BANISHMENT, a form of punishment widely imposed throughout the ancient world. India, the Greek cities, the Roman republic, and the Teutonic peoples all used this practice to rid themselves of undesirables, ranging from criminals
to political agitators who threatened the safety of the state and the authority of its rulers. Bereft of his property and prohibited from ever returning home, the victim was reduced to the level of an outcast, a permanent stranger or wanderer in foreign lands. The custom seems to have been known in Canaan, as attested by the *Ugarit texts (Aqhat, 1:152–5: T.H. Gaster, Thespis (1961), 365–6; cf. 366n.). In ancient Israel, too, banishment was not unknown, although it appears almost exclusively as a form of divine punishment. Thus Adam was expelled from the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:23–24) and Cain was doomed to be a wanderer, hidden from the presence of God (4:14–16). Two notable cases in the Bible are the banishment by Solomon of Abiathar the high priest to his family estate in Anathoth (I Kings 2:26; cf. Jer. 1:1) and the banishment of Amos from the Northern Kingdom of Amaziah the priest (Amos 7:12). Collective banishment, or exile, was considered the ultimate punishment that could be meted out to the entire people for acts of defiance against God (cf. Deut. 28:64 ff.), which were variously interpreted in different times (see *Galut ). *Karet was an extreme form of this divine punishment, involving the actual "cutting off" of the individual from life on earth (Lev. 20:2–6; cf. Zimmerli in bibl.). The only form of banishment still in existence in biblical society was that imposed on a man guilty of manslaughter or involuntary homicide, for whom *Cities of Refuge were provided (cf. Num. 35:10 ff.; Deut. 4:41–43; 19:1 ff.; Josh. 20). It has been conjectured that banishment was not otherwise sanctioned as a punishment because residence abroad was viewed as something that cut the victim off entirely from God (Hos. 9:3–5; cf. Gen. 4:14; Ezek. 11:15) and even forced him to worship idols (Deut. 4:27–28; I Sam. 26:19; Jer. 16:13). For this reason too, exile was dreaded (cf. Deut. 28:65; Ezek. 37:11) and deemed to have horrendous consequences. In later centuries, milder forms of banishment from the religious community were resorted to by means of excommunication, though, contrary to the view of some scholars, there does not seem to be any definite evidence of this practice in the Bible (cf. Greenberg in bibl.).
[David L. Lieber]
Second Temple and Talmud Periods
Banishment was resorted to by the Romans as part of their repressive policies. Thus *Archelaus the son of Herod I was banished by the Romans to Vienne in Gaul and probably remained there until he died. It is possibly to these administrative acts that *Avtalyon refers in his statement, "Ye sages, be heedful of your words lest ye incur the penalty of banishment [galut] and be banished to a place of evil waters" (Avot 1:11). Nevertheless the Pharisees seem also to have exercised this power. Josephus (Wars, 1:111) states that when they were in power they banished and brought back whomsoever they chose. The gravity of the punishment was not only that the victims would be exiled "to a place of evil waters and the disciples who come after you will drink thereof and die" (see above) but that they were also banished from the Divine Presence. On the verse, "For they have driven me out this day that I should not cleave to the inheritance of the Lord" (I Sam. 26:19), the Talmud comments that "he who lives outside the Land of Israel is regarded as worshiping idols" (Ket. 110b), and this sentiment is reflected in the words of the Musaf prayer for festivals: "But on account of our sins we were banished from our land and removed far from our country, and we are unable to appear and prostrate ourselves before Thee and to fulfill our obligations."
[Louis Isaac Rabinowitz]
Middle Ages to 18th century
In the Middle Ages banishment continued to be one of the punishments imposed on offenders in communities having a measure of criminal jurisdiction over their members (see Judicial *Autonomy ) or able to withhold or withdraw domiciliary rights (ḥezkat ha-yishuv). Hence it was imposed most frequently in Spain and Poland and Lithuania, although also occasionally elsewhere. A distinction was drawn between banishment of the offender from the city and from the realm, as also banishment for a limited period and for life. The Spanish kingdoms, especially at the height of Jewish autonomy in the 13th century, recognized the right of the communal organizations to banish recalcitrants or exclude new members. James I of Aragon (1213–76) gave the communities the right to punish offenders by fine, ban, flagellation, or expulsion. Privileges accorded to the Barcelona community in 1241 and 1272 empowered the communal elders "to eject or expel [recalcitrant members] from the Jewish quarter or the entire city." A similar ordinance for Calatayud Jewry empowered the community in 1229 to expel two individuals of bad repute. In the 1280s the kahal of Alagon banished six butchers from the city for four years and excommunicated all members who ate meat purchased from them. James II of Aragon, on a complaint from the Valencia community in 1294, instructed the local prefect and judge to prevent influential Christians from concealing offenders condemned by the community to deportation. In 1280 Pedro III of Aragon, in a basic privilege granted to all Catalonian communities, empowered their elders to punish with incarceration and exile all crimes of assault and battery, libel, and the like, in accordance with Jewish law and their own judgment. The same privilege, granted by John I of Aragon to the Huesca community in 1390, provided that the elders could summarily sentence offenders to death, mutilation, flogging, or exile, without appeal. Offenses for which banishment was imposed included murder for which there was only one witness (Solomon b. Jehiel Luria, Yam shel Shelomo le-Bava Kamma, 8, no. 7), or for which no witness was available but where hearsay was convincing (Resp. Judah b. Asher, no. 58), and attack on a victim who dies after a lapse of a certain time (Resp. sent to Salamanca by Isaac b. Sheshet, no. 251). In Spain in particular banishment was meted out to delators and informers (communal statutes of the delegates of Castile, 1432). R. Menaḥem of Merseburg (early 14th century) banished a man for two or three years for viciously beating his wife (Nimmukei Maharar Menahem me-Resburk at the end of Resp. Jacob Weill, Venice,
1549). Prostitution and adultery were punished by life banishment by takkanot of Prague of 1612. There is even a report of a man who was excommunicated and "run out" of Ereẓ Israel by the Safed rabbis in 1548 for indulging in unnatural practices with his wife (Eleazar Azikri, Sefer Ḥaredim (1601), part 3, ch. 2). Forfeiture of domiciliary rights throughout Lithuania was applied by the Council of Lithuania to thieves, receivers, and forgers, and could be broadened also to any persons engaged in suspicious or prohibited dealings, infringing ethics, or disturbing the peace of the community. Since the whole community was liable to make good a claim by a gentile for money he had lent to a defaulting Jewish debtor, in Lithuania the Jew wishing to borrow from a gentile had first to obtain permission from the av bet din. A borrower who failed to do so could be banished, and his right of domicile forfeited (Pinkas ha-Va'ad, paras. 163 and 637). The Lithuanian Council also withdrew the right of domicile from and imposed banishment on a person provoking a gentile by quarrels or blows (idem, para. 21). Its regulations of 1623, when itinerant beggary and unlicensed behavior was widespread, lay down expulsion for a beggar, if necessary with the assistance of gentile officers. In 1628 the Lithuanian Council withheld the right of domicile from any Jew absent ten years from his community of origin who had failed to pay his fiscal contribution. Banishment was frequently applied in the Sephardi community of *Hamburg , its governing body ( *mahamad ) being empowered by the Hamburg senate to expel from the community any of its members infringing morals or engaged in dishonest business dealings, among other offenses. The offender thus sentenced was served with a writ from the beadle (shamash). If he proved unable to travel for lack of funds, the mahamad lent his relatives money to defray the expenses of the journey. Sometimes the offender was sent abroad, mainly to Amsterdam, and if his conduct subsequently improved was permitted to return. This punishment was also meted out to juvenile offenders.
Mak. 2:6; Sif. Num. 60; Jos., Ant., 4:172–3; Philo, Spec., 3:123; F. Rundgren, in: VT, 7 (1957), 400–4; W. Zimmerli, in: ZAW, 66 (1954), 10–19; M. Greenberg, in: JBL, 78 (1959), 125–23. MIDDLE AGES: S. Assaf, Ha-Onashin Aḥarei Ḥatimat ha-Talmud (1922), 35–38; Baron, Community, index; Baer, Spain, 1 (1961), 430.
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.