Joshua 20

Safe cities

1 Then the Lord spoke to Joshua. 2 He said, ‘Tell the people of Israel to choose special cities. I told Moses that you should do this. 3 Anyone can be safe in these cities if he has killed someone. But he will only be safe if he had not meant to kill that person. Anyone who has killed a man or woman can run to that city and then they will be safe. The brother of the dead person must not kill him there (Numbers 35:6-34).

20:3The law of Moses said that any man who killed a person must die. The brother or cousin of the dead person had to kill him (Leviticus 24:17-18).

4 The man who killed someone must go to the city. When he arrives, he must stand at the gate of the city. There he must tell the leaders what he has done. Then they must let him go in to the city. They must give him a place to stay so that he can live there. 5 The brother of the dead person may follow the man who killed his brother or sister. The leaders must not let the brother hurt that man. This is because he did not mean to kill the dead man. He did not want to hurt him. 6 The man who killed must stay in that city. He may have told them what is true. The judges there will decide. Then he must wait until the leader of the priests dies. After that, he is free to return to the town that he came from.’

7 So they chose these towns: Kedesh in Galilee (in the hills of Naphtali), Shechem (in the hills of Ephraim), Kiriath Arba (that is Hebron, in the hills of Judah).

8 They chose other cities east of the river Jordan and to the east of the flat land near Jericho: Bezer in the flat desert land of Reuben, Ramoth in Gilead in the tribe of Gad, Golan in Bashan in the tribe of Manasseh.

9 Any Israelite or foreign person living in Israel could run to these cities. They may have killed someone, but had not meant to kill them. They could run to these cities so that the brother of the dead person could not kill them. The judges had to decide whether they had meant to kill or not. Nobody could kill them before the judges decided.