"The LORD your God will soon destroy the nations whose land he is giving you, and you will displace them and settle in their towns and homes.
Then you must set apart three cities of refuge in the land the LORD your God is giving you to occupy.
Divide the land the LORD your God is giving you into three districts, with one of these cities in each district. Keep the roads to these cities in good repair so that anyone who has killed someone can flee there for safety.
"If someone accidentally kills a neighbor without harboring any previous hatred, the slayer may flee to any of these cities and be safe.
For example, suppose someone goes into the forest with a neighbor to cut wood. And suppose one of them swings an ax and the ax head flies off the handle, killing the other person. In such cases, the slayer could flee to one of the cities of refuge and be safe.
If the distance to the nearest city of refuge was too far, an enraged avenger might be able to chase down and kill the person who caused the death. The slayer would die, even though there was no death sentence and the first death had been an accident.
That is why I am commanding you to set aside three cities of refuge.
"If the LORD your God enlarges your territory, as he solemnly promised your ancestors, and gives you all the land he promised them,
you must designate three additional cities of refuge. (He will give you this land if you obey all the commands I have given you -- if you always love the LORD your God and walk in his ways.)
That way you will prevent the death of innocent people in the land the LORD your God is giving you as a special possession, and you will not be held responsible for murder.
"But suppose someone hates a neighbor and deliberately ambushes and murders that neighbor and then escapes to one of the cities of refuge.
In that case, the leaders of the murderer's hometown must have the murderer brought back from the city of refuge and handed over to the dead person's avenger to be killed.
Do not feel sorry for that murderer! Purge the guilt of murder from Israel so all may go well with you.
"When you arrive in the land the LORD your God is giving you as a special possession, never steal someone's land by moving the boundary markers your ancestors set up to mark their property.
"Never convict anyone of a crime on the testimony of just one witness. The facts of the case must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.
If a malicious witness comes forward and accuses someone of a crime,
then both the accuser and accused must appear before the priests and judges who are on duty before the LORD.
They must be closely questioned, and if the accuser is found to be lying,
the accuser will receive the punishment intended for the accused. In this way, you will cleanse such evil from among you.
Those who hear about it will be afraid to do such an evil thing again.
You must never show pity! Your rule should be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.
Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved. (New Living Translation - The Bible Online)