Bamidbar (Numbers): Massei > Ch 35
G-d tells Moses where the Levites will dwell: 48 cities including 6 cities of refuge for murderers (3 in Jordan and 3 in Canaan)
The Lord spoke to Moses in the plains of Moab, by the Jordan at Jericho saying: Command the children of Israel that they shall give to the Levites from their hereditary possession cities in which to dwell, and you shall give the Levites open spaces around the cities. These cities shall be theirs for dwelling, and their open spaces shall be for their cattle, their property, and for all their needs.
The areas of open space for the cities which you shall give to the Levites shall extend from the wall of the city outward, 1000 cubits all around. You shall measure from outside the city, 2000 cubits on the eastern side, 2000 cubits on the southern side, 2000 cubits on the western side, and 2000 cubits on the northern side, with the city in the middle; this shall be your cities' open spaces.
Among the cities you shall give to the Levites, shall be 6 cities of refuge, which you shall provide [as places] to which a murderer can flee. In addition to them, you shall provide forty two cities. All the cities you shall give to the Levites shall number 48 cities, them with their open spaces.
And as for the cities that you shall give from the possession of the children of Israel, you shall take more from a larger [holding] and you shall take less from a smaller one. Each one, according to the inheritance allotted to him, shall give of his cities to the Levites.
The Lord spoke to Moses saying: Speak to the children of Israel and say to them, When you cross the Jordan to the land of Canaan, you shall designate cities for yourselves; they shall be cities of refuge for you, and a murderer who killed a person unintentionally shall flee there. These cities shall serve you as a refuge from an avenger, so that the murderer shall not die until he stands in judgment before the congregation. The cities that you provide shall serve as six cities of refuge for you.
You shall provide the 3 cities in trans Jordan and the 3 cities in the land of Canaan; they shall be cities of refuge. These six cities shall be a refuge for the children of Israel and for the proselyte and resident among them, so that anyone who unintentionally kills a person can flee there.
Distinguishing murder from manslaughter
If he struck him with an iron instrument and he dies, he is a murderer, and the murderer shall be put to death. Or with a fist sized wooden instrument which is deadly,and he dies, he is a murderer, and the murderer shall be put to death. If, out of hatred, he pushed him, or threw something at him with premeditation, and he died, or if he maliciously struck him with his hand and he died, the assailant shall be put to death; he is a murderer; the blood avenger may kill the murderer when he meets him.
But if he pushed him accidentally, without malice, or threw an object at him without premeditation, or, with any stone which is deadly, and without seeing [his victim] he threw it down at him and it killed him, but he was not his enemy and bore him no malice
Murderer must stay in the city of refuge until the Kohen Gadol dies. Can’t be killed by avenger based on the testimony of only one witness. Can’t be redeemed with money
Then the congregation shall judge between the assailant and the blood avenger, on the basis of these judgments. The congregation shall protect the murderer from the hand of the blood avenger, and the congregation shall return him to the city of refuge to which he had fled, and he shall remain there until the Kohen Gadol, who anointed him with the sacred oil, dies. But if the murderer goes beyond the border of the city of refuge to which he had fled, and the blood avenger finds him outside the limits of his city of refuge, and the blood avenger slays the murderer, he has no blood. For he shall remain in his city of refuge until the Kohen Gadol dies, and only after the Kohen Gadol has died, may the murderer return to the land which is his possession. These shall be for you a statute of justice for all your generations, in all your dwelling places.
Whoever [namely the blood avenger] kills a person, based on the testimony of witnesses, he shall slay the murderer. A single witness may not testify against a person so that he should die.
You shall not accept ransom for the life of a murderer, who is guilty of death, for he shall be put be put to death. You shall not accept ransom for one who has fled to his city of refuge, to allow him to return to live in the Land, before the kohen has died.
Do not corrupt or defile the land
And you shall not corrupt the land in which you live, for the blood corrupts the land, and the blood which is shed in the land cannot be atoned for except through the blood of the one who shed it. And you shall not defile the land where you reside, in which I dwell, for I am the Lord Who dwells among the children of Israel.
Research & Analysis
for more info about cities of refuge