The Levites Receive Their Towns
1On the plains of Moab, the Lord spoke to Moses. It was by the Jordan River across from Jericho. The Lord said, 2 “Command the Israelites to give the Levites towns to live in. The towns must come from the shares of land the people will have as their own. Also give the Levites the grasslands around the towns. 3 Then the Levites will have towns to live in. They will also have grasslands for their cattle and all their other livestock.
4 “The grasslands around each town you give them will go out to 1,500 feet from the town wall. 5 Outside each town, the east side will measure 3,000 feet. So will the south side, the west side and the north side. The town must be in the center. And the Levites will own the grasslands around each town.
Cities to Run to for Safety
6 “Six of the towns you give the Levites will be cities to go to for safety. A person who has killed someone can run to one of them. Also give the Levites 42 other towns. 7 You must give the Levites a total of 48 towns. Also give them the grasslands around those towns. 8 The towns you give the Levites must come from the land the Israelites have as their own. So the number you give from each tribe will depend on the size of that tribe’s share. Take many towns from a tribe that has many towns. But take only a few towns from a tribe that has only a few.”
9 Then the Lord said to Moses, 10 “Speak to the Israelites. Tell them, ‘You will soon go across the Jordan River. You will enter Canaan. 11 When you do, choose the cities to go to for safety. People who have killed someone by accident can run to one of those cities. 12 They will be places of safety for them. People will be safe there from those who want to kill them. Then anyone charged with murder will not die before their case has been brought to the community court. 13 Six towns will be the cities you can go to for safety. 14 Three will be east of the Jordan River. The other three will be in Canaan. 15 Those six towns will be places where the Israelites can go for safety. Outsiders living in Israel can also go to them for safety. So anyone who has killed another person by accident can run there.
16 “ ‘Suppose a person uses an iron object to hit and kill someone. Then that person is a murderer and must be put to death. 17 Or suppose a person is holding a stone that could kill. And they use it to hit and kill someone. Then that person is a murderer and must be put to death. 18 Or suppose a person is holding a wooden object that could kill. And they use it to hit and kill someone. Then that person is a murderer and must be put to death. 19 The dead person’s nearest male relative must kill the murderer. When he meets up with him, he must kill the murderer. 20 What if a person makes evil plans against someone else? And what if that person pushes them so that they die? Or what if that person throws something at them so that they die? 21 Or what if that person hits another person with a fist so that the other dies? Then the person who does any of those things must be put to death. That person is a murderer. The dead person’s nearest male relative must kill the murderer. When he meets up with him, he must kill the murderer.
22 “ ‘But what if a person suddenly pushes someone else without being angry? Or what if that person throws something at someone else without meaning to? 23 Or what if that person does not see the other person and drops a stone on them that kills them? He was not the dead person’s enemy. He did not mean to harm them. 24 Then the court must decide between the person who did the act and the nearest male relative of the one who was killed. Here are the rules the court must follow. 25 The court must provide a safe place for the person accused of murder. It must keep the one accused of murder safe from those who want to kill them. The court must send the accused person back to the city they ran to for safety. The accused person must stay there until the high priest dies. That priest has been anointed with holy oil.
26 “ ‘But suppose the accused person goes outside that city. 27 And suppose the dead person’s nearest male relative finds them outside the city. Then the relative can kill the accused person. The relative will not be guilty of murder. 28 The accused person must stay in that city until the high priest dies. Only then may they return home.
29 “ ‘This is what the law requires of you for all time to come. It will apply to you no matter where you live.
30 “ ‘Suppose a person kills someone. Then that person must be put to death as a murderer. But do it only when there are witnesses who can tell what happened. Do not put anyone to death if only one witness tells what happened.
31 “ ‘Do not accept payment for a murderer’s life. A murderer deserves to die. They must certainly be put to death.
32 “ ‘Do not accept payment for anyone who has run to a city for safety. Do not let them buy their freedom to return home. They must not go back and live on their own land before the high priest dies.
33 “ ‘Do not pollute the land where you are. Murder pollutes the land. Only one thing can pay to remove the pollution in the land where murder has been committed. The blood of the one who spilled another’s blood must be spilled. 34 So do not make the land where you live “unclean,” because I live there too. I, the Lord, live among the Israelites.’ ”