The Towns for the Levites
1 While the people of Israel were still camped in the lowlands of Moab across the Jordan River from Jericho, the Lord told Moses 2 to say to them:
When you receive your tribal lands, you must give towns and pastures to the Levi tribe. 3 That way, the Levites will have towns to live in and pastures for their animals. 4-5 The pasture around each of these towns must be in the shape of a square, with the town itself in the center. The pasture is to measure 900 meters on each side, with 450 meters of land outside each of the town walls. This will be the Levites' pastureland.
6 Six of the towns you give them will be Safe Towns where a person who has accidentally killed someone can run for protection. But you will also give the Levites 42 other towns, 7 so they will have a total of 48 towns with their surrounding pastures.
8 Since the towns for the Levites must come from Israel's own tribal lands, the larger tribes will give more towns than the smaller ones.
The Safe Towns
(Deuteronomy 19.1-13Joshua 20.1-9)
9 The Lord then told Moses 10 to tell the people of Israel:
After you have crossed the Jordan River and are settled in Canaan, 11 choose Safe Towns, where a person who has accidentally killed someone can run for protection. 12 If the victim's relatives think it was murder, they might try to take revenge. Anyone accused of murder can run to one of these Safe Towns for protection and not be killed before a trial is held.
13 There are to be six of these Safe Towns, 14 three on each side of the Jordan River. 15 They will be places of protection for anyone who lives in Israel and accidentally kills someone.
Laws about Murder and Accidental Killing
The Lord said:
16-18 Suppose you hit someone with a piece of iron or a large stone or a dangerous wooden tool. If that person dies, then you are a murderer and must be put to death 19 by one of the victim's relatives. He will take revenge for his relative's death as soon as he finds you.
20-21 Or suppose you get angry and kill someone by pushing or hitting or by throwing something. You are a murderer and must be put to death by one of the victim's relatives.
22-24 But if you are not angry and accidentally kill someone in any of these ways, the townspeople must hold a trial and decide if you are guilty. 25 If they decide that you are innocent, you will be protected from the victim's relative and sent to stay in one of the Safe Towns until the high priest dies. 26 But if you ever leave the Safe Town 27 and are killed by the victim's relative, he cannot be punished for killing you. 28 You must stay inside the town until the high priest dies; only then can you go back home.
29 The community of Israel must always obey these laws.
30 Death is the penalty for murder. But no one accused of murder can be put to death unless there are at least two witnesses to the crime. 31 You cannot give someone money to escape the death penalty; you must pay with your own life! 32 And if you have been proven innocent of murder and are living in a Safe Town, you cannot pay to go back home; you must stay there until the high priest dies.
33-34 I, the Lord, live among you people of Israel, so your land must be kept pure. But when a murder takes place, blood pollutes the land, and it becomes unclean. If that happens, the murderer must be put to death, so the land will be clean again. Keep murder out of Israel!