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The meaning of Asylum in the Bible
(From International Standard Bible Encyclopedia)

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 House of God was a place to which persons in danger fled for protection (I Kings 1:50; I Kings 2:28). It had horns and must not be confused with the altars of earth or stone that were used for lay sacrifices. See ALTAR; SANCTUARY. Exodus 21:14 provides that a murderer is to be taken from the altar to be put to death. The law of the cities of refuge proceeds upon a somewhat different principle. Its objects are (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 (II Samuel 14:14). For the legal and geographical information, see CITIES OF REFUGE; HOMICIDE.

Harold M. Wiener


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