The Bible – Old Testament
“When the LORD, your God, removes the nations whose land he is giving you, and you have taken their place and are settled in their cities and houses,
1 you shall set apart three cities in the land which the LORD, your God, is giving you to occupy.
You shall thereby divide into three regions the land which the LORD, your God, will give you as a heritage, and so arrange the routes that every homicide will be able to find a refuge.
“It is in the following case that a homicide may take refuge in such a place to save his life: when someone unwittingly kills his neighbor to whom he had previously borne no malice.
For example, if he goes with his neighbor to a forest to cut wood, and as he swings his ax to fell a tree, its head flies off the handle and hits his neighbor a mortal blow, he may take refuge in one of these cities to save his life.
2 Should the distance be too great, the avenger of blood may in the heat of his anger pursue the homicide and overtake him and strike him dead, even though he does not merit death since he had previously borne the slain man no malice.
That is why I order you to set apart three cities.
“But if the LORD, your God, enlarges your territory, as he swore to your fathers, and gives you all the land he promised your fathers he would give
in the event that you carefully observe all these commandments which I enjoin on you today, loving the LORD, your God, and ever walking in his ways: then add three cities to these three.
Thus, in the land which the LORD, your God, is giving you as a heritage, innocent blood will not be shed and you will not become guilty of bloodshed.
“However, if someone lies in wait for his neighbor out of hatred for him, and rising up against him, strikes him mortally, and then takes refuge in one of these cities,
the elders of his own city shall send for him and have him taken from there, and shall hand him over to be slain by the avenger of blood.
Do not look on him with pity, but purge from Israel the stain of shedding innocent blood, that you may prosper.
“You shall not move your neighbor’s landmarks erected by your forefathers in the heritage you receive in the land which the LORD, your God, is giving you to occupy.
“One witness alone shall not take the stand against a man in regard to any crime or any offense of which he may be guilty; a judicial fact shall be established only on the testimony of two or three witnesses.
“If an unjust witness takes the stand against a man to accuse him of a defection from the law,
the two parties in the dispute shall appear before the LORD in the presence of the priests or judges in office at that time;
and if after a thorough investigation the judges find that the witness is a false witness and has accused his kinsman falsely,
you shall do to him as he planned to do to his kinsman. Thus shall you purge the evil from your midst.
The rest, on hearing of it, shall fear, and never again do a thing so evil among you.
Do not look on such a man with pity. Life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, and foot for foot!
1  Set apart three cities: the Israelites were to have at least six cities of refuge, three in the land east of the Jordan and three in the land of Canaan west of the Jordan (⇒ Numbers 35:9-34); but since the three cities east of the Jordan had now been appointed (⇒ Deut 4:41-43), reference is made here only to the three west of the Jordan. The execution of this command is narrated in Joshua 20.
2  The avenger of blood: see note on ⇒ Numbers 35:12.