Pastoral Commentary for Numbers 35:9-36:13
Author: Pastor Bob Nordlie
Cities of refuge were established so that anyone who killed someone accidentally would have opportunity for a fair trial. Murder was described as using a weapon such as an iron weapon or implement, a large stone, or a wooden club or object to kill another, or to do so using your hands or by throwing something while "lying in wait" or with malice aforethought. Murderers were to be put to death. Someone guilty of accidental death or manslaughter could live peacefully in the city of refuge, however if he left the place of refuge, the death could be avenged against that person without guilt on the part of the avenger. After the death of the High Priest the person guilty of manslaughter was free to return home. Two witnesses to the murder were required in order for anyone to be put to death. Murder was so serious a crime that God considered the spilling of blood a polluting of the holy land He gave to His people. God also commanded that women who received an inheritance of land from a father who had no sons were required to marry within their own tribe so that the land would stay within their tribe.