Numbers 35

Numbers 35:9-34

9. And the Lord spoke unto Moses, saying,

9. Et locutus est Jehova ad Mosen dicendo:

10. Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come over Jordan into the land of Canaan,

10. Alloquere filios Israel, et dicas eis, Quum transieritis Jordanem in terra Chanaan,

11. Then ye shall appoint you cities to be cities of refuge for you; that the slayer may flee thither, which killeth any person at unawares.

11. Constituetis vobis urbes: urbes autem refugii erunt vobis, quo fugiet homicida qui percusserit aliquem per errorem.

12. And they shall be unto you cities for refuge from the avenger; that the manslayer die not, until he stand before the congregation in judgment.

12. Et erunt vobis urbes illae in refugium a propinquo, et non morietur homicida, donec steterit ipse ante congregationem adjudicium.

13. And of these cities which ye shall give, six cities shall ye have for refuge.

13. Et ex urbibus quas dabitis, sex urbes refugii erunt vobis.

14. Ye shall give three cities on this side Jordan, and three cities shall ye give in the land of Canaan, which shall be cities of refuge.

14. Tres urbes dabitis citra Jordanem, et tres urbes dabitis in terra Chanaan: urbes refugii erunt.

15. These six cities shall be a refuge, both for the children of Israel, and for the stranger, and for the sojourner among them; that every one that killeth any person unawares may flee thither.

15. Filiis Israel, et peregrino, et incolae in medio eorum, erunt sex urbes illae refugium, ut fugiat illuc quicunque percusserit aliquem per errorem.

16. And if he smite him with an instrument of iron, so that lie die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death.

16. Si instrumento ferreo percusserit eum, et mortuus fuerit, homicida est: moriendo morietur homicida.

17. And if he smite him with throwing a stone, wherewith he may die, and he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death.

17. Si vero lapide manus, quo moriatur, percusserit eum, et mortuus fuerit, homicida est: moriendo morietur homicida.

18. Or if he smite him with an hand-weapon of wood, wherewith he may die, and he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death.

18. Aut instrumento ligneo manus, quo moriatur, percusserit eum, et mortuus fuerit, homicida est: moriendo morietur homicida.

19. The revenger of blood himself shall slay the murderer: when he meeteth him, he shall slay him.

19. Propinquus sanguinis ipse interficiet homicidam: quum ipse obviaverit illi, ipse interficiet eum.

20. But if he thrust him of hatred, or hurl at him by laying of wait, that he die;

20. Si per odium, inquam, impulerit eum, aut projecerit aliquid in eum per insidias, et mortuus fuerit.

21. Or in enmity smite him with his hand, that he die: he that smote him shall surely be put to death; for he is a murderer: the revenger of blood shall slay the murderer when he meeteth him.

21. Aut per inimicitiam percusserit eum manu sua, mortuusque fuerit: moriendo morietur percussor, homicida est: propinquus sanguinis interficiet homicidam quum ipse occurrerit illi.

22. But if he thrust him suddenly without enmity, or have cast upon him ally thing without laying of wait;

22. Si autem casu absque inimicitiis impulerit eum, vel projecerit in eum quodvis instrumentum absque insidiis.

23. Or with any stone, wherewith a man may die, seeing him not, and cast it upon him, that he die, and was not his enemy, neither sought his harm;

23. Aut quemvis lapidem quo moriatur quem prius non videbat, et cadere fecerit super illum, mortuusque fuerit, et ipse non erat inimicus, neque quaerebat malum ejus;

24. Then the congregation shall judge between the slayer and the revenger of blood according to these judgments:

24. Tunc judicabit congregatio inter percussorem et propinquum sanguinis secundum judicia ista.

25. And the congregation shall deliver the slayer out of the hand of the revenger of blood, and the congregation shall restore him to the city of his refuge, whither he was fled; and he shall abide in it unto the death of the high priest, which was anointed with the holy oil.

25. Et eruet congregatio homicidam e manu propinqui sanguinis, et reverti faciet eum congregatio ad urbem refugii sui ad quam confugerat: habitabitque in ea donec moriatur sacerdos magnus qui unctus est oleo sanctitatis.

26. But if the slayer shall at any time come without the border of the city of his refuge, whither he was fled;

26. Quod si egrediendo egressus fuerit homicida terminum urbis refugii sui ad quam confugerat:

27. And the revenger of blood find him without the borders of the city of his refuge, and the revenger of blood kill the slayer; he shall not be guilty of blood:

27. Et invenerit eum propinquus sanguinis extra terminum urbis refugii sui, atque occiderit propinquus ille homicidam: non erit obnoxius morti.

28. Because he should have remained in the city of his refuge until the death of the high priest: but after the death of the high priest the slayer shall return into the land of his possession.

28. In civitate enim refugii sui habitabit donec moriatur sacerdos magnus: posteaquam autem mortuus fuerit sacerdos magnus, revertetur homicida in terram possessionis suae.

29. So these things shall be for a statute of judgment unto you throughout your generations, in all your dwellings.

29. Et erunt ista vobis in statutum judicii per generationes vestras, in omnibus habitationibus vestris.

30. Whoso killeth any person, the murderer shall be put to death by the mouth of witnesses: but one witness shall not testify against any person to cause him to die.

30. Quicunque percusserit aliquem, ad verbum testium occidet homicidam: solus enim testis non testificabitur in animam ut moriatur.

31. Moreover, ye shall take no satisfaction for the life of a murderer, which is guilty of death; but he shall be surely put to death.

31. Neque accipietis pretium pro anima homicidae qui est sceleratus, ut moriatur: sed moriendo morietur.

32. And ye shall take no satisfaction for him that is fled to the city of his refuge, that he should come again to dwell in the land, until the death of the priest.

32. Sed nec accipietis pretium ut fugiat ad urbem refugii sui, ut revertatur habitare in ea terra donec moriatur sacerdos.

33. So ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are; for blood it defileth the land: and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it.

33. Et non polluetis terram in qua fueritis, quia sanguis iste polluet terram: neque terra expiabitur propter sanguinem qui effusus est in ea nisi per sanguinem illius qui effudit illum.

34. Defile not therefore the land which ye shall inhabit, wherein I dwell: for I the Lord dwell among the children of Israel.

34. Ne ergo polluatis terram in qua habitatis, et in cujus medio ego habito: ego enim Jehova habito in medio filiorum Israel.


10. Speak unto the children of Israel. God appointed the cities of refuge, not only to make distinction between sills of malice and error, but also lest innocent blood should be rashly shed. Thus far we have seen how severely He would have murder punished: but, inasmuch as it would have been by no means just that he, who had not willfully but accidentally killed his neighbor, should be hurried away to the same punishment, to which willful murderers were subjected, an exception is added here, in order that he might escape who had killed another ignorantly, and unintentionally. Although, as has been said, God had a, further object, viz., lest murder upon murder should be committed, and the land should thus be polluted. Let us now examine the details in order. Although at the outset He only mentions the cities on the other side of Jordan, still we gather from what follows, that six cities were chosen for this purpose, of which three were on this side Jordan. He would have them so situated, that every part of the country should have one of them in its neighborhood, lest the exile of the unhappy persons, who were guiltless, should be rendered more painful by the distance they would have to travel. We have already briefly pointed out1 that these cities were to be in the portions of Levi, in order that the dignity of the priesthood might the better protect the exiles, and also, because it was probable that there would be more prudence and serious feeling in the Levites, so that the refuge accorded to the innocent should not also shield the guilty.

16. And if he smite him with an instrument of iron. God appears to contradict Himself, when, a little further on, He absolves involuntary murderers, although they may have inflicted the wound with iron or with a stone; whilst here He absolutely declares that whosoever shall smite another with wood, or iron, or a stone, shall be guilty of death; but this is easily explained if we consider his meaning; for, after having pardoned the unintentional act (errori,) lest2 any should misconstrue this as affording impunity for crime, He at once anticipates them, and again inculcates what has been said before. By the express mention of iron, wood, and stone, He more dearly explains that no voluntary murders are to be pardoned; else, as laws are wont to be evaded by various subtleties, they would have endeavored, perhaps, to limit what had been said respecting the punishment of murderers to one single species of murder, viz., when a person had been slain with a sword. It is not, then, without cause that God condemns to death every kind of murderer, whether he have committed the crime with a weapon (of iron,) or by throwing a stone, or with a dub; since it is sufficient for his condemnation that he had conceived the intention to do the evil act. It is well known that3 by the Lex Cornelia, whosoever had carried a weapon with the intention of killing a man was guilty; and Martianus cites the reply of Adrian, -- He who has killed a man, if he did it not with the intention of killing him, may be absolved; and he who has not killed a man, but has wounded him with intention to kill him, is to be condemned as a murderer; as Paulus also teaches, that in the said Lex Cornelia, the evil intention (dolus) is taken for the deed. Another reply of Adrian is very true, That in crimes, the will and not the result must be regarded. Whence that saying of Ulpian, That there is no difference between the man who kills, and him who causes the death of another. Here, therefore, God had no other object than to cut off from murderers all handles for subterfuge, if they should be convicted of a wicked intention, especially when it resulted in an actual attempt; since there was no difference whether they had made use of a sword, or a mallet, or a stone.

19. The revenger4 of blood himself. When God commanded that murderers should suffer death, He required that they should be condemned by the judges after due trial; but it seems to savor somewhat of barbarism, that he should now permit the relative of the dead man to take vengeance; for it is a very bad precedent to give the power of the sword to private individuals, and this too in their own cause. It; was indeed formerly permitted, as we shall see in its proper place, to put to death robbers by night, as also it was lawful for the husband, or the father, of a ravished woman to kill the adulterer caught in the fact; but it is absurd that the law should allow a person to avenge the death of his brother. But it is not to be supposed that this license was ever accorded by God, that a man might neglect the public authorities, and inflict punishment on his brothers murderer, wherever he should meet him; for this would have been to give the reins to sudden anger, so that blood would be added to blood. Wherefore it is probable that the danger of this is here denounced, rather than the gate opened to private vengeance; as if it had been said, that unless a provision were made for the innocent, the fury of those whose kindred had been slain, could hardly be res[rained; not because it was lawful for them to render violence for violence, but because they would not consider it a crime, and impunity would prove a stimulus even to them, if their just indignation should be pardoned. It must be understood, then, that when a man had been maliciously and willfully killed, a death inflicted by his relative in vengeance was not punished; because it was hard that a man should be capitally condemned as a criminal, who had only slain a murderer already exposed to capital punishment, under the impulse of that love towards his own blood, which is naturally implanted in all. This, however, was tolerated, and not approved of, because, as I have already said, punishments are to be inflicted by public judgment, and not by private will. But, since this indulgence was conceded on account of the people's hardness of heart, God here reminds them how needful it was to provide an asylum for the innocent, because all murderers would else have been indiscriminately attacked. In short, a comparison is made between the guilty and the innocent, for, unless a just distinction had been drawn, all alike would have been exposed to death. The murderer, he says, is worthy of death, if, perchance, he is met by the kinsman of the man murdered. A remedy is, therefore, to be provided, lest one who is not criminal should accidentally receive the same punishment. Hence, at length it is gathered that a distinction is made between one and the other, by a lawful trial. The mode of procedure is also prescribed, viz., that the congregation should acquit the man who has killed another unwittingly. But because there is some perplexity in the words, it must be observed, that as soon as a person had slain another, he immediately betook himself to the place of refuge, and there declared that he sought shelter. After this declaration, it was open for the relatives of the dead man to lay their accusation, and then, after both parties were heard, judgment was pronounced. Otherwise there is a manifest contradiction in the context, since it is presently added; they "shall restore him to the city of his refuge, whither he was fled," whence it appears that, after the exile had presented himself to state his case, and to clear himself, it was usual that a day should be appointed, upon which his accusers should come forward. The sum is, that the murderer should nowhere find refuge, except he were acquitted of his crime. This was an excellent precaution, lest the same punishment should be inflicted upon mischance and criminality, whilst5 at the same time, by the temporary banishment it was testified how carefully bloodshed was to be avoided. God likewise spared the eyes of those whose brother had been killed, lest their grief should be kept alive by continually beholding (the person who had killed him;6) and this we gather from verse 26, where impunity is conceded to the relations, if they had caught and killed out of the boundaries of his refuge the man, whose duty it was to withdraw himself; not because the fury of their indignation was excused before God, but because it would else have been difficult to restrain the strong desire of vengeance proceeding from the feelings of human nature.

28. Because he should have remained in the city of his refuge. The period of banishment is prescribed, "until the death of the high-priest," because it would have been anything but humane that all hopes of restoration should have been cut off from the unhappy exile; and, when a new priest succeeded to reconcile the people to God, this renewal of grace was to propitiate all offenses. Wherefore it was not unreasonable that God should entirely restore those who were only punished for inadvertency.

30. Whoso killeth any person, He now returns to willful murderers, whom he will not have spared, but yet not given over to punishment unless convicted by legal proofs. Literally it is, Whoso smiteth a soul, at the mouth of witnesses he shall slay him that slayeth: and this sentence is obscure, from its brevity, unless a noun be supplied before the second verb; and this may be understood either of the judges or the accuser. In the substance, however, there is no ambiguity, viz., that no one should be condemned unless he be lawfully convicted. Moreover, He declares that one witness would be insufficient, inasmuch as it would be most unjust that a man's life should be at the mercy of a single tongue. I have already adduced a similar passage,7 in which Moses gave instructions that no capital causes was to be decided except at the mouth of two or three witnesses: and, because such declarations are of general application, I have purposely assigned to them a separate place. Now again, in referring to the condemnation of murderers, he takes occasion to state that two witnesses are required, since nothing is more likely to occur than that the innocent should be overwhelmed by calumnies and perjury, if it depended on the testimony of any single individual. But, when two are brought forward, it may be discovered in many ways, as has been said, whether there is any falsehood; for, if examined separately, they will scarcely accord in all particulars. But, whilst sure proof is required, in order to the punishment of guilt, so, when the murder is proved, God sternly requires, and commands that it should not remain unpunished. He expressly forbids that the right of refuge should be purchasable, since it would else have been in danger of being a shield for many crimes. When, therefore, He forbids a satisfaction to be taken from any one, who would betake himself to a city of refuge, His object is, that no one should enjoy this benefit, until his innocence was fully established; lest the mercy, whereby the innocent were succored, should be open to bribery.

33. So ye shall not pollute the land. In this concluding sentence, He again reminds them that, unless they should exercise severe justice against murderers, they would be guilty of sin against God; because the land stained with human blood is polluted, and lying under His curse, until expiation has been made. Again, since God dwells in the land of Canaan, having chosen His abode among the children of Israel, his sanctity is also profaned. The sum is, that, in every respect, care should be taken lest the land, which is sacred to God, should be contaminated by bloodshed.

1 See vol. 2 p. 251, on Numbers 35:6.

2 "De peur que cela ne tirast trop longue queue, et que les criminels en fissent couverture d'impunite, il exprime notamment les facons de tuer plus communes, quand on y va de guet-a-pens. Ainsi en nommant les instrumens, qui sont destinez, ou qu'on applique a mal faire," etc.; for fear this should be carried too far, and that criminals should make it a ground for impunity, he expressly mentions the more ordinary kinds of deliberate murder. Thus, by naming the instruments, which are intended, or used for inflicting injuries, etc. -- Fr.

3 Vide Digest. 48, tit. 8. In legem Corneliam de Sicariis, et Veneficiis, 1 Section 3. "Divus Hadrianus rescripsit, eum, qui hominem occidit, si non occidendi animo hoc admisit, absolvi posse: et qui hominem non occidit, sed vulneravit ut occidat, pro homicida damnandum: et ex re constituendum hoc." -- Ibid., 11 "Ulpianus, lib. 8, ad legem Juliam, et Papiam. Nihil interest, occidat quis, an causam mortis praebeat." Vide item, Julii Pauli Recept. Sentent., lib. 5, tit. 23, Section 2. "Qui hominem occiderit, aliquando absolvitur. Et qui non occidit, in homicida damnatur. Consilium enim uniuscujusque, non factum puniendum est. Ideoque qui cum velit occidere, id casu aliquo perpetrare non potuerit, ut homicida punietur. Et is, qui casu jactu teli hominem imprudenter occiderit, absolvitur."

4 "Propinquus sanguinis." -- Lat.

5 The Fr. gives a different turn to this sentence; "que pour obvier a un nouveau meurtre en bannissant pour un temps celuy, qui avoit tue quelqu'un par erreur;" as well as to prevent a fresh murder, by banishing, for a time, the person who had killed another unintentionally.

6 Added from Fr.

7 Deuteronomy 17:6. See ante, p. 45.