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Numbers 35:9-34

The Cities of Refuge

35:9 Then the Lord spoke to Moses: 35:10 “Speak to the Israelites and tell them, ‘When you cross over the Jordan River 1  into the land of Canaan, 35:11 you must then designate some towns as towns of refuge for you, to which a person who has killed someone unintentionally may flee. 35:12 And they must stand as your towns of refuge from the avenger in order that the killer may not die until he has stood trial before the community. 35:13 These towns that you must give shall be your six towns for refuge.

35:14 “You must give three towns on this side of the Jordan, and you must give three towns in the land of Canaan; they must be towns of refuge. 35:15 These six towns will be places of refuge for the Israelites, and for the foreigner, and for the settler among them, so that anyone who kills any person accidentally may flee there.

35:16 “But if he hits someone with an iron tool so that he dies, 2  he is a murderer. The murderer must surely be put to death. 35:17 If he strikes him by throwing a stone large enough that he could die, and he dies, he is a murderer. The murderer must surely be put to death. 35:18 Or if he strikes him with a wooden hand weapon so that he could die, and he dies, he is a murderer. The murderer must surely be put to death. 35:19 The avenger 3  of blood himself must kill the murderer; when he meets him, he must kill him.

35:20 “But if he strikes him out of hatred or throws something at him intentionally 4  so that he dies, 35:21 or with enmity he strikes him with his hand and he dies, the one who struck him must surely be put to death, for he is a murderer. The avenger of blood must kill the murderer when he meets him.

35:22 “But if he strikes him suddenly, without enmity, or throws anything at him unintentionally, 35:23 or with any stone large enough that a man could die, without seeing him, and throws it at him, and he dies, even though he was not his enemy nor sought his harm, 35:24 then the community must judge between the slayer and the avenger of blood according to these decisions. 35:25 The community must deliver the slayer out of the hand of the avenger of blood, and the community must restore him to the town of refuge to which he fled, and he must live there 5  until the death of the high priest, who was anointed with the consecrated oil. 35:26 But if the slayer at any time goes outside the boundary of the town to which he had fled, 35:27 and the avenger of blood finds him outside the borders of the town of refuge, and the avenger of blood kills the slayer, he will not be guilty of blood, 35:28 because the slayer 6  should have stayed in his town of refuge until the death of the high priest. But after the death of the high priest, the slayer may return to the land of his possessions. 35:29 So these things must be a statutory ordinance 7  for you throughout your generations, in all the places where you live.

35:30 “Whoever kills any person, the murderer must be put to death by the testimony 8  of witnesses; but one witness cannot 9  testify against any person to cause him to be put to death. 35:31 Moreover, you must not accept a ransom for the life of a murderer who is guilty of death; he must surely be put to death. 35:32 And you must not accept a ransom for anyone who has fled to a town of refuge, to allow him to return home and live on his own land before the death of the high priest. 10 

35:33 “You must not pollute the land where you live, for blood defiles the land, and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed there, except by the blood of the person who shed it. 35:34 Therefore do not defile the land that you will inhabit, in which I live, for I the Lord live among the Israelites.”

1 tn The word “River” is not in the Hebrew text, but has been supplied in the translation for clarity.

2 tn the verb is the preterite of “die.” The sentence has :“if…he strikes him and he dies.” The vav (ו) consecutive is showing the natural result of the blow.

3 tn The participle גֹּאֵל (goel) is the one who protects the family by seeking vengeance for a crime. This is the same verb used for levirate marriages and other related customs.

4 tn The Hebrew text is more vivid: “by lying in wait.”

5 tn Heb “in it.”

6 tn Heb “he.”

7 tn Heb “a statute of judgment” (so KJV).

8 tn Heb “ at the mouth of”; the metonymy stresses it is at their report.

9 tn The verb should be given the nuance of imperfect of potentiality.

10 tn Heb “the priest.” The Greek and the Syriac have “high priest.” The present translation, along with many English versions, uses “high priest” as a clarification.

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