The towns for the Levites
1While the people of Israel were still camped in the lowlands of Moab across the River Jordan from Jericho, the LORD told Moses35.1-8: Js 21.1-42. 2to say to them:
When you receive your tribal lands, you must give towns and pastures to the Levi tribe. 3That way, the Levites will have towns to live in and pastures for their animals. 4-5The pasture around each of these towns must be in the shape of a square, with the town itself in the centre. The pasture is to measure nine hundred metres on each side, with four hundred and fifty metres of land outside each of the town walls. This will be the Levites' pasture land.
6Six of the towns you give them will be Safe Towns where a person who has accidentally killed someone can run for protection. But you will also give the Levites forty-two other towns, 7so they will have a total of forty-eight towns with their surrounding pastures.
8Since the towns for the Levites must come from Israel's own tribal lands, the larger tribes will give more towns than the smaller ones.
The Safe Towns
(Deuteronomy 19.1-13; Joshua 20.1-9)
9The LORD then told Moses35.9-28: Dt 19.2-4; Js 20.1-9. 10to tell the people of Israel:
After you have crossed the River Jordan and are settled in Canaan, 11choose Safe Towns, where a person who has accidentally killed someone can run for protection. 12If the victim's relatives think it was murder, they might try to take revenge.35.12 the victim's relatives…revenge: At this time in Israel's history, the clan would appoint the closest male relative to find and kill a person who had killed a member of their clan. Anyone accused of murder can run to one of these Safe Towns for protection and not be killed before a trial is held.
13There are to be six of these Safe Towns, 14three on each side of the River Jordan. 15They will be places of protection for anyone who lives in Israel and accidentally kills someone.
Laws about murder and accidental killing
The LORD said:
16-18Suppose you hit someone with a piece of iron or a large stone or a dangerous wooden tool. If that person dies, then you are a murderer and must be put to death 19by one of the victim's relatives.35.19 one of the victim's relatives: At this time in Israel's history, the clan would appoint the closest male relative to find and kill a person who had killed a member of their clan. He will take revenge for his relative's death as soon as he finds you.
20-21Or suppose you get angry and kill someone by pushing or hitting or by throwing something. You are a murderer and must be put to death by one of the victim's relatives.
22-24But if you are not angry and accidentally kill someone in any of these ways, the townspeople must hold a trial and decide if you are guilty. 25If they decide that you are innocent, you will be protected from the victim's relative and sent to stay in one of the Safe Towns until the high priest dies. 26But if you ever leave the Safe Town 27and are killed by the victim's relative, he cannot be punished for killing you. 28You must stay inside the town until the high priest dies; only then can you go back home.
29The community of Israel must always obey these laws.
30Death is the penalty for murder. But no one accused of murder can be put to death unless there are at least two witnesses to the crime.35.30: Dt 17.6; 19.15. 31You cannot give someone money to escape the death penalty; you must pay with your own life! 32And if you have been proved innocent of murder and are living in a Safe Town, you cannot pay to go back home; you must stay there until the high priest dies.
33-34I, the LORD, live among you people of Israel, so your land must be kept pure. But when a murder takes place, blood pollutes the land, and it becomes unclean. If that happens, the murderer must be put to death, so the land will be clean again. Keep murder out of Israel!
Contemporary English Version (CEV) is copyright © American Bible Society. Psalms and Proverbs © 1991, 1992; New Testament © 1991, 1992, 1995; Old Testament © 1995; translation notes, subject headings for text © 1995; Anglicisations © The British and Foreign Bible Society 1997, 2012.