While Yisharal was camped beside the Jordan on the plains of Moab (across from Jericho) Yahusha said to Moses, “Instruct the people of Yisharal to give the Levites certain towns from their property to live in, along with the surrounding pasturelands. These towns will be for the Levites to live in, and the surrounding lands will provide pasture for their cattle, flocks, and other livestock. The pastureland assigned to the Levites around these towns will extend 500 metres from the town walls in every direction. So measure off 1km outside the town walls in every direction—east, south, west, north—with the town at the centre. This area will serve as the larger pastureland for the towns. Six of the towns you give the Levites will be cities of refuge, where a person who has accidentally killed someone can flee for safety. In addition, give them forty-two other towns. In all, forty-eight towns with the surrounding pastureland will be given to the Levites. These towns will come from the property of the people of Yisharal. The larger tribes will give more towns to the Levites, while the smaller tribes will give fewer. Each tribe will give property in proportion to the size of its land.”
CITIES OF REFUGE
Then Yahusha said to Moses, “Give the following instructions to the people of Yisharal: When you cross the Jordan into the land of Canaan, designate cities of refuge to which people can flee if they have killed someone accidentally. These cities will be places of protection from a dead person’s relatives who want to avenge the death. The slayer must not be put to death before being tried by the community. Designate six cities of refuge for yourselves, three on the east side of the Jordan River and three on the west in the land of Canaan. These cities are for the protection of Yisharalites, foreigners living among you, and traveling merchants. Anyone who accidentally kills someone may flee there for safety. But if someone strikes and kills another person with a piece of iron, it is murder, and the murderer must be executed. Or if someone with a stone in his hand strikes and kills another person, it is murder, and the murderer must be put to death. Or if someone strikes and kills another person with a wooden object, it is murder, and the murderer must be put to death. The victim’s nearest relative is responsible for putting the murderer to death. When they meet, the avenger must put the murderer to death. So if someone hates another person and waits in ambush, then pushes him or throws something at him and he dies, it is murder. Or if someone hates another person and hits him with a fist and he dies, it is murder. In such cases, the avenger must put the murderer to death when they meet. But suppose someone pushes another person without having shown previous hostility, or throws something that unintentionally hits another person, or accidentally drops a huge stone on someone, though they were not enemies, and the person dies. If this should happen, the community must follow these regulations in making a judgment between the slayer and the avenger, the victim’s nearest relative: The community must protect the slayer from the avenger and must escort the slayer back to live in the city of refuge to which he fled. There he must remain until the death of the high priest, who was anointed with the sacred oil. But if the slayer ever leaves the limits of the city of refuge, and the avenger finds him outside the city and kills him, it will not be considered murder. The slayer should have stayed inside the city of refuge until the death of the high priest. But after the death of the high priest, the slayer may return to his own property. These are legal requirements for you to observe from generation to generation, wherever you may live. All murderers must be put to death, but only if evidence is presented by more than one witness. No one may be put to death on the testimony of only one witness. Also, you must never accept a ransom payment for the life of someone judged guilty of murder and subject to execution; murderers must always be put to death. And never accept a ransom payment from someone who has fled to a city of refuge, allowing a slayer to return to his property before the death of the high priest. This will ensure that the land where you live will not be polluted, for murder pollutes the land. And no sacrifice except the execution of the murderer can purify the land from murder.You must not defile the land where you live, for I live there myself. I am Yahuah, who lives among the people of Yisharal.”
A TOTAL OF 48 CITIES WERE TO BE GIVEN TO THE LEVITES AND THESE CITIES WERE TO BE THE LEVITES’ PERMANENT POSSESSIONS AND ALONG WITH EACH CITY, A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF LAND SURROUNDING THE CITY WAS ALSO TO BE GIVEN, SO THE LEVITES WOULD HAVE A PLACE TO RAISE THEIR FARM ANIMALS. THESE WERE NOT CITIES THE YISHARALITES WOULD BUILD FROM SCRATCH. RATHER, AFTER YISHARAL HAD TAKEN POSSESSION OF THE LAND, THE CITIES WOULD BE HANDPICKED FROM THE MANY TOWNS AND SMALL VILLAGES THE HEBREW ARMY WOULD CAPTURE FROM THE CANAANITE TRIBES DURING BATTLE. IN MANY CASES, WHAT WAS GIVEN TO THE LEVITES WAS JUST AN AREA WITH A HANDFUL OF BUILDINGS AND WERE NOT WALLED CITIES OR ANYTHING REMOTELY RESEMBLING WHAT WE WOULD CONSIDER TO BE A CITY IN OUR DAY. WHAT’S INTERESTING ABOUT THIS INSTRUCTION TO YISHARAL TO SET ASIDE CITIES FOR THE LEVITES IS THAT IT IS ONE OF THE INSTRUCTIONS THAT WAS NEVER FULLY IMPLEMENTED. FOR TO THIS DAY, ALL EXISTING HISTORICAL RECORDS WE HAVE ACCESS TO INDICATE THE LEVITES NEVER ACTUALLY RECEIVED ALL 48 OF THE CITIES THEY WERE SUPPOSED TO HAVE RECEIVED. ALSO THE JUBILEE CELEBRATION WHICH WAS ESTABLISHED TO ENSURE THAT THE ORIGINAL OWNER OF A PIECE OF LAND WOULD (IN THE FIFTIETH YEAR) ALWAYS GET HIS REAL ESTATE BACK IF HE HAD LOST IT TO DEBT OR WHATEVER, WAS NEVER TRULY OBEYED EITHER. RECORDS INDICATE THAT THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE JUBILEE YEAR PER YAHUSHA’S INSTRUCTION NEVER OCCURRED EVEN ONCE!
AND CONCERNING THE CITIES TO BE GIVEN TO THE LEVITES, THEY MAY HAVE BEEN “ASSIGNED” CERTAIN TOWNS AND VILLAGES BUT IN TERMS OF THE LEVITES REALLY MOVING INTO THESE AREAS, WELL THAT WAS A DIFFERENT STORY. BECAUSE HERE’S THE THING. NOT ONLY WAS EACH YISHARALITE TRIBE (BASED ON ITS SIZE) TO PROVIDE CITIES TO THE LEVITIES TO LIVE IN, BUT EACH TRIBE WAS ALSO RESPONSIBLE FOR CONSISTENTLY CARING FOR THOSE LEVITES WHO WERE LIVING IN THE CITIES IN THEIR ASSIGNED AREAS. AND THIS IS SOMETHING THAT MORE OFTEN THAN NOT JUST DIDN’T HAPPEN. INCIDENTALLY, THE BOOK OF JOSHUA DOES IDENTIFY SOME OF THESE LEVITE CITIES BY NAME, BUT ONLY THE BIG ONES. THE UGLY REALITY WE HAVE TO FACE AND THIS IS SO TYPICAL OF FALLEN AND GREEDY HUMAN NATURE. WHEN IT COMES TO ANYTHING CONNECTED WITH MONEY AND WEALTH, WHEN IT CAME TIME TO ACTUALLY IMPLEMENT THESE INSTRUCTIONS OF YAHUSHA, WHAT PROBABLY HAPPENED IS THAT THE TRIBES GAVE THE LEVITES BURNT OUT VILLAGES (AREAS THAT WERE CONSIDERED OF LITTLE VALUE TO THE TRIBE) THAT WERE BARELY FIT FOR HUMAN HABITATION, AND AS A RESULT OF THIS, THE LEVITES WHO WERE GIVEN EXCEPTIONALLY CRAPPY AREAS SIMPLY DIDN’T MOVE IN AND INSTEAD CHOSE TO JOIN THEIR BROTHERS IN THE MORE SUBSTANTIAL AND WELL-FORTIFIED CITIES THAT WERE WALLED. AND AGAIN, LET’S NOT FORGET THE SITUATION OF THE PROMISED LAND WHEN THE YISHARALITES FIRST ENTERED INTO IT. ONCE YISHARAL SET FOOT INSIDE THE PROMISED LAND, THEY WOULD BE FORCED TO DEAL WITH A NEVER-ENDING SERIES OF ATTACKS FROM THE CANAANITES, WANDERING BANDITS AND EVEN ARMIES SENT BY KINGS WHO WANTED TO EXPAND THEIR TERRITORIAL HOLDINGS. THESE HOSTILE ENTITIES DIDN’T MAKE ANY DISTINCTION BETWEEN THE COMMON YISHARALITES, THE LEVITES AND THE PRIESTHOOD AND AS FAR AS THEY WERE CONCERNED, A YISHARALITE WAS A YISHARALITE. THEY WERE ALL FAIR GAME FOR THE EDGE OF THEIR SWORDS.