Numbers 35

Cities for the Levites

1 1Now the LORD spoke to Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan opposite Jericho, saying,
2 "Command the sons of Israel that they give to the Levites from the inheritance of their possession cities to live in; and you shall give to the Levites pasture lands around the cities.
3 "The cities shall be theirs to live in; and their pasture lands shall be for their cattle and for their herds and for all their beasts.
4 "The pasture lands of the cities which you shall give to the Levites shall extend from the wall of the city outward a thousand cubits around.
5 "You shall also measure outside * the city on the east side two thousand cubits, and on the south side two thousand cubits, and on the west side two thousand cubits, and on the north side two thousand cubits, with the city in the center. This shall become theirs as pasture lands for the cities.

Cities of Refuge

6 "The cities which you shall give to the Levites shall be the 2six cities of refuge, which you shall give for the manslayer to flee to; and in addition to them you shall give forty-two * cities.
7 "All the cities which you shall give to the Levites shall be 3forty-eight * cities, together with their pasture lands.
8 "4As for the cities which you shall give from the possession of the sons of Israel, you shall take more from the larger and you shall take less from the smaller; each shall give some of his cities to the Levites in proportion to his possession which he inherits."
9 Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,
10 "5Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, 'When you cross the Jordan into the land of Canaan,
11 6then you shall select for yourselves cities to be your 7cities of refuge, that the manslayer who has killed any person 8unintentionally may flee there.
12 '9The cities shall be to you as a refuge from the avenger, so that the manslayer will not die until he stands before the congregation for trial.
13 'The cities which you are to give shall be your six cities of refuge.
14 'You 10shall give three cities across * the Jordan and three cities in the land of Canaan; they are to be cities of refuge.
15 'These six cities shall be for refuge for the sons of Israel, and for the alien and for the sojourner among them; that anyone who kills a person 11unintentionally may flee there.
16 '12But if he struck him down with an iron object, so that he died, he is a murderer; the murderer shall surely be put to death.
17 'If he struck him down with a stone in the hand, by which he will die, and as a result he died, he is a murderer; the murderer 13shall surely be put to death.
18 'Or if he struck him with a wooden object in the hand, by which he might die, and as a result he died, he is a murderer; the murderer shall surely be put to death.
19 'The blood avenger himself shall put the murderer to death; he shall put him to death when he meets him.
20 '14If he pushed him of hatred, or threw something at him 15lying in wait and as a result he died,
21 or if he struck him down with his hand in enmity, and as a result he died, the one who struck him shall surely be put to death, he is a murderer; the blood avenger shall put the murderer to death when he meets him.
22 '16But if he pushed him suddenly without enmity, or threw something * at him without lying in wait,
23 or with any deadly * object of stone, and without seeing it dropped on him so that he died, while he was not his enemy nor seeking his injury,
24 then 17the congregation shall judge between the slayer and the blood avenger according to these ordinances.
25 'The congregation shall deliver the manslayer from the hand of the blood avenger, and the congregation shall restore him to his city of refuge to which he fled; and he shall live in it until the death of the high priest who was anointed with the holy oil.
26 'But if the manslayer at any time goes beyond the border of his city of refuge to which he may flee,
27 and the blood avenger finds him outside * the border of his city of refuge, and the blood avenger kills the manslayer, he will not be guilty of blood
28 because he should have remained in his city of refuge until the death of the high priest. But after the death of the high priest the manslayer shall return to the land of his possession.
29 'These things shall be for a 18statutory ordinance to you throughout your generations in all your dwellings.
30 '19If anyone kills a person, the murderer shall be put to death at the evidence of witnesses, but 20no person shall be put to death on the testimony of one witness.
31 'Moreover, you shall not take ransom for the life of a murderer who is guilty of death, but he shall surely be put to death.
32 'You shall not take ransom for him who has fled to his city of refuge, that he may return to live in the land before the death of the priest.
33 '21So you shall not pollute the land in which you are; for blood pollutes the land and no expiation can be made for the land for the blood that is shed on it, except * 22by the blood of him who shed it.
34 'You shall not 23defile the land in which you live, in the midst of which 24I dwell; for I the LORD am dwelling in the midst of the sons of Israel.' "

Numbers 35 Commentary

Chapter 35

The cities of the Levites. (1-8) The cities of refuge, The laws about murder. (9-34)

Verses 1-8 The cities of the priests and Levites were not only to accommodate them, but to place them, as religious teachers, in several parts of the land. For though the typical service of the tabernacle or temple was only in one place, the preaching of the word of God, and prayer and praise, were not thus confined. These cities were to be given out of each tribe. Each thus made a grateful acknowledgement to God. Each tribe had the benefit of the Levites dwelling amongst them, to teach them the knowledge of the Lord; thus no parts of the country were left to sit in darkness. The gospel provides that he who is taught in the word, should communicate to him that teaches, in all good things, Ga. 6:6 . We are to free God's ministers from distracting cares, and to leave them at leisure for the duties of their station; so that they may be wholly employed therein, and avail themselves of every opportunity, by acts of kindness, to gain the good-will of the people, and to draw their attention.

Verses 9-34 To show plainly the abhorrence of murder, and to provide the more effectually for the punishment of the murderer, the nearest relation of the deceased, under the title of avenger of blood, (or the redeemer of blood,) in notorious cases, might pursue, and execute vengeance. A distinction is made, not between sudden anger and malice aforethought, both which are the crime of murder; but between intentionally striking a man with any weapon likely to cause death, and an unintentional blow. In the latter case alone, the city of refuge afforded protection. Murder in all its forms, and under all disguises, pollutes a land. Alas! that so many murders, under the name of duels, prize-fights, &c. should pass unpunished. There were six cities of refuge; one or other might be reached in less than a day's journey from any part of the land. To these, man-slayers might flee for refuge, and be safe, till they had a fair trial. If acquitted from the charge, they were protected from the avenger of blood; yet they must continue within the bounds of the city till the death of the high priest. Thus we are reminded that the death of the great High Priest is the only means whereby sins are pardoned, and sinners set at liberty. These cities are plainly alluded to, both in the Old and New Testament, we cannot doubt the typical character of their appointment. Turn ye to the strong hold, ye prisoners of hope, saith the voice of mercy, ( Zechariah 9:12 ) , alluding to the city of refuge. St. Paul describes the strong consolation of fleeing for refuge to the hope set before us, in a passage always applied to the gracious appointment of the cities of refuge, ( Hebrews 6:18 ) . The rich mercies of salvation, through Christ, prefigured by these cities, demand our regard. 1. Did the ancient city rear its towers of safety on high? See Christ raised up on the cross; and is he not exalted at the right hand of his Father, to be a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance and remission of sins? 2. Does not the highway of salvation, resemble the smooth and plain path to the city of refuge? Survey the path that leads to the Redeemer. Is there any stumbling-block to be found therein, except that which an evil heart of unbelief supplies for its own fall? 3. Waymarks were set up pointing to the city. And is it not the office of the ministers of the gospel to direct sinners to Him? 4. The gate of the city stood open night and day. Has not Christ declared, Him that cometh unto me I will in nowise cast out? 5. The city of refuge afforded support to every one who entered its walls. Those who have reached the refuge, may live by faith on Him whose flesh is meat indeed, and whose blood is drink indeed. 6. The city was a refuge for all. In the gospel there is no respect of persons. That soul lives not which deserves not Divine wrath; that soul lives not which may not in simple faith hope for salvation and life eternal, through the Son of God.

Cross References 24

  • 1. Leviticus 25:32-34
  • 2. Joshua 20:7-9
  • 3. Joshua 21:41
  • 4. Leviticus 25:32-34; Numbers 26:54; Numbers 33:54; Joshua 21:1-42
  • 5. Joshua 20:1-9
  • 6. Deuteronomy 19:1-13
  • 7. Joshua 20:2
  • 8. Exodus 21:13; Leviticus 4:2f, 22; Numbers 35:22-25
  • 9. Deuteronomy 19:4-6; Joshua 20:2, 3
  • 10. Deuteronomy 4:41
  • 11. Numbers 35:11
  • 12. Exodus 21:12, 14; Leviticus 24:17
  • 13. Numbers 35:31
  • 14. Genesis 4:8; 2 Samuel 3:27; 2 Samuel 20:10
  • 15. Exodus 21:14; Deuteronomy 19:11
  • 16. Numbers 35:11
  • 17. Joshua 20:6
  • 18. Numbers 27:11
  • 19. Numbers 35:16
  • 20. Deuteronomy 17:6; Deuteronomy 19:15; Matthew 18:16; John 7:51; John 8:17, 18
  • 21. Deuteronomy 21:7, 8; Psalms 106:38
  • 22. Genesis 9:6
  • 23. Leviticus 18:24, 25
  • 24. Numbers 5:3

Footnotes 9

Chapter Summary


Though the tribe of Levi had no part in the division of the land, yet cities out of the several tribes are here ordered to be given them to dwell in, to the number of forty eight, Nu 35:1-8, six of which were to be cities of refuge, Nu 35:9-15, but not for wilful murderers, in whatsoever way they might kill a man, Nu 35:16-21, but for such who had killed a man unawares, Nu 35:22-24, and several rules are given relating to such persons, Nu 35:25-29, but no satisfaction was to be taken in case of murder, nor to excuse a person's return to his own house before the death of the high priest, who had fled to a city of refuge, that so the land might not be defiled, Nu 35:30-34.

Numbers 35 Commentaries