As we know, during times when the Sanhedrin is fully operating, an accidental murderer must flee to an Ir Miklat (City of Refuge). If he leaves such a city or does not enter, he is subject to revenge killing by the Goel HaDam (Blood Avenger) and such avenger faces no punishment.

We already have a question about whether or not the avenger is obligated to seek revenge (disclosure: I posted it). Assuming that the avenger actually does make an attempt to exact his permitted revenge and is able to catch the accidental murderer outside of the City of Refuge, is the murderer allowed to defend himself, or even kill the avenger in self-defense?

  • Is the murderer required to try to flee, even if standing and fighting seems to be the more practical option (e.g. the murderer has more combat training, better physical fitness, stronger armor, a higher quality weapon, better knowledge of local terrain, or some other tactical advantage over the avenger), and attempting to escape seems doubtful?
  • Is the murderer subject to punishment for defending himself, even if it would otherwise constitute valid self-defense? E.g. would the Sanhedrin rule "The person you killed was a properly constituted Goel HaDam who had a right to kill you. Self defense does not apply in this case as you do not have a right to resist this. Your sentence is...."?

For example, suppose a Goel HaDam confronts the murderer Inigo Montoya-style and the murderer thinks to himself "hmm, he's faster than me, so if I run he will quickly catch up and strike me down, but I'm pretty sure I'm better with the sword and I'm wearing chainmail. en garde, yeahhh, stand my ground, sic semper tyrannis, etc. (insert your favorite battle cry)"!

This is not a question about whether or not it is a good idea to resist a Goel, only whether resisting is inherently sinful or if this is simply a choice that one may choose to make and accept the practical consequences, whatever they may turn out to be (glorious victory, death, maiming/disability, etc.)

  • 1
    Ooh, I know I saw this discussed, I just can’t remember where...
    – DonielF
    Commented Sep 13, 2018 at 15:15
  • 1
    @RobertColumbia No, I mean I saw it discussed by a Ba BiMachteres, I just don’t remember who said it. Lechem Mishneh, maybe?
    – DonielF
    Commented Sep 13, 2018 at 15:29
  • 1
    @DonielF Mishneh Lemelech on the Rambam, I think you are referring to. Zimri would have been allowed to kill Pinchas, etc. Short answer is "Yes he can".
    – Yehuda
    Commented Sep 13, 2018 at 15:46
  • 1
    @Yehuda Yes, that’s it!
    – DonielF
    Commented Sep 13, 2018 at 15:47
  • 1
    You may find this interesting: hebrewbooks.org/… Paragraph starting with "מ״ט"
    – Jay
    Commented Sep 13, 2018 at 23:08

1 Answer 1


Regarding your second bullet point, as to whether he would be punished if he kills the Goel Hadom, this is dealt with by the Mishneh Lamelech, Hilchot Rotzeach, 1:15 who says he will not be punished.

This is based on the Gemara on Sanhedrin 82a:

and it appears that he is not punished for this, as Chazal have mentioned that if Zimri would have killed Pinchas, he would not have been put to death.

As to whether he is allowed to do it lechatchila, may follow on automatically that it is permitted, but that is pure speculation.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .