Cities of Refuge
1 “When the Lord your God cuts off (destroys) the nations whose land He is giving you, and you dispossess them and live in their cities and in their houses, 2 you shall designate three cities for yourself in the central area of the land, which the Lord your God is giving you to possess. 3 You shall prepare and maintain for yourself the roads [to these cities], and divide the territory of your land into three parts, so that anyone who kills another unintentionally may escape there [for asylum].
4 “Now this is the case of the offender (manslayer) who may escape there and live [protected from vengeance]: when he kills his neighbor unintentionally, not having hated him previously— 5 as [for example] when a man goes into the forest with his neighbor to cut wood, and his hand swings the axe to cut down the tree, but the iron head slips off the wooden handle and hits his companion and he dies—the offender may escape to one of these cities and live; 6 otherwise the (a)avenger of blood might pursue the offender in the heat of anger, and overtake him, because it is a long way, and take his life, even though he did not deserve to die, since he did not hate his neighbor beforehand. 7 Therefore, I command you, saying, ‘You shall set aside three cities [of refuge] for yourself.’
8 “If the Lord your God enlarges your border, as He has sworn to your fathers to do, and gives you all the land which He promised to give to your fathers— 9 if you keep and carefully observe all these commandments which I am commanding you today, to love the Lord your God, and to walk [that is, to live each and every day] always in His ways—then you shall add three more cities [of refuge] for yourself, besides these three, 10 so that innocent blood will not be shed [by blood avengers] in your land which the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, and blood guilt will not be on you [for the death of an innocent man].
11 “But if there is a man who hates his neighbor and lies in wait and ambush for him and attacks him and strikes him down so that he dies, and the assailant escapes to one of these cities, 12 then the elders of his own city shall send for him and have him taken back from there and turn him over to the avenger of blood, so that he may be put to death. 13 You shall not pity him [the guilty one], but you shall purge the blood of the innocent from Israel, so that it may go well with you.
Laws of Landmark and Testimony
14 “You shall not move your neighbor’s boundary mark, which the forefathers [who first divided the territory] have set, in the land which you will inherit in the land which the Lord your God is giving you to possess.
15 “A single witness shall not appear in a trial against a man for any wrong or any sin which he has committed; [only] (b)on the testimony or evidence of two or three witnesses shall a charge be confirmed. 16 If a malicious witness rises up against a man to [falsely] accuse him of wrongdoing, 17 then both parties to the controversy shall stand before the Lord, before the priests and the judges who will be in office at that time. 18 The judges shall investigate thoroughly, and if the witness is a false witness, and he has accused his brother falsely, 19 then you shall do to him just as he had intended to do to his brother. So you shall remove the evil from among you. 20 Those who remain will hear and be afraid, and will never again do such an evil thing among you. 21 You shall not show pity [to the guilty one]: it shall be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.
a. Deuteronomy 19:6: The nearest male relative of the victim, known as the “kinsman-redeemer” (Heb go’el), was responsible to find the guilty party and put him to death (Num 35:19). The person who had committed the homicide was protected until his trial, so long as he remained in one of the three cities. After that, if he was judged innocent of any premeditation (like someone today judged guilty of manslaughter, but not murder), he was to remain in the city under protection from the avenger until the death of the high priest, at which time he could return to his home as a free man (Num 35:28).
b. Deuteronomy 19:15: Lit in the mouth of.