The Cities of Refuge
1: When the LORD thy God hath cut off the nations, whose land the LORD thy God giveth thee, and thou succeedest them, and dwellest in their cities, and in their houses; 2: Thou shalt separate three cities for thee in the midst of thy land, which the LORD thy God giveth thee to possess it. 3: Thou shalt prepare thee a way, and divide the coasts of thy land, which the LORD thy God giveth thee to inherit, into three parts, that every slayer may flee thither. 4: And this is the case of the slayer, which shall flee thither, that he may live: Whoso killeth his neighbour ignorantly, whom he hated not in time past; 5: As when a man goeth into the wood with his neighbour to hew wood, and his hand fetcheth a stroke with the axe to cut down the tree, and the head slippeth from the helve, and lighteth upon his neighbour, that he die; he shall flee unto one of those cities, and live: 6: Lest the avenger of the blood pursue the slayer, while his heart is hot, and overtake him, because the way is long, and slay him; whereas he was not worthy of death, inasmuch as he hated him not in time past. 7: Wherefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt separate three cities for thee. 8: And if the LORD thy God enlarge thy coast, as he hath sworn unto thy fathers, and give thee all the land which he promised to give unto thy fathers; 9: If thou shalt keep all these commandments to do them, which I command thee this day, to love the LORD thy God, and to walk ever in his ways; then shalt thou add three cities more for thee, beside these three: 10: That innocent blood be not shed in thy land, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance, and so blood be upon thee. 11: But if any man hate his neighbour, and lie in wait for him, and rise up against him, and smite him mortally that he die, and fleeth into one of these cities: 12: Then the elders of his city shall send and fetch him thence, and deliver him into the hand of the avenger of blood, that he may die. 13: Thine eye shall not pity him, but thou shalt put away the guilt of innocent blood from Israel, that it may go well with thee. 14: Thou shalt not remove thy neighbour's landmark, which they of old time have set in thine inheritance, which thou shalt inherit in the land that the LORD thy God giveth thee to possess it.
Witnesses to be examined
15: One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established. 16: If a false witness rise up against any man to testify against him that which is wrong; 17: Then both the men, between whom the controversy is, shall stand before the LORD, before the priests and the judges, which shall be in those days; 18: And the judges shall make diligent inquisition: and, behold, if the witness be a false witness, and hath testified falsely against his brother; 19: Then shall ye do unto him, as he had thought to have done unto his brother: so shalt thou put the evil away from among you. 20: And those which remain shall hear, and fear, and shall henceforth commit no more any such evil among you. 21: And thine eye shall not pity; but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.
How to go to war
1: When thou goest out to battle against thine enemies, and seest horses, and chariots, and a people more than thou, be not afraid of them: for the LORD thy God is with thee, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. 2: And it shall be, when ye are come nigh unto the battle, that the priest shall approach and speak unto the people, 3: And shall say unto them, Hear, O Israel, ye approach this day unto battle against your enemies: let not your hearts faint, fear not, and do not tremble, neither be ye terrified because of them; 4: For the LORD your God is he that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you. 5: And the officers shall speak unto the people, saying, What man is there that hath built a new house, and hath not dedicated it? let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man dedicate it. 6: And what man is he that hath planted a vineyard, and hath not yet eaten of it? let him also go and return unto his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man eat of it. 7: And what man is there that hath betrothed a wife, and hath not taken her? let him go and return unto his house, lest he die in the battle, and another man take her. 8: And the officers shall speak further unto the people, and they shall say, What man is there that is fearful and fainthearted? let him go and return unto his house, lest his brethren's heart faint as well as his heart. 9: And it shall be, when the officers have made an end of speaking unto the people, that they shall make captains of the armies to lead the people. 10: When thou comest nigh unto a city to fight against it, then proclaim peace unto it. 11: And it shall be, if it make thee answer of peace, and open unto thee, then it shall be, that all the people that is found therein shall be tributaries unto thee, and they shall serve thee. 12: And if it will make no peace with thee, but will make war against thee, then thou shalt besiege it: 13: And when the LORD thy God hath delivered it into thine hands, thou shalt smite every male thereof with the edge of the sword: 14: But the women, and the little ones, and the cattle, and all that is in the city, even all the spoil thereof, shalt thou take unto thyself; and thou shalt eat the spoil of thine enemies, which the LORD thy God hath given thee. 15: Thus shalt thou do unto all the cities which are very far off from thee, which are not of the cities of these nations. 16: But of the cities of these people, which the LORD thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth: 17: But thou shalt utterly destroy them; namely, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee: 18: That they teach you not to do after all their abominations, which they have done unto their gods; so should ye sin against the LORD your God. 19: When thou shalt besiege a city a long time, in making war against it to take it, thou shalt not destroy the trees thereof by forcing an axe against them: for thou mayest eat of them, and thou shalt not cut them down (for the tree of the field is man's life) to employ them in the siege: 20: Only the trees which thou knowest that they be not trees for meat, thou shalt destroy and cut them down; and thou shalt build bulwarks against the city that maketh war with thee, until it be subdued.
In todays Bible reading the Lord clarifies three areas, all of which have to do with innocent people. First he speaks about the importance of the cities of refuge for those who have caused death or injury quite innocently, second he speaks about the importance of proper witnesses to protect the innocent from being convicted on hearsay evidence and lastly the rules of war are specified to protect the innocent. First however we see that the Lord designated cities of refuge scattered throughout the whole land so as to protect the innocent from vengeance from families and friends of injured parties. The Lord gives the example of a wood chopper who is working away and the head comes off his axe and it kills a workmate. There is no malice in his heart - it’s just an accident. He can escape to a city of refuge to get a judicial review of his case. The Lord is very concerned that assassinations of those whose hearts are innocent must not be allowed to happen. The Lord sets the principle that murder is only murder when there is malice or hatred in the heart. However this facility is not to be taken advantage of by murderers. The Lord also adds that the removal of a landmark is a very serious offence in Israel. It is effectively theft of land. Then the Lord specfies the rules regulating the use of witnesses in hearings. If witnesses appear in front of judges and they after close examination are found to be false witnesses then the witnesses are to suffer the punishment that their testimony would have brought on the defendant. In this way men were restrained from false testimony. (We see that when Christ was tried the witnesses could not agree yet they did not suffer crucifixion! This shows what a travesty of justice the trials of Christ were.) The judges were not to show unjustified pity but to judge fairly, not excessively or leniently. In the next passage the Lord specfies the rules of war. The first principle is that the war is the Lords war. He will go ahead and fight for you therefore Israel is not to be afraid of battle. There were a number of cases in which elegible men were excused from going to battle. A man who has just built a house, a man who has just planted a vineyard, a man who is betrothed, a man who is afraid in the face of the enemy. The next issue is how the army is to be formed. The appointment of captains is essential to lead the people. Next comes the protocol of battle. First there is to be an offer of peace terms. The offer is that if the people surrender then they will promise to give tribute and serve Israel. However if this is not accepted then hostilities are entered into. (We see this in the case of David and Goliath who offered peace terms to Israel before fighting commenced) In the battle every enemy soldier is to be killed but women and children are to be spared. The goods and stock of the enemy is allowed for spoil. However the cites of the land in which Israel were going in to claim were to be totally destroyed man and beast, nothing is to survive. The six nations - the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and the Jebusites were to be totally destroyed. Israel was the sword of the Lord brining the judgment of God on these six nations. There sins were to be obliterated from the earth. Any trees that are for food are not to be cut down during a siege because they are for the food of the army.