ASYLUM ă sī lum. The right of asylum is codified in four Biblical passages (
M. Greenberg has pointed out that contrary to the commonly accepted view of Wellhausen, the cities of refuge were not conceived by the Deuteronomic reformers as a replacement for the “local” (?) altars, but they were early and necessary adjuncts to the asylum offered by the altar since that was only a temporary expedient. Further, since critical scholarship noted only the humanitarian and political grounds for the law of asylum, it missed the ancient religious reason for granting asylum (viz.
G. T. Manley, The Book of The Law 1957, 119, 120, 125; M. Greenberg, “The Biblical Conception of Asylum,” JBL, 78 (1959), 125-132.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
a-si’-lum: The custom of fleeing to specially sacred places to obtain the protection of a deity is found all over the world (Post, Grundriss, II, 252 ff). In ancient Israel we meet with it in two forms--the asylum of the altar and the asylum of the cities of refuge. The altar at the
(1) to shield a homicide from the avenger of blood until trial, and
(2) to provide a refuge for the manslayer who has not been guilty of murder. There is one reference to the institution in the history of the kingdom (
Harold M. Wiener