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Cities to Run to for Safety

19 The Lord your God will destroy the nations whose land he is giving you. You will drive them out. And you will make your homes in their towns and their houses. When you do, set apart for yourselves three cities in the land. It’s the land the Lord your God is giving you to take as your own. Figure out the distances and then separate the land into three parts. Then anyone who kills another person can run to one of these cities for safety. They are in the land the Lord your God is giving you as your own.

Here is the rule about a person who kills someone. That person can run to one of those cities for safety. The rule applies to anyone who kills a neighbor they didn’t hate and didn’t mean to kill. For example, suppose a man goes into a forest with his neighbor to cut wood. When he swings his ax to chop down a tree, the head of the ax flies off. And it hits his neighbor and kills him. Then that man can run to one of those cities and save his life. If he doesn’t go to one of those cities, the dead man’s nearest male relative might become very angry. He might chase the man. If the city is too far away, he might catch him and kill him. But the man running to the city isn’t worthy of death, because he didn’t hate his neighbor. That’s why I command you to set apart for yourselves three cities.

The Lord your God will increase the size of your territory. He promised your people of long ago that he would do it. He will give you the whole land he promised them. But he’ll do it only if you are careful to obey all the laws I’m commanding you today. I command you to love the Lord your God. You must always live as he wants you to live. Suppose you are careful to obey, and the Lord your God gives you more land. Then you must set apart three more cities. 10 Do it to protect those not guilty of murder. Then you won’t spill their blood in your land. It’s the land the Lord your God is giving you as your own.

11 But suppose a man hates his neighbor. So he hides and waits for him. Then he attacks him and kills him. And he runs to one of those cities for safety. 12 If he does, the elders of his own town must send for him. He must be brought back from the city. He must be handed over to the dead man’s nearest male relative. Then the relative will kill him. 13 Don’t feel sorry for him. He has killed someone who hadn’t done anything wrong. Crimes like that must be punished in Israel. Then things will go well with you.

14 Don’t move your neighbor’s boundary stone. It was set up by people who lived there before you. It marks the border of a field in the land you will receive as your own. The Lord your God is giving you that land. You will take it over.


15 Suppose someone is charged with committing a crime of any kind. Then one witness won’t be enough to prove that person is guilty. Every matter must be proved by the words of two or three witnesses.

16 Suppose a witness who tells lies goes to court and brings charges against someone. The witness says someone committed a crime. 17 Then the two people in the case must stand in front of the Lord. They must stand in front of the priests and the judges who are in office at that time. 18 The judges must check out the matter carefully. And suppose the witness is proved to be lying. Then he has said something false in court against another Israelite. 19 So do to the lying witness what he tried to do to the other person. Get rid of that evil witness. 20 The rest of the people will hear about it. And they will be afraid. They won’t allow such an evil thing to be done among them again. 21 Don’t feel sorry for that evil person. A life must be taken for a life. An eye must be put out for an eye. A tooth must be knocked out for a tooth. A hand must be cut off for a hand and a foot for a foot.