In the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho, the Lord spoke to Moses, saying:
Command the Israelites to give, from the inheritance that they possess, towns for the Levites to live in; you shall also give to the Levites pasture lands surrounding the towns.
The towns shall be theirs to live in, and their pasture lands shall be for their cattle, for their livestock, and for all their animals.
The pasture lands of the towns, which you shall give to the Levites, shall reach from the wall of the town outward a thousand cubits all around.
You shall measure, outside the town, for the east side two thousand cubits, for the south side two thousand cubits, for the west side two thousand cubits, and for the north side two thousand cubits, with the town in the middle; this shall belong to them as pasture land for their towns.
The towns that you give to the Levites shall include the six cities of refuge, where you shall permit a slayer to flee, and in addition to them you shall give forty-two towns.
The towns that you give to the Levites shall total forty-eight, with their pasture lands.
And as for the towns that you shall give from the possession of the Israelites, from the larger tribes you shall take many, and from the smaller tribes you shall take few; each, in proportion to the inheritance that it obtains, shall give of its towns to the Levites.
The Lord spoke to Moses, saying:
Speak to the Israelites, and say to them: When you cross the Jordan into the land of Canaan,
then you shall select cities to be cities of refuge for you, so that a slayer who kills a person without intent may flee there.
The cities shall be for you a refuge from the avenger, so that the slayer may not die until there is a trial before the congregation.
The cities that you designate shall be six cities of refuge for you:
you shall designate three cities beyond the Jordan, and three cities in the land of Canaan, to be cities of refuge.
These six cities shall serve as refuge for the Israelites, for the resident or transient alien among them, so that anyone who kills a person without intent may flee there.
But anyone who strikes another with an iron object, and death ensues, is a murderer; the murderer shall be put to death.
Or anyone who strikes another with a stone in hand that could cause death, and death ensues, is a murderer; the murderer shall be put to death.
Or anyone who strikes another with a weapon of wood in hand that could cause death, and death ensues, is a murderer; the murderer shall be put to death.
The avenger of blood is the one who shall put the murderer to death; when they meet, the avenger of blood shall execute the sentence.
Likewise, if someone pushes another from hatred, or hurls something at another, lying in wait, and death ensues,
or in enmity strikes another with the hand, and death ensues, then the one who struck the blow shall be put to death; that person is a murderer; the avenger of blood shall put the murderer to death, when they meet.
But if someone pushes another suddenly without enmity, or hurls any object without lying in wait,
or, while handling any stone that could cause death, unintentionally a drops it on another and death ensues, though they were not enemies, and no harm was intended,
then the congregation shall judge between the slayer and the avenger of blood, in accordance with these ordinances;
and the congregation shall rescue the slayer from the avenger of blood. Then the congregation shall send the slayer back to the original city of refuge. The slayer shall live in it until the death of the high priest who was anointed with the holy oil.
But if the slayer shall at any time go outside the bounds of the original city of refuge,
and is found by the avenger of blood outside the bounds of the city of refuge, and is killed by the avenger, no bloodguilt shall be incurred.
For the slayer must remain in the city of refuge until the death of the high priest; but after the death of the high priest the slayer may return home.
These things shall be a statute and ordinance for you throughout your generations wherever you live.
If anyone kills another, the murderer shall be put to death on the evidence of witnesses; but no one shall be put to death on the testimony of a single witness.
Moreover you shall accept no ransom for the life of a murderer who is subject to the death penalty; a murderer must be put to death.
Nor shall you accept ransom for one who has fled to a city of refuge, enabling the fugitive to return to live in the land before the death of the high priest.
You shall not pollute the land in which you live; for blood pollutes the land, and no expiation can be made for the land, for the blood that is shed in it, except by the blood of the one who shed it.
You shall not defile the land in which you live, in which I also dwell; for I the Lord dwell among the Israelites.
New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. (New Revised Standard Bible Version Online)