Cities for the Levites. Cities of Refuge. Using evidence. Two or three witnesses. No ransom.
VERSE 1. The LORD spoke to Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho, saying,
VERSE 2. “Command the children of Israel to give to the Levites cities to dwell in out of their inheritance. You shall give pasture lands for the cities around them to the Levites.
give to the Levites cities to dwell in. The tribes are to give up some of their own land as gifts to the Levites.
VERSE 3. They shall have the cities to dwell in. Their pasture lands shall be for their livestock, and for their possessions, and for all their animals.
VERSE 4. “The pasture lands of the cities, which you shall give to the Levites, shall be from the wall of the city and outward one thousand cubits around it.
one thousand cubits. A cubit is the length from the tip of the middle finger to the elbow on a man’s arm, or about 18 inches or 46 centimeters.
VERSE 5. You shall measure outside of the city for the east side two thousand cubits, and for the south side two thousand cubits, and for the west side two thousand cubits, and for the north side two thousand cubits, the city being in the middle. This shall be the pasture lands of their cities.
measure outside of the city. When viewed from above, the city is a square. Each side is 2,000 cubits long, or 3,000 feet. (see Note 1)
That makes for 9 million square feet (see Note 2), or 206 acres (see Note 3).
Note 1. 2000 cubits * 18 inches per cubit ÷ 12 inches per foot = 3,000 feet
Note 2 .3000 feet x 3000 feet = 9 million square feet
Note 3. 9 million square feet ÷ 43560 square feet per acre = 206 acres
VERSE 6. “The cities which you shall give to the Levites, they shall be the six cities of refuge, which you shall give for the man slayer to flee to. Besides them you shall give forty-two cities.
the six cities of refuge. The Levite cities are cities of refuge.
This associates priestly holiness with helping refugees.
Historically, godly people have been at the forefront of helping refugees. But today’s Christians are more likely to deport refugees.
VERSE 7. All the cities which you shall give to the Levites shall be forty-eight cities together with their pasture lands.
forty-eight cities. Each Levite city is 206 acres, as we saw in verse 5 above.
With 48 cities, that makes for a total of 9,888 acres.
VERSE 8. Concerning the cities which you shall give of the possession of the children of Israel, from the many you shall take many, and from the few you shall take few. Everyone according to his inheritance which he inherits shall give some of his cities to the Levites.”
VERSE 9. The LORD spoke to Moses, saying,
VERSE 10. “Speak to the children of Israel, and tell them, ‘When you pass over the Jordan into the land of Canaan,
VERSE 11. then you shall appoint for yourselves cities to be cities of refuge for you, that the man slayer who kills any person unwittingly may flee there.
cities of refuge. These are places where a refugee will be safe.
VERSE 12. The cities shall be for your refuge from the avenger, that the man slayer not die until he stands before the congregation for judgment.
that the man slayer not die. Previously, the law required the death penalty.
Now this new law brings extenuating circumstances into the picture.
VERSE 13. The cities which you shall give shall be for you six cities of refuge.
VERSE 14. You shall give three cities beyond the Jordan, and you shall give three cities in the land of Canaan. They shall be cities of refuge.
VERSE 15. These six cities shall be refuge for the children of Israel, for the stranger, and for the foreigner living among them, that everyone who kills any person unwittingly may flee there.
the children of Israel. The cities of refuge will welcome an Israelite.
the stranger. The Hebrew word is וְלַגֵּ֤ר (“wə·lag·gêr”). It means sojourner, alien, immigrant. All such people are welcome in the cities of refuge.
the foreigner living among them. The Hebrew word is וְלַתּוֹשָׁב֙ (“wə·lat·tō·wō·šāḇ”). It means foreign resident, settler. All such people are welcome in the cities of refuge.
VERSE 16. “ ‘But if he struck him with an instrument of iron, so that he died, he is a murderer. The murderer shall surely be put to death.
VERSE 17. If he struck him with a stone in the hand, by which a man may die, and he died, he is a murderer. The murderer shall surely be put to death.
VERSE 18. Or if he struck him with a weapon of wood in the hand, by which a man may die, and he died, he is a murderer. The murderer shall surely be put to death.
VERSE 19. The avenger of blood shall himself put the murderer to death. When he meets him, he shall put him to death.
The avenger of blood. Several translations says something like “The victim’s nearest relative.”
VERSE 20. If he shoved him out of hatred, or hurled something at him while lying in wait, so that he died,
VERSE 21. or in hostility struck him with his hand, so that he died, he who struck him shall surely be put to death. He is a murderer. The avenger of blood shall put the murderer to death when he meets him.
VERSE 22. “ ‘But if he shoved him suddenly without hostility, or hurled on him anything without lying in wait,
VERSE 23. or with any stone, by which a man may die, not seeing him, and cast it on him so that he died, and he was not his enemy and not seeking his harm,
VERSE 24. then the congregation shall judge between the striker and the avenger of blood according to these ordinances.
the congregation shall judge. The people are to decide if it was murder or not.
This suggests something like a trial by jury.
VERSE 25. The congregation shall deliver the man slayer out of the hand of the avenger of blood, and the congregation shall restore him to his city of refuge, where he had fled. He shall dwell therein until the death of the high priest, who was anointed with the holy oil.
The congregation shall deliver. The people take responsibility for the safety of the refugee.
VERSE 26. “ ‘But if the man slayer shall at any time go beyond the border of his city of refuge where he flees,
VERSE 27. and the avenger of blood finds him outside of the border of his city of refuge, and the avenger of blood kills the man slayer, he shall not be guilty of blood,
VERSE 28. because he should have remained in his city of refuge until the death of the high priest. But after the death of the high priest, the man slayer shall return into the land of his possession.
VERSE 29. “ ‘These things shall be for a statute and ordinance to you throughout your generations in all your dwellings.
VERSE 30. “ ‘Whoever kills any person, the murderer shall be slain based on the testimony of witnesses; but one witness shall not testify alone against any person so that he dies.
at the mouth of witnesses. The word “witnesses” is plural. More than one witness is required.
Deuteronomy 17:6. At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, he who is to die shall be put to death. At the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death.
VERSE 31. “ ‘Moreover you shall take no ransom for the life of a murderer who is guilty of death. He shall surely be put to death.
VERSE 32. “ ‘You shall take no ransom for him who has fled to his city of refuge, that he may come again to dwell in the land before the death of the priest.
VERSE 33. “ ‘So you shall not pollute the land where you live; for blood pollutes the land. No atonement can be made for the land, for the blood that is shed in it, but by the blood of him who shed it.
blood pollutes the land. That is, bloodshed desecrates the land.
Killing is a heinous act with vast repercussions, even upon the land itself.
By this point in human history, there are probably very few places left on earth where humans have not killed humans.
VERSE 34. You shall not defile the land which you inhabit, where I dwell; for I, the LORD, dwell among the children of Israel.’ ”
Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations on this page are from the World English Bible and the World Messianic Edition. These translations have no copyright restrictions. They are in the Public Domain.