The Holy Bible – Knox Translation
The Book of Deuteronomy
When the Lord thy God has dispossessed those other nations, and thou hast overspread their country, and all its cities and houses are thine,
set apart three cities in the midst of the territory he has granted thee;
cities that may be reached by well paved roads, and so placed as to divide up the whole of thy land into three districts. One of these must be near at hand, when blood has been shed and the slayer would take sanctuary.
Such a man must be granted his life, on these conditions; the blow must have been struck unwittingly, and there must be no proof of a feud between the two men in time past.
A man, for instance, may have gone out with a friend of his, in all innocence, to cut wood; and as he is cutting the axe may fly out of his hand, or the iron come loose from the handle, striking the other and killing him. The author of such mischance will fly for his life to one of the cities aforesaid.
It may be the dead man’s next of kin will set out in pursuit, to take revenge; and if the distance is great, he may overtake and kill this innocent man, who cannot be shewn to have borne ill-will to the dead kinsman.
That is why I bid thee set apart three cities each at an equal distance from the next.
In years to come, the Lord will enlarge thy domain, as he swore to thy fathers he would, and give thee the whole of this land where he has promised thee a home;
provided always that thou dost keep his commandments, and do all that I bid thee this day, loving the Lord thy God, and following continually the path he has chosen for thee. Then it will be time to double the number of the cities aforesaid, adding three others,
to prevent the blood of innocent men being shed, here in this land the Lord is giving thee for thy own, and the guilt of that blood defiling thee.
But it may be that someone who has a grudge against his neighbour will plot against his life, starting up out of an ambush and inflicting on him a mortal hurt, and then flee to one of these cities for refuge.
Then let the elders of that city send and dislodge him from his place of retreat, and so hand him over to the dead man’s next of kin, to die.
Have no mercy on him; it shall go ill with thee, if thou dost not rid Israel of that defilement which the blood of an innocent man has brought on it.
If thy neighbour’s domain is bounded by some landmark, set up by men of old time, where thy home is in the land the Lord has granted thee, do not take it up and remove it elsewhere.
Whatever be the offence or crime a man is charged with, it shall not suffice for one witness to appear against him; every question must be settled by the voice of two witnesses or more.
It may be that a false witness will appear, accusing a man of this or that misdeed.
When such a claim is made, the two parties will be brought forward in the Lord’s presence, before the priests and judges then in office;
and if these, after careful examination, find that the witness gave false evidence against his fellow-Israelite,
they must inflict on him the same punishment he would have brought on this brother of his. Thou must rid thyself of the plague,
so that others may be warned by hearing of it, and none dare to do the like again.
No pity must be shewn him; life must answer for the life he would have sworn away, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.
The Holy Bible