1 Then the Lord said to Joshua, 2 ‘Tell the Israelite people to choose special cities as safe places. I told Moses that you should do this. 3 Anyone can be safe in these cities if he has killed someone but he did not mean to kill. A person like that must run to one of these towns and he will be safe from the dead person's relative.
20:3Moses' law said that anyone who killed somebody must die. See Leviticus 24:17. A relative of the dead person had to kill him. See Numbers 35:6-34.
4 The person who killed someone must go to the special 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 take him into the city. They must give him a place to stay so that he can live there. 5 The dead person's relative may chase after the killer. The leaders of the city must not let him hurt the killer. This is because the killer did not mean to kill. 6 The killer must stay inside that city. The judges there will decide if he is not guilty of murder. 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 hill country of Naphtali), Shechem (in the hill country of Ephraim), and Kiriath Arba (that is Hebron, in the hill country of Judah).
8 They also chose these towns beyond Jericho, on the east side of Jordan river: Bezer (in the flat desert land of Reuben), Ramoth in Gilead (on Gad's land), Golan in Bashan (on Manasseh's land).
9 Any Israelite or foreign person living in Israel could run to these cities and be safe. They may have killed someone, but they did not mean to kill them. If they run to these cities, the dead person's relative could not kill them. The judges in the city had to decide whether a killer was guilty of murder. Nobody could kill them before the judges decided.