The Lord spoke to Moses on the plains of Moab across from Jericho by the Jordan River. He said,
"Command the Israelites to give the Levites cities to live in from the land they receive. Also give the Levites the pastureland around these cities.
Then the Levites will have cities where they may live and pastureland for their cattle, flocks, and other animals.
The pastureland you give the Levites will extend fifteen hundred feet from the city wall.
Also measure three thousand feet in each direction outside the city wall -- three thousand feet east of the city, three thousand feet south of the city, three thousand feet west of the city, and three thousand feet north of the city, with the city in the center. This will be pastureland for the Levites' cities.
"Six of the cities you give the Levites will be cities of safety. A person who accidentally kills someone may run to one of those cities for safety. You must also give forty-two other cities to the Levites;
give the Levites a total of forty-eight cities and their pastures.
The larger tribes of Israel must give more cities, and the smaller tribes must give fewer cities. Each tribe must give some of its cities to the Levites, but the number of cities they give will depend on the size of their land."
Then the Lord said to Moses,
"Tell the Israelites these things: 'When you cross the Jordan River and go into Canaan,
you must choose cities to be cities of safety, so that a person who accidentally kills someone may run to them for safety.
There the person will be safe from the dead person's relative who has the duty of punishing the killer. He will not die before he receives a fair trial in court.
The six cities you give will be cities of safety.
Give three cities east of the Jordan River and three cities in Canaan as cities of safety.
These six cities will be places of safety for citizens of Israel, as well as for foreigners and other people living with you. Any of these people who accidentally kills someone may run to one of these cities.
"'Anyone who uses an iron weapon to kill someone is a murderer. He must be put to death.
Anyone who takes a rock and kills a person with it is a murderer. He must be put to death.
Anyone who picks up a piece of wood and kills someone with it is a murderer. He must be put to death.
A relative of the dead person must put the murderer to death; when they meet, the relative must kill the murderer.
A person might shove someone or throw something at someone and cause death.
Or a person might hit someone with his hand and cause death. If it were done from hate, the person is a murderer and must be put to death. A relative of the dead person must kill the murderer when they meet.
"'But a person might suddenly shove someone, and not from hatred. Or a person might accidentally throw something and hit someone.
Or a person might drop a rock on someone he couldn't see and kill that person. There was no plan to hurt anyone and no hatred for the one who was killed.
If that happens, the community must judge between the relative of the dead person and the killer, according to these rules.
They must protect the killer from the dead person's relative, sending the killer back to the original city of safety, to stay there until the high priest dies (the high priest had the holy oil poured on him).
"'Such a person must never go outside the limits of the city of safety.
If a relative of the dead person finds the killer outside the city, the relative may kill that person and not be guilty of murder.
The killer must stay in the city of safety until the high priest dies. After the high priest dies, the killer may go home.
"'These laws are for you from now on, wherever you live.
"'If anyone kills a person, the murderer may be put to death only if there are witnesses. No one may be put to death with only one witness.
"'Don't take money to spare the life of a murderer who should be put to death. A murderer must be put to death.
"'If someone has run to a city of safety, don't take money to let the person go back home before the high priest dies.
"'Don't let murder spoil your land. The only way to remove the sin of killing an innocent person is for the murderer to be put to death.
I am the Lord, and I live among the Israelites. I live in that land with you, so do not spoil it with murder.'"