to stay in the city of refuge safe from

the avenger. Only if the slayer was determined to be an intentional killer was

he handed over to the avenger for execution. This procedure introduces an

element of objectivity into the process. Other people who are not the victim’s

kin determine the level of culpability the accused possesses in the death. The

omniscient narrator in Genesis 4 can conveniently produce an omniscient

Deity to judge Cain, but human beings do not have the talent of an infallible

ability to determine fault and, therefore, certain procedures to make such a

determination as objective as possible must be designed.

In all the legal sources, the avenger, !dh lag, acted as executioner. Although

it may appear that his role was reduced to nothing more than carrying out

the judgment of the court,9 it was his assumption in the first place of the

responsibility to avenge the killing by killing the killer that forced the killer

to seek refuge. Blood vengeance was the basis of the entire process for prosecuting

and punishing a killer. It was rule-bound, with a safe haven for the

has also presented a challenge to the self-help theory. The idea that fighting precedes talking

in the evolution of societies is contradicted by the appearance of fighting and talking side by

side in the same culture. Violence does not give way to negotiation at a certain level of social

development. Rather, both are present, albeit realized in different ways in different societies.

Cf. Simon Roberts, “The Study of Dispute: Anthropological Perspectives,” in Disputes and

Settlements: Law and Human Relations in the West (ed. John Bossy; Cambridge: Cambridge

University Press, 1983), 8–9.

9Cf. Milgrom, Numbers, 217.

killer and procedures for determining his guilt. The places of refuge acted

as a check on the right of !dh lag to kill the slayer with impunity. He could

not kill a slayer while the slayer remained within the city of refuge. Courts

of various constitutions determined whether the killing was intentional or

accidental. The intentional killer was handed over to !dh lag, whereas the

accidental killer was sheltered from him.

What is important to recognize is that, unlike the modern Western criminal

court system, which has specialized personnel for identifying and arresting,

prosecuting, judging, and punishing offenders, including killers, the

legal system of ancient Israel was responsible for regulating the right of the

victim’s family to effect a remedy, not for initiating the prosecution of a killer

or for remedying the killing, a radically different concept.10 In such a legal

system, a relative of the victim, !dh lag, initiates the process and ensures that

punishment takes place.

The legal system reflects the singular role of the family in ancient Israel’s

social structure. The family consisted of a family per se, ba tyb, which in turn

was part of a hjp`m, a lineage or protective association of extended families,

that operated when the family was unable to solve a problem on its own.11

In fact, the term hjp`m is a term of relationship expressing kinship, real or fictional,

unconnected to ownership of land.12 This understanding emphasizes

the communal association of the members of a hjp`m for their socioeconomic

benefit, rather than merely a matter of blood ties. A feeling of kinship may be

based on other factors in addition to genealogy. Territoriality, for example,

was an important aspect of hjp`m.13 Certain towns were assimilated into

lists of twjp`m.14 Names of villages were identified with ancestors (Mic 5:2;

10Even in the case when the victim could not be identified (and presumably his family had not

come forward searching for him), a local body representing the local community, the elders of

a town, not a state mechanism, would come forward on an ad hoc basis to address the problem

(Deut 21:1–13).

11Norman K. Gottwald, in The Tribes of Yahweh: A Sociology of the Religion of Liberated

Israel, 12501050 B.C.E. (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis, 1979), 267, 298–302. His primary

proof that the members of a hjp`m were not related by blood is that taboos of sexual relationships

between cousins that operated for a kinship group are absent in the rules regulating

relationships, such as in Leviticus 18: a kinship group of the next higher order above a family,

one that consisted of related families, was therefore exogamous, whereas a hjp`m was endogamous.

Within a hjp`m, permitting endogamy means that the members of a hjp`m were not

related. Shunya Bendor correctly recognizes that this factor did not necessarily prevent kinship

(The Social Structure of Ancient Israel [Jerusalem Biblical Studies 7; Jerusalem: Simor, 1996],

82–86). Bendor also makes a distinction between compelling endogamy and allowing endogamy

by noting that Numbers 36, by prescribing endogomy, presumed that exogamy was an alternate

possibility under normal circumstances.

12 Levine, Numbers 2136, 334.

13C. J. H. Wright, “Family,” ABD 2.762; Elizabeth Bellefontaine, “Customary Law and

Chieftainship: Judicial Aspects of 2 Samuel 14:4–21,” JSOT 38 (1987), 50.

14For example, the towns of Shechem, Tirzah, and Hepher (Gen 34; Josh 12:17, 24) were

included in the twjp`m of Manasseh (Josh 17:26; Num 26:30–33).

1 Chr 2:5 versus 4:4). Land was allotted according to twjp`m (Josh 13:15;

Num 33:54). Degrees of kinship were left inexact.15 All further degrees of

kinship beyond father’s brother were merged; no distinctions were made between

cousins.16 Kinship was not determined in finite steps of genealogy.

The term hjp`m, then, refers to a group that has assumed kinship ties, even

if technically a blood relationship was tenuous, even nonexistent.

Family ties in biblical Israel were not so much a matter of genealogical

relations as of responsibilities. What is critical to understand about kinship is

that it is a way of talking about rights and duties, about the claims individuals

make on others, and about how obligations are accepted or denied, not

simply a matter of blood ties. The blood avenger as a member of the victim’s

family takes on a duty on behalf of the victim that obviously the victim


The responsibility of the lineage in the adjudication of homicide was not

anomalous. A lineage had other responsibilities in the legal arena. A lag,

redeemer, was a close male relative who was obligated to reclaim land sold

by a member of his lineage (Lev 25:25; Jer 32:7–8; Ruth 3:12, 4:3–4) and to

redeem a relative sold into slavery (Lev 25:47–49). He acted on behalf of a

powerless person in the restoration of lost property.

In biblical law, the victim’s family assumed the primary responsibility

for responding to the slaying of one of its members. By contrast, the members

of the victim’s family did not have to assume that responsibility in

Mesopotamian law. They had the right to make a claim on the slayer, but

the slayer was not in mortal danger from a blood avenger waiting to strike

him down. There were, of course, angry Mesopotamians who would have

wanted to strike down the killer, but they did not have the legal right to do

so with impunity. In some cases, the victim’s family might have played a role

in determining the penalty, but it must be emphasized that the members of

the victim’s family were not otherwise involved in the remedy.

Indeed, in Mesopotamian law, those outside the victim’s family ensured

that the offense was remedied. The right of making a charge of homicide

seems to be fairly general: The initiative did not specifically devolve upon

the victim’s family. Anyone could initiate the legal process by informing the

authorities. An official investigation would then ensue. As a result, charges

could be brought up, but a trial was necessary before any punishment could

be inflicted, a stark contrast to the right of !dh lag to strike down the slayer

once the homicide occurred. According to the first statute in the Laws of

Hammurapi, the first of an introductory series of laws on procedure, a private

person can lay a charge of homicide against another person, in this case, an

unsubstantiated accusation. The relationship of this private citizen to the

victim is unstated.

15Gottwald, The Tribes of Yahweh, 265.

16Cf. Lev 25:48–49; Num 27:11.

If a man accuses another man and charges him with homicide but

then cannot bring proof against him, his accuser shall be killed.

In a twenty-first century b.c.e. text (from the Ur III period), NSG 202, the

victim’s widow charged a particular individual with the death of her husband

before the authorities. By contrast, in the Nippur Murder Trial of the early

Old Babylonian period, the widow refrained from informing the authorities,

which led to her conviction as an accessory. The authorities must have been

notified by others, perhaps suspicious friends or neighbors. In another Ur III

document, NSG 121, a man reported to the governor that he has heard a

rumor about a homicide.

1 I dnanna-ki-´aga dumu-lugal-ad-da-ke4

2 ens´ı-ra 3 AN-zi-KA sa-gaz

lu´ mu-na-<a5> 4 in-na-an-dug4

5 ur-dma-mi maˇskim-ˇs`e in-da-an-gi4

6 dnanna-ki-a´ga-e 7 lu´ a-na b´ı-in-dug4-ga 8 mu-na-an-


ha 9 sa-gaz-a5-

asˇ la-ba-gi-in 10 Ibi-da-ti 11 a-gu-za nu-ba`nda-ar 12 tu´m-mu-un ba-naab-


13 a-gu-za `ı-tu´mu b´ı-in-dug4

14 `ı-lum-ma nu-ba`nda-ar 15 lu´

nag-suki-ta 16 dnanna-ki-a´ga-da in-da-gin-na 17 tu´m-mu-un in-na-andug4

18 `ı-lum-ma maˇskim-ˇs`e- `am nu-un-da-gi4

19 SU-nam-´ILA.NE-`am

in-da-gi4 b´ı-dug4

20 igi-a-m[u-a]-ˇs`e 21 igi-[x x x]-ˇs`e 22 igi-n[a-x x] x-

ˇs`e 23 igi-da-ti-ˇs`e 24 igi-g`ıri-n´e-i-ˇsa6-sukkala-ˇs`e 25 itu-RI mu en-eriduki




1–4 Nannaki’aga, son of Lugaladda, told the governor that someone

killed another in . . . 5He sent Urmami the bailiff with him.

6–8 Nannaki’aga presented to him the one against whom he had

given his statement. 9 That this one committed the murder was

not ascertained. 10–12He said to Bidati and Aguzu, the inspector:

“Bring him there.” 13 Aguza said: “I will bring him there.” 14–17He

said to Ilumma, the collector, who came from Nagsu together with

Nannaki’aga: “Bring him there.” 18–19 Ilumma said [that] because

he is a bailiff, he will not return with him, [but] SU-nam-ILANE

will return with him. 20–25Witness, Amu’a. Witness . . .Witness,

Na. . .Witness, Dati. Witness, Girine’isha, the courier. The month of

RI, year in which the en-priestess of Eridu was enthroned.

It does not appear that Nannaki’aga has witnessed the homicide but merely

has come across a rumor about one. He informed the governor, who assigned

a bailiff to investigate.

Neo-Assyrian law concerning homicide occupies an intermediate position

between biblical law and the law of the rest of Mesopotamia – there was

no threat of blood feud, but there was a group response. The slayer and his

social group, the town in which he lived, initiated the process by formally

assuming the responsibility for making restitution to the claimant from the

victim’s family before the claimant ever arrived.

ADD 618 is an acknowledgment of debt obligation: The right of the victim’s

family to demand compensation and the responsibility of the villagers

from the killer’s village to pay compensation were formally recognized.17

The person of the killer was no longer of concern: If he died or escaped, the

village was still obligated.


1 na4KIˇSIB I dUTU-tak-lak 2 na4KIˇSIB Iib-ta-aˇs!-GIˇS 3 na4KIˇSIB Itab-laa-

a 4 na4KIˇSIB Ieri-du10-a-a 5 na4KIˇSIB IU+GUR.PAP.PAP 6 na4KIˇSIB

Isi-lim-DINGIR 7 na4KIˇSIB Imu-qa-l´ıl-IDIM 8 na4KIˇSIB IU.PAP.PAP

9 na4KIˇSIB IAˇS.GIˇS 10 na4KIˇSIB Isa-a-ri-u-ni 11 na4KIˇSIB urusa-ma-naa-

a gab-bu (cylinder seal of fish man) 12 Is.

i-ri-i : EN UˇS.MEˇS 13 ˇsa

Isi-lim-DINGIR 14 GAZ-u-ni


15 ina IGI-sˇu´ -nu lu-u MUNUS-sˇu 16 lu-u SˇESˇ -sˇu´ lu-u DUMU-sˇu

17 man-nu ˇs ´a e-la-a-ni 18 ˇsu-nu UˇS.MEˇS u´ -sˇal-lumu 19 IGI Itardi-

tu´ -asˇ+sˇur LU´ .3-sˇu´ 20 IGI I dPA.SAG-i-sˇi 21 LU´ .NI´.GAB 22 IGI

I dNUSKU.PAP.AˇS 23 LU´ .sˇa´ UGU qa-na-te 24 IGI Iman-nu-ki-d10

LU´ .I`.DU8

25 IGI Iasˇ+sˇur-MU.ASˇ LU´ .GAL 26 sˇa´ LU´ .GAL

SUM.NINDA 27 IGI IAD-ul-ZU 3-sˇu´ 28 IGI I dPA-u-a A.B[A]

29 ITU.APIN UD 3 KAM 30 lim-me INU.TEˇS

1–11 Seal of Shamash-takl—ak, seal of Ibt—ash-l—eshir, seal of Tabl—aya, seal

of Erid—aya, seal of Nergal-a


hu-us.ur, seal of Silim-ili, seal of Muqallilkabti,

seal of Adad-ahu-us.ur, seal of Edu-t—eshir, seal of Sariuni, seal

of the entire city of Sam—anu. 12–15S.

—ıri, the owner of the blood, whom

Silim-ili killed, is their responsibility. 15–17 Whoever appears among

them [to claim compensation], whether it is his wife, his brother, or

his son, 18 they themselves shall pay the blood money. 19–30Witness:

Tarditu-Assur, the third rider on the chariot.Witness: Nabu-r—esh-ishi

the doorkeeper. Witness: Nusku-a


h-iddin, the official in charge of

the reeds. Witness: Mannu-ki-Adad, the doorkeeper. Witness: Assursum-

iddin, the captain of the victualer. Witness: Abu-ul-idi, the third

rider on the chariot. Witness: Nabua, the scribe. 8th month, third

day, eponym of L—ab—ashi (657 b.c.e.).

Siri had arrived to claim compensation from Silim-ili for a homicide, but

the killer Silim-ili struck again, killingS.

iri. Since the victim was not a native,

there were no relatives in the vicinity to claim compensation. Nonetheless, the

17A detailed study of the Neo-Assyrian texts is found in an appendix to this chapter.

village where S.

ilim-ili resided did possess corporate responsibility for compensating

the victim’s kinsmen. Ten of the villagers formally assumed responsibility

and promised to make restitution to any claimant from the victim’s

family. ADD 618 represents the first stages in a case of unlawful death, when

the rights of the victim’s family and the obligations of the killer and his community

are formally recognized, in this case by the killer’s community.18

When the claimant did arrive, negotiations ensued, and the parties came

to terms on the type and quantity of property to be handed over. Execution

of the slayer was a threat only if he did not pay (ADD 321).


(beginning destroyed) (blank seal space) 1_ [u´ ]-ma-a it-ta-at-ru-us.

2_ [is!]-sa-


hi-iˇs GEME2-a-di-im-ri 3_ [DU]MU.MUNUS-su ˇs ´a Ia-tarqa-

mu 4_ [L]´U a-na! I dUTU.DU.PAP DUMU-sˇu´ 5_ ˇs ´a Isa-ma-ku kuum

da-me i-dan 6_ da-me i-ma-si ˇsum-ma MUNUS 7_ la i-din ina UGU

qa-bu-ri 8_ ˇsa Isa-ma-ku i-du-ku-ˇsu 9_ man-nu ˇs ´a ina UGU man-nu

BAL-u-ni 10_ 10 MA.NA KUG.BAB[BAR SU]M-a[n] AN.ˇSA´ R dUTU

11_ a-[de-e ˇs ´a MAN ina ˇS


l]u-ba-[’i-u] . . .


12_ lim-m[u . . . ] 13_ IAN.ˇSA´ R.DU` .A MA[N kurasˇ+sˇur IGI I . . . ]

14_ LU´ .GA[L . . . ] 15_ IGI Ia-da-lal LU´ .DUMU.SˇUII sˇa´ ! [DUMU.MAN]

16_ I[GI I dI]M-ba-ba-u lu´DUMU.SˇUII

17_ ˇsa DUMU.MAN 18_ IGI

Iaˇs+ˇsur-DINGIR-a-a 19_ IGI [x] [ . . .] x x 20_ [ . . . ]-ri 21_ [ . . .] x

1_–6_ It is now mutually agreed: the one who shall give Amat-adimri,

his daughter, that is of Attar-q—amu, to Shamash-k—enu-us.ur, the son

of Samaku [who was killed] in place of blood[-money] and wash

the blood away. 6_–8_ If he does not give the woman, they will kill

him on top of Samaku’s grave. 9_–10_ Whoever breaches the contract

with the other party shall pay 10 minas of silver [1,000

shekels]. 10_–11_ Assur, Shamash, and the oath of the king will call

him to account. 12_–21_ Eponym of . . . of Assurbanipal, king of the

land of Assyria. Witness: . . . , the chief . . .Witness: Adalal, the ma—r

qa—te— of . . .Witness: Adad-Baba— ’u, the ma—r qa—te— of the crown prince.

Witness: Assur-ilaya . . .

In Neo-Assyria, a number of parties assumed active roles in the process of

remedying a homicide. The parties specific to the case asserted their rights

and obligations and assented to the negotiations.

18Martha T. Roth, “Homicide in the Neo-Assyrian Period,” in Language, Literature, and

History: Philological and Historical Studies Presented to Erica Reiner (ed. Francesca Rochberg-

Halton; AOS 67; New Haven, Connecticut: American Oriental Society, 1987), 362.

A role for the victim’s family appears in the Middle Assyrian laws as

well. MAL A 10 reserves the right of the claimant from the victim’s family

to choose between killing the slayer or forcing him to pay.19

MAL A 10

[If either] a man or a woman enters [another man’s] house and kills

[either a man] or a woman, [they shall hand over] the killers [to the

head of the household]. If he chooses, he shall kill them, or if he

chooses to come to an accommodation, he shall take [their property].

And if there is [nothing of value to give from the house] of the killers,

either a son [or a daughter] . . .

The family’s right is the basis of another statute, B 2:


If a man who has not yet received his share of the inheritance

takes a life, they shall hand him over to the next of kin.20 Should

the next of kin so choose, he shall kill him, or if he chooses to

come to an accommodation, then he shall take his share of the


The role of the claimant from the victim’s family here is to decide on the

penalty. In general, it appears, families had the right to either execution or

compensation; the legal institutions of a particular society were required

to preserve the rights of the family to choose. This is to be distinguished

from the role of the avenger in a feud, where the avenger has the right and

responsibility to take the initiative and kill the slayer on sight. In MAL A

10, other individuals have arrested the slayer and have handed him over

to the victim’s family. In Mesopotamia, the victim’s family did not shoulder

the burden of remedying the homicide but could participate in aspects

of the case. The actions of the victim’s family did not have to ensure that the

slaying was punished.21

19If the original penalty was execution that could be mitigated to compensation, it might be

expected that the killer would lose all rights that he would normally enjoy in life at the moment

of conviction. Indeed, MAL B 2 addresses the right of an heir convicted of murder before taking

possession of the inheritance. However, his rights are not curtailed because of his conviction.

If he does remain alive because the victim’s kinsman decides not to kill him, he is entitled to

receive his share of the inheritance.

20Literally, “the owner of life.”

21The Edict of Telepinus 49 is a special case: Although it preserves the right of the claimant

from the victim’s family to choose between killing the slayer or forcing him to pay, it applies

only within the royal family. It is a mid-seventeenth-century text, sketching the state of affairs

of the royal household at the time of Telepinus’s accession. It emphasizes that the prosperity of

the country and royal family depends directly upon harmony within the royal family. Above

all, assassination of the royal princes by other members of the royal household must cease. (Cf.

Edgar H. Sturtevant and George Bechtel, A Hittite Chrestomathy [William Dwight Whitney

The difference in family responsibility results in a striking contrast between

the Mesopotamian and biblical materials in regard to certain technical

terms for the parties involved in remedying the homicide. The Bible’s term,

!dh lag, refers to a relative of the victim, who avenges the killing, whereas

the Mesopotamian documents refer to b—el damˆe, a term that can refer either

to the slayer or to the claimant from the victim’s family.22 The fact that the

term b—el damˆe, “the owner of the blood,” is used to refer to both reflects

the shared responsibility manifest in the Mesopotamian process, where both

parties had to participate, the party making the claim and the party obligated

to discharge the claim. The biblical process, by contrast, focused on

the claimant from the victim’s family.

As we have seen, biblical law on homicide was based on blood feud,

whereas Mesopotamian law was not. This difference between biblical law

and Mesopotamian law has direct ramifications for the types of institutions

involved. Because there was no blood feud and no blood avenger, cities of

refuge were unnecessary and did not exist in Mesopotamia; they were an

essential part of the process where feud was in effect, that is, in the Hebrew


For the same reason, the role of the monarchy and central government is

different in Mesopotamian texts and the Bible. In the Hebrew Bible, their role

is limited. Exod 21:12–14, Lev 24:10–23, Num 35:9–34, and Deut 19:1–13

and 21:1–9 do not portray any involvement by a central administration or

the monarchy. The only reference to a central government is found in Deut

17:8–10, where a local court could appeal to the Levitical priests and the

judge at the central sanctuary for clarification of the law in a difficult case;

the facts of the case were then remanded to a lower court. As to the role

of the king himself, only the narrative of 2 Sam 14:1–17 indicates that the

king could overturn the law.23 However, the king is portrayed as hesitant

Linguistic Series; Philadelphia: Linguistic Society of America, 1935], 200; Inge Hoffmann, Der

Erlass Telipinus [Heidelberg: Carl Winter/Universit ¨ atsverlag, 1984], 52–53.)

27/19_ iˇs-


ha-na-aˇs-ˇsa! ut-tar ki-iˇs-ˇsa-an ku-iˇs e-eˇs-


har i-e-iz-zi nu ku-it e-eˇs-



´ at 28/20_ iˇs-


ha-a-aˇs te-iz-zi t ´ak-ku te-iz-zi a-ku- ˘ ua-ra-aˇs na-aˇs a-ku t ´ak-ku te-iz-zi-ma

29/21_ ˇsar-ni-ik-du- ˘ ua nu ˇsar-ni-ik-du LUGAL-i-ma-pa li-e ku-it-ki

And a case of murder is as follows. Whoever commits murder, whatever the heir himself

of the murdered man says [will be done]. If he says: “Let him die,” he shall die; but if

he says: “Let him pay compensation,” he shall pay compensation. But to the king, he

shall not pay compensation.

The Edict of Telepinus assumes a court process in which the victim’s heir is called upon to decide

the penalty which others carry out.

22Cf. the second appendix to this chapter.

23In general in the Pentateuch, the role of the king is ignored. While this might tell us more

about the Pentateuch than legal procedures, even in Deuteronomy, the one Pentateuchal text

that acknowledges the monarchy, the king’s role in the legal process is submerged. The limited

role of the king in adjudicating cases is reflected in texts throughout the Hebrew Bible. First, 2

as to whether he ought to become involved. The wise woman presents her

case, King David equivocates, and the wise woman presses him to clarify his


4 The Tekoite woman spoke to the king: she flung her face to the

ground and prostrated herself, and she said, “Help, O king.” 5 The

king said to her, “What is the matter with you?” and she said, “Alas,

I am a widow, my husband is dead. 6Your maidservant had two

sons. The two of them fought in the field where there was no one

to intervene, and one of them struck down the other and killed him.

7 The entire family has now come to your maidservant and said, ‘Give

up the one who killed his brother that we may put him to death for

his brother, whom he killed, even though we kill the heir.’ They will

extinguish my last ember, without leaving my husband a name or

remnant upon the earth.” 8 The king said to the woman, “Go home.

I will issue an order for you.” 9 The Tekoite woman said to the king,

“My lord king, may the sin be upon me and my father’s house: the

king and his throne are innocent.” 10 The king said, “If anyone says

anything to you, bring him to me, and he will not trouble you any

more.” 11 She said, “May the king remember the Lord your God

and restrain the blood avenger from destroying so that my son not

be killed.” The king said, “As the Lord lives, not a hair of your son

shall fall to the ground.”

The widow herself admits that the king bears no responsibility: He is innocent,

yqn – the clan has the responsibility – but the grieving mother argues

that clan retaliation would be excessive because it would destroy not only

the remaining son but also the paternal line.24

Sam 14:1–17, where, as we saw, the king does play a role, has, in fact, been identified as part of

the Succession Narrative, a product of a court historian during Solomon’s reign that was reused

by the D circle of writers. A product of the royal court would most likely exaggerate the king’s

role, not reduce it. Second, the Chronicler’s History, an alternate history to the Deuteronomistic

history, presents Jehoshaphat as reorganizing the legal system but not taking part in its day-today

operations (2 Chr 19:5–11).

A distinction must be drawn between the ideal of the king as the one who assures justice and

the reality of the king’s role: There is no evidence that the king acted as a court of last resort

(Keith Whitelam, The Just King: Monarchical Judicial Authority in Ancient Israel [JSOTSup 12;

Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1979], 29–37, 197–206, 219–220). The rise of the monarchy, according

to Whitelam, gave rise to new legal realms, such as the royal estate and crown officials, which

were outside the already established judicial system of the local communities.

24Levine, Numbers 2136, 564–565, argues that the slaying was not premeditated and therefore

the son should not be executed. This is contradicated by the wise woman’s own argument in v.

7b: She assumes that her remaining son deserves to die because of his actions and, therefore,

argues for his life based on other factors.

The king intervened rarely and with great reluctance into the administration

of justice.25 At the same time, it is true that the reform of Jehoshaphat

in 2 Chr 19:5–11 depicts royal appointment of jurists in a judicial system

in which the heads of the ancestral houses, Levites, and priests constitute a

central court, while local court officials have jurisdiction in local courts.26

Although it is unclear whether royal appointment in local courts means that

locals or outsiders acted as judges, it does mean that the local community

did not on its own establish a court. Texts from Deuteronomy, however, contradict

the Chronicles text.27 Deut 16:18–20 does not give the king the right

to appoint judges but stipulates that local governments appoint judges. Deut

17:8–10 stipulates that the local court may appeal to the central court for

a clarification of the law, but the local court retains the authority to decide

the facts and the case.

The contradictions between Deuteronomy and Chronicles can be easily

resolved. First, it should be noted that Jehoshaphat’s reform is not found

in the books of Kings and, therefore, it originates in a source that belongs

only to the author/compiler of Chronicles. The question then becomes how

did the Chronicler obtain this information. The key is to observe that in

Chronicles, an event in a monarch’s reign is connected to the meaning of his

name. Jehoshaphat and judicial reform are linked because of Jehoshaphat’s

name, which means “the Lord judges” and contains the root f-p-`, “to

judge.” A similar link is made in Chronicles between Asa and seeking the

help of physicians because the root of Asa’s name in Aramaic, y-s-a, means “to

heal” (2 Chr 16:12). Jehoshaphat’s reform, with its greater centralization, is

in consonance with the structure of the province of Judea in the early Second

Temple period. The books of Ezra and Nehemiah purport the establishment

of indigenous Jewish law by means of an authority sitting in Jerusalem (Ezra

7:25). At the same time, Ezra and Nehemiah have a great interest in records

of ancestral lines, attesting to the continued importance of ancestral houses

25The king had limited control over his own administration. David executes the men who killed

Ish-boshet, Saul’s heir and David’s rival (2 Sam 4:5–12), but his own military chief, Joab, is too

powerful for him to do more than admonish him (2 Sam 3:39). Joab’s punishment must wait

until Solomon’s reign (1 Kgs 2:5, 28–34).

26Robert R. Wilson, “Enforcing the Covenant: The Mechanisms of Judicial Authority in Early

Israel,” in The Quest for the Kingdom of God: Studies in Honor of George E. Mendenhall (ed.

H. B. Huffmon, F. A. Spina, and A. R. W. Green; Winona Lake, Indiana: Eisenbrauns, 1983),


27W. F. Albright argues that the Chronicles account is historically accurate in depicting the

judicial system in the late monarchy and that the differences between the Deuteronomy texts on

the judicial system and the Chronicles account of Jehoshaphat are negligible, that all these texts

are describing what is essentially the same system (“The Judicial Reform of Jehoshaphat,” in

Alexander Marx Jubilee Volume [New York: The Jewish Theological Seminary, 1950], 61–82).

Recent scholarship has reevaluated Albright’s position. Cf. Whitelam, The Just King, 185–206;

Wilson, “Israel’s Judicial System in the Preexilic Period,” 243–245, and Sara Japhet, I & II

Chronicles: A Commentary (OTL; Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993),


 (Ezra 8; Neh 7). This, too, is part of Jehoshaphat’s reform, with the heads of

the ancestral houses serving as part of the central court. It appears, then, that

Jehoshaphat’s reform reflects an early Second Temple setting. Deuteronomy

represents a First Temple situation, one of less centralization and greater

local control.

It seems clear, therefore, that a great deal of legal authority remained

in the local community throughout the First Temple period. Justice was

administered generally at the local level. Justice, however, could be sought

directly from the monarchy both in the southern kingdom (2 Sam 15:2–

5; 1 Kings 3) and in the northern kingdom (2 Kgs 8:3, 5). The king did

possess a jurisdiction that coincided with that of the local community. The

monarchy did not replace a system of local justice but actually helped in

keeping the system alive, as we have seen in the case of the wise woman from

Tekoa, by remedying abuses, albeit inconsistently.28 There were reservations

about appealing to a nonlocal authority. In the Elisha cycle, for example, the

Shunammite woman is asked by Elisha whether he should approach the king

or army commander to intervene on her behalf. The woman refuses, stating

that she lives among her own people, implying that her kinsmen would take

care of her (2 Kgs 4:13).29 Furthermore, it should be noted as well that the

role of the king in the system of justice is something that would not have

been known except for the evidence of literary texts: Legal texts do not posit

any role for the monarch. Literary texts reflect the flaws in the system that

the monarch must correct.

The persistence of a local or community-based system of justice can be

seen in the role of elders as administrators of justice, as well as in the threat of

the blood avenger on the killer’s life. The elders judge whether the accused is

guilty of intentional or accidental homicide. Furthermore, the statute in Deut

19:1–13 is framed in terms of towns, not tribes, not larger administrative

units, even though Deuteronomy dates from a time of urbanization.30 At

the same time, Deuteronomic statutes also recognize a court of judges in

place of elders, as well as a judicial role for priests.31 Deuteronomy appears,

thus, to recognize three systems of rendering judgments, those of the elders,

judges, and priests, operating simultaneously.32 The precise jurisdiction of

each is difficult to define. It is clear, though, that in cases where the law was

28Cf. McKeating, “The Development of the Law on Homicide,” 52.

29Ze’ev Weisman, “The Place of the People in the Making of Law and Judgment,” in

Pomegranates and Golden Bells: Studies in Biblical, Jewish, and Near Eastern Ritual, Law,

and Literature in Honor of Jacob Milgrom (ed. David P. Wright, David Noel Freedman, and

Avi Hurvitz; Winona Lake, Indiana: Eisenbrauns, 1995), 420.

30On the urbanization of this period, see Gabriel Barkay, “The Iron Age II–III,” in The Archaeology

of Ancient Israel (ed. Amnon Ben-Tor; trans. R. Greenberg; New Haven, Connecticut:

Yale University Press, 1992), 329.

31See Deut 19:17–18.

32Roland de Vaux, Ancient Israel (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1961), 1.153.

in need of clarification, the elders or local judges could ask a central court

in Jerusalem for aid (Deut 17:8–13).33

Although the monarch’s role in the legal system was limited, the king

could have an undue influence on a court case. Biblical law holds to the

principle that everyone is subject to the law and that no one, whether king,

priest, prophet, or judge, is above the law, but the power relations prevailing

in an actual community at a particular time restricted or distorted the

actualization of this principle.34 Extrajudicial factors affected the law, and

this is reflected in narrative. In 1 Kgs 21:1–15, Ahab, king of the northern

kingdom, seeks to purchase a vineyard belonging to Naboth for use as a

vegetable garden for the palace. He offers Naboth a choice of a better vineyard

or money, but Naboth refuses. Ahab has no choice but to return to

the palace empty-handed (and dispirited). Ahab assumes that even he, the

monarch, is constrained by the laws of property tenure and cannot exercise

his will as he wishes. His wife Jezebel, as the well-known tale continues,

manages to manipulate the legal process so as to condemn Naboth and his

property: Naboth is executed and his property is transferred to the king’s

possession. Jezebel used royal power to influence the legal system in order to

evade the restraints on such power. The crown is officially subject to the law,

but the actual power relations in a society may allow it to possess the means

to circumvent the law. In Naboth’s case, judicial murder was the result. This

was an aberration in the legal process and that is how it is portrayed in the

biblical text. The crown possesses only a limited role in biblical law.

In contrast, the crown and central authority played a major role in the

rest of the ancient Near East. Once the legal process had been launched by

a private individual, a central authority or the monarchy assumed oversight

of the situation. In Riftin 46, private individuals, a shepherd and his brother

an innkeeper, intervened in a kidnapping, but the kidnapper then killed the

victim. The shepherd and the innkeeper became witnesses in a homicide trial

conducted by official judges:

1 aˇs-ˇsum Iri-ba-am-`ı-l´ı ˇs[u]-b[a-r`ı-i]m 2 ˇsa Ii-din-ia-tum u-s´e-pu-ˇsuma

3 iˇs-ri-qu-ˇsu 4 Ia-bu-um-ra-bi SIPA 5 i-na q´ a-ti-ˇsu is.-ba-at 6 a-ˇsaar

a-bu-um-ra-bi SIPA 7 Iri-ba-am-`ı-l´ı sˇu-ba-ri-a-am 8 u` i-din-ia-tum

mu-s.´ı-pi-ˇsu 9 i-na ´ E a-˘

hu-um lu´KURUN.NA 10 i-pa-du 11 Ii-din-iatum

12 Iri-ba-am-`ı-li ˇsu-ba-ri-a-am i


h-ta-na-aq 13 i-na KA´ ! dnin-marki

14 DI.KU5

e-ne di-na-am 15 u´ -sˇa-


hi-zu-ma 16 Ia-bu-um-ra-bi SIPA

33Bernard M. Levinson argues that the passage in Deuteronomy 17 prescribes the replacement

of local justice in determining whether a homicide was intentional or unintentional by the

central court (Deuteronomy and the Hermeneutics of Legal Innovation [New York: Oxford

University Press, 1997], 128). However, he does not address the existence and import of Deut


34MichaelWalzer, “The Legal Codes of Ancient Israel,” Yale Journal of Law and the Humanities

4 (1992), 341.


17 u` a-


hu-um lu´KURUN.NA 18 a-na NAM.ERI´M i-di-nu-u´ -ma 19 Iabu-

um-ra-bi SIPA 20 u` a-


hu-um l ´ uKURUN.NA 21 i-na K´A dnin-marki

22 it-mu-u´ -ma 23 Ii-din-ia-tum 24 i-na I`R


ha-na-q´ı-im ub-ti-ru 25 IGI

ta-ri-bu-um DI.KU5

26 IGI nu-u´ r-dMAR.TU DI.KU5

27 IGI dZUEN-iq

´ı-sˇa-amSˇUDU´ G 28 IGI ib-qu´ -sˇa SˇU.I 29 IGI ta-ri-bu-um 30 IGI dUTUna- 31 IGI la-a-lum 32 IGI


ha-s.i-rum 33 IGI


hu-na-ba-tum 34 ITU.

ˇSU.NUMUN.NA UD 3 KAM 35mu dug4-ga an den-l´ıl den-ka-g[a-ta]

36 du-un-nu-um in-dib-ba (Seal) 1 nu-u´ r-dMAR.TU 2DUMU dsin-lidi-

iˇs 3 `IR dMAR.TU

1–5 Concerning the Subarean R—ıbam-ili whom Idiniatum abducted

and stole, the shepherd Abum-rabi seized [R—ıbam-ili] in [Idiniatum’s]

possession. 6–12When the shepherd Abum-rabi locked up the SubareanR

—ıbam-ili and his abductor Idiniatum in the house of his brother,

the innkeeper, Idiniatum strangled the Subarean R—ıbam-ili. 13–24 At

the gate of Nin-mar, the judges tried the case. They made Abumrabi

and [his] brother, the innkeeper, take an oath. Abum-rabi and

[his] brother, the innkeeper, swore at the gate of Nin-mar. They convicted

Idiniatum of strangling the slave (R—ıbam-ili). 25–34Witness:

Taribum the judge. Witness: Nur-Amurrim the judge. Witness: Siniqisham

the priest. Witness: Ibqusha the barber. Witness: Taribum.

Witness: Lalum.Witness:




Hunabatum. The second of Tammuz, year 30 of Rim-Sin. Nur-

Amurrim, son of Sin-lidish, servant of Amurrim.

Officially constituted authority intervened in the resolution of the dispute

in the Old Babylonian text, CT 29 42.

1 [i-nu-ma] ip-qa´ -tum a-na sˇi-im-ti-im [i]l-li-ku-u´ 2 [I]ib-ni-dMAR-TU

[ ` u I]DINGIR- ` u-dUTU DUMU.MEˇS ip-q ´a-tum 3 a-na ba-ˇsi-tim ˇsa


A.BA [di-nam] is.-ba-tu-ma 4 Ii-din-`ır-ra DUMU ta-p[´ı-gi-ri]-dUTU

5 I dNANNA-tum DUMU na-ra-am-dZUEN 6 IDINGIR-ˇsu-ba-ni


7 Iim-gur-dEN.ZU DUMU s.

´ıl-l´ı dI ˇSKUR an-na-tum DUMU a-w[i]-

il-DINGIR 8 i-na pa-ni-tim di-nam i-di-nu-ni-a-ti-ma 9 iˇs-ˇsa-lu-ma a-


hu-um a-na a-


hi-im t.e4-im-sˇu u´ -te!-er-ma 10 a-na DINGIR-u` -dUTU

u` ib-ni-dMAR.TU 11 ki-a-am iq-bu-u´ a-li-ik 12 Iasˇ-qu´ -du-um i-na

KA´ .dNUN.GAL ki-a-am li-iz-ku!-ru 13 da-i-ik Iip-qa´ -tum la i-du-

u´ 14 a-na-ku la u´ -sˇa-


hi-zu u` ba-sˇi-tum sˇa [i]p-qa´ -tum 15 la el-qu´ -

u´ la al-pu-tu Iasˇ-qu´ -du-um-m[a] 16 u` GEME2-dMAR.TU li-iz-ku-ru

17 di-nam an-ni-a-am u´ -ul il-qu´ -ma 18 i-na sˇa-ni-im di-nim 19 I



ni-DINGIR Ii-din-`ır-ra 20 IDINGIR-sˇu-ba-ni I dNANNA-tum 21 u`

ap-pa-an-DINGIR DI!.KU5 KA´ .DINGIR.RA.KI 22 i-na li-bu ka-laak-

ki-[i]m u´ -sˇa-


hi-zu-sˇu-nu-ti 23 di!-nam sˇa-tu u´ -ul il-qu´ -u´ 24 i-na

hu-ru-ma 25 LUGAL a-na dI´D Iasˇ-qu´ -duum

IDINGIR-u´ -dUTU 26 u` GEME2-dMAR.TU it.-ru-da-na-ti-im-ma

27 dI´D DI.KU5 ki-it-ti[m] ni-ik-sˇu-ud-ma 28 IDINGIR-u` -dUTU ki-aamiq-

bi um-ma 29 sˇu-u´ -ma da-i-ik a-bi-ia i-di 30 u` GEME2-dMAR.TU

ki!-a-amiq-bi sˇa a-ka-lu 31 u` ap-ra-ku sˇa be-li-ia-ma si-ki!-il-tam 32 [la

a´ s]-ki-lu Ilu-usˇ-ta-mar mu-ki-il-ka! 33 ITU´ L-INANNA ra-ki-bu-u´ Isˇeip-`

ır-ra AGA.U´ S LUGAL 34 I dZUEN-a-


ha-am-i-din-nam ˇsa LUGAL

35[ . . ] -pu-ut LUGAL 36 [ . . . i]b-ni-ˇsu! DUMU [ . . . ] 37 [ . . . ] x-anni-

zi-dAMAR.UTU be-el-la-nu-um 38 [ . . . ] x i-tu´ r-a´ sˇ-d[u-u]mDUMU

e-tel-lum 39 an-nu-tum sˇi-bu-su´ -nu 40 sˇa´ dI´D

1–3When Ipqatum died, Ibni-Amurrim and Ilu-Shamash, sons of Ipqatum,

initiated a suit regarding the possession of the house of their

father. 4–8 Iddin-Irra, son of Tapigiri-Shamash, Nannatum, son of

Naram-Sin, Ilu-bani, son of Ipiq-Adad, Appan-ilu, judge of Babylon,

Imgur-Sin, son of S.

illi-Adad, [and] Annatum, son of Awil-ili rendered

a decision for us in the first trial. 9 They investigated and

each returned his finding. 10–16 They said as follows to Ibni-Amurrim

and Ilu-Shamash: “Now, let Ashqudum35 declare under oath at the

gate of Ningal, ‘I do not know the murderer of Ipqatum, I did

not instigate [him], and I did not take the fortune of Ipqatum. I

did not touch [it].’ Ashqudum and Amat-Amurrim shall take an

oath.” 17–22 They [Ashqudum and Amat-Amurrim] did not accept

this judgment, and in a second trial [further litigation],



Iddin-Irra, Ilu-shubani, Nannatum, and Appan-ili, judge of Babylon,

tried [?] them [Ashqudum and Amat-Amurrim] inside the storehouse.

23 They did not accept this judgment. 24–29 In a third trial, they presented

[themselves/the case] to the king. The king sent us, [namely]

Ashqudum, Ilu-Shamash, and Amat-Amurrim, to the River [ordeal].

We reached the River [ordeal], the true judge, and Ilu-Shamash said

as follows: “I know who killed my father.” 30–32 Amat-Amurrim said

as follows: “What I eat and what I lie across36 is my master’s. I

did not acquire [it] fraudulently.”37 32–40 Lushtamar, the attendant,

Burtu-Ishtar, the wagon-driver, Shep-Irra, the soldier of the king,

35P. Dhorme identifies Ashqudum as the brother of the litigants on the evidence of another

tablet, “M´elanges,” RA 8 (1914), 101–102.

36The meaning of the verb par—aku is “to lie across; to obstruct, to block.” Dhorme understands

Amat-Amurrim’s statement as “That which I eat and that which I cover” (“M´elanges,” 104).

Arthur Ungnad renders her statement as “What I eat and carry” (Babylonische Briefe aus der

Zeit der


Hammurapi-Dynastie [Leipzig: J. C. Hinrichs, 1914], 183). CAD/S s.v. sak— alu, 68b–

69a, translates it as “all that I eat and that I wear.”

37Ungnad, in Babylonische Briefe, 183, suggests that this verb is from the root meaning “to

trade,” but CAD/S, 68b–69a demonstrates that this meaning is limited to the Neo-Babylonian

period. Only in Neo-Babylonian is the semantic field of s-k-l equivalent to that of the corresponding

Hebrew root. Otherwise, the verb sak—alu means “to appropriate.”

Sin-aham-idinnam of the king[’s court] . . . x of the king, Adadmansum

. . . -ibni, son of . . . annazi-Marduk, Belanum . . . son of Etellum.

These are their witnesses before the River [ordeal].

A number of Mari texts38 recount the investigation launched when a

corpse was found.


1 a-na be-l´ı-ia 2 [q]i-b´ı-ma 3 [um]-ma ba-a


h-di-li-im 4 [`IR]-ka-a ma

5 [1 DU]MU.GABA ˇsa ˇsa-ad-da-ag-di-im wa-al-du 6 [i-na] me-e



et za-ka-nim BAD 7 [ˇsa] e-le-nu p´ı-a-tim ˇsa-p´ı-il-tim 8 [i-na a]-a

˘ h

I´D na-di-ma lu´TUR sˇu-u´ 9 [i-na q]a-ab-li-sˇu na-ki-`ıs-ma 10 [x x] x

ir-ti-sˇu a-na qa-qa-di-sˇu sˇa-ki-in 11 [u` isˇ-tu] qa-qa-di-sˇu a-di sˇe-p´ı-

sˇu 12 [x x x] lu-u´ zi-ka-ar 13 [lu-u´ si]-in-ni-isˇ ma-an-nu-[um] 14 [lu-

u´ i-d]e isˇ-tu qa-ab-li-ti-sˇ[u] 15 [a-di sˇa-a]p-li-isˇ u´ -ul i-ba-asˇ-sˇi 16 [i-na

u4]-mi-ˇsu-ma ki-mat.

e4-ma-amsˇa-a-tu 17 [esˇ-mu]-u´ dan-na-timasˇ-kuun-

ma 18 [L ´ U.ME]ˇS UGULA ba-ba-tim DUMU.MEˇS um-me-ni 19 [u`

DU]MU.MES TE.A.AB(?) u´ -sa` -an-ni-iq-ma 20 [u´ -ul be]-el lu´TUR sˇaa-

tu ´ u-ul a-bu-ˇsu 21 [ ´ u-ul um]-ma-ˇsu ` u ˇsat.

e4-ma-amsˇa-a-tu 22 [i-du-u´ ]

u´ -ul i-le-em 23 [u` i-na] u4-mi-sˇu-ma te4-ma-amsˇa-a-tu 24 [Ib]e-l´ı-lu-dari

a-na s.

e-er b[e-l´ı-i]a 25 asˇ-pu-ra-am u´ isˇ-tu UD 7 KAM 26 sˇa be-l´ılu-

da-ri asˇ-pu-ra-am 27 su´ -un-nu-qu´ -um-ma u´ -sa` -an-ni-iq 28 u` a[n]-x

[ . . . } 29x [. . . ]

1–4To my lord, say: thus says Ba


hdi-Lim, your servant. 5–8 [The body

of] a child, who was born last year, was found lying on the river bank

opposite the zak—anum which is above the opening of the lower dike.

8–15 This child is cut through his waist, and . . . his middle is placed on

his head. From his head to his feet . . . whether male or female, I do

not know, [because] from his middle on down there is nothing left

[of the child’s body]. 16–22 The same day on which I heard this news,

I gave strict orders and I interrogated the mayors of the quarters,

the artisans, and the . . . , but neither the child’s master nor his father

nor his mother nor anyone else who knows of this matter has come

forward. 23–28 The same day I sent this news via B—eli-l—u-d—ari to my

lord, and in the seven days since I sent B—eli-l—u-d—ari I have continued

to investigate . . .


1 [a-n]a be-l´ı-ia q´ı-b´ı-ma 2 [u]m-ma ba-a


h-di-li-im `IR-ka-a-ma 3 a-lum

ma-riki e´-ka´ l-lum u`

˘ ˇsa-lim 4 a-na ˇse-im za-ku-tum ˇsu-ru-biim



hu-um u´ -ul na-di

38Another text from Mari, ARM V 35, indicates that a killer was put on parole, but what this

actually signifies is unclear.

5 [ˇs]a-ni-tam


ha-ab-du-ISˇTAR Iba-zi-ISˇTAR 6 u` ia-an-zi-ib-dISˇKUR

3 LU´ .MESˇ KA´ -na-a


h-limk[i] 7 [ˇs]a i-nu-ma Idan-nu-ta-


ha-az a-na `eˇsnun-

nak[i] 8 it-ba-lu-ˇsu-nu-ti iˇs-tu ma-


ha-ar a-tam-ri-im 9 in-na-bi-tunim

u` e-ri-isˇ-sˇi-sˇu-nu-ma il-li-ku-nim 10 tu´ gna-a


h-ra-mi 1 i-na E´ -GAL-

[lim a]d-di-in-ˇsu-nu-ˇsi-im 11 [a-na s.

]e-er b[e-l]´ı-[i]a at.-t. ` a-a[r-da-ˇsunu]-

ti 12 [ . . . . ]-ˇsu-nu-ti 13 [ . . .] x x x x


1_[x x s]` a-


ha-ri-im 2_ a-na ia-aq-q´ı-im-dISˇKUR u` zi-im-ri-dISˇKUR

3_ dan-na-tim asˇ-ku-un u` `ıs-


hu-ru-ma 4_ sˇa-la-am-ta-sˇu u´ -ul i-mu-ru u`

ki-a-am eˇs-me 5_ um-ma-a-mi ˇsa-la!-am-ta-ˇsu i-na T ´ UG˘

ha´ u´ -qa-ab-ruma

6_ a-na ´ıd


ha-bu-ur i-zi-bu i-na-an-na 7_ sˇa-la-am-t[a-sˇ]u u´ -ul u´ -ta

u´ qa-qa-su 8_ i-na qa-at-tu-na-aki ˇsa-ki-in 9_ qa-qa-su´ iq-qa-ab-bi-ir u`

i-na a-i-im a-lim 10_ iq-qa-ab-bi-ir u` a-sˇar iq-qa-ab-bi-ru 11_ i-na ki-diim

i-na li-ib-bi a-lim iq-qa-ab-bi-ir 12_ u` i-nu-ma nu-qa-ab-ba-ar-sˇu

13_ i-na te-er-s.´ı-im nu-qa-ab-ba-ru-ma a-s ` a-


hi-im 14_ an-ni-tam la anni-

tam be-l´ı li-iˇs-pu-ra-am

15_ u` e-nu-ut-su´ sˇa i-na qa-at-tu-na-aki 16_ [u` ] i-na sa-ga-ra-timki-ma sˇa

be-l´ı 17_ [i]ˇs-pu-ra-am a-na li-ib-bi ter-qaki 18_ [l]u-ˇse-ri-ib

1–4To my lord, say: Thus says Ba


hdi-lim, your servant. The city of

Mari, the palace, and the district are well. There has been no negligence

with regard to bringing in the cleaned barley.

5–13 Another matter:


Habdu-Ishtar, Bazi-Istar, and Ianzib-Addu, three

men of B—ab-na


hlim, whom Dannuta


haz has now brought to Eshnunna,

have run away from the house of Atamrum and have arrived

completely naked. I have given each one a n—aramu-garment39 from

the palace. I have sent them to my lord. . . .

1_–14_ I have given strict orders to Iaqqim-Addu and Zimri-Addu to

search . . . , but they have searched and have not seen his body. I heard

thus: “They have rolled his body in a cloth and abandoned it in the

Habur river.” Now, I have not recovered his body, but his head is in

Qattunan. Should his head be buried, and in which village should it

be buried, and where should it be buried, whether inside or outside

the village, and whenever we bury it, should we bury it in the regular

way? I am concerned. Whether this way or that way, let my lord write

to me.

15_–18_ The baggage that is in Qattunan and Sagar—atim about which

my lord wrote, let me bring it to Terqa.

39Cf. CAD/N I, 346.

In a Neo-Babylonian case, TCL 12 117, the city assembly of Uruk investigated

an attempted homicide on the royal commissioner of the Eanna

temple then turned the case over to the crown judges:

1 lu´ ba-ni-imesˇ sˇa i-na pa-ni-sˇu´ -nu 2 IDU´ -d15 A-sˇu´ sˇa ILU´ -dna-naa

3GI´R AN.BAR ul-tu MURUB4-sˇu´ a-na mu




hi 4 IAN-ri-man-ni

lu´ SAG LUGAL lu´EN pi-qit-tum E-an-[na] 5 ina KA´ .GAL-i sˇa E-an-na



hu 6GI´R AN.BAR ul-tu MURUB4-sˇu´ a-na mu




hi 7 lu´UKKIN

isˇ-ku-sˇu u´ ik-nu-ku

1–7 The citizens before whom [was presented the case of] Ibni-Ishtar,

son of Am—el-Nanˆ a, [who] removed an iron dagger from his belt

against Ilu-rˆımanni, a chief official of the king, an appointed officer

of Eanna, at the great gate of Eanna. The assembly bound and

sealed the iron dagger which he drew from his belt.

The actual judgment was at the jurisdiction of royal judges, while the

assembly was limited to the preliminary investigation. In a fifteenth-century

case from Alalakh,Wiseman Alalakh 17, the slayer’s property has been confiscated

by the palace:

1 na4KIˇSIB Iniq-me-pa (seal of Idrimi) 2 I ˇsa-tu-wa DUMU su-wa

DUMU urulu-ba 3DUMU.SAL-sˇu sˇa Iap-ra 4 a-na E´ .GI.A-sˇu isˇ-al-sˇu

5 u` ki-ma pa-ra-as uru


ha-la-abki 6 ni-id-na i-za-ab-bil-ˇsu 7 Iap-ra a-na

EN 8 ma-ˇsi-ik-ti it-tu-ur


9 u` ki-ma ar-ni-sˇu GAZ 10 u` E´ -sˇu a-na E´ .GAL 11 i-ru-ub Isˇa-tu-wa

12 it-tal-kam u` asˇ-sˇum mi-im-me- 13 -sˇu-ma 6 ka-qa-ru URUDU



14 u` 2 GI´R ZABAR il-q´ı-sˇu-nu 15 u` isˇ-tu UD-mi an-ni-im 16 Iniq-mepa

I ˇsa-tu-wa i-[pu-ul]-ˇsu 17 i-na EGIR-ki UD-mi di-nu-[ . . . ] 18 I ˇsatu-

wa i-na mi-[ . . . ] 19 IGI a-pu-[ . . . ] 20 IGI (d) X-EN 21 IGI du-ra

SˇESˇ -sˇu 22 IGI ir-kab-tu` IGI i-ri-


hal-pa 23 IGI LU´ -ia IGI sˇar-ru-wa


1 Seal of Niqmepa (2–6) Shatuwa son of Suwa of Luba has made a

payment to Apra40 for his daughter[-in-law?] and according to the

decree of Aleppo has brought a gift. 7–11 Apra has turned against

a private enemy and as his punishment has killed him. Therefore

his property has been confiscated by the palace. 11–14 Shatuwa has

come and received what is his, namely 6 talents of copper and 2

bronze daggers. 15–16 Therefore from this day Niqmepa has satisfied

Shatuwa. 17–18 In future . . . Shatuwa will [bring no further claims].

40Apra is mentioned in texts 139, 167, 170, but no further information about him can be

gleaned from these.

19–23Witness: Apu-x. Witness: x-b—el. Witness: Dura his brother.

Witness: Irkabtu. Witness: Iri


halpa. Witness: LU-ia. Witness: Sharruwa

the scribe.

It can be speculated that the palace refunds the bride-price to the father

because the daughter might become a slave as compensation for the slaying,

and the father does not want to get involved in litigation.

Although in Neo-Assyria the private parties were required to assume

greater initiative than elsewhere in Mesopotamia, the crown still maintained

control. When the private parties involved asserted their rights, acknowledged

their responsibilities, and assented to the negotiations, the monarchy

managed them by defining the limits of their rights, serving as a mediating

body for the disputants, and ensuring that the obligation was properly

fulfilled.41 There was an official recording institution of the monarchy at

which outstanding homicide obligations were deposited, pending the claim

of the victim’s family (ADD 618 and 321). Next, the parties negotiated the

amount of compensation with the intervention of a mediating authority,

an officer of the crown (ADD 164). Finally, when a specific amount had

been agreed upon, the obligation was paid in the presence of an official

authority, a crown official (ADD 806 and PPA 95). In sum, once the state

became involved, the participation of others in the process became less active.

The monarchy, in essence, managed the case as it proceeded to its conclusion.

It must be recognized that for Assyrians, homicide was not entirely

a state crime nor was it entirely a private offense. It had first significance

for the kin or community groups affected, whom the state, then, tried to


In Mesopotamian law in general, the king himself appeared as an actor in

the judicial realm. In the Nippur Murder Trial, the case was presented before

the king,43 who then sent it back to the Assembly of Nippur for adjudication.

In CT 29 42, lower courts were the appropriate venue for the first two trials,

but the final appeal was made to the king, who then dispatched the case to

41Roth, “Homicide in the Neo-Assyrian Period,” 362–363.

42A role for community groups in Mesopotamia exists in a single statute in the Laws of

Hammurapi. Statute 24 addresses the case in which a killer has not been arrested. The mandate

here is that if a person is killed in the course of a robbery, the city and governor

must pay sixty shekels to the victim’s kinsman if the robber is not arrested. The communal

authorities must compensate the victim’s family when the killer himself cannot be forced

to. Otherwise, in Mesopotamia, the state managed one individual’s claims against another


43The king was in Isin even though it appeared that the homicide occurred in Nippur because

Nippur was under the political domination of Isin at that time. Cf. the analysis of the situation

in late 1900s b.c.e in Georges Roux, Ancient Iraq (3d edition; London: Penguin Books, 1992),


be tried in a cultic setting. The case recounted in BBSt 9 was brought before

the king: no lower court intervened:

1 i-na MU 2 KAM dnin-urta-N´IG.DU-URU3


DUMU Iat-rat-taˇs 3 [


har]-mi-tu sˇa´ Ibu-ru-sˇa´ lu´ZADIM 4 sˇa´

IEN-DINGIR.MESˇ -URU3 a-na asˇ-sˇu´ -ti a-


hu-zu 5 i-na ˇsil-ta-





has.-ma i-duk-[ˇsi] 6 i-na IGI dnin-ib-N´IG.DU-URU3 LUGAL

7 Ibu-ru-sˇa´ lu´ZADIM u II`R-dIMIN.BI DUMU Iat-rat-tasˇ 8 di-na

id-bu-bu-ma dnin-urta-N´IG.DU-URU3


ki-a-am iq-bi 10 um-ma a-lik-ma 7 a-mi-lu-ta a-na Ibu-ru-ˇsa 11 idin

I `IR-dIMIN.BI a-mi-lu-ta na-da-[na] 12 la i-ˇsi-ma Ibu-ru-ˇsa 7

a-mi-[l]u-t[a] 13 i-na mu




hi-ˇs ´ u ´ u-kin-ma a-na ˇSA` -bi a-m[i-lu-ti]

14 im-ru-[u]s.

1–5 In the second year of Ninurta-kudurri-us.ur, the king, Arad-Sibitti,

son of Atrattash, attacked the


harm¯ıtu-woman of Burusha, the maker

of bows and arrows, whom Bel-ilani-us.urshu had married, with an

arrow and killed [her]. 6–8 Before Ninurta-kudurri-us.ur, the king,

Burusha, the maker of bows and arrows, and Arad-Sibitti, son of

Atrattash, met in litigation. 8–11 Ninurta-kudurri-us.ur, the king, said

to Arad-Sibitti: “Go and give 7 slaves to Burusha.” 11–14 Arad-Sibitti

did not complete the payment of slaves. Burusha succeeded in his

claim against him for 7 slaves although he was angry about the slave

woman. . . .

There is no clear pattern for determining when a case would be handled

by the king or by a functionary of the central government. It appears

impossible to draw conclusions about royal participation vis- ` a-vis a particular

time period or location because of the danger of homogenizing all these

cases stretched over considerable time and place. However, it is possible

to measure the congruence of one king’s legal function to the evidence from

other monarchs. In the light of the extensive documentation of Hammurapi’s

participation in the judicial process, W. F. Leemans categorized the ways

a king could dispose of a case: 1) The king could himself act as a court

and render a judgment; 2) the king could determine the law but remit the

case to local judicial authorities for the determination of the facts; 3) the

king could remit the entire case to the appropriate local authorities.44 Although

Leemans dealt mostly with disputes over land tenure and revenues,

the ways in which the king participated in these cases were parallel to

the way in which the king participated in homicide cases. In BBSt 9, the

king acted as judge. In CT 29 42, the king issued a ruling as to how the

44W. F. Leemans, “King Hammurapi as Judge,” in Symbolae iuridicae et historicae Martino

David dedicatae II (ed. J. A. Ankum, R. Feenstra, W. F. Leemans; Leiden: Brill, 1968), 110.

third appeal was to be handled and assigned it to a particular court. In

the Nippur Murder Trial, the king assigned the case to the local assembly.

Furthermore, even though this paradigm is constructed from cases involving

one particular king, Hammurapi, it fits the evidence we have for lesser

documented kings. The Neo-Assyrians, for example, appear to have been

able to appeal to their king in person, who then disposed of the case as he


In sum, the Mesopotamian documents confirm the involvement of the

state in remedying homicide concomitant with the initiation of the legal

process by individuals. The victim’s family had the right to make a claim,

but there does not seem to have been anxiety engendered by the specter of a

blood avenger waiting to pounce. By contrast, feud operated in biblical law,

and cities of refuge were required for the slayer’s protection. The central

administration and the king were generally not involved.

These differences can be attributed to the social, political, and economic

differences between Israel and Mesopotamia. A pivotal characteristic of

Mesopotamian society was urbanism,46 embodying a social organization

that was centralized, bureaucratic, and specialized, whereas the constituent

parts of the Bible reflect a decentralized, unspecialized, mildly bureaucratic,

rural society. This is so, even though the cities of Mesopotamia were highly

dependent on a massive agricultural base and biblical Israel was at times a

rump state centered on Jerusalem.

The essential urbanism of Mesopotamian society was pervasive.47 Urban

centers in Mesopotamia lay in sight of one another: Cities were densely

concentrated. The city was the seat of culture, and by definition, nonurban

life was uncultured. A bucolic countryside did not lie outside the city in

Mesopotamian thought. Nomads were held in contempt.48 The idea that

urbanism was the only social structure was so persistent that the destruction

of a rival political power was portrayed as the destruction of cities, even if the

enemy lacked cities to destroy.49 The great literary works reflect the climate

and temper of city life, not an earlier period of preurban/tribal life.50 The Epic

45Cf. J. N. Postgate, “‘Princeps Iudex’ in Assyria,” RA 74 (1980), 180–182.

46Marc Van de Mieroop, The Ancient Mesopotamian City (Oxford: Clarendon, 1997), 1–19;

A. Leo Oppenheim, Ancient Mesopotamia (rev. edition; completed by Erica Reiner; Chicago:

University of Chicago Press, 1977), 79; Karel van der Toorn, Sin and Sanction in Mesopotamia

and Israel (Studia Semitica Neerlandica; Assen/Maastricht: Van Gorcum, 1985), 3.

47Benno Landsberger, Three Essays on the Sumerians (intro. and trans. Maria deJ. Ellis; MANE

1/2; 1943; reprint, Los Angeles: Undena, 1974), 3.

48Toorn, Sin and Sanction, 155, nn. 5–8.

49Cf. the Assyrian campaign in 714 b.c.e. against the Mannaeans, south of Lake Urmia (F.

Thureau-Dangin, Une relation de la huiti`eme campagne de Sargon [TCL 3; Paris: Paul Geuthner,

1912], 16 col.i, ll. 89–90), or a campaign in the marshes at the head of the Arabian Gulf (D.

Luckenbill, The Annals of Sennacherib [OIP; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1924], 35

col. iii, ll. 65–70).

50Toorn, Sin and Sanction, 3.

of Gilgamesh, for example, celebrates urban life through the acculturation

of Enkidu and the exaltation of the city of Uruk.

One of the characteristics of urbanism is the substitution of a society organized

politically on territorial principles for one based on ties of kinship.51

This type of society was divided by class and ruled by an elite, whether military,

religious, or political. This was certainly true for Mesopotamia. A

Mesopotamian city was a society organized hierarchically along territorial

or political lines, not along lines of kinship.52 Identifying oneself as part of

a lineage lessened in importance early in Mesopotamian history.53 People

acted primarily as individuals in the social and legal spheres: Lineages did

not dominate economic or political life. The most basic social unit was the

family, not lineage. This accounts for the absence of blood feud and the presence

of the central government and crown in the Mesopotamian adjudication

of homicide.

It must be noted that although urbanism and the concomitant dissolution

of kinship ties were primary characteristics of Mesopotamian society, there

was some variation over time and geography. Although extensive urbanism

was already the norm early on, literary texts did refer to clans, im-ru-a, but

they are rarely mentioned in administrative documents.54 In the Old Babylonian

period, there is some evidence from land sales that there were cases

of joint ownership of land. The issue with these particular cases is whether

this signifies that a lineage was involved or whether it was a resuscitation

of family ties in order to comply with a legal requirement that was nothing

more than an archaic relic of the role of the lineage.55 There was a marked

decline in urbanism in Babylonia in the late second millennium and first

millennium b.c.e. By contrast, the Neo-Assyrian empire witnessed a massive

expansion of cities. Undoubtedly, kinship ties in general were more significant

for seminomadic people who lived outside of the settled, urban areas.56

What is striking, though, is that with the partial exception of Assyria, variation

in the extent of urbanism and kinship ties over time appears not to be

reflected in the adjudication of homicide.

51V. Gordon Childe, “The Urban Revolution,” The Town Planning Review 21 (1950), 16;

Robert McC. Adams, The Evolution of Urban Society (Chicago: Aldine, 1966), 87, 110.

52Van de Mieroop, The Ancient Mesopotamian City, 100–104.

53I. M. Diakonoff, “Extended Families in Old Babylonian Ur,” ZA 75 (1985), 52; Elizabeth

Stone, “Texts, Architecture and Ethnographic Analogy: Patterns of Residence in Old Babylonian

Nippur,” Iraq 43 (1981), 19–33; Norman Yoffee, “Aspects of Mesopotamian Land Sales,”

American Anthropologist 90 (1988), 119–130.

54Nicholas Postgate, Early Mesopotamia: Society and Economy at the Dawn of History

(London: Routledge, 1992), 83; Ake Sjo¨berg, “Zu einigen Verwandtschaftsbezeichnungen im

sumerischen,” in Heidelberger Studien zum Alten Orient (ed. D. O. Edzard; Wiesbaden: Otto

Harrassowitz, 1967), 201–231.

55Postgate, Early Mesopotamia, 94–96.

56Samuel Greengus, “Legal and Social Institutions of Ancient Mesopotamia,” in CANE, 469.

In contrast, biblical Israel is characterized by the persistence of social

organization based on kinship ties.57 It is no wonder, then, that the initiative

for remedying a homicide lay with the victim’s family. The lineage, the

association of families, in biblical Israel acted as a mutual aid society and,

therefore, in a case of homicide, blood feud ensued.

This understanding of Israelite social development contravenes the dominant

models of state formation, which dictate that a kin-based society, such

as that of a tribe or chiefdom, breaks down in a territorial state.58 These

theories assume that the development of society culminates in a state, a territorially

defined, class-based society reflecting a fundamental change between

prestate and state societies. They equate kin-based structures with prestate

forms of organization. Statehood represents a fundamental reorganization

of society. Controversy has arisen, therefore, over when the Israelite polity

moved from stage to stage. A question that inspires heated debate is whether

ancient Israel was a full-blown state during the reign of David or only a

chiefdom.59 These models of state formation make an explicit contrast between

kin-based tribes and chiefdoms and territorially based states, but this

distinction is insufficient.

More recent analyses have noted the striking persistence of kin-based

social structures in ancient Israel, and a different developmental theory has

become necessary. Israelite society, being patrimonial or segmentary, retained

kin-based structures while developing a limited amount of centralization.60

Israelite society was divided into households of extended families, that is,

patrimonies or segments based on kinship ties.

In general, patrimonial authority depends on the forces of tradition and

personal association. The master of a household has authority because of

his personal relationship with the members of a household and because of

57J. David Schloen, The House of the Father as Fact and Symbol: Patrimonialism in Ugarit and

the Ancient Near East (Studies in the Archaeology and History of the Levant 2; Winona Lake,

Indiana: Eisenbrauns, 2001), 46, 51, 135–183; Bendor, The Social Structure of Ancient Israel,

82–86; Yigal Shiloh, “The Four-Room House: Its Situation and Function in the Israelite City,”

IEJ 20 (1970), 180–190; Gottwald, The Tribes of Yahweh, 267, 298–302.

58The reasons for the transformation differ among various theoreticians. Elman Service postulates

that societies developed from tribe to chiefdom to state. As societies became more densely

populated, they required stronger and more permanent coordination by a chief and his family,

who thereby gained power and prestige. Morton Fried posits that deepening social stratification

due to the rise of private property spawned authority structures on the level of the state. See

Daniel M. Master, “State Formation Theory and the Kingdom of Ancient Israel,” JNES 60

(2001), 123–124.

59Bellefontaine, “Customary Law and Chieftainship,” 47–72; J.W. Flanagan, “Chiefs in Israel,”

JSOT 20 (1981), 47–73; DavidW. Jamieson-Drake, Scribes and Schools in Monarchic Judah: A

Socio-Archeological Approach (The Social World of Biblical Antiquity Series 9; JSOTSup 109;

Sheffield: Almond Press, 1991), 138–145.

60Capital cities in ancient Israel functioned as regal-ritual cities as defined by Richard G. Fox,

Urban Anthropology, 16–57.

tradition that dictates their obedience. This model can be extended to the

relationship of individual houses to the leader of a group of households. An

entire society can be organized on the model of a single household. Just as

members of a household would obey the master of a house, so would individual

houses obey a ruler. This model can be applied to an entire state: The

coalescence of a kingdom does not necessarily involve change in all levels

of society. The development of a patrimonial state would add a higher level

of social organization on top of the existing level of social organization.

In the case of ancient Israel, what changed with the rise of the monarchy

was the addition of another household, the royal household, at the

next higher level of social organization. Kin-based authority systems would

permeate such a society. The association of families in a lineage was the

fundamental metaphor of social and political relationships. The extended

household acted as the organizing model of society, and the entire social

order was an extension of the ruler’s household. With this model in mind,

we no longer need to try to plot monarchic Israel’s place on a trajectory

of development that dictates that kin-based society was necessarily effaced

in a state.

The social structure of biblical Israel consisted of extended kin groups or

lineages, and this segmentary structure persisted through the First Temple

period and reappeared in the exilic and early Second Temple periods.61 Its

recrudescence was not an invention or revival of terms dormant for half a

millennium. This can be extrapolated from both textual and archaeological

remains. Although these data are fragmentary and originate from a wide

range of times of origin, including both evidence whose date can be fixed

with some degree of precision and evidence whose date of origin must remain

approximate at best, they can provide a general picture of Israelite

society. Furthermore, textual and archaeological data are independent of

one another: If one source is found faulty, the other is not affected.

Both First Temple and Second Temple biblical texts express the identity of

individual Israelites in genealogical terms that refer to extended kin groups

(Josh 7:14–18; 1 Sam 9:11; Ezra 2; 8:1–14; Neh 7:4–72; 11; 1 Chr 2–9).62

Individuals are identified by tribe, lineage, and family, and their genealogies

go back generations to ancestry remote in family history.

61Lawrence Stager, “The Archaeology of the Family in Ancient Israel,” BASOR 260 (1985),

24; Avraham Faust, “The Rural Community in Ancient Israel During Iron Age II,” BASOR

317 (2000), 17–39.

62Avraham Malamat, “Mari and the Bible: Some Patterns of Tribal Organization and Institutions,”

JAOS 82 (1962), 143–150; Malamat, “King Lists of the Old Babylonian Period and

Biblical Genealogies,” JAOS 88 (1968), 163–173. A useful comparison can be made to first

millennium Babylonia where individuals are named “personal name 1, son of personal name

2, descendent of personal name 3,” where personal name 3 is not an individual’s grandfather

but an ancestor or professional designation, akin to modern-day family names. (Cf. Van de

Mieroop, The Ancient Mesopotamian City, 107–109.)

Attachment to patrimonial property remained tenacious. A number of

textual examples can show this. The Priestly law in Lev 25:13–17 stipulates

that patrimonial property that has been sold reverts to the family in the

Jubilee year; it can never be alienated. Num 36:5–9 provides legislation

preventing patrimonial estates from shifting from tribe to tribe when the

only heirs are daughters, who are otherwise not entitled to the property. In

the tale of Naboth’s vineyard (1 Kgs 21:1–15), set in the mid-ninth century,

Ahab the king wants to purchase Naboth’s vineyard, but Naboth refuses

to sell the vineyard, which was part of his patrimonial estate, to the king,

stating: “The Lord forbid that I give you the inheritance of my fathers.”

The upset king realizes that he is obliged to accede to Naboth’s refusal.

The prophet Jeremiah, active in the late seventh and early sixth centuries,

purchases the field of one of his cousins in their ancestral village of Anathoth

in obedience to the law of redemption, which offered the nearest kin the first

right of purchase (Jer 32:6–15).

The monarchy apparently had only a slight impact on the social structure

of biblical Israel at the local level. The provincial reorganization attributed

to Solomon preserved much of the premonarchic tribal boundaries intact.63

The continuing impact of the monarchy on society did not affect kinship

structures at the level of extended families. This is reflected in a variety of

biblical texts. The book of Deuteronomy, at least a version of which dates

from the late seventh century and which received a final redaction during

the exilic period, is addressed to a villager living away from the central

sanctuary in his ancestral village. Although the elders lost much of their

political authority during the monarchy, they did not lose it completely and

were called upon to exercise it in times of national emergency (1 Kgs 20:7;

2 Kgs 23:2), and the institution of the elders was restored in the exilic and

Second Temple periods (Jer 29:1; Ezek 8:1; 14:1; 20:1, 3; Ezra 5:5, 9; and

6:7, 8, 14; Ezra 2:68; 4:2; 8:1; Neh 7:70; Ezra 1:5; 4:3).64 The texts present

a segmentary social structure reflecting the prevalent way of life, consisting

of the settlement of extended families in small towns and rural settlements.

Archaeological data coincide with the textual presentation of Israelite

society. Samaria ostraca of the eighth century b.c.e. record place names that

also appear as names of the children of Manasseh in biblical genealogies

in Josh 17:2–3 and Num 26:30–33, reflecting the continuing integrity of

patrimonial structures centuries later.65 Excavations attest to the presence of

63Yohanan Aharoni, The Land of the Bible (2d edition; trans. and ed. by Anson F. Rainey;

Philadelphia: Westminster, 1979), 367; Baruch Halpern, The Constitution of the Monarchy in

Ancient Israel (HSM 25; Chico, California: Scholars Press, 1981), 251–256.

64Hayyim Tadmor, “Traditional Institutions and the Monarchy,” in Studies in the Period of

David and Solomon and Other Essays (Winona Lake, Indiana: Eisenbrauns, 1982), 240, 257;

Israel Eph’al, “The Western Minorities in Babylonia 6th–5th Centuries,” Or 47 (1978), 79.

65Ivan T. Kaufman, “The Samaria Ostraca: An Early Witness to Hebrew Writing,” BA 45

(1982), 229–239; Schloen, The House of the Father as Fact and Symbol, 156–165.

family compounds, where a lineage would dwell, well into the Iron II period

at Tell Beit Mirsim, Tell Far’ahm, and Tell en-Nas.beh and perhaps extending

into later periods as well.66 The presence of family tombs, which would be

used by a lineage for a number of generations, attests to the continuing

importance of kinship ties, and it is surmised that the tombs would serve as

a physical claim to patrimonial land.67

Israelite society was agrarian, settled in small towns. Although the monarchy

produced a period of urbanization, the Iron Age II cities were almost

entirely given over to administrative structures and vacant of inhabitants.68

The Israelite population lived out in the countryside in villages and farmsteads.

Even Jerusalem at its greatest size of fifty to sixty hectares was only

15 percent the size of the central cities in Mesopotamia.69

Individuals in ancient Israel fitted into a social pattern that differed

sharply from that of Mesopotamia. The overriding fact in Mesopotamian

society was the state and its administrative subdivisions, whereas blood ties

bound Israelite society. This distinction had other effects. Patrimonial property

was not attested in Mesopotamian society because it was organized on

a nongentilic pattern, although a liberal policy of the sale and purchase of

land was in effect.70 Adoption, which abrogates blood ties, became a prominent

institution in Mesopotamian society; levirate marriage, which protects

blood ties, never did.71

Assyrian law’s distinctiveness confirms this argument. Assyrian legal procedure

differs from other Mesopotamian law in that it posits a role for the

slayer’s community and for the victim’s family. This variance is probably

66Stager, “The Archaeology of the Family in Ancient Israel,” 22. Living in family compounds

may be reflected in textual evidence as well; cf. the household of Micah pursuing the abducted

Levite, Judg 18:22.

67Burial evidence has mainly been attested in Judean territory during the First Temple period.

Cf. Elizabeth Bloch-Smith, Judahite Burial Practices and Beliefs About the Dead (JSOTSup 123;

Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1992), 148–150. On the relationship between burial practices

and social organization, cf. Anne Porter, “The Dynamics of Death: Ancestors, Pastorialism,

and the Origins of a Third-Millennium City in Syria,” BASOR 325 (2002), 1–36.

68Zeev Herzog, Archaeology of the City: Urban Planning in Ancient Israel and Its Social Implications

(Tel Aviv: Tel Aviv University, 1997), 270, 276. Indeed, only modest remains can

be dated to the United Monarchy, which biblical scholars generally consider to be a period of

monumental architecture.

69Jamieson-Drake, Scribes and Schools in Monarchic Judah, 153.

70Malamat, “Mari and the Bible: Some Patterns of Tribal Organization and Institutions,” 150.

Johannes M. Renger, in “Institutional, Communal, and Individual Ownership or Possession

of Arable Land in Ancient Mesopotamia from the Fourth to the End of the First Millennium

B.C.,” Chicago-Kent Law Review 71 (1995), 269–320, argues for a more cautious analysis of

the documents regarding the possession and sale of arable land. He contends that in Babylonia,

state control over land, owing to state involvement in irrigation, gave way gradually to the

increasing control of entrepreneurs, whereas in Assyria, collective ownership over land was

replaced by manorial control as the rural populace became impoverished.

71E. A. Speiser, “‘People’ and ‘Nation’ of Israel,” JBL 59 (1960), 161.

due to Assyria’s geographic difference from Babylonia and Sumer, and that

geographic difference had an profound impact on Assyrian social structure.

The fact that Assyria was assured of sufficient rainfall for dry farming meant

that there were more permanent rural settlements further from cities than in

Babylonia and Sumer, where permanent settlements were possible only near

natural or artificial bodies of water.72 The association of families persisted

in a rural environment.

In sum, the organization of society had a profound effect upon the concept

of justice and the process of law in the Bible, and the treatment of

homicide in biblical Israel was directly linked to the social structure of

biblical Israel. Although the most influential culture of the ancient Near

East, Mesopotamia, left its mark on almost every chapter of the Bible, the

Mesopotamian adjudication of homicide differed radically from that in biblical

Israel because of the profound differences in social organization between

the two cultures. In Israel, kinship ties were strong, and the family acted as a

mutual aid society, whereas in a heavily urban and centralized Mesopotamia,

a bureaucracy had control. This is striking because biblical law was based

upon Mesopotamian law and yet at the same time differed so greatly. The

institutions that ensured that a homicide would be investigated and remedied

in biblical law were vastly different from those in Mesopotamian law. The

difference originates in disparate conceptions of the organization of society.



Biblical interpreters almost without exception hold that !dh lag is a blood

relative.73 This is so because of the linguistic connection with the lag, the redeemer

who acted on behalf of a powerless person in the restoration of lost

freedom or sold property. However, a few scholars have departed from identifying

!dh lag as a relative of the victim. Mayer Sulzberger argues that the

!dh lag was not a member of the victim’s family but, rather, an official whose

duty was to avenge murders.74 Since it was the country’s purity or guiltlessness

that was threatened by the killing, a federal sheriff was entrusted with

the duty of executing the offender. The term !dh lag was selected because of

the analogy of the positive benefit – in Sulzberger’s word, “friendliness” – to

72Van de Mieroop, The Ancient Mesopotamian City, 8.

73Cf. S. R. Driver, Deuteronomy (ICC; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1901), 232; Moshe Greenberg,

“Avenger of Blood,” IDB 1.321; S. David Sperling, “Blood, Avenger of Blood,” ABD 1.763–


74Mayer Sulzberger, The Ancient Hebrew Law of Homicide (Philadelphia: Julius H. Greenstone,

1915), 53–54, 58.

the community in warding off the danger. The establishment of an official to

avenge murders was, according to Sulzberger, a Deuteronomic innovation,

part of the assumption of exclusive jurisdiction by the state over all homicide

cases. Another scholar, Anthony Phillips, adduced four proofs in arguing that

!dh lag was the representative of the local elders who would plead the case

on their behalf at the city of refuge and then execute the killer:75 1) There is

no evidence that blood feud was practiced against fellow Israelites: If there

were blood vengeance, the Book of the Covenant would have used a formula

other than the one referring to normal communal execution; that is, it would

have used !qn in place of tmwy twm. Furthermore, all Israel became kin by entering

into the covenant and, therefore, the realm of lag was no longer limited

to blood relatives. 2) Blood was the personal property of YHWH; therefore

recovering the victim’s blood was not the concern of the victim’s relatives

but of YHWH. 3) While the term !dh lag indicates the duty of the holder of

the title, there is no such specification with regard to the lag; therefore, it is

inconceivable that they designate the same person. 4) !dh lag only appears

in connection with the cities of refuge and so must have had an intimate

connection with them.

Sulzberger and Phillips both deny the existence of blood feud, the family’s

right to avenge the killing of one of its members. However, the motive

for establishing appropriately situated cities of refuge, to prevent the blood

avenger from overtaking the fugitive in hot anger, reflects the fury of a family

bent on vengeance (Num 35:12, 19, 26–27; Deut 19:6). Although Exod

21:12–14 does not mention !dh lag, it is clear that the killer flees because he

is in immediate and grave danger of losing his life. If !dh lag were a state

official, it is reasonable to suppose that he would do his duty without need

for restraints. Why then would a place of refuge be necessary in the first

place? The basic point that underlies both Sulzberger and Phillips is, therefore,

problematic. Furthermore, neither one has a satisfactory explanation

of the relationship of the term !dh lag to lag if, unlike lag, !dh lag is not a

relative of the victim.

In addition, other aspects of their theories are difficult to confirm. Although

Sulzberger is justified in emphasizing the danger posed to the purity

of the country by bloodshed, his understanding of lag as a “friend” to

the community is strained because he did not recognize that the blood of

the victim as the locus of the victim’s life has an objective existence of its

own that requires vengeance: The use of lag is not metaphorical or analogical

but concrete.76 Phillips’s four proofs are faulty: 1) His argument that

death in the course of a feud requires the use of the verb for vengeance,

75Anthony Phillips, Ancient Israels Criminal Law: A New Approach to the Decalogue (Oxford:

Basil Blackwell, 1970), 103.

76See the discussion in Chapter Three on the concept of blood in the Hebrew Bible.

m-q-n, does not work since that verb actually refers to the punishment not of

the wrongdoer himself but either the entire group he represents or selected

subordinate members of that group.77 In contrast, Exod 21:12 and 14 stipulate

the punishment for the one who actually inflicted the fatal blow. Furthermore,

Phillips’s claim that feud did not operate within Israel because

all Israel became kin by entering into the covenant requires him to posit

that the hypothetical story in 2 Sam 14:4–17 does not deal with blood feud,

even though !dh lag is mentioned as being restrained by David’s order. 2) In

Phillips’s proof that the blood belongs to YHWH, he begins with Jer 38:16,

which states that the `pn, the life force, is the gift of YHWH, and basing

himself on the idea that the `pn is to be found in the blood, extrapolates that

blood, too, is the gift of YHWH and, therefore, belongs to YHWH. While

it is true that the Israelites believed that the `pn was contained in the blood,

extrapolating that since the `pn is a gift of YHWH, the blood then is also a

gift of YHWH and, therefore, it belongs to YHWH contains too many questionable

inductive leaps. 3) Although Phillips is correct in drawing attention

to the distinction being made in the use of the term !dh lag, instead of lag,

there may be another reason for the distinction: While the lag was the closest

relative to the victim, it is probable that in many cases the closest relative

might not have the personal characteristics to serve as !dh lag. In fact, lag is

the larger category to which !dh lag belonged. 4) Finally, Phillips’s claim that

!dh lag appears only in connection with the cities of refuge is false since he

must ignore the mention of !dh lag in 2 Sam 14:11. (Even if Phillips is correct

about 2 Samuel 14, it would be logical if the two institutions were always

in proximity since the sole purpose of the cities of refuge was to protect the

killer from !dh lag.)


The phrase b—el damˆe refers to both the killer78 and to the claimant from

the victim’s family.79 The phrase’s appearances in ˇSamˇsi-Adad I, text 2, iv,

17, ABL 1109, r. 10, and ABL 1032, r. 8, clearly show that it refers to the


77Cf. Westbrook, Studies in Biblical and Cuneiform Law, 94.

78Cf. CAD/D, 80.

79Cf. Roth, “Homicide in the Neo-Assyrian Period,” 363–365. Contra Ayala Mishaly, “The

Be—l Da—me—’s [sic] Role in the Neo-Assyrian Legal Process,” Zeitschrift fu r Altorientalische

und Biblische Rechtsgeschichte 6 (2000), 35–53, who claims that the b¯el damˆe was

an official, but this is based on an erroneous translation of the relative pronoun ˇsa in

ADD 618 13.

ˇSamˇsi-Adad I, text 280

col. iv

15 dUTU da-a-ia-nu 16 rab-bu-´ı sˇa AN u´ KI 17 ki-ma sˇa-ri-ku81 be-el

da-mi 18 a-na qa-at LUGAL 19 be-el le-mu-ut-ti-ˇsu 20 li-ma-al-_li-ˇsu_

15–20May the god, Shamash, the great judge of heaven and underworld,

hand him over to a king who is his enemy as one who gives

up a killer.82

ABL 1109 (excerpts)83


10 . . . u en-na i-qab-bu-u´ um-ma EN da-me sˇa EN-i-nu ina UGU-i-nu

11 ul i-rab-bi . . .

10–11Now, however, they are saying: “The murderer of our master

shall not lord it over us.”

ABL 103284


8 en-na ˇSEˇS.MEˇS ˇsa Iu-tu-mu EN da-me 9 ˇsa la-pa-an LUGAL i



u ki-i i[-qa-ab-bu]

8–9How can the brothers of Utumu, a murderer, who fled from the

king, say . . .

The phrase’s appearance in PPA 95, where the individual named as a

b¯el damˆe is a witness to the payment made by a father for a homicide his

son committed, and inWiseman, The Vassal-Treaties of Esarhaddon, where

the b¯el damˆe acts for wronged Esarhaddon, is clear evidence that the term

can refer to the claimant from the victim’s family.85 In PPA 95, if the term

80Publication: Many copies are extant. Cf. A. K. Grayson, Assyrian Rulers of the Third and

Second Millennium (to 1115 B.C.) (RIMA I; Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1982),

51–52. Transliteration and translation: Grayson, Assyrian Rulers of the Third and Second

Millennium, 54.

81This is a mistake for ˇsa-ri-ik, “the one who hands over (in a legal case).” Cf. Grayson, 54,

and CAD ˇ S/II, 42–43, s.v. ˇsarku, “to hand over in a legal case.”

82Cf. Benno Landsberger, “Lexikalisches Archiv,” ZA 41 (1933), 227.

83Publication: Robert Francis Harper, Assyrian and Babylonian Letters (Chicago: The University

of Chicago Press, 1911), 11.1223–1224. Transliteration and translation: Simo Parpola,

Letters from Assyrian and Babylonian Scholars (SAA 10; Helsinki: Helsinki University Press,

1993), 94.

84Publication: Harper, Assyrian and Babylonian Letters, 10.1131.

85Victor Koroˇsec argues that only in Hittite, the expression e-eˇs


ha-na-aˇs-pat iˇs-


ha-a-aˇs, “lord

of the blood,” refers to the person who has the claim on the blood money (Hethitische

Staatsvertr age [Leipzig: TheodorWeicher, 1931], 38). The problem with Koroˇsec’s argument is

that this phrase appears only twice in Hittite, once in the Hittite laws and once in a text where

its meaning is unclear. Cf. Roth, “Homicide in the Neo-Assyrian Period,” 364.

referred to the killer, then it would be applied to the son for whom the father

is paying compensation, not one of the witnesses.

PPA 95


1 I ˇse-lu-[b]u DUMU-ˇs ´ u 2 ˇsal-lu-[un]-t ´ u-ˇs ´ u 80 MA.NA URUDU.MEˇS

3 Iasˇ+sˇur-B[A` D].PAP ina E´ LU´ .A.BA E´ .GAL 4 u´ -[sˇal]-li-me x x x x

5 I[GI] I dMAˇS.MAˇ S.I L´U qur-bu-te 6 urupar-


HA-a-a 7 IGI I dPA.PAPir

LU´ ! sˇa´ UGU URU 8 IGI II`R-dal-la-a-a 9 lu´


ha-za-nu 10 IGI I dPA-u´ -a

11 lu´mu-tir-t.e`-me 12 IGI IKAM-esˇ-DINGIR LU´ .GAL E´ .GAL!


13 IGI Iti-ni-x-x 14 uruba-da-na-a-a 15 IGI I dPA-r´em-a-ni 16EN


ˇS.MEˇS ˇsa GUB-ni 17 IGI I dPA- ´ u-TI.LA 18 L ´ U.A.BA s.

a-bit t.


19 I[TU.A]B UD 27 KAM 20 lim-me [I]dPA.KAR-ir-a-ni 21 [L]U´ .GAL

KASˇ .LUL 22 IGI I dPA.S[U] LU´ .GAL URU.MESˇ -ni 23 [sˇa] LU´ .A.BA


1–4 [For] Shelubu his son, Assur-duru-us.ur has paid in full his

[Shelubu’s] payment of 80 minas of copper in the house of the

palace scribe. . . . 5–23Witness: Nergal-na’id, the qurbutu-officer of

(the city of) Parnunna.Witness:, the city overseer.Witness:

Urdu-allaya, the mayor. Witness: Nabua, the information officer.

Witness: Eresh-ili, the palace overseer. Witness: Tini . . . , of [the city

of] Badana. Witness: Nabu-remanni, owner of the blood who was

present. Witness: Nabu-uballit., the scribe, writer of the tablet. Tenth

month, 27th day, eponym year of Nabu-et.irani, the chief butler

[740 b.c.e.]. Witness: Nabu-eriba, the city inspector of the palace


The Vassal-Treaties of Esarhaddon86

576KIMIN ki-i sˇa a-a-lu ka-sˇu-du-u-ni di-ku-u-ni 577 a-na ka-sˇu´ -nu

ˇSEˇS.MEˇS-ku-nu DUMU.MEˇS-ku-nu EN UˇS.MEˇS 578 lu-ka-ˇsi-du lidu-


576–578 ditto. Just as a stag is overtaken and killed, so may the

avenger87 overtake and kill you, your sons and your daughters.

86Publication, translation, and transliteration: D. J. Wiseman, The Vassal-Treaties of Esarhaddon

(London: British School of Archaeology in Iraq, 1958), 71–74. Transliteration and

translation: Simo Parpola and Kazuko Watanabe, Neo-Assyrian Treaties and Loyalty Oaths

(SAA 2; Helsinki: Helsinki University Press, 1988), 53–54.

87Although Parpola and Watanabe renders b¯el damˆe in the translation as “mortal enemy,” the

glossary in their book renders it as “avenger” (Neo-Assyrian Treaties and Loyalty Oaths, 86).

582KIMIN KIMIN ki-i ˇs ´a MUˇSEN ina du-ba-qi is.-s.ab-bat-u-ni

583 a-na ka-ˇsu-nu ˇSEˇS.MEˇS-ku-nu DUMU.MEˇS-ku-nu ina ˇ SU.II EN


ˇS.MEˇS-ku-nu 584 li-iˇs-ku-nu-ku-nu

582–584 Ditto, ditto. Just as one seizes a bird in a trap, so may your

brothers [and] your sons place you in the hands of your avenger.

There are a number of references that are ambiguous because of the poor

state of preservation of the text. In ABL 1008, it seems that a number of

people were killed, and the killers fled to the mountains. The letter writer

sent promises of safe passage to them. The killers then came down and made

peace with the victim’s kin. The good relations failed, and the killers once

again fled to the mountains. The victim’s kin then resumed threatening the


ABL 100888


1_ [ . . . ]-sˇu´ -nu i-du-u-ku [ . . . ] 2_ [ip-ta-al]-


hu a-na KUR-u´ e-te-l[i-u]

3_ [IdPA]-LAL-an-ni ina UGU-


hi-ˇsu-nu a-sa-ap-ra 4_ [i]t-tar-du-u-ni ade-

e is-se-e-sˇu´ 5_ i-sa-ak-nu e-tar-bu ia-mut-tu´ 6_ ina ˇS


URU-sˇu´ kammu-

su 2 URU.SE.MEˇS 7_ TA qa-an-ni-ˇs ´ u-nu L ´ U.EN ´U ˇS!.MEˇS ˇsa a-na

8_ LU´ .GAL URU.MESˇ -ni i-du-ku-u-ni 9_ la u´ -ri-du-u-ni . . .


. . . They killed their . . . They became afraid and went up to the

mountain. I sent [Nabuˆ ]-taqqinanni to them; they came down, concluded

a settlement with him and entered into it, and [then] each was

dwelling [peaceably] in his own town.

There are two problems with this text. The first is that line 7 reads LU´ .EN

KUR.MESˇ , “enemies.” Only if we assume that this is an error for LU´ .EN


ˇS.MEˇS do we find the term b¯el damˆe in this text. Secondly, lines 6_–9_ have

difficult syntax. Martha Roth translates: “The b—el dame destroyed two villages

within their borders which are in the jurisdiction of the village inspector;

(they have again fled to the mountains) and have not come down.” Andreas

Fuchs and Simo Parpola translate it: “Two villages from their outskirts, the

avengers who killed the village managers, did not come down.” However,

the verb dˆaku takes a direct object, not the preposition ana and, therefore,

the action of the verb cannot be directed at the village manager(s). (The plural

marker in the logogram could refer either to the manager[s] or to the

88Publication: Harper, Assyrian and Babylonian Letters, 10.1101. Transliteration and

translation: Robert H. Pfeiffer, State Letters of Assyria (New Haven, Connecticut: American

Oriental Society, 1935), 221–222; Andreas Fuchs and Simo Parpola, The Correspondence of

Sargon II, Part III: Letters from Babylonia and the Eastern Provinces (SAA 15; Helsinki:

Helsinki University Press, 2001), 67.

village[s]). It is more likely that b¯el damˆe refers here to a murderer, rather

than to an avenger, whose actions would be authorized and who would not

need to flee.

The phrase is also found in ABL 211,89 but it is simply too ambiguous to

determine what it signifies. The letter writer claims that he is being viewed as

a b¯el damˆe, but this could mean that he is claiming favored status as kinsman

or that he is protesting that he is being unfairly viewed as a murderer.90 It is

simply impossible to determine.

The phrase is also found in CT 53 402,91 but the text is very broken.

There are a number of terms that have semantic ambivalence comparable

to b¯el damˆe. These are legal terms like b¯el d¯ıni, which refers to either party in

a law suit, or b¯el sulummˆı, which refers to either party to an agreement. It is

equally plausible to argue that the meaning “owner of the blood,” referring

to the claimant from the victim’s family, is related to b¯el napiˇsti, “the owner

of life,” the member of the victim’s family who has the right to vengeance.


If a man who has not yet received his share of the inheritance takes a

life, they shall hand him over to the avenger.92 Should the avenger so

choose, he shall kill him, or if he chooses to come to an accommodation,

then he shall take his share of the inheritance.



There are five Neo-Assyrian legal documents that deal with homicide. Although

they present unrelated cases with different victims and offenders,

we can take these five texts and arrange them in the logical progression of

settling a dispute.93 They concern different phases that fit logically together

and thus may be reconstructed as a single judicial process. ADD 618 reflects

a preliminary stage in which the rights and obligations of the parties

involved in the adjudication of homicide are formally recognized. ADD 321

represents the assistance of a mediating body in a dispute over a homicide in

order to settle the issues of the rights and obligations of the parties when they

are in the process of negotiating the amount of compensation for a homicide.

ADD 164 reflects the further progress of the case by stating the court’s

89Harper, Assyrian and Babylonian Letters, 2.213–214.

90Roth, “Homicide in the Neo-Assyrian Period,” 364.

91Simo Parpola, Cuneiform Texts from Babylonian Tablets in the British Museum (London:

British Museum, 1979), plate 105.

92Literally, “the owner of life.”

93Roth arranges three of these texts in such a progression, in “Homicide in the Neo-Assyrian

Period,” 362–363.

confirmation of the compensation the guilty party must pay. The final two

documents, ADD 806 and PPA 95, reflect the conclusion of the process: The

payment is delivered to the injured party and the dispute is settled. Specifically,

ADD 806 refers to land forfeited as compensation, a legal transaction

conducted by government officials, while PPA 95 records a payment made

in the presence of an official ensuring that the obligation was discharged

properly. There is a great deal not recorded in these documents. For example,

no indication of the circumstances of the homicide is offered – how was

it accomplished? Was it intentional or accidental? These matters are of no

concern because these documents are purely economic in nature.

ADD 618 is a formal acknowledgment by the killer’s village of its obligation

to pay compensation and of the right of the victim’s family to demand

compensation for the unlawful death. Once this formal declaration has been

made, the actual killer is no longer important: No matter what happens to

him, the village is still obligated. Other issues are ignored.


1 na4KIˇSIB I dUTU-tak-lak 2 na4KIˇSIB Iib-ta-aˇs!-GIˇS 3 na4KIˇSIB Itab-laa-

a 4 na4KIˇSIB Ieri-du10-a-a94 5 na4KIˇSIB IU+GUR.PAP.PAP 6 na4KIˇSIB

Isi-lim-DINGIR 7 na4KIˇSIB Imu-qa-l´ıl-IDIM 8 na4KIˇSIB IU.PAP.PAP

9 na4KIˇSIB IAˇS.GIˇS 10 na4KIˇSIB Isa-a-ri-u-ni 11 na4KIˇSIB95 uru96sa-mana-

a-a gab-bu (cylinder seal of fish man) 12 Is.

i-ri-i :97 EN UˇS.MEˇS

13 ˇsa Isi-lim-DINGIR 14 GAZ-u-ni


15 ina IGI-sˇu´ -nu lu-u MUNUS-sˇu 16 lu-u SˇESˇ -sˇu´ lu-u DUMU-

ˇsu 17 man-nu ˇs ´a e-la-a-ni98 18 ˇsu-nu UˇS.MEˇS u´ -sˇal-lumu 19 IGI

94J. Kohler and A. Ungnad suggest that the first two signs might be an error for URU-aˇs+ˇsur,

yielding a name like Aˇsˇsur ¯aya (Assyrische Rechtsurkunden [Leipzig: Eduard Pfeiffer, 1913],

388). Nicholas Postgate reads this name as I d uru


HI-a-a and suggested with reservations that

it might be eri-du10-a-a (Fifty Neo-Assyrian Legal Documents [Warminster, England: Aris &

Phillips, 1976], 170, 215), as does Theodore Kwasman (Neo-Assyrian Legal Documents in the

Kouyunjik Collection of the British Museum, Studia Pohl: Series Maior 14 [Rome: Pontificio

Istituto Biblico, 1988], 386) and Remko Jas (Neo-Assyrian Judicial Procedures, State Archives

of Assyria Series 5 [Helsinki: The Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project, 1996], 63, number 41).

Martha T. Roth reads it as IURU.


HI-a-a without resolving the difficulty (“Homicide in the

Neo-Assyrian Period,” 352).

95Roth suggests removing na4KISˇIB as well and replacing it with LU.MESˇ, since na4KISˇIB

could be construed as a scribal error in which the scribe after ten lines beginning with na4KISˇIB

automatically wrote it again (“Homicide in the Neo-Assyrian Period,” 353).

96Postgate suggests emending the masculine determinative I to uru for two reasons: 1) The use

of gabbu, “all,” to refer to all of the prior signatories is not the normal usage, and 2) Samana

is a known Neo-Assyrian toponym (Fifty Neo-Assyrian Legal Documents, 171).

97The colon indicates that b¯el damˆe is in apposition to the personal name S.

iri. See J. Krecher,

“Glossen,” RLA 3.431–440.

98This durative verb as part of a relative clause should be in the subjunctive, elluˆni, “he rises,”

with a middle -u vowel. However, the -a vowel can be explained in two ways: 1) A ventive

Itar-di-tu´ -asˇ+sˇur LU´ .3-sˇu´ 20 IGI IdPA.SAG-i-sˇi 21 LU´ .NI´.GAB 22 IGI

IdNUSKU.PAP.AˇS 23 LU´ .sˇa´ UGU qa-na-te 24 IGI Iman-nu-ki- d10

LU´ .I`.DU8

25 IGI Iasˇ+sˇur-MU.ASˇ LU´ . GAL 26 sˇa´ LU´ .GAL

SUM.NINDA 27 IGI IAD-ul-ZU 3-sˇu´ 28 IGI IdPA-u-a A.B[A]

29 ITU.APIN UD 3 KAM 30 lim-me INU.TEˇS99

Before this text can be translated, a number of problems must be solved.

The identity of the people described in ADD 618 is debatable. Who is the

killer? Who is the victim? The subject of line 13 is ambiguous. Lines 12–13

can be translated as “S. iri, the owner of the blood, whom Silim-ili killed” or

as “S. iri, the owner of the blood, who killed Silim-ili.” What is the significance

of calling S.

iri “the owner of the blood”? Furthermore, who are the people

mentioned in lines 1–11 and what role do they play in remedying the slaying?

Finally, is it the victim’s or killer’s relatives who are referred to in lines 15–16,

and how do they participate in settling the case?

Nicholas Postgate argues thatS.

iri is the killer and Silim-ili is the victim,

and that the people of his (S. iri’s) village, whose seals appear in lines 1–11,

confirm their responsibility to deliver upS.

iri.100 According to Postgate, the


iri, and his family, those mentioned in lines 15–16, have escaped

from their own village to avoid punishment and cannot be found. The rest

of the villagers, who comprise those named in lines 1–11, have assumed

a corporate obligation: In the case that the killer or any of his family reappear,

the villagers would be responsible for paying the blood money by handing

him over to the injured party to serve as a slave in compensation.101 Postgate

appears to be reading lines 12–14 as “S. iri is the owner of the blood of Silimili

[whom] he killed,” and identifies the family members in lines 15–16 as

members of S.

iri’s family who will be handed over to the victim’s family as


The identification ofS.

iri as the killer is forced upon Postgate because he

believes that b¯el damˆe refers only to the one who shed the blood. However,

its appearance in PPA 95, where the individual named as a b¯el damˆe is a

witness to the payment made by a father for a homicide his son committed,

is clear evidence that the term can refer to the claimant from the victim’s

ending accounts for the -a vowel, ell ˆ ani (cf. Kaspar Riemschneider, An Akkadian Grammar

(trans. Thomas A. Caldwell, John N. Oswalt, and John F. X. Sheehan; Milwaukee, Wisconsin:

Marquette University Press, 1975], 234–235); or 2) the verb is ablative in Assyrian, durative

ella, preterite ¯eli, perfect etili (cf. Wolfram von Soden, Grundriss der akkadischen Grammatik

(3d edition; AnOr 33; Rome: Pontificium Institutum Biblicum, 1995],188). Here, I believe that

both possibilities coalesce since with the ventive ending, the verb can be rendered “he arises,”

which fits the context well.

99Postgate (Fifty Neo-Assyrian Legal Documents, 171) and Roth (“Homicide in the Neo-

Assyrian Period,” 353) read the eponym as INU.UR. The sign has both values.

100Postgate, Fifty Neo-Assyrian Legal Documents, 171.

101Cf. the slayer’s daughter in the following text, ADD 321.

family. Furthermore, Postgate is of the opinion that its appearance in the

phrase b¯el damˆe ˇsadduni in PPA 95 is deceiving: He argues that it should

not be taken as a freestanding phrase, but rather as part of a phrase similar

to frequently occurring phrases, such as b¯el eqli tad¯ ani, “the owner of the

field being sold,” or to another phrase found in the palace governor’s archive

in Nimrud, b¯el kaspi naˇsˆe, “the owner of the money being borrowed.”102

However, the very phrases that Postgate adduces as evidence refute his argument.

In the clause b¯el eqli tad¯ ani, the phrase b¯el eqli is in fact a freestanding

phrase referring to “the owner of the field” who is selling his field.103 In the

clause b¯el kaspi naˇsˆe, the phrase b¯el kaspi is a freestanding phrase referring

to “the owner of the money” being borrowed.

However, Theodore Kwasman argues that Silim-ili was the killer and

that S.

iri, whose relationship to Silim-ili is not mentioned, assumed the responsibility

for paying the compensation for the homicide.104 He reads lines

12–14 as “S. iri is responsible for the blood money [of the person] whom

Silim-ili killed.” This translation is problematic because the relative pronoun

ˇsa cannot do double duty to denote both the possessive relationship,

“of the person,” and the direct object, “whom.” The relative pronoun ˇsa is

in apposition to the personal name S.

iri.105 It would then be better to understand

the personal name S.

iri as either the subject or the object of the

verb GAZ-u-ni; that is,S.

iri is either the killer or the victim. Kwasman does

agree with Postgate’s rendering of the rest of the tablet. The people, therefore,

enumerated in lines 15–17 are members of the murderer’s family who

happen to reappear in the village. They are the ones in line 18 who are

to pay.106

Martha T. Roth, in contrast to Postgate and Kwasman, argues that the

people enumerated in lines 15–17 are, in fact, claimants from the victim’s

family, not members of the killer’s family.107 She bases her argument on the

standard pattern of a Neo-Assyrian debt-note, which she believed applied

102Postgate, The Governors Palace Archive, 124

103See the multitudinous occurrences cited in CAD B, 196.

104Kwasman, Neo-Assyrian Legal Documents, 386.

105In Old Babylonian, what Kwasman translates would be written S.

iri b¯el damˆe (ˇsa) aw¯ılim

sˇa Silim-ili isˇgusˇu¯ . The grammatical studies of Neo-Assyrian do not treat this issue. Cf. Karlheinz

Deller, “Zur sprachliche Einordnung der Inschriften Aˇsˇsurnas.irpals II. (883–859),” Or

26 (1957), 144–156; Deller, “Assyrische Sprachgut bei Tukulti-Ninurta II (888–884),” Or 26

(1957), 268–272; Deller, “Zweisilbige Lautwerte des Typs KVKV im Neuassyrischen,” Or 31

(1962), 7–26; Deller, “Studien zur neuassyrischen Orthographie,” Or 31 (1962), 188–196;

Deller, “Neuassyrisches aus Sultantepe,” Or 34 (1965), 457–477; Deller, “Progressive Vokalassimilation

im Neuassyrischen,” Or 36 (1967), 337–338; Riemschneider, An Akkadian Grammar,

228–238; von Soden, Grundriss der akkadischen Grammatik, 192–193.

106Kohler and Ungnad interpret these lines in the same fashion, as an order to the killer to

compensate for the killing by handing over a member of his own family (Assyrische Rechtsurkunden,


107Roth, “Homicide in the Neo-Assyrian Period,” 352, 354–355.

here. Roth’s argument that the people in lines 15–17 are claimants from the

victim’s family is sound because it is based on the recognition that this tablet

follows the pattern of an economic text. Although the physical appearance

of the tablet makes it look like a conveyance – it is a single tablet without

an envelope and its writing is at right angles to its longer axis – in fact it

contains the literary formulation of a debt-note or contract.108

This genre of document, a debt-note, almost invariably conforms to the

following pattern:

Standard Neo-Assyrian Debt-Note

a) seal of obligor

b) statement of obligation

1. commodity/object of transaction

2. belonging to obligee

3. at the disposal of the obligor

c) discharge of obligation

1. date/place of discharge

2. commodity

3. obligor(s)

4. obligee

5. he/they shall make good

d) closing lines (date, witness, scribe)

According to this pattern, therefore, the people mentioned in lines 15–17

must be the members of the victim’s family to whom the debt is owed. The

victim and his relatives become the obligee, the one to whom the debt must

be paid, and the entire village becomes the obligor, the one who must pay

the debt.

The last piece of the puzzle remains: Who is the killer and who is the

victim? Silim-ili’s name appears among those sealing this document in line 6.

None of the renderings by Postgate, Kwasman, and Roth confronts this fact.

Is this the same Silim-ili referred to in line 13? If he is, then he cannot be the

one who was killed. If Silim-ili was dead, it would be impossible for him to

impress his seal on the document. While it is possible that two men by the

name Silim-ili are mentioned in the same document, it seems odd that they

are not differentiated in some way by the mention of their fathers’ names or

occupations. Furthermore, if the argument of Ockham’s razor holds true –

that the simplest explanation is preferable – then equating the Silim-ili in

line 6 with the one in line 13 makes the most sense. Silim-ili, then, was the

108Postgate, Fifty Neo-Assyrian Legal Documents, 171. A debt-note or contract is written on

a tablet with an envelope that carried a seal impression and a repetition of the inner tablet and

with the writing at right angles to its shorter axis.

murderer of S.

iri. His presence among those who have set their seal reflects

his acquiescence in his guilt and acknowledgment of his debt.

Roth argues that the victim’s family had two options: 1) They could

demand payment, or if the victim’s family refused to accept compensation,

then 2) they might demand the life of the killer.109 This rendering

depends upon the meaning of ina mu

˘ h

˘ h

¯ıˇsunu in line 15. According to the

usage of ina mu

˘ h


hi-(possessive pronoun),110 this prepositional phrase has

the sense of the right to money or responsibility for money accruing to the

credit or debit of someone and, therefore, should be rendered, “S. iri . . . is

at their expense or is accrued against them.” The villagers are responsible

for, or at least charged with overseeing, that S.

iri’s death is remedied. The

phrase should not be rendered “in their midst,” that is, arrested, as Roth


Since S.

iri is identified as b¯el damˆe, a term referring in this case to the

claimant from the victim’s family, we can extrapolate from this identification

that Silim-ili had killed before and that S.

iri was seeking to make a claim

against him on behalf of the victim’s family but was killed by Silim-ili. If,

in fact, the opposite were true, that S.

iri was the murderer, his killing at the

hands of Silim-ili would be justified and there would be no need for this

document. After the homicide, the villagers assumed the responsibility for

the compensation forS.

iri’s death. If, and when, claimants fromS.

iri’s family

would arrive, the villagers would discharge their obligation. Hence, this text

should be translated as follows:

1–11 Seal of Shamash-takl—ak, seal of Ibt — ash-l—eshir, seal of Tabl—aya, seal

of Erid—aya, seal of Nergal-a


hu-us.ur, seal of Silim-ili, seal of Muqallilkabti,

seal of Adad-ahu-us.ur, seal of Edu-t—eshir, seal of Sariuni, seal of

the entire city of Sam—anu.111 12–15S.

—ıri, the owner of the blood, whom

Silim-ili killed, is their responsibility. 15–17 Whoever appears among

them [to claim compensation], whether it is his wife, his brother, or

his son, (18) they themselves shall pay the blood money. 19–29Witness:

Tarditu-Assur, the third rider on the chariot.Witness: Nabu-r—esh-ishi

the doorkeeper. Witness: Nusku-a


h-iddin, the official in charge of

the reeds. Witness: Mannu-ki-Adad, the doorkeeper. Witness: Assursum-

iddin, the captain of the victualer. Witness: Abu-ul-idi, the third

rider on the chariot. Witness: Nabua, the scribe. 8th month, third

day, eponym of Labashi [657 b.c.e.].

109Roth, “Homicide in the Neo-Assyrian Period,” 354.

110Cf. the examples of ina mu

˘ h


hi-(possessive pronoun) given inCADM/2, 175a–b, and AHw/II,


111Cf. the other reference to the city of Sam—anu in Simo Parpola, Neo-Assyrian Toponyms

(AOAT; Kevelaer: Butzon & Bercker, 1970), 300–301.

This text tells of an odd occurrence. S.

iri, the claimant from the victim’s

family, came to the village to claim compensation for a homicide, but the

killer, Silim-ili, committed homicide again, killing the claimant S.

iri. S.


village assumed corporate responsibility for compensating the victim’s

kinsmen, and ten of the villagers formally promised to make restitution to

the claimant from the victim’s family whenever he or she might arrive.

The pattern can now be filled out:

Standard Neo-Assyrian Debt-Note ADD 618

a) seal of obligor seals of villagers in lines 1–11

b) statement of obligation

1. commodity/object of S.

iri in line 12


2. belonging to obligee Silim-ili in lines 13–14112

3. at the disposal of the obligor the villagers in line 15

c) discharge of obligation

1. date/place of discharge left unspecified

2. commodity the blood (money) in line 18

3. obligor(s) the villagers referred to in

line 18

4. obligee the kin of the victim in lines


5. he/they shall make good line 18

d) closing lines (date, witness, scribe) lines 19–30

The commodity, the compensation, in ADD 618 is deliberately not specified

because it has yet to be negotiated. It will be determined if, and when,

a member of the victim’s family arrives to make a claim. The word U



in line 18 of ADD 618 is, therefore, deliberately left ambiguous. A number

of options were available at the discretion of the victim’s kin. They

could accept compensation in various forms of payment. As can be seen

in the following documents, the payment could be in the form of copper,

fields, or a person. If the killer failed to pay, he and all his assets could be


Since this document was deposited in Nineveh, it can be surmised that

the villagers had this document sent to Nineveh as an official recognition

of their obligation. Furthermore, since it remained in the archive, it appears

that no one from S.iri’s family came forward to make a claim. In short,

ADD 618 represents the first stage in a case of homicide, when the rights of

112My identification of Silim-ili as the killer clears up a problem in Roth’s analysis of the

pattern. Because she identifies Silim-ili as the victim, the placement of his name in this part of

the pattern as the obligee is, to her, merely formalistic. If, in fact, Silim-ili were the killer,

identifying him as the one obliged to pay a debt fits the pattern.

the victim’s family and the obligations of the killer and his community are

formally recognized by the killer’s community.

In ADD 321, a mediating body assists in the negotiation over the amount

of compensation by proposing a solution:


(beginning destroyed) (blank seal space) 1_ [u´ ]-ma-a it-ta-at-ru-us.

2_ [is!]-sa-


hi-iˇs GEME2-a-di-im-ri 3_ [DU]MU.MUNUS-su ˇs ´a Ia-tarqa-

mu 4_ [L]´U a-na! I dUTU.DU.PAP DUMU-sˇu´ 5_ ˇs ´a Isa-ma-ku kuum

da-me i-dan 6_ da-me i-ma-si ˇsum-ma MUNUS 7_ la i-din ina UGU

qa-bu-ri 8_ ˇsa Isa-ma-ku i-du-ku-ˇsu 9_ man-nu ˇs ´a ina UGU man-nu

BAL-u-ni 10_ 10 MA.NA KUG.BAB[BAR SU]M-a[n] AN.ˇSA´ R dUTU

11_ a-[de-e ˇs ´a MAN ina ˇS


l]u-ba-[’i-u] . . .


12_ lim-m[u . . . ] 13_ IAN.ˇSA´ R.DU´ .A MA[N kurasˇ+sˇur IGI I . . . ]

14_ Lu´ .GA[L . . . ] 15_ IGI Ia-da-lal LU´ .DUMU.SˇUII sˇa´ ! [DUMU.MAN]

16_ I[GI I dI]M-ba-ba-u lu´DUMU.SˇUII

17_ ˇsa DUMU.MAN 18_ IGI

Iaˇs+ˇsur-DINGIR-a-a 19_ IGI [x] [ . . .] x x 20_ [ . . . ]-ri 21_ [ . . .] x

1_–6_ It is now mutually agreed:113 the one who shall give Amatadimri,

the daughter of Attar-q—amu, to Shamash-k—enu-us.ur, the son

of Samaku [who was killed] in place of blood [money] and wash

the blood away.114 6_–8_ If he does not give the woman, they will kill

him on top of115 Samaku’s grave. 9_–10_ Whoever breaches the contract

with the other party116 shall pay 10 minas of silver [1,000

113Literally, “Now that [a hand] has been mutually extended.” Both parties have agreed to the

conditions and the tablet is, then, a statement of the agreement. The form ittatrus. is a Gt perfect

of tar ¯ as. u, which is otherwise unattested (cf. AHw III, 1327). In fact, von Soden, in AHw, reads

i-ta-ru-us. , as do Kohler and Ungnad, Assyrische Rechtsurkunden, 388, which would be a simple

G perfect. However, there are a fair number of hapax Gt forms, and the reciprocal meaning is

appropriate here.

114Kwasman reads lines 2–6 as follows: “Shamash-knu-us.ur, the son of Attar-q—amu, the scribe,

shall give KUR-adimri, the daughter of Attar-q—amu, the scribe, in place of blood money for

Samaku [who was murdered] and washes the blood away,” (Neo-Assyrian Legal Documents,

393). However, in order to render it this way, Kwasman must separate ma¯ ru¯ sˇu from the following

phrase, ˇsa Isa-ma-ku, posit that it refers back two lines to Attar-q—amu and claim that

despite the single occurrence of the personal name Attar-q —amu, it is linked to both Shamashk

—enu-us.ur and KUR-adimri. Furthermore, Kwasman assumes that the first three signs in line 4_

are LU .A.BA, .tupsˇarru, “scribe.” These signs, to be sure, are given in C. H. W. Johns’s copy

of ADD 321 (Assyrian Deeds and Documents [2d edition; Cambridge: Deighton, Bell, and Co.,

1924]), but Parpola has collated the line and determined that the third sign is na, thus L U a-na

(“Collations to Neo-Assyrian Legal Texts from Nineveh,” Assur 2/5 [1979], 49).

115The prepositional phrase ina mu

˘ h


hi is a bit ambiguous since it can mean either “on top of”

or “nearby,” but the sense of it, as translated here, works well in this context.

116Literally, “whoever transgressed before someone shall pay . . . ,” meaning “to act against

an agreement.” Cf. the numerous attestations in Neo-Assyrian contracts, CAD N/I s.v. nabalkutu,


shekels]. 10_–11_ Assur, Shamash and the oath of the king will call

him to account. 12_–21_ Eponym of . . . of Assurbanipal, king of the

land of Assyria. Witness: . . . , the chief . . .Witness: Adalal, the m¯ ar

q¯ at¯e117 of . . .Witness: Adad-Bab— a’u, them¯ ar q¯ at¯e of the crown prince.

Witness: Assur-ilaya . . .

ADD 321 conforms to the pattern of a court order:

lines 2_–6_: The guilty party is required to discharge his obligation;

lines 6_–8_: The penalty for the guilty party’s failure to comply is given;

lines 9_–10_: The penalties that devolve upon either party for repudiating

the agreement are stated.118

In the process of settling a homicide dispute, this document represents

the intermediate point between the initial claim and the final disposition.119

A third party, the crown, has mediated a proposed settlement that appears

to be acceptable to both parties. The payment is said to be “in lieu of the

blood” and to “wash the blood away,” alluding to an idea similar to the

Israelite conceptualization that the spilled blood of the homicide victim has

a concrete existence that needs to be remedied. This is also reflected in the

use of the term b¯el damˆe to refer to the killer and to the claimant from

the victim’s family.

ADD 164 reflects the further progress of a case by recording the court’s

confirmation of the payment the guilty party must make. In ADD 164, Hani

has killed shepherds in the course of stealing livestock from the crown prince.

The tablet does not record the number of shepherds killed or the number

of animals stolen.120 He was ordered to pay 300 sheep and an unspecified

117It is unclear what type of office is held by the m¯ ar q¯ at¯e, since there is no other reference

to it.

118Cf. Postgate, Fifty Neo-Assyrian Legal Documents, 59f, and Roth, “Homicide in the Neo-

Assyrian Period,” 357. This penalty clause is not in conflict with that in lines 6_–8_ because the

penalty in lines 6_–8_ is specific to a killer who would otherwise be subject to the death penalty

if he did not pay compensation for the killing. It would appear that if the killer did not provide

the slave woman, he would be killed as punishment for the killing, and then his kin would have

to pay as well.

119Roth argues that ADD 321 contains a variation on this pattern. She holds the opinion that

the court order in line 1_ is expressed as the protasis of a conditional sentence, “If it is mutually

acceptable” (“Homicide in the Neo-Assyrian Period,” 357). According to Roth, this raises the

possibility that the settlement is dependent upon the agreement of the victim’s family, who may

choose not to accept it. However, her understanding of the first line as a protasis is incorrect.

While a protasis may be marked or unmarked by a conditional particle (the particle u¯ma is

equivalent to the Old Babylonian inanna, “now”) and a verb in the protasis must be either

in the perfect or durative, the syntax appears to be a simple declarative sentence. The perfect

signifies that the action, the mutual extending of a hand signifying agreement, is occurring or

has occurred.

120The omissions may be due to the fact that this document is the court’s determination of the

amount of blood money for each victim. Another document recorded the progress of the case

in determining how many shepherds and sheep were killed.

fine as well, as compensation for the victims in the amount of two talents of

copper per person. Hani was not able to pay and so has been arrested.


1 de-e-nu sˇa lu´ sar-tin-nu 2 a-na I


ha-ni-i e-m`ı-du-u-ni 3 3 me UDU.MEˇS

a-di sa- ´ ar-ti-ˇsi-na 4 ˇsa DUMU.MAN ina IGI I


ha-ni-i 5 ´U ˇS.MEˇS ˇsa

L ´ U.SIPA 1-en L ´ U 2 G ´ U.UN URUDU.MEˇS 6 sa-a´ r-tu-sˇu´ 121 I



7 a-di UN.MEˇS-ˇs ´ u a-di A.ˇS ` A.MEˇS-ˇs ´ u 8 ku-um 3 me UDU.MEˇS

a-di sa- ´ ar-ti-ˇsi-na 9 ku-<um> UˇS.MEˇS ˇsa L ´ U.SIPA.MEˇS 10 na-ˇsi-

<<na>>122 11man-nu sˇa u´ -ba-’u-sˇu´ -u-ni


12 lu-u LU´ .GAR-nu-sˇu´ lu-u LU´ .GALˇ[u´ ] 13 lu-u ma´m-manu-

ˇs ´ u-nu u-ba-’u-u-ˇs ´ u-ni 14 3 me UDU.MEˇS a-di sa- ´ ar-ti-ˇsu-na

15 ´U ˇS.MEˇS ˇsa L ´ U.SIPA 1 L ´ U 2 G ´ U.UN URUDU.MEˇS 16 sˇa LU´ -ti

i-da-an-nu-u-ni I


ha-ni-i 17 u´ -sˇe-s.a


hur-sa-an i-tu-ra 18 IGI Itab-ni-i

L ´ U.A.BA 19 IGI Is.

al-mu-MAN-iq-bi 20 IGI I dUTU.ZI.AˇS 21 IGI Iamsi-

i 22 ITU.Z´IZ UD 27 KAM 23 lim-mu Ida-na-nu

1–2Acourt decision which the sartinnu imposed on Hani. 3–4 Required

of Hani are 300 sheep inclusive of their fine belonging to the crown

prince. 5–6 His fine is the blood money for a shepherd, 2 talents123

copper per person. 6–10 In lieu of 300 sheep inclusive of their fine

and in lieu of the blood money for the shepherds, Hani together

with his people and his fields are to be taken. 11–16 Whether his governor124

or his bodyguard captain125 or whoever litigates for them

shall give the blood money for a shepherd, 2 talents of copper per person,

for his life.126 16–17He shall redeem Hani. He refuses the river

121To what do lines 5–6 refer? Is 1-en L U to be taken as the blood money and the copper as the

fine, or is 1-en Lu to be construed with the copper? Although the first possibility is supported by

the fact that Neo-Assyrian can express “and” by parataxis (as translated by Kwasman, Legal

Transactions of the Royal Court of Nineveh, 212), this may not operate here because the plural

determinative in line 9 refers to additional shepherds killed by Hani. It appears more likely,

then, that the two talents of copper are to be paid for each victim. CAD D, 79b, renders lines

5–6 as “his fine as blood money for the shepherds is two talents of copper per person, he will

give the blood money for the shepherds – per person two talents of copper.”

122Postgate notes that the form na-ˇsi-na is impossible and that its appearance must be due to

the -ˇsi-na in lines 3 and 8 (Fifty Neo-Assyrian Legal Documents), 159.

123There are two weights in Neo-Assyria, a heavy and a light, which is half the weight of the

heavy. Without an indication, it seems impossible to determine to which the text refers. One

heavy talent is equivalent to 3,600 heavy shekels or 7,200 light shekels.

124Cf. CAD ˇ S/I, especially in the Neo-Assyrian legal texts referenced on pp. 184–185.

125Cf. CAD K, 436–438.

126The meaning of LU -ti in line 16 is difficult. Postgate argues that while Neo-Assyrian usage

of ailuttu can refer to a man in his status as a servant, it is possible that in the context of murder

it refers to “human life” (Fifty Neo-Assyrian Legal Documents, 160). Postgate notes as well

that it might not refer to the murdered man but to Hani himself while serving in debt-slavery.

Kwasman argues that L U-ti was a scribal error for sa- ar-ti-<ˇs u> caused by the L´U sign in the

ordeal.127 18–23Witness: Tabni, the scribe. Witness: S.


Witness: Shamash-napishtu-iddin. Witness: Amsˆı. 11th month,

27th day, eponym of Dan—anu.

The nature of this document and its relationship to the archive in which

it was found have been debated. Postgate suggested that this was an official

record rather than a legal document to be retained by one of the parties.128

It differs from other Neo-Assyrian legal records in that it does not give a description

of the progress of the case but states the court’s decision. However,

Kwasman argues that this text was part of the royal archives at Nineveh,

which included private documents as well as state administrative and literary

documents.129 He identifies this text as constituting a single-document

archive belonging to an individual, that of Hani, which was part of the

larger royal archives. There are a number of difficulties with Kwasman’s

claim. First, although Kwasman hoped that recognition of the documents’

provenance as an archive would aid in understanding their context as

archives deposited for safekeeping in a royal archive, it is doubtful that the

preceding line (Neo-Assyrian Legal Documents, 129), but to me, this appears unlikely since it

involves multiple errors.

127Lines 16b–17 are problematic for two reasons: 1) The verb used with the noun



“river ordeal,” in the phrase


hur-sa-an i-tu-ra is obscure, and 2) the verbs are in a sequence of

durative and then preterite. With regard to the first problem, the primary difficulty is the verb

tu ¯ aru, “to return,” and its relationship to the noun,


hur-sa-an, “the river ordeal.” The sign in

Johns’s edition is definitely tu. Postgate argues for the reading tu because of the appearance of the

verb tu ¯ aru, “to return,” in other legal documents (Fifty Neo-Assyrian Legal Documents, 160).

Kwasman argues against Postgate’s position and states that tu ¯aru is never attested for



and that since the river ordeal needs to be completed in a legal action, a verb like par¯asu would

be appropriate (Neo-Assyrian Legal Documents, 129). Hence, he emends tu to ba and proposes

the solution of i-ba-ra-<as> for iparras. However, he fixes one error while introducing a new

error, the omission of -as, not known before. Furthermore, Remko Jas adduces examples of the

usage of tu ¯aru with


hursan (Neo-Assyrian Judicial Procedures, 9). This phrase, therefore, does

not require emendation. What is its meaning? Postgate renders it as “to refuse an ordeal” and

provides many examples of this usage (Fifty Neo-Assyrian Legal Documents, 160, 209).

[However, in Middle Babylonian legal texts, it clearly means “to be found guilty by the ordeal.”

(Cf. O. R. Gurney, The Middle Babylonian Legal and Economic Texts from Ur, 10–12).

Jas argues that this connotation is found in Neo-Assyrian texts as well (Neo-Assyrian Judicial

Procedures, 10, n. 40). The significance would be similar – the subject has not been acquitted

of the offense.] The sequence of verbs and their “tenses” requires some explanation. The first

verb in line 16, uˇses. a, is a biform of the durative (cf. von Soden, Grundriss der akkadischen

Grammatik, 44*, 189), which is marked by the appearance of the final -a. It cannot be preterite

with a ventive ending because that form would entail an ultralong vowel that would need to

be indicated. The verb could either be itu¯ ra, the preterite because of the appearance of the

middle -u vowel, or more likely iturra, the durative with the ventive. The subject of the

first verb is the one who litigates on Hani’s behalf, mentioned in line 12, while the subject

of the second is the killer himself, Hani.

128Postgate, Fifty Neo-Assyrian Legal Documents, 60.

129Kwasman, Neo-Assyrian Legal Documents, 129.

large number of documents that he identifies as constituting many singledocument

archives is really that useful. Placing this document in a personal

archive is helpful only when there are other documents in that archive. Second,

Remko Jas argues that the identification of this text as part of Hani’s

personal archive was unlikely since Hani and his family were arrested and his

possessions confiscated.130 The winning party in the suit, the crown prince,

would be the more likely archive holder. This d¯enu text was a formal record

of the permanent settlement of the case. Jas suggested as well that the texts

that refer to third-party arbitration but do not mention d¯enu seem to be

ad hoc documents that were meant to be kept until a d¯enu was issued.131

In sum, this document, a so-called d¯enu text, is a formal document to be

kept after the affair has been settled. This particular d¯enu text is one that

includes the phrase d¯enu em¯adu, “to impose a judgment,” but lacks the

ˇsulmu clause, which states that there is now peace between the parties.132

This may indicate that the case was not completely settled and that further

litigation was expected or that the convicted party was disappointed with the


With regard to the conduct of the case, it is remarkable that the crown

prince went to an official, in this case the sartinnu, for judgment like other

Assyrians. Who is the sartinnu? In ABL 716, r. 11, the king himself appoints

the sartinnu and the sukallu, the vizier, “to give just and equitable judgment

in my land.” In Iraq 32 132:2,133 the sartinnu and the vizier serve once again

as the court for those involved in a lawsuit. The sartinnu and the vizier own

comparable estates in Iraq 20 187, no. 40:18.134 The royal appointment

and the status on a par with that of the vizier justify identifying the role

of the sartinnu as chief judge and appointee of the crown.135 In the other

Neo-Assyrian d¯enu texts, other officials acting in a judicial capacity are mentioned.

Most often a


hazannu presides, but a sˇanguˆ -priest, a sukallu, and a

ˇsakin m¯ ati also hear cases. It is uncertain whether cases of a particular type

were put to officials of a specific rank. In the extant Neo-Assyrian texts, a

sartinnu is mentioned as presiding over two cases, this homicide case and

another involving a dispute over a slave (ADD 163). It is unclear what these

two cases have in common that would call for a judge at the rank of sartinnu.

Unfortunately, the language of these texts is terse, a characteristic of all d¯enu

texts, and therefore the specifics of the cases are barely mentioned. However,

line 17 reveals that Hani refused to undergo an ordeal, part of the procedure

undertaken to ascertain the defendant’s guilt.

130Jas, Neo-Assyrian Judicial Procedures, 10–11.

131Ibid., 2.

132Ibid., 6.

133J. N. Postgate, “More Assyrian Deeds and Documents,” Iraq 32 (1970), 132.

134H. W. F. Saggs, “The Nimrud Letters IV: The Urartian Frontier,” Iraq 20 (1958), 187.

135K. Deller, “Die Rolle des Richters im neuassyrischen Prozessrecht,” in Studi in onore di

Edoardo Volterra VI (Milan: A. Giuffr`e, 1971), 652.

The last two texts, ADD 806 and PPA 95, originate in the final stages of

a case and record payments made to discharge the debt. ADD 806, a record

of the sale of a large estate, records that part of the land was forfeited as

compensation. This legal transaction was conducted by government officials:


1 10 ANˇSE A.ˇS


ina uruni-ra-ma-a-a 2 `IR.MEˇS sˇa LU´ .EN.NAMkursime-

e 3 ku-um da-me ib-ta-at-qu . . .

1–3 The servants of the governor of Sime took possession of 10 homers

of field in Nirama in lieu of the blood money.

PPA 95 takes the form of a debt repayment record, that is, a receipt:


1 I ˇse-lu-[b]u DUMU-ˇs ´ u 2 ˇsal-lu-[un]-t ´ u-ˇs ´ u 80 MA.NA URUDU.MEˇS

3 Iasˇ+sˇur-B[A` D].PAP ina E´ LU´ .A.BA E´ .GAL 4 u´ -[sˇal]-li-me x x x x

5 I[GI] I dMAˇS.MAˇ S.I L´U qur-bu-te 6 urupar-


HA-a-a 7 IGI I dPA.PAPir

lu´ !sˇa´ UGU URU 8 IGI II`R-dal-la-a-a 9 lu´


ha-za-nu 10 IGI I dPA-u´ -a

11 lu´mu-tir-t.e`-me 12 IGI IKAM-esˇ-DINGIR LU´ .GAL E´ .GAL!


13 IGI Iti-ni-x-x 14 uruba-da-na-a-a 15 IGI I dPA-r´em-a-ni 16EN


ˇS.MEˇS ˇsa GUB-ni136 17 IGI I dPA- ´ u-TI.LA 18 L ´ U.A.BAs.


19 I[TU.A]B UD 27 KAM 20 lim-me [I]dPA.KAR-ir-a-ni 21 [L]U´ .GAL

KASˇ .LUL 22 IGI I dPA.S[U] LU´ .GAL URU.MESˇ -ni 23 [sˇa] LU´ .A.BA


1–4 [For] Shelubu his son, Assur-du— ru-us.ur has paid in full his

[Shelubu’s] payment of 80 minas of copper in the house of the palace

136Postgate reads the last three signs as ˇsa-du-ni and argues that the authorities that imposed

the penalty did check the payment because the tablet uses the ˇs-stem, the causative, of the

verb nad¯anu to refer to the payment, implying that a coercive power is causing the subject of

the verb to pay the money to a third party (The Governors Palace Archive, 123–124). Roth

reads the last three signs as ˇsa GUB-ni, in normalized form ˇsa izzizzuni (“Homicide in the

Neo-Assyrian Period,” 359, 360, n. 20). Postgate’s reading is clever but impossible. First of

all, the -a vowel needs to be explained because the two possible forms that the verb could

possibly be are the infinitive in the genitive, ˇsuddun¯ı, or the verbal adjective in the third-person

masculine singular, ˇsuddun. Secondly, the doubling of d is lacking. Third, the final -i vowel fits

only the genitive infinitive, not a third-person plural verbal adjective, sˇuddunu¯ , “they cause to be

paid,” but it would make sense only if the verb was in the Sˇt-stem, a passive form. With regard

to the first problem, the form ˇsadduni does exist as a biform (cf. von Soden, Grundriss der

akkadischen Grammatik, 27*, and the Neo-Assyrian examples in CAD N/I, 57a). However,

the second and third problems remain. I would add that Roth’s rendering is in consonance

with the other verbs of motion used to characterize the claimant from the victim’s family. This

accurate understanding of this verb underscores the role of the victim’s family in propelling the

case toward final settlement.

scribe. . . . 5–22Witness: Nergal-n— a’id, the qurbutu-officer137 of [the

city of] Parnunna.138 Witness: Nabuˆ -na—, the city overseer.Witness:

Urdu-allaya, the mayor. Witness: Nabua, the information officer.

Witness: Eresh-ili, the palace overseer. Witness: Tini . . . , of [the city

of] Badana. Witness: Nabu-remanni, owner of the blood who was

present. Witness: Nabu-uballit., the scribe, writer of the tablet. Tenth

month, 27th day, eponym year of Nabu-et.irani the chief butler [740

b.c.e.]. Witness: Nabu-eriba, the city inspector of the palace scribe.

There are two elements that separate PPA 95 from other receipts. The payment

recorded in this document is made in the office of the palace scribe.

The creditor is not named in the operative section of the document that mentions

the repayment, possibly because the money is not paid directly to him.

His name can be inferred because one of the witnesses, Nabu-remanni, is

identified as b¯el damˆe, “the owner of the blood,” in this case the claimant

from the victim’s family. Otherwise, we would not know that this debt139

has anything to do with homicide.

The money is not paid directly to Nabu-remanni but is paid into the house

of the palace scribe. Although the usual practice in Neo-Assyria is to pay the

fine directly to the injured party,140 PPA 95 does not appear to be a receipt,

complete with the validating seal or fingernail impression of the party being

paid. PPA 95 is a record of a payment made before the authorities who had

decided the case and imposed the fine and was, therefore, deposited in the

public archives.141 The b¯el damˆe does not act as a party to the transaction:

He is solely a witness because it is the palace that takes an active role at this

point in the proceedings.

With these five documents, the outlines of the procedure put in effect

in the Neo-Assyrian period when a homicide has been committed can be

reconstructed. The social group to which the killer belonged took the initiative

and assumed corporate responsibility.142 First, the fact that a homicide

has been committed had to be determined. Second, the identity of

137It is clear that the qurbutu is an officer of some variety, but his exact rank is unclear. Cf.

CAD/Q, 315–317, and AHw II, 929.

138Cf. the other references to this city cited by Parpola, Neo-Assyrian Toponyms, 273.

139The large size of the debt may be an indication that it is blood money.

140Postgate, The Governors Palace Archive, 18. However, the practice of paying a fine before

the authorities is evidenced in other texts and is not limited to blood money, as can be seen in

PPA 92 and 96.

141The governor’s palace archives excavated in Nimrud are public archives and do not contain

the private archives of the governor; cf. Postgate, The Governors Palace Archive, 10.

142Roth argues that it was in the best interest of the killer to recognize the rights of the parties

formally because in this way, the right of the victim’s family to self-help and vengeance would

be limited; negotiation between the parties would then have suspended the right of the victim’s

family to kill the murderer (“Homicide in the Neo-Assyrian Period,” 363). However, we do not

have any evidence that independent vengeance ever existed.

the responsible party had to be ascertained. Third, the killer had to be

apprehended. There was an official recording institution of the monarchy

at which outstanding homicide obligations were deposited, pending

the claim of the victim’s family. Next, the parties negotiated the amount

of compensation with the intervention of a mediating authority, an officer

of the crown. Finally, when a specific amount had been agreed upon,

the obligation was paid in the presence of an official authority, a crown