Old Testament

Joshua 20
Cities of Refuge
201Then the Lord spoke to Joshua 2and told him to give the people of Israel the following directions:
Designate for yourselves the cities of refuge about which I spoke to you through Moses. 3A person who takes a life may flee to one of them, if that person has killed someone by accident, without intent. These cities are to serve for you as a refuge from the avenger[] of blood.
4The person is to flee to one of these cities and stand at the entrance to the gate of the city and state his case before a hearing of the elders of that city. They are to receive him into the city and give him a place where he can live with them. 5When the avenger of blood pursues him, the elders are not to hand over the person who took a life to the avenger, because that person killed his fellow man without intent, and he had not been his enemy previously. 6The killer is to live in that city until he stands in front of the community for judgment, and then until the death of the high priest who presides in those days. At that time the one who took a life may return to his city and to his house—to the city from which he fled.
7So they set apart Kedesh in Galilee in the hill country of Naphtali, and Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim, and Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron) in the hill country of Judah. 8Also in the region on the east side of the Jordan of Jericho, they designated Bezer in the wilderness on the tableland from the tribe of Reuben, and Ramoth in Gilead from the tribe of Gad, and Golan in Bashan from the tribe of Manasseh.
9These were the appointed cities for all the people of Israel and for the aliens residing among them, so that anyone killing a person accidentally could flee there and not die by the hand of the avenger of blood before he has stood trial in the presence of the community.


  • 20:3 The Hebrew word translated avenger is goel. Goel is also translated redeemer or kinsman redeemer. One function of the goel was to seek justice for a relative who had been killed. In that situation the goel is called an avenger. Another duty of the goel was recovering lost property. In that situation he is called a redeemer.