Deuteronomy Chapter 19 explains the cities of refuge. The Lord commanded the Israelites to set aside three cities in the land that they have taken from other nations. They were to determine the distance of this land and divide it into three parts.
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Cities of Refuge
Anyone who kills another person can flee to one of these cities for refuge. This was for any person who unintentionally kills a neighbor. Examples of this were given in certain instances that involved accidents. The person who has unintentionally killed their neighbor can flee to another city for safety.
Increasing the Territory
It was also said in Deuteronomy chapter 19 that the Lord, the God of Israel, will enlarge their territory. This was something that was promised to their ancestors. This will be done if the Israelites follow the commands of the Lord accordingly. They were to love their Lord and walk in obedience. The cities were set apart so that innocent blood will not be shed.
Although, if someone plots to murder someone and then flees to a city of refuge, elders of the town will be sent to run after the person. He will be brought back to the city so that the blood of the murdered victim will be avenged.
Witnesses to a Crime
It also says in this chapter that one witness is not enough for someone to be convicted of any crime. They were told that two people who are involved in the dispute should stand before priests and judges. This should be done in the presence of the Lord.
The judges will make a thorough investigation to see if the witness is telling the truth. If the witness is proven to be a liar, he is to be purged. The rest of the people will then hear about this so that no evil will be done again. They were told to show no pity – an eye for an eye, a life for a life.
Deuteronomy 19 (King James Version)
1 When the LORD thy God hath cut off the nations, whose land the LORD thy God giveth thee, and thou succeedest them, and dwellest in their cities, and in their houses;
2 Thou shalt separate three cities for thee in the midst of thy land, which the LORD thy God giveth thee to possess it.
3 Thou shalt prepare thee a way, and divide the coasts of thy land, which the LORD thy God giveth thee to inherit, into three parts, that every slayer may flee thither.
4 And this is the case of the slayer, which shall flee thither, that he may live: Whoso killeth his neighbour ignorantly, whom he hated not in time past;
5 As when a man goeth into the wood with his neighbour to hew wood, and his hand fetcheth a stroke with the axe to cut down the tree, and the head slippeth from the helve, and lighteth upon his neighbour, that he die; he shall flee unto one of those cities, and live:
6 Lest the avenger of the blood pursue the slayer, while his heart is hot, and overtake him, because the way is long, and slay him; whereas he was not worthy of death, inasmuch as he hated him not in time past.
7 Wherefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt separate three cities for thee.
8 And if the LORD thy God enlarge thy coast, as he hath sworn unto thy fathers, and give thee all the land which he promised to give unto thy fathers;
9 If thou shalt keep all these commandments to do them, which I command thee this day, to love the LORD thy God, and to walk ever in his ways; then shalt thou add three cities more for thee, beside these three:
10 That innocent blood be not shed in thy land, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance, and so blood be upon thee.
11 But if any man hate his neighbour, and lie in wait for him, and rise up against him, and smite him mortally that he die, and fleeth into one of these cities:
12 Then the elders of his city shall send and fetch him thence, and deliver him into the hand of the avenger of blood, that he may die.
13 Thine eye shall not pity him, but thou shalt put away the guilt of innocent blood from Israel, that it may go well with thee.
14 Thou shalt not remove thy neighbour’s landmark, which they of old time have set in thine inheritance, which thou shalt inherit in the land that the LORD thy God giveth thee to possess it.
15 One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established.
16 If a false witness rise up against any man to testify against him that which is wrong;
17 Then both the men, between whom the controversy is, shall stand before the LORD, before the priests and the judges, which shall be in those days;
18 And the judges shall make diligent inquisition: and, behold, if the witness be a false witness, and hath testified falsely against his brother;
19 Then shall ye do unto him, as he had thought to have done unto his brother: so shalt thou put the evil away from among you.
20 And those which remain shall hear, and fear, and shall henceforth commit no more any such evil among you.
21 And thine eye shall not pity; but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.