Criminal Laws

The Lord your God will destroy all the nations that are living in the land that he’s giving you. You will force them out and live in their cities and houses. When all this is done, set aside three cities in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. Provide a route to each of these cities and divide the land that the Lord your God is giving you into three regions. Whoever kills someone may run to one of these cities.

A person who unintentionally kills someone he never hated in the past may run to one of these cities to save his life. Suppose two people go into the woods to cut wood. As one of them swings the ax to cut down a tree, the head flies off the handle, hits, and kills the other person. The one who accidentally killed the other person may run to one of these cities and save his life. Otherwise, in a rage the relative who has the authority to avenge the death will pursue him. If the place is too far away, the relative may catch up with him and take his life even though he didn’t deserve the death penalty, because in the past he never hated the person he killed. This is why I’m commanding you to set aside three cities for yourselves.

The Lord your God may expand your country’s borders as he promised your ancestors with an oath. He may give you the whole land he promised to give them. He may do this because you faithfully obey all these commands I am now giving you—to love the Lord your God and follow his directions as long as you live. If this happens, you may add three more cities of refuge to these three. 10 That way, innocent people won’t be killed in the land that the Lord your God is giving you, and you won’t be guilty of murder.

11 Suppose someone hates another person, waits in ambush for him, attacks him, takes his life, and runs to one of these cities. 12 If someone does this, the leaders of your city must send for that person. They must take him from that city and hand him over to the relative who has the authority to avenge the death. He must die. 13 They must have no pity on him. The guilt of murdering an innocent person must be removed from Israel. Then things will go well for Israel.

14 Never move your neighbor’s original boundary marker on any property in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

15 One witness is never enough to convict someone of a crime, offense, or sin he may have committed. Cases must be settled based on the testimony of two or three witnesses.

16 This is what you must do whenever a witness takes the stand to accuse a person falsely of a crime. 17 The two people involved must stand in the Lord’s presence, in front of the priests and judges who are serving at that time. 18 The judges must make a thorough investigation. If it is found that the witness lied when he testified against the other Israelite, 19 then do to him what he planned to do to the other person. You must get rid of this evil. 20 When the rest of the people hear about this, they will be afraid. Never again will such an evil thing be done among you. 21 Have no pity on him: ⌞Take⌟ a life for a life, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a hand for a hand, and a foot for a foot.