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Laws Concerning Cities of Refuge

1“When the Lord your God cuts off the nations whose land the Lord your God is giving you, and you dispossess them and dwell in their cities and in their houses, 2you shall set apart three cities for yourselves in the land that the Lord your God is giving you to possess. 3You shall measure the distances11Hebrew road and divide into three parts the area of the land that the Lord your God gives you as a possession, so that any manslayer can flee to them.

4“This is the provision for the manslayer, who by fleeing there may save his life. If anyone kills his neighbor unintentionally without having hated him in the past— 5as when someone goes into the forest with his neighbor to cut wood, and his hand swings the axe to cut down a tree, and the head slips from the handle and strikes his neighbor so that he dies—he may flee to one of these cities and live, 6lest the avenger of blood in hot anger pursue the manslayer and overtake him, because the way is long, and strike him fatally, though the man did not deserve to die, since he had not hated his neighbor in the past. 7Therefore I command you, You shall set apart three cities. 8And if the Lord your God enlarges your territory, as he has sworn to your fathers, and gives you all the land that he promised to give to your fathers— 9provided you are careful to keep all this commandment, which I command you today, by loving the Lord your God and by walking ever in his ways—then you shall add three other cities to these three, 10lest innocent blood be shed in your land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance, and so the guilt of bloodshed be upon you.

11“But if anyone hates his neighbor and lies in wait for him and attacks him and strikes him fatally so that he dies, and he flees into one of these cities, 12then the elders of his city shall send and take him from there, and hand him over to the avenger of blood, so that he may die. 13Your eye shall not pity him, but you shall purge the guilt of innocent blood22Or the blood of the innocent from Israel, so that it may be well with you.

Property Boundaries

14“You shall not move your neighbor's landmark, which the men of old have set, in the inheritance that you will hold in the land that the Lord your God is giving you to possess.

Laws Concerning Witnesses

15“A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established. 16If a malicious witness arises to accuse a person of wrongdoing, 17then both parties to the dispute shall appear before the Lord, before the priests and the judges who are in office in those days. 18The judges shall inquire diligently, and if the witness is a false witness and has accused his brother falsely, 19then you shall do to him as he had meant to do to his brother. So you shall purge the evil33Or evil person from your midst. 20And the rest shall hear and fear, and shall never again commit any such evil among you. 21Your eye shall not pity. It shall be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.


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Verses 1–13

Here is the law settled between the blood of the murdered, and the blood of the murderer; provision is made, that the cities of refuge should be a protection, so that a man should not die for that as a crime, which was not his willing act. In Christ, the Lord our Righteousness, refuge is provided for those who by faith flee unto him. But there is no refuge in Jesus Christ for presumptuous sinners, who go on still in their trespasses. Those who flee to Christ from their sins, shall be safe in him, but not those who expect to be sheltered by him in their sins.

Verse 14

Direction is given to fix landmarks in Canaan. It is the will of God that every one should know his own; and that means should be used to hinder the doing and suffering of wrong. This, without doubt, is a moral precept, and still binding. Let every man be content with his own lot, and be just to his neighbours in all things.

Verses 15–21

Sentence should never be passed upon the testimony of one witness alone. A false witness should suffer the same punishment which he sought to have inflicted upon the person he accused. Nor could any law be more just. Let all Christians not only be cautious in bearing witness in public, but be careful not to join in private slanders; and let all whose consciences accuse them of crime, without delay flee for refuge to the hope set before them in Jesus Christ.




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