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Numbers 35:1-8

Context
The Levitical Cities

35:1 1 Then the Lord spoke to Moses in the Moabite plains by the Jordan near Jericho. 2  He said: 35:2 “Instruct the Israelites to give 3  the Levites towns to live in from the inheritance the Israelites 4  will possess. You must also give the Levites grazing land around the towns. 35:3 Thus they will have towns in which to live, and their grazing lands will be for their cattle, for their possessions, and for all their animals. 35:4 The grazing lands around the towns that you will give to the Levites must extend to a distance of 500 yards 5  from the town wall.

35:5 “You must measure 6  from outside the wall of the town on the east 1,000 yards, 7  and on the south side 1,000 yards, and on the west side 1,000 yards, and on the north side 1,000 yards, with the town in the middle. 8  This territory must belong to them as grazing land for the towns. 35:6 Now from these towns that you will give to the Levites you must select six towns of refuge to which a person who has killed someone may flee. 9  And you must give them forty-two other towns.

35:7 “So the total of the towns you will give the Levites is forty-eight. You must give these together with their grazing lands. 35:8 The towns you will give must be from the possession of the Israelites. From the larger tribes you must give more; and from the smaller tribes fewer. Each must contribute some of its own towns to the Levites in proportion to the inheritance allocated to each.

1 sn This section has two main parts, the Levitical cities (vv. 1-8) and the Cities of Refuge (vv. 9-34).

2 map For location see Map5 B2; Map6 E1; Map7 E1; Map8 E3; Map10 A2; Map11 A1.

3 tn The verb is the perfect tense with vav (ו) consecutive: “command…and they will give,” or “that they give.”

4 tn Heb “they”; the referent (the Israelites) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

5 tn Heb “one thousand cubits.” The standard cubit in the OT is assumed by most authorities to be about eighteen inches (45 cm) in length, so this would be a distance of 1,500 feet or 500 yards (675 meters).

6 tn The verb is the Qal perfect of מָדַד (madad, “to measure”). With its vav (ו) consecutive it carries the same instructional force as the imperfect.

7 tn Heb “two thousand cubits” (also three more times in this verse). This would be a distance of 3,000 feet or 1,000 yards (1,350 meters).

8 sn The precise nature of the layout described here is not altogether clear. V. 4 speaks of the distance from the wall as being 500 yards; v. 5, however, describes measurements of 1,000 yards. Various proposals have been made in order to harmonize vv. 4 and 5. P. J. Budd, Numbers (WBC), 376, makes the following suggestion: “It may be best to assume that the cubits of the Levitical pasture lands are cubit frontages of land – in other words on each side of the city there was a block of land with a frontage of two thousand cubits (v 5), and a depth of 1000 cubits (v 4).”

9 tn The “manslayer” is the verb “to kill” in a participial form, providing the subject of the clause. The verb means “to kill”; it can mean accidental killing, premeditated killing, or capital punishment. The clause uses the infinitive to express purpose or result: “to flee there the manslayer,” means “so that the manslayer may flee there.”



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