Then God spoke to Moses on the Plains of Moab at Jordan-Jericho:
"Command the People of Israel to give the Levites as their part of the total inheritance towns to live in. Make sure there is plenty of pasture around the towns.
Then they will be well taken care of with towns to live in and pastures for their cattle, flocks, and other livestock.
"The pasture surrounding the Levites' towns is to extend 1,500 feet in each direction from the city wall.
The outside borders of the pasture are to measure three thousand feet on each of the four sides - east, south, west, and north - with the town at the center. Each city will be supplied with pasture.
"Six of these towns that you give the Levites will be asylum-cities to which anyone who accidentally kills another person may flee for asylum. In addition, you will give them forty-two other towns -
forty-eight towns in all, together with their pastures.
The towns that you give the Levites from the common inheritance of the People of Israel are to be taken in proportion to the size of each tribe - many towns from a tribe that has many, few from a tribe that has few."
God spoke to Moses:
"Speak to the People of Israel. Tell them, When you cross the River Jordan into the country of Canaan,
designate your asylum-cities, towns to which a person who accidentally kills someone can flee for asylum.
They will be places of refuge from the avenger so that the alleged murderer won't be killed until he can appear before the community in court.
Provide six asylum-cities.
Designate three of the towns to the east side of the Jordan, the other three in Canaan proper - asylum-cities
for the People of Israel, for the foreigner, and for any occasional visitors or guests - six asylum-cities to run to for anyone who accidentally kills another.
"But if the killer has used an iron object, that's just plain murder; he's obviously a murderer and must be put to death.
"Or if he has a rock in his hand big enough to kill and the man dies, that's murder; he's a murderer and must be put to death.
"Or if he's carrying a wooden club heavy enough to kill and the man dies, that's murder; he's a murderer and must be put to death.
"In such cases the avenger has a right to kill the murderer when he meets him - he can kill him on the spot.
"And if out of sheer hatred a man pushes another or from ambush throws something at him and he dies,
or angrily hits him with his fist and kills him, that's murder - he must be put to death. The avenger has a right to kill him when he gets him.
"If, however, he impulsively pushes someone and there is no history of hard feelings, or he impetuously picks up something and throws it,
or he accidentally drops a stone tool - a maul or hammer, say - and it hits and kills someone he didn't even know was there, and there's no suspicion that there was bad blood between them,
the community is to judge between the killer and the avenger following these guidelines.
It's the task of the community to save the killer from the hand of the avenger - the community is to return him to his asylum-city to which he fled. He must stay there until the death of the High Priest who was anointed with the holy oil.
But if the murderer leaves the asylum-city to which he has fled,
and the avenger finds him outside the borders of his asylum-city, the avenger has a right to kill the murderer. And he's not considered guilty of murder.
"So it's important that he stay in his asylum-city until the death of the High Priest. After the death of the High Priest he is free to return to his own place.
"These are the procedures for making judgments from now on, wherever you live.
"Anyone who kills another may be executed only on the testimony of eyewitnesses. But no one can be executed on the testimony of only one witness.
"Don't accept bribe money in exchange for the life of a murderer. He's guilty and deserves the death penalty. Put him to death.
"And don't accept bribe money for anyone who has fled to an asylum-city so as to permit him to go back and live in his own place before the death of the High Priest.
"Don't pollute the land in which you live. Murder pollutes the land. The land can't be cleaned up of the blood of murder except through the blood of the murderer.
"Don't desecrate the land in which you live. I live here too - I, God, live in the same neighborhood with the People of Israel."
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)