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Cities of Refuge

19 When the Lord your God has cut down the nations whose land the Lord your God is giving you, and you have taken possession of their land and settled in their cities and houses, set aside three cities within the land that the Lord your God is giving you to possess. Prepare roads[a] for yourselves, and divide the land that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance into three parts, so that anyone who has killed a person will be able to flee to one of these cities.

Now this is an example of a person who has killed someone who may flee there and live: someone who has struck down his friend unintentionally, without being hateful toward him beforehand. For instance, someone goes with his friend into the forest to cut down trees, and when his hand swings the ax to cut down the tree, the iron ax head slips off the wooden handle and strikes his friend, who then dies—that person may flee to one of these cities and live.

Otherwise, the avenger of blood might pursue the one who has killed someone, because the avenger is hot with anger. Then because of the long distance to the city of refuge, the avenger may overtake the man and strike him down fatally. His death would not be just, because he had not been hateful toward the other one beforehand. Therefore I am commanding you this: Set aside for yourselves three cities.

When the Lord your God expands your territory, as he swore to your fathers, and he gives you the entire land that he promised to give your fathers, if you carefully keep this whole set of commands that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lord your God and by walking in his ways always, then add for yourselves three more cities in addition to these three. 10 Then innocent blood will not be poured out within your land that the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, nor will you be guilty of bloodshed.

11 But if there is a person who is hateful toward another, and he lies in ambush for him and springs up on him and strikes him so he dies, and the killer flees to one of the cities of God, 12 then the elders of his home city are to send for him and take him from there. They are to hand him over to the avenger of blood, and he is to be put to death.

13 Your eye is not to look with compassion on him. You are to purge the blood of the innocent person from Israel so that it may go well for you.

Miscellaneous Laws

14 Do not move your neighbor’s boundary marker, which the first generation of occupants set up as a boundary for your inherited property in the land that the Lord your God is giving you to possess.

15 A single witness does not have legal standing to convict a person of any guilt or sin in connection with any wrongful action he may have committed. A case is to have standing only on the testimony of two or three witnesses.

16 If a malicious witness rises up against a person to testify against him about a legal offense, 17 and if the two people involved in the dispute stand before the Lord and before the priests and the judges who preside at that time, 18 the judges are to investigate diligently. If the person is a dishonest witness because he has falsely accused his brother, 19 then you are to do to him just as he had plotted to do to his brother. So you will purge the evil from among you. 20 The rest of the people will hear, and they will fear, and they will not do an evil thing like this among you again. 21 Your eye is not to look with compassion. The principle is life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

Footnotes

  1. Deuteronomy 19:3 Or determine the distances

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