The Cities of Refuge.[a] 1 The Lord then said to Joshua, 2 “Speak to the Israelites and say, ‘Choose refuge cities for yourselves, just as I told you to do through Moses. 3 This way anyone who kills another accidentally or unintentionally can flee there and take refuge from the relative who seeks blood vengeance. 4 When he flees to one of those cities, he is to stand at the entrance to the city gate and state his case in the hearing of the elders of the city. They will then let him enter the city, and they are to give him a place where he can live with them. 5 If the relative who seeks blood vengeance pursues him, they are not to surrender the man who killed another into his hands, for he killed his neighbor unintentionally and he had not previously shown him any enmity. 6 He will continue to live in that city until he stands trial before the assembly, and until the death of the high priest who is then in office. At that point the man who killed another can go back to his own city, to his home, to the city from which he had fled.’ ”
7 So they set apart Kadesh 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 On the other side of the Jordan, to the east of Jericho, they set aside Bezer in the wilderness upon the plateau of the tribe of Reuben, Ramoth in Gilead among the tribe of Gad, and Golan in Bashan among the tribe of Manasseh. 9 These cities were designated so that any Israelite or foreigner who lived among them and who accidentally killed another person might flee there, so that he would not be killed by the relative who seeks blood vengeance before he could stand trial before the assembly.
- Joshua 20:1 God had prepared the Israelites to function well in their new land through his instructions to Moses many years earlier. The laws that required the establishment of “cities of refuge”—for someone who committed an unintentional murder—are detailed in Num 35:9-28; Deut 19:1-13.