Add parallel Print Page Options

The Towns for the Levites

35 While the people of Israel were still camped in the lowlands of Moab across the Jordan River from Jericho, the Lord told Moses to say to them:

When you receive your tribal lands, you must give towns and pastures to the Levi tribe. That way, the Levites will have towns to live in and pastures for their animals. 4-5 The pasture around each of these towns must be in the shape of a square, with the town itself in the center. The pasture is to measure three thousand feet on each side, with fifteen hundred feet of land outside each of the town walls. This will be the Levites' pastureland.

Six of the towns you give them will be Safe Towns where a person who has accidentally killed someone can run for protection. But you will also give the Levites forty-two other towns, so they will have a total of forty-eight towns with their surrounding pastures.

Since the towns for the Levites must come from Israel’s own tribal lands, the larger tribes will give more towns than the smaller ones.

The Safe Towns

The Lord then told Moses 10 to tell the people of Israel:

After you have crossed the Jordan River and are settled in Canaan, 11 choose Safe Towns, where a person who has accidentally killed someone can run for protection. 12 If the victim’s relatives think it was murder, they might try to take revenge.[a] Anyone accused of murder can run to one of these Safe Towns for protection and not be killed before a trial is held.

13 There are to be six of these Safe Towns, 14 three on each side of the Jordan River. 15 They will be places of protection for anyone who lives in Israel and accidentally kills someone.

Laws about Murder and Accidental Killing

The Lord said:

16-18 Suppose you hit someone with a piece of iron or a large stone or a dangerous wooden tool. If that person dies, then you are a murderer and must be put to death 19 by one of the victim’s relatives. [b] He will take revenge for his relative’s death as soon as he finds you.

20-21 Or suppose you get angry and kill someone by pushing or hitting or by throwing something. You are a murderer and must be put to death by one of the victim’s relatives.

22-24 But if you are not angry and accidentally kill someone in any of these ways, the townspeople must hold a trial and decide if you are guilty. 25 If they decide that you are innocent, you will be protected from the victim’s relative and sent to stay in one of the Safe Towns until the high priest dies. 26 But if you ever leave the Safe Town 27 and are killed by the victim’s relative, he cannot be punished for killing you. 28 You must stay inside the town until the high priest dies; only then can you go back home.

29 The community of Israel must always obey these laws.

30 Death is the penalty for murder. But no one accused of murder can be put to death unless there are at least two witnesses to the crime. 31 You cannot give someone money to escape the death penalty; you must pay with your own life! 32 And if you have been proven innocent of murder and are living in a Safe Town, you cannot pay to go back home; you must stay there until the high priest dies.

33-34 I, the Lord, live among you people of Israel, so your land must be kept pure. But when a murder takes place, blood pollutes the land, and it becomes unclean. If that happens, the murderer must be put to death, so the land will be clean again. Keep murder out of Israel!

The Laws about Married Women and Land

36 One day the family leaders from the Gilead clan of the Manasseh tribe went to Moses and the other family leaders of Israel and said, “Sir, the Lord has said that he will show[c] what land each tribe will receive as their own. And the Lord has commanded you to give the daughters of our relative Zelophehad[d] the land that he would have received. But if they marry men from other tribes of Israel, the land they receive will become part of that tribe’s inheritance and will no longer belong to us. Even when land is returned to its original owner in the Year of Celebration,[e] we will not get back Zelophehad’s land—it will belong to the tribe into which his daughters married.”

So Moses told the people that the Lord had said:

These men from the Manasseh tribe are right. I will allow Zelophehad’s daughters to marry anyone, as long as those men belong to one of the clans of the Manasseh tribe.

Tribal land must not be given to another tribe—it will remain the property of the tribe that received it. 8-9 In the future, any daughter who inherits land must marry someone from her own tribe. Israel’s tribal land is never to be passed from one tribe to another.

10-11 Mahlah, Tirzah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Noah the daughters of Zelophehad obeyed the Lord and married their uncles' sons 12 and remained part of the Manasseh tribe. So their land stayed in their father’s clan.

13 These are the laws that the Lord gave to Moses and the Israelites while they were camped in the lowlands of Moab across the Jordan River from Jericho.

Footnotes

  1. 35.12,19 the victim’s relatives. . . revenge: At this time in Israel’s history, the clan would appoint the closest male relative to find and kill a person who had killed a member of their clan.
  2. 35.12,19 the victim’s relatives. . . revenge: At this time in Israel’s history, the clan would appoint the closest male relative to find and kill a person who had killed a member of their clan.
  3. 36.2 that he will show: See the note at 26.55,56.
  4. 36.2 Zelophehad: See also 26.28-34; 27.1-11.
  5. 36.4 Year of Celebration: This was a sacred year for Israel, traditionally called the “Year of Jubilee.” During thisyear, all property had to go back to its original owner. But here, the property was not sold; it became part of the other tribe’s land when the daughter who owned it married into that tribe. So the property could not be returned even during this year.