Cities of Refuge(A)

20 Then the Lord said to Joshua: “Tell the Israelites to designate the cities of refuge, as I instructed you through Moses, so that anyone who kills a person accidentally and unintentionally(B) may flee there and find protection from the avenger of blood.(C) When they flee to one of these cities, they are to stand in the entrance of the city gate(D) and state their case before the elders(E) of that city. Then the elders are to admit the fugitive into their city and provide a place to live among them. If the avenger of blood comes in pursuit, the elders must not surrender the fugitive, because the fugitive killed their neighbor unintentionally and without malice aforethought. They are to stay in that city until they have stood trial before the assembly(F) and until the death of the high priest who is serving at that time. Then they may go back to their own home in the town from which they fled.”

So they set apart Kedesh(G) in Galilee in the hill country of Naphtali, Shechem(H) in the hill country of Ephraim, and Kiriath Arba(I) (that is, Hebron(J)) in the hill country of Judah.(K) East of the Jordan (on the other side from Jericho) they designated Bezer(L) in the wilderness on the plateau in the tribe of Reuben, Ramoth in Gilead(M) in the tribe of Gad, and Golan in Bashan(N) in the tribe of Manasseh. Any of the Israelites or any foreigner residing among them who killed someone accidentally(O) could flee to these designated cities and not be killed by the avenger of blood prior to standing trial before the assembly.(P)

Towns for the Levites(Q)

21 Now the family heads of the Levites approached Eleazar the priest, Joshua son of Nun, and the heads of the other tribal families of Israel(R) at Shiloh(S) in Canaan and said to them, “The Lord commanded through Moses that you give us towns(T) to live in, with pasturelands for our livestock.”(U) So, as the Lord had commanded, the Israelites gave the Levites the following towns and pasturelands out of their own inheritance:

The first lot came out for the Kohathites,(V) according to their clans. The Levites who were descendants of Aaron the priest were allotted thirteen towns from the tribes of Judah, Simeon and Benjamin.(W) The rest of Kohath’s descendants were allotted ten towns from the clans of the tribes of Ephraim, Dan and half of Manasseh.(X)

The descendants of Gershon(Y) were allotted thirteen towns from the clans of the tribes of Issachar,(Z) Asher,(AA) Naphtali and the half-tribe of Manasseh in Bashan.

The descendants of Merari,(AB) according to their clans, received twelve(AC) towns from the tribes of Reuben, Gad and Zebulun.(AD)

So the Israelites allotted to the Levites these towns and their pasturelands, as the Lord had commanded through Moses.

From the tribes of Judah and Simeon they allotted the following towns by name 10 (these towns were assigned to the descendants of Aaron who were from the Kohathite clans of the Levites, because the first lot fell to them):

11 They gave them Kiriath Arba(AE) (that is, Hebron(AF)), with its surrounding pastureland, in the hill country of Judah. (Arba was the forefather of Anak.) 12 But the fields and villages around the city they had given to Caleb son of Jephunneh as his possession.(AG)

13 So to the descendants of Aaron the priest they gave Hebron (a city of refuge(AH) for one accused of murder), Libnah,(AI) 14 Jattir,(AJ) Eshtemoa,(AK) 15 Holon,(AL) Debir,(AM) 16 Ain,(AN) Juttah(AO) and Beth Shemesh,(AP) together with their pasturelands—nine towns from these two tribes.

17 And from the tribe of Benjamin they gave them Gibeon,(AQ) Geba,(AR) 18 Anathoth(AS) and Almon, together with their pasturelands—four towns.

19 The total number of towns(AT) for the priests, the descendants of Aaron, came to thirteen, together with their pasturelands.(AU)

20 The rest of the Kohathite clans of the Levites were allotted towns from the tribe of Ephraim:

21 In the hill country of Ephraim they were given Shechem(AV) (a city of refuge for one accused of murder) and Gezer,(AW) 22 Kibzaim and Beth Horon,(AX) together with their pasturelands—four towns.(AY)

23 Also from the tribe of Dan they received Eltekeh, Gibbethon,(AZ) 24 Aijalon(BA) and Gath Rimmon,(BB) together with their pasturelands—four towns.

25 From half the tribe of Manasseh they received Taanach(BC) and Gath Rimmon, together with their pasturelands—two towns.

26 All these ten towns and their pasturelands were given to the rest of the Kohathite clans.(BD)

27 The Levite clans of the Gershonites were given:

from the half-tribe of Manasseh,

Golan in Bashan(BE) (a city of refuge for one accused of murder(BF)) and Be Eshterah, together with their pasturelands—two towns;

28 from the tribe of Issachar,(BG)

Kishion,(BH) Daberath,(BI) 29 Jarmuth(BJ) and En Gannim,(BK) together with their pasturelands—four towns;

30 from the tribe of Asher,(BL)

Mishal,(BM) Abdon,(BN) 31 Helkath and Rehob,(BO) together with their pasturelands—four towns;

32 from the tribe of Naphtali,

Kedesh(BP) in Galilee (a city of refuge for one accused of murder(BQ)), Hammoth Dor and Kartan, together with their pasturelands—three towns.

33 The total number of towns of the Gershonite(BR) clans came to thirteen, together with their pasturelands.

34 The Merarite clans (the rest of the Levites) were given:

from the tribe of Zebulun,(BS)

Jokneam,(BT) Kartah, 35 Dimnah and Nahalal,(BU) together with their pasturelands—four towns;

36 from the tribe of Reuben,

Bezer,(BV) Jahaz,(BW) 37 Kedemoth and Mephaath,(BX) together with their pasturelands—four towns;

38 from the tribe of Gad,

Ramoth(BY) in Gilead(BZ) (a city of refuge for one accused of murder), Mahanaim,(CA) 39 Heshbon and Jazer,(CB) together with their pasturelands—four towns in all.

40 The total number of towns allotted to the Merarite clans, who were the rest of the Levites, came to twelve.(CC)

41 The towns of the Levites in the territory held by the Israelites were forty-eight in all, together with their pasturelands.(CD) 42 Each of these towns had pasturelands surrounding it; this was true for all these towns.

43 So the Lord gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their ancestors,(CE) and they took possession(CF) of it and settled there.(CG) 44 The Lord gave them rest(CH) on every side, just as he had sworn to their ancestors. Not one of their enemies(CI) withstood them; the Lord gave all their enemies(CJ) into their hands.(CK) 45 Not one of all the Lord’s good promises(CL) to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.

Eastern Tribes Return Home

22 Then Joshua summoned the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh and said to them, “You have done all that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded,(CM) and you have obeyed me in everything I commanded. For a long time now—to this very day—you have not deserted your fellow Israelites but have carried out the mission the Lord your God gave you. Now that the Lord your God has given them rest(CN) as he promised, return to your homes(CO) in the land that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you on the other side of the Jordan.(CP) But be very careful to keep the commandment(CQ) and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you: to love the Lord(CR) your God, to walk in obedience to him, to keep his commands,(CS) to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.(CT)

Then Joshua blessed(CU) them and sent them away, and they went to their homes. (To the half-tribe of Manasseh Moses had given land in Bashan,(CV) and to the other half of the tribe Joshua gave land on the west side(CW) of the Jordan along with their fellow Israelites.) When Joshua sent them home, he blessed them,(CX) saying, “Return to your homes with your great wealth—with large herds of livestock,(CY) with silver, gold, bronze and iron,(CZ) and a great quantity of clothing—and divide(DA) the plunder(DB) from your enemies with your fellow Israelites.”

So the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh left the Israelites at Shiloh(DC) in Canaan to return to Gilead,(DD) their own land, which they had acquired in accordance with the command of the Lord through Moses.

10 When they came to Geliloth(DE) near the Jordan in the land of Canaan, the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh built an imposing altar(DF) there by the Jordan. 11 And when the Israelites heard that they had built the altar on the border of Canaan at Geliloth near the Jordan on the Israelite side, 12 the whole assembly of Israel gathered at Shiloh(DG) to go to war against them.

13 So the Israelites sent Phinehas(DH) son of Eleazar,(DI) the priest, to the land of Gilead—to Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh. 14 With him they sent ten of the chief men, one from each of the tribes of Israel, each the head of a family division among the Israelite clans.(DJ)

15 When they went to Gilead—to Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh—they said to them: 16 “The whole assembly of the Lord says: ‘How could you break faith(DK) with the God of Israel like this? How could you turn away from the Lord and build yourselves an altar in rebellion(DL) against him now? 17 Was not the sin of Peor(DM) enough for us? Up to this very day we have not cleansed ourselves from that sin, even though a plague fell on the community of the Lord! 18 And are you now turning away from the Lord?

“‘If you rebel against the Lord today, tomorrow he will be angry with the whole community(DN) of Israel. 19 If the land you possess is defiled, come over to the Lord’s land, where the Lord’s tabernacle(DO) stands, and share the land with us. But do not rebel against the Lord or against us by building an altar(DP) for yourselves, other than the altar of the Lord our God. 20 When Achan son of Zerah was unfaithful in regard to the devoted things,[a](DQ) did not wrath(DR) come on the whole community(DS) of Israel? He was not the only one who died for his sin.’”(DT)


  1. Joshua 22:20 The Hebrew term refers to the irrevocable giving over of things or persons to the Lord, often by totally destroying them.

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