Cities for the Levites. 1The LORD spoke to Moses on the plains of Moab by the Jordan opposite Jericho: 2a Command the Israelites out of the heritage they possess to give the Levites cities to dwell in; you will also give the Levites the pasture lands around the cities. 3The cities will be for them to dwell in, and the pasture lands will be for their cattle, their flocks, and all their other animals. 4The pasture lands of the cities to be assigned the Levites shall extend a thousand cubits out from the city walls in every direction. 5You will measure out two thousand cubits outside the city along the east side, two thousand cubits along the south side, two thousand cubits along the west side, and two thousand cubits along the north side, with the city lying in the center. These will be the pasture lands of their cities.
6b Now these are the cities you will give to the Levites: the six cities of asylum which you must establish for the homicide to run to, and in addition forty-two other cities— 7a total of forty-eight cities with their pasture lands which you will assign to the Levites. 8* In assigning the cities from what the Israelites possess, take more from a larger group and fewer from a smaller one, so that each will cede cities to the Levites in proportion to the heritage which it receives.
Cities of Asylum. 9c The LORD spoke to Moses: 10Speak to the Israelites and say to them: When you go across the Jordan into the land of Canaan, 11select for yourselves cities to serve as cities of asylum, where a homicide who has killed someone inadvertently may flee. 12These cities will serve you as places of asylum from the avenger of blood,* so that a homicide will not be put to death until tried before the community. 13As for the cities you assign, you will have six cities of asylum: 14you will designate three cities beyond the Jordan, and you will designate three cities in the land of Canaan. These will be cities of asylum. 15These six cities will serve as places of asylum for the Israelites, and for the resident or transient aliens among them, so that anyone who has killed a person inadvertently may flee there.
Murder and Manslaughter. 16* If someone strikes another with an iron instrument and causes death, that person is a murderer, and the murderer must be put to death.d 17If someone strikes another with a death-dealing stone in the hand and death results, that person is a murderer, and the murderer must be put to death. 18Or if someone strikes another with a death-dealing club in the hand and death results, that person is a murderer, and the murderer must be put to death. 19The avenger of blood is the one who will kill the murderer, putting the individual to death on sight.
20If someone pushes another out of hatred, or throws something from an ambush, and death results,e 21or strikes another with the hand out of enmity and death results, the assailant must be put to death as a murderer. The avenger of blood will kill the murderer on sight.
22f However, if someone pushes another without malice aforethought, or without lying in ambush throws some object at another, 23or without seeing drops upon another some death-dealing stone and death results, although there was neither enmity nor malice— 24then the community will judge between the assailant and the avenger of blood in accordance with these norms. 25The community will deliver the homicide from the avenger of blood and the community will return the homicide to the city of asylum where the latter had fled;g and the individual will stay there until the death of the high priest who has been anointed with sacred oil. 26If the homicide leaves at all the bounds of the city of asylum to which flight had been made, 27and is found by the avenger of blood beyond the bounds of the city of asylum, and the avenger of blood kills the homicide, the avenger incurs no bloodguilt; 28for the homicide was required to stay in the city of asylum until the death of the high priest. Only after the death of the high priest may the homicide return to the land of the homicide’s possession.
Judgment. 30Whenever someone kills another, the evidence of witnesses is required to kill the murderer.h A single witness does not suffice for putting a person to death.
No Indemnity. 31You will not accept compensation in place of the life of a murderer who deserves to die, but that person must be put to death. 32Nor will you accept compensation to allow one who has fled to a city of asylum to return to live in the land before the death of the high priest. 33You will not pollute the land where you live. For bloodshed pollutes the land, and the land can have no expiation for the blood shed on it except through the blood of the one who shed it. 34Do not defile the land in which you live and in the midst of which I dwell;i for I the LORD dwell in the midst of the Israelites.
* [35:12] The avenger of blood: Hebrew, go’el, often translated as “redeemer,” one who, as next of kin to the slain (2 Sm 14:7), and here, as executor of public justice, had the right and duty to take the life of the murderer; cf. Dt 19:6, 12; Jos 20:3, 5, 9.