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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

Cities of Refuge(A)

19 When the Lord your God has destroyed the nations whose land he is giving you, and when you have driven them out and settled in their towns and houses,(B) then set aside for yourselves three cities in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess. Determine the distances involved and divide into three parts the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, so that a person who kills someone may flee for refuge to one of these cities.

This is the rule concerning anyone who kills a person and flees there for safety—anyone who kills a neighbor unintentionally, without malice aforethought. For instance, a man may go into the forest with his neighbor to cut wood, and as he swings his ax to fell a tree, the head may fly off and hit his neighbor and kill him. That man may flee to one of these cities and save his life. Otherwise, the avenger of blood(C) might pursue him in a rage, overtake him if the distance is too great, and kill him even though he is not deserving of death, since he did it to his neighbor without malice aforethought. This is why I command you to set aside for yourselves three cities.

If the Lord your God enlarges your territory,(D) as he promised(E) on oath to your ancestors, and gives you the whole land he promised them, because you carefully follow all these laws I command you today—to love the Lord your God and to walk always in obedience to him(F)—then you are to set aside three more cities. 10 Do this so that innocent blood(G) will not be shed in your land, which the Lord your God is giving you as your inheritance, and so that you will not be guilty of bloodshed.(H)

11 But if out of hate someone lies in wait, assaults and kills a neighbor,(I) and then flees to one of these cities, 12 the killer shall be sent for by the town elders, be brought back from the city, and be handed over to the avenger of blood to die. 13 Show no pity.(J) You must purge from Israel the guilt of shedding innocent blood,(K) so that it may go well with you.

14 Do not move your neighbor’s boundary stone set up by your predecessors in the inheritance you receive in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess.(L)

Witnesses

15 One witness is not enough to convict anyone accused of any crime or offense they may have committed. A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.(M)

16 If a malicious witness(N) takes the stand to accuse someone of a crime, 17 the two people involved in the dispute must stand in the presence of the Lord before the priests and the judges(O) who are in office at the time. 18 The judges must make a thorough investigation,(P) and if the witness proves to be a liar, giving false testimony against a fellow Israelite, 19 then do to the false witness as that witness intended to do to the other party.(Q) You must purge the evil from among you. 20 The rest of the people will hear of this and be afraid,(R) and never again will such an evil thing be done among you. 21 Show no pity:(S) life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.(T)

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