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Cities for the Levites


In the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho, the L ord spoke to Moses, saying: 2Command the Israelites to give, from the inheritance that they possess, towns for the Levites to live in; you shall also give to the Levites pasture lands surrounding the towns. 3The towns shall be theirs to live in, and their pasture lands shall be for their cattle, for their livestock, and for all their animals. 4The pasture lands of the towns, which you shall give to the Levites, shall reach from the wall of the town outward a thousand cubits all around. 5You shall measure, outside the town, for the east side two thousand cubits, for the south side two thousand cubits, for the west side two thousand cubits, and for the north side two thousand cubits, with the town in the middle; this shall belong to them as pasture land for their towns.

6 The towns that you give to the Levites shall include the six cities of refuge, where you shall permit a slayer to flee, and in addition to them you shall give forty-two towns. 7The towns that you give to the Levites shall total forty-eight, with their pasture lands. 8And as for the towns that you shall give from the possession of the Israelites, from the larger tribes you shall take many, and from the smaller tribes you shall take few; each, in proportion to the inheritance that it obtains, shall give of its towns to the Levites.

Cities of Refuge

9 The L ord spoke to Moses, saying: 10Speak to the Israelites, and say to them: When you cross the Jordan into the land of Canaan, 11then you shall select cities to be cities of refuge for you, so that a slayer who kills a person without intent may flee there. 12The cities shall be for you a refuge from the avenger, so that the slayer may not die until there is a trial before the congregation.

13 The cities that you designate shall be six cities of refuge for you: 14you shall designate three cities beyond the Jordan, and three cities in the land of Canaan, to be cities of refuge. 15These six cities shall serve as refuge for the Israelites, for the resident or transient alien among them, so that anyone who kills a person without intent may flee there.

Concerning Murder and Blood Revenge

16 But anyone who strikes another with an iron object, and death ensues, is a murderer; the murderer shall be put to death. 17Or anyone who strikes another with a stone in hand that could cause death, and death ensues, is a murderer; the murderer shall be put to death. 18Or anyone who strikes another with a weapon of wood in hand that could cause death, and death ensues, is a murderer; the murderer shall be put to death. 19The avenger of blood is the one who shall put the murderer to death; when they meet, the avenger of blood shall execute the sentence. 20Likewise, if someone pushes another from hatred, or hurls something at another, lying in wait, and death ensues, 21or in enmity strikes another with the hand, and death ensues, then the one who struck the blow shall be put to death; that person is a murderer; the avenger of blood shall put the murderer to death, when they meet.

22 But if someone pushes another suddenly without enmity, or hurls any object without lying in wait, 23or, while handling any stone that could cause death, unintentionally drops it on another and death ensues, though they were not enemies, and no harm was intended, 24then the congregation shall judge between the slayer and the avenger of blood, in accordance with these ordinances; 25and the congregation shall rescue the slayer from the avenger of blood. Then the congregation shall send the slayer back to the original city of refuge. The slayer shall live in it until the death of the high priest who was anointed with the holy oil. 26But if the slayer shall at any time go outside the bounds of the original city of refuge, 27and is found by the avenger of blood outside the bounds of the city of refuge, and is killed by the avenger, no bloodguilt shall be incurred. 28For the slayer must remain in the city of refuge until the death of the high priest; but after the death of the high priest the slayer may return home.

29 These things shall be a statute and ordinance for you throughout your generations wherever you live.

30 If anyone kills another, the murderer shall be put to death on the evidence of witnesses; but no one shall be put to death on the testimony of a single witness. 31Moreover you shall accept no ransom for the life of a murderer who is subject to the death penalty; a murderer must be put to death. 32Nor shall you accept ransom for one who has fled to a city of refuge, enabling the fugitive to return to live in the land before the death of the high priest. 33You shall not pollute the land in which you live; for blood pollutes the land, and no expiation can be made for the land, for the blood that is shed in it, except by the blood of the one who shed it. 34You shall not defile the land in which you live, in which I also dwell; for I the L ord dwell among the Israelites.

4. And the suburbs of the cities. A discrepancy here appears, from whence a question arises; for Moses first limits the suburbs to a thousand cubits from the city in every direction; and then seems to extend them to two thousand. Some thus explain the difficulty, viz., that the parts nearest to the city were destined for cottages and gardens; and that then there was another space of a thousand cubits left free for their flocks and herds; but this seems only to be invented, in order to elude by the subterfuge the contradiction objected to. My own opinion rather is, that after Moses had given them a boundary of a thousand cubits on every side, he proceeds to shew the way in which they were to be measured, that thus he may obviate all the quarrels which might aria: from their neighbors. It is plain that, when he repeats the same thing twice, the latter verse is only an explanation of the former; and thus it would be absurd, that after having fixed a thousand cubits, he should immediately double that number. But it will be all very consistent, if this measurement be taken in a circuit; for if you draw a circle, and then a line from the center to the circumference, that line will be about a tenth part of the whole circumference; compare then the fourth part of the circle with the straight line which goes to the center, and it will be greater by one part and a half. But, if you leave a thousand cubits for the city, the two thousand cubits 199199     “Les huit mille coudees prinses aux quatre quatriers conviendront avec les mille coudees d’espace entre la ville, et les bornes des fanbourgs.” — Fr. The more common solution of this difficulty appears to be that suggested by Maimonides, viz., that besides the 1000 cubits allotted to the suburbs, 2000 more were added for fields and vineyards. Rosenmuller, however, demurs to this interpretation, which he does not consider the text will bear. I have translated C. word for word, but I believe his figures are wrong. It is probable that his theory is the same as that of Corn. a Lapide, which he thus more clearly propounds, “God seems here to comprise the city and its suburbs in a circle, so that the center should be the city, and the circumference should end at the distance of 1000 cubits on every side of the city walls. This circle He divides into four triangles, each of which is isosceles, i e., it, has its two sides equal, which are drawn from the center to the circumference. God, therefore, here commands, that the suburbs on every side should be extended a thousand cubits, and that the east side should be contained in two lines (each, of course, of 1000 cubits) drawn from the city to the circumference of the suburbs, which two lines comprehend that east side in the shape of a triangle;” and so also with the other sides, “so that the two lines drawn to the circumference of each side, which are the two equal sides of the triangle, should together contain 2000 cubits." in the four parts of the circumference will correspond with one thousand cubits from the city towards each of the boundaries.

It is afterwards prescribed, in accordance with equity, that a greater or less number of cities should be taken according to the size of the possessions belonging to each tribe; for, just as in paying tax or tribute, regard is had to each man’s means, so it was just that every tribe should contribute equitably in proportion to its abundance. As to the cities of refuge, I now omit to explain what their condition was, because this matter relates to the Sixth Commandment; only let us observe that the wretched exiles were entrusted to the care of the Levites, that they might be more safely guarded. Besides, it was probable that those who presided over holy things would be upright and honest judges, so as not to admit men indiscriminately out of hope of advantage, or from carelessness, but only to protect the innocent, after duly examining their case.

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