|<< Num 34|
Numbers 35-36 Listen
1 And the LORD spake unto Moses in the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho, saying,
2 Command the children of Israel, that they give unto the Levites of the inheritance of their possession cities to dwell in; and ye shall give also unto the Levites suburbs for the cities round about them.
3 And the cities shall they have to dwell in; and the suburbs of them shall be for their cattle, and for their goods, and for all their beasts.
4 And the suburbs of the cities, which ye shall give unto the Levites, shall reach from the wall of the city and outward a thousand cubits round about.
5 And ye shall measure from without the city on the east side two thousand cubits, and on the south side two thousand cubits, and on the west side two thousand cubits, and on the north side two thousand cubits; and the city shall be in the midst: this shall be to them the suburbs of the cities.
6 And among the cities which ye shall give unto the Levites there shall be six cities for refuge, which ye shall appoint for the manslayer, that he may flee thither: and to them ye shall add forty and two cities.
7 So all the cities which ye shall give to the Levites shall be forty and eight cities: them shall ye give with their suburbs.
8 And the cities which ye shall give shall be of the possession of the children of Israel: from them that have many ye shall give many; but from them that have few ye shall give few: every one shall give of his cities unto the Levites according to his inheritance which he inheriteth.
Moses continues to go over the plans for moving into Canaan. The Levites are going to be city dwellers. Those cities will be provided by each of the remaining twelve tribes spread throughout the soon-to-be-acquired land along with the allotments already occupied by Reuben, Gad and half of Manasseh on the east side of the Jordan River. And they'll be given land outside the walls of their cities for the purpose of grazing their livestock. Altogether there are to be 48 of these cities spread throughout the land. Larger tribes will provide more land for these cities than the smaller tribes. Six of the 48 cities (three east of the Jordan and three west) are to be designated cities of refuge. The cities that were later selected are Bezer, Ramoth-Gilead, and Golan on the east side of the Jordan River, and Hebron, Shechem, and Kedesh on the west side (Deuteronomy 4:43 (see notes); Joshua 20:7-8, see notes; Joshua 21:13,21,27,32,36,38, see notes). The specifications for circumstances whereby these cities can be used by fugitives is seen in verses 9-34 (see below).
In addition to the area inside the city walls for the Levites, a prescribed area for each of these 48 cities was to be designated outside the walls for the purpose of grazing their cattle. The difference between the designations of 1,000 cubits in verse 4 and the 2,000 cubits in verse 5 is illustrated in the diagram to the right. Both numbers are correct. So, here it is to be...just as Jacob had told Levi back in Genesis 49:7 (see notes), "I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel." Levi will not have their own tribal land award, but will be spread throughout Israel. The irony of the whole situation regarding the fulfillment of Jacob's blessing is that the Levites end up fulfilling that blessing by Jacob in a totally-unexpected fashion. They're a tribe of priests...prestigious priests!
9 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
10 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come over Jordan into the land of Canaan;
11 Then ye shall appoint you cities to be cities of refuge for you; that the slayer may flee thither, which killeth any person at unawares.
12 And they shall be unto you cities for refuge from the avenger; that the manslayer die not, until he stand before the congregation in judgment.
13 And of these cities which ye shall give six cities shall ye have for refuge.
14 Ye shall give three cities on this side Jordan, and three cities shall ye give in the land of Canaan, which shall be cities of refuge.
15 These six cities shall be a refuge, both for the children of Israel, and for the stranger, and for the sojourner among them: that every one that killeth any person unawares may flee thither.
16 And if he smite him with an instrument of iron, so that he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death.
17 And if he smite him with throwing a stone, wherewith he may die, and he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death.
18 Or if he smite him with an hand weapon of wood, wherewith he may die, and he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death.
19 The revenger of blood himself shall slay the murderer: when he meeteth him, he shall slay him.
20 But if he thrust him of hatred, or hurl at him by laying of wait, that he die;
21 Or in enmity smite him with his hand, that he die: he that smote him shall surely be put to death; for he is a murderer: the revenger of blood shall slay the murderer, when he meeteth him.
22 But if he thrust him suddenly without enmity, or have cast upon him any thing without laying of wait,
23 Or with any stone, wherewith a man may die, seeing him not, and cast it upon him, that he die, and was not his enemy, neither sought his harm:
24 Then the congregation shall judge between the slayer and the revenger of blood according to these judgments:
25 And the congregation shall deliver the slayer out of the hand of the revenger of blood, and the congregation shall restore him to the city of his refuge, whither he was fled: and he shall abide in it unto the death of the high priest, which was anointed with the holy oil.
26 But if the slayer shall at any time come without the border of the city of his refuge, whither he was fled;
27 And the revenger of blood find him without the borders of the city of his refuge, and the revenger of blood kill the slayer; he shall not be guilty of blood:
28 Because he should have remained in the city of his refuge until the death of the high priest: but after the death of the high priest the slayer shall return into the land of his possession.
29 So these things shall be for a statute of judgment unto you throughout your generations in all your dwellings.
30 Whoso killeth any person, the murderer shall be put to death by the mouth of witnesses: but one witness shall not testify against any person to cause him to die.
31 Moreover ye shall take no satisfaction for the life of a murderer, which is guilty of death: but he shall be surely put to death.
32 And ye shall take no satisfaction for him that is fled to the city of his refuge, that he should come again to dwell in the land, until the death of the priest.
33 So ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are: for blood it defileth the land: and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it.
34 Defile not therefore the land which ye shall inhabit, wherein I dwell: for I the LORD dwell among the children of Israel.
You better get out of town fast...and head for one of these cities of refuge (six of them, three on each side of the Jordan River, see above). These cities only worked if you committed an "I-didn't-mean-to" murder. You still had to be tried, but were supposed to be safe until the trial. Secular sources tell us that this is the way the law worked in that era among virtually all the nations. Blood relatives personally avenged the blood of their kin. We see provisions in verse 15 for the "stranger" as well as the Hebrew. There's the principle of avenging one's kin in verse 19, "The revenger of blood himself shall slay the murderer: when he meeteth him, he shall slay him." That convention originated in Genesis 9:6 (see notes), "Whoso sheddeth mans blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man." If you committed a premeditated murder, you're on your own. But what if it was an accident? Then head for one of these cities and ask for a trial (verses 22-25). At least you're safe until the trial. However, if they find you guilty of premeditated murder, the city provides no safety after that. If found innocent of premeditated murder, the city alone provides safety from one's avenger (verses 26-27). Leave the city and you're on your own. One caveat though - after the High Priest dies, that accidental manslayer can go back to his home, and the avenger no longer has a right to avenge the death of his relative. If I were the High Priest, I'd be a little cautious about accepting meals from these fugitives, though, based on verse 28.
An accused murderer could not be executed on the basis of just one eyewitness (verse 30). You will notice in this chapter the general guidelines for determining manslaughter instead of pre-meditated murder. Even under the Mosaic Law, determining guilt for capital murder has never been easy.
1 And the chief fathers of the families of the children of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, of the families of the sons of Joseph, came near, and spake before Moses, and before the princes, the chief fathers of the children of Israel:
2 And they said, The LORD commanded my lord to give the land for an inheritance by lot to the children of Israel: and my lord was commanded by the LORD to give the inheritance of Zelophehad our brother unto his daughters.
3 And if they be married to any of the sons of the other tribes of the children of Israel, then shall their inheritance be taken from the inheritance of our fathers, and shall be put to the inheritance of the tribe whereunto they are received: so shall it be taken from the lot of our inheritance.
4 And when the jubile of the children of Israel shall be, then shall their inheritance be put unto the inheritance of the tribe whereunto they are received: so shall their inheritance be taken away from the inheritance of the tribe of our fathers.
5 And Moses commanded the children of Israel according to the word of the LORD, saying, The tribe of the sons of Joseph hath said well.
6 This is the thing which the LORD doth command concerning the daughters of Zelophehad, saying, Let them marry to whom they think best; only to the family of the tribe of their father shall they marry.
7 So shall not the inheritance of the children of Israel remove from tribe to tribe: for every one of the children of Israel shall keep himself to the inheritance of the tribe of his fathers.
8 And every daughter, that possesseth an inheritance in any tribe of the children of Israel, shall be wife unto one of the family of the tribe of her father, that the children of Israel may enjoy every man the inheritance of his fathers.
9 Neither shall the inheritance remove from one tribe to another tribe; but every one of the tribes of the children of Israel shall keep himself to his own inheritance.
10 Even as the LORD commanded Moses, so did the daughters of Zelophehad:
11 For Mahlah, Tirzah, and Hoglah, and Milcah, and Noah, the daughters of Zelophehad, were married unto their father’s brothers’ sons:
12 And they were married into the families of the sons of Manasseh the son of Joseph, and their inheritance remained in the tribe of the family of their father.
13 These are the commandments and the judgments, which the LORD commanded by the hand of Moses unto the children of Israel in the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho.
This is an addendum to an exception that was made back in Numbers 27:1-11 (see notes). At that time, the daughters of Zelophehad (of the tribe of Manasseh) had come to Moses about an inequity. Their father had died in the wilderness leaving no sons - just daughters. Moses decreed that their father's inheritance, when they occupied the land of Canaan, would go to them.
However, there was still a problem. The "chief fathers" want to protect the interests of the Tribe of Manasseh here against the possibility of losing territory assigned to members of that tribe. So, here are the stipulations Moses adds to his previous ruling on the issue. Ordinarily, if these women married the men of another of the Tribes of Israel, their property rights would transfer over to that tribe. You will recall that in the Jubilee year, all property reverted back to its original tribal families. (Click here to see the notes regarding the Jubilee year.) Well, you can see the problem. Property awarded to these women on behalf of their father would end up in the hands of another tribe altogether if they were to marry someone from another tribe. The solution: Cut down their field of eligible bachelors; Moses decrees that they will only be allowed to marry someone within their own tribe (Manasseh). Thus, in the year of Jubilee, the property remains with the original tribe. Problem solved!
The daughters of Zelophehad (of the tribe of Manasseh) receive their inheritance in Joshua 17:1-18 (see notes).