When God, your God, throws the nations out of the country that God, your God, is giving you and you settle down in their cities and houses,
you are to set aside three easily accessible cities in the land that God, your God, is giving you as your very own.
Divide your land into thirds, this land that God, your God, is giving you to possess, and build roads to the towns so that anyone who accidentally kills another can flee there.
This is the guideline for the murderer who flees there to take refuge: He has to have killed his neighbor without premeditation and with no history of bad blood between them.
For instance, a man goes with his neighbor into the woods to cut a tree; he swings the ax, the head slips off the handle and hits his neighbor, killing him. He may then flee to one of these cities and save his life.
If the city is too far away, the avenger of blood racing in hot-blooded pursuit might catch him since it's such a long distance, and kill him even though he didn't deserve it. It wasn't his fault. There was no history of hatred between them.
Therefore I command you: Set aside the three cities for yourselves.
When God, your God, enlarges your land, extending its borders as he solemnly promised your ancestors, by giving you the whole land he promised them
because you are diligently living the way I'm commanding you today, namely, to love God, your God, and do what he tells you all your life; and when that happens, then add three more to these three cities
so that there is no chance of innocent blood being spilled in your land. God, your God, is giving you this land as an inheritance - you don't want to pollute it with innocent blood and bring bloodguilt upon yourselves.
On the other hand, if a man with a history of hatred toward his neighbor waits in ambush, then jumps him, mauls and kills him, and then runs to one of these cities, that's a different story.
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)