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Holman Bible Dictionary

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Additional Resources
• Nave's Topical Bible
Avenger of blood
• Treasury of Scripture Knowledge
Punishment;: & God's sword, Hanged, Israel, Leprosy
• Baker's Evangelical Dictionary
Avenger of Blood
• Easton's Bible Dictionary
Avenger of blood
• Fausset's Bible Dictionary
Avenger of Blood, The
• International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
Avenge, Avenger
Blood, Avenger of
Greek - avenger
Hebrew - avenger
Hebrew - avenger

is the person with the legal responsibility to protect the rights of an endangered relative. Avenger translates Hebrew go'el, which in its verbal form means to redeem. Redemption applies to repossessing things consecrated to God (Leviticus 27:13-31) or to God's actions for His people (Exodus 6:6; Job 19:25; Psalms 103:4; Isaiah 43:1). Ultimately God is the go'el (Isaiah 41:14).

The human avenger is tied closely to the institutions of cities of refuge, land ownership, and levirate marriage. Cities of refuge offered people who killed without intention or hatred a place of escape from the avenger of blood (Exodus 21:12-14; Numbers 35:6-34; Deuteronomy 4:41-43; Deuteronomy 19:1-13; Joshua 20:1-9). The human go'el may be a brother, an uncle, a cousin, or another blood relative from the family (Leviticus 25:48-49). An established order among these determined the one legally responsible to act as go'el (Ruth 3:12-13). The avenger or go'el is responsible to take the life of one who killed a family member (Numbers 35:12), to receive restitution for crimes against a deceased relative (Numbers 5:7-8), buy back property lost to the family (Leviticus 25:25), redeem a relative who sold himself into slavery (Leviticus 25:48-49), or marry the widow of a relative without sons and perpetuate the family (Deuteronomy 25:5-10). Avenging the death of a relative is placed under strict limits. The murderer must have intentionally waited to kill the relative (Exodus 21:13) or willfully attacked the relative (Exodus 21:14). Vengeance could be exercised only before the murderer reached the city of refuge or after the court either at the victim's hometown or at the murder site judged the case (Numbers 35:12). The avenger was free to act if an iron object was used to commit the murder (Numbers 35:16), or if a stone or wood object was used (Numbers 35:17-18). Pushing a person to death because of hatred made one liable to the avenger (Numbers 35:20-21). Unintentional acts could not be punished (Numbers 35:22-24).

A killer judged to have committed the crime without hatred or intentional planning was sent to the city of refuge until the death of the high priest. The avenger could not touch the killer in the city of refuge, but if the killer left the city of refuge for any reason, the avenger could reap vengeance even against the unintentional killer (Numbers 35:22-28). This shows that even unintentional murder involved sin for which a penalty had to be paid. The law of the avenger thus prevented the shedding of innocent blood while also purging the guilt of murdering the innocent (Deuteronomy 19:11-13). The law maintained the reverence for human life created in the image of God (Genesis 9:5-7).

The New Testament sets up government to avenge evil doing (Romans 13:4), while noting God's role in avenging wrong against a brother (1 Thessalonians 4:6).

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor.. "Entry for 'AVENGER'". "Holman Bible Dictionary".
<>. 1991.


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