Scattered throughout the tribes of Israel were forty-eight cities given to the Levites. Among these were six cities known as cities of refuge (Num 35:6-7). A city of refuge was a place where a person who had killed another could flee for safety till the judges decided whether the death was intentional or accidental. Those judged to be guilty of murder were executed. Those judged to have caused the death accidentally could continue living in the city of refuge.

This may have limited their freedom, but at least it gave them official protection. In the city of refuge they were safe from any revenge from the family of the dead person (Exod 21:12-14; Num 35:9-14; Josh 20:2-6). There were three cities of refuge in Israel’s territory west of Jordan (Kedesh, Shechem and Hebron), and three in its territory east of Jordan (Golan, Ramothgilead and Bezer). On each side of Jordan there was one city in the northern section, one in the central and one in the southern (Num 35:14-15; Josh 20:7-9). All six cities had clearly marked roads leading to them so that the refugee could reach safety quickly (Deut 19:2-6).

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