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geographic considerations: The country is to be divided up into three parts
with a city of refuge established in each area so as to enable a slayer to seek
refuge ef¬ciently.
Unlike the refuges in Numbers, the tally of the cities of refuge in Deuteron-
omy is complex because, as the present text of Deuteronomy reads, the calcu-
lation is linked to a multistaged conquest, in contrast to the comprehensive
conquest in Numbers. Three stages are indicated in the establishment of
the cities of refuge. In Deut 4:41“43, Moses designates three cities after the
territory east of the Jordan is conquered.58 In Deut 19:1“7, the Israelites
are commanded to designate three cities after the conquest of the Land of
Israel. In Deut 19:8“9, three more cities are to be added after additional
conquests. If we were to read the chapters of Deuteronomy in succession,
the total number of the cities of refuge is nine. However, in Deut 19:1“7,
the command to set up three cities after the conquest of the Land of Israel is
presented as a new injunction without any reference to the establishment of
earlier cities in the territory east of the Jordan River.59 Indeed, in Deut 19:7“
9, the text reads: “When the LORD your God enlarges your territory . . . you
shall add three more cities to these three.” If the law was to include the
three cities mentioned in Deut 4:41“43 as well as the three established by
Deut 19:1“7, it would have stated “these six.” It clearly appears that the
author of Deuteronomy 19 did not know of Moses™ action in Deut 4:41“43.
In fact, Deut 4:41“43 is placed between Moses™ lengthy orations of Deut
1:1“4:40 and 4:44“26:19, an appropriate place for an insertion.
Deut 19:8“9, the command to establish three more cities after additional
conquests in the land of Israel, is apparently parenthetical to the command
in Deut 19:1“7.60 Deut 19:10 does not refer back to verse 9 but to verse 7

230). Cf. Milgrom, “The Alleged ˜Demythologization and Secularization™ in Deuteronomy,”
IEJ 23 (1973), 156“161.
57 Compare Num 10:9; 31:6, 50“54; Judg 7:19“20; 2 Sam 8:11; 11:11.
58 This section and Josh 20:8 are almost identical, but it is dif¬cult to say which has priority.

Cf. Auld, “Cities of Refuge in Israelite Tradition,” 138.
59 Rof´ , “History of the Cities of Refuge,” 222.
60 Ibid., 222“224.

because it deals with “the land that the LORD God is allotting to you,” not
to the enlarged territory. Furthermore, the motive cited by verse 10, “Thus
the blood of the innocent will not be shed,” is linked to verse 6, “yet he
was not guilty of a capital crime.” Deut 19:8“9 is a secondary layer whose
purpose is to adapt the law of the cities of refuge to Num 35:9“34, which
stipulates the establishment of six cities. The author of Deut 19:8“9 attempts
to reconcile the two laws. However, another attempt was made to reconcile
the sources, Deut 4:41“43. These texts in Deut 4:41“43 and 19:7“8 are not
to be seen as connected with historical reality but as examples of intrabiblical
exegesis reconciling contradictions in inherited legal literature. In fact, the
original command in Deuteronomy was to establish only three cities.61
Both Numbers and Deuteronomy outline a speci¬c procedure to adju-
dicate whether the killer committed intentional or accidental homicide. Ac-
cording to Numbers, once the fugitive has reached the city of refuge, the trial
is conducted before the hd[, “assembly.”62 The hd[ and the leaders of the
hd[ play an important role in the book of Numbers. The term hd[ refers to
the entirety of the Israelites,63 who witness public ceremonies.64 The term
can refer more speci¬cally to the assembly of adult Israelite males.65 The
chiefs of the hd[ hold executive powers.66 They take the initiative in dealing
with certain problems and represent the entirety of the Israelites in situa-
tions where the presence of all the Israelites would be impossible.67 When
it appears in biblical literature portraying a later period, it seems to be a

61 Rof´
e argues that Jerusalem was also to be included as a place of refuge even though the
statute in Deuteronomy does not allude to Jerusalem (“History of the Cities of Refuge,”
215, 224). Rof´ understands “(geographic name) $ra lwbg” in Deut 19:3 as Israelite territory
outside of Jerusalem and Benjamin which does not include Jerusalem and Benjamin. There-
fore, the threefold division was established in addition to the territorial unit of Jerusalem and
Benjamin. There are two dif¬culties with this. First, if Jerusalem were to be included as a
city of refuge, why did the text not stipulate a fourfold division of the country? Second, a
study of the phrase “(geographic name) lwbg” indicates that when it refers to dividing terri-
tory, it includes the entire territory of a country within the actual line serving as a boundary:
There is no indication that the capital city is excluded. (Cf. the dividing of the country in
Num 34 and Josh 15. Also, an entire country: Gen 10:19; Exod 7:27; 10:4; Num 20:16, 17.
The phrase “(geographic name) lwbg lk”: Exod 10:14, 19; 13:7; Judg 19:29; 1 Sam 11:3, 7;
27:1; 1 Kgs 1:3; 2 Kgs 10:32; 14:25; 1 Chr 21:12.)
62 The term hd[ can be used as proof for the First Temple date of the Priestly tradition. Cf. Avi

Hurvitz, “The Use of the Priestly Term ˜hd[™ in Biblical Literature,” [Hebrew] Tarbiz 40 (1970):
63 Exod 12:3, 6, 47; 16:1, 2, 9, 10, 19; 17:1; 35:1; Lev 4:13; 10:6; 16:5; 19:2; Num 1:53; 3:7;

8:9, 20; 10:2; 13:26; 14:1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 10, 25, 27; 15:24, 25, 26, 33, 35, 36; 16:3; 17:6, 7, 10,
11; 19:9; 20:1, 2, 8, 11, 22, 27, 29; 25:6, 7; 27:2, 3, 14, 16, 17, 19, 20, 21, 22; 31:12, 16, 43;
Josh 9:19, 21; 18:1; 22:12, 16, 17, 18, 20; Ps 74:2; Jer 6:18; 30:20.
64 Lev 8:3, 4, 5; 9:5; Num 10:3; 1 Kgs 8:5 [1 Chr 5:6].
65 Exod 35:4, 10; Num 1:2, 18; 26:2.
66 Num 1:16.
67 Exod 16:22; 35:31; Lev 4:15; Num 4:34; 16:2; 31:13, 26, 27; 32:2, 4; Josh 9:15, 18, 27;


pan-Israelite assembly. In Judg 20:1 and 21:10, 16, it has both political and
judicial aspects. The hd[ arbitrates between an individual and a tribe, de-
clares war on a particular tribe, and accepts terms of peace. Its political role
is otherwise vague. None of the judges is portrayed as consulting with the
hd[. There is only a single reference to it in the history of the monarchy: 1
Kgs 12:20 refers to hd[ as the body that crowns Jeroboam I.
It would seem very unwieldy to convene all the Israelites to judge a case
of homicide, as Numbers 35 prescribes. The wilderness setting of the book
of Numbers makes the judicial function of the hd[ appear to be an archetype
for local communities and sanctuaries. Just as the law of slaughter in Lev
17, as an example, applies to local sanctuaries, not to a central sanctuary,
so too does the term hd[ apply to a small local court, not a central assembly.
Numbers 35 is the only reference to the judicial function of the hd[. The
references elsewhere to the role of the hd[ in the punishment of a violator
of the Sabbath and of a blasphemer (Num 15:33, 35, 36; Lev 24:13, 16)
are misleading because the hd[ in these cases does not exercise any role in
the adjudication. Rather, the hd[ in Num 15 and Lev 24 is the entirety of
the Israelites from whose midst the transgressor is extirpated. The term hd[
appears to signify one meaning in almost all of the Hebrew Bible and another
in Numbers 35. It appears to be a judicial body outside of the city of refuge
because of the stipulation that the hd[ will return the slayer to the city of
refuge upon deciding that the death was inadvertent.
In Deuteronomy, the obligation for adjudicating the case devolves upon
the killer™s home city. According to Deut 19:12, if intentional homicide took
place, the elders of the killer™s city,68 not a pan-Israelite body like the hd[,
should take the killer from the city of refuge and have the blood avenger
execute him. The accused must be judged in his own city in absentia because
1) the text describes the action of the elders as the implementation of a
judgment already made, and 2) the accused is in one of the cities of refuge to
which he ¬‚ed in fear of the blood avenger after committing the killing. Who
makes this judgment? It is likely that these elders are the ones, because 1)
they are explicitly mentioned as extraditing the intentional killer, and 2) the

68 Deut 19:12 refers to wry[ ynqz, “the elders of his city.” Although one might argue that this
refers to the elders of the victim™s city, it is much more likely that the elders of the killer™s city
were involved. (Cf. Driver, Deuteronomy, 233; von Rad, Deuteronomy, 127; Rof´ , “Historye
of the Cities of Refuge,” 228.) The elders of the offender™s city are more inclined to keep one
of their own safe and hold a fair trial than the victim™s city with the victim™s kin thirsting
for revenge. If they were partial to the slayer because he was one of their own, bloodguilt
would fall upon them. (Cf. Hanokh Reviv, The Institution of the Elders in Ancient Israel
[Hebrew], [Text and Studies; Jerusalem: Magnes, 1983], 66.) Another Deuteronomic stipu-
lation, Deut 21:1“9, contains a ceremony designed to address the guilt of the city nearest
to the place where a human corpse is found. If we may call upon evidence of the role of
elders from another legal action, Deut 25:5“10 stipulates that in the case of levirate mar-
riage, the responsibility for resolving the dispute devolves upon the elders of the offender™s

elders do exercise judicial functions in general.69 If the fugitive is condemned
as having committed homicide intentionally and with prior malice, the elders
send for him and deliver him to the blood avenger.
As we have seen, Numbers 35 and Deuteronomy 19 re¬‚ect the theological
and social programs of the Priestly literature and of Deuteronomy. Their
conceptualization of the adjudication of a slaying coincides and diverges
because their distinctive theological and social programs shape the process
A new element in procedure, a hearing of admission to gain entrance into
the city of refuge, is found in another tradition about the cities of refuge,
Josh 20:1“9:
The Lord said to Joshua, 2 “Speak to the Israelites, saying, ˜Assign
the cities of refuge, about which I commanded you through Moses,
to which a slayer who strikes down a person by mistake unintention-
ally may ¬‚ee; they shall be a refuge for you from the blood avenger.
He shall ¬‚ee to one of these cities, present himself at the entrance to
the city gate, and plead his case before the elders of that city. They shall
admit him into the city and give him a place to live among them. 5 If
the blood avenger should pursue him, they shall not hand the slayer
over to him, for he struck his neighbor unintentionally and had not
been his enemy before. 6 He shall live in that city until he stands be-
fore the assembly for trial, [and remain there] until the death of the
high priest who is in of¬ce at that time. Then the slayer may return
to his town and his home from where he ¬‚ed.™” 7 They sancti¬ed
Kedesh in the Galilee, in the hill country of Naphtali, Shechem in the
hill country of Ephraim, and Kiryat Arba, that is, Hebron, in the hill
country of Judah. 8 On the other side of the Jordan, eastward, they
assigned Bezer in the wilderness, in the steppe of the tribe of Reuben,
Ramot in Gilead, of the tribe of Gad, and Golan in the Bashan, of
the tribe of Menasseh. 9 These are the designated cities for all the
Israelites and the alien who dwells among them, so that anyone who

69 Cf. Deut 21:18“21 (although there is no explicit mention of a trial; if the child™s parents did
have the right to condemn him without need of of¬cial judgment, why would the parents be
required to present the situation before the elders?); 22:13“21; 25:5“10; 1 Kgs 21:8“13; Ruth
4:1“12. However, Rof´ suggests that if the families of the victim and the killer agree that the
killing was unintentional, there is no need for the elders to be involved in any capacity (“The
History of the Cities of Refuge,” 229). Only if they agree on the culpability of the killer, then
the elders must exercise their executive function in extraditing the fugitive. If the families of
the victim and the killer do not agree, according to Rof´ , the determination is made by the
consensus of the local community. This solution of Rof´ ™s seems unwieldy. A dispute cannot
be resolved by an amorphous body deciding on the basis of rumors and hearsay. If a formal
presentation is required for other offenses that are less serious than a charge of murder, it would
be unlikely that a slaying would be adjudicated in a less organized manner. Therefore, a formal
trial in absentia before the elders was warranted.

kills a person by mistake may ¬‚ee there and not die by the hand of
the blood avenger before he has stood trial before the assembly.

In order to understand the origin of this innovation, the relationship of this
tradition to the other two must be analyzed.
The presence of elements from both Numbers 35 and Deuteronomy 19
in Joshua 20 is apparent:70
Josh 20:2 h£m d‚’ !eyo3 y#¬À‹Ar£3 flãŽU y®√At0 !el Wn!, “Assign the cities
of refuge” “ The term flãy y®√, “cities of refuge,” appears only in Numbers
35 (vv. 11, 14, 25, 26, 27, 28, 32). The verb used for assigning cities here
and in Num 35:13“14 is n-t-n.
Josh 20:3 .!˜U l5‚y flãym !el WyW¨ t¡EAyp<“ hPP•“ vÉ} hŠr U¥/r hO§ sWnl,
“to which a slayer who strikes down a person by mistake unintention-
ally may ¬‚ee; they shall be a refuge for you from the blood avenger.” “
The entire verse is an almost complete parallel to Num 35:11b“12a, which
reads l5‚y flãym !yï√V !el WyW¨ hPP•“ vÉ} hŠr \¥ó hO§ sn¨ “to which a slayer
who strikes down a person unintentionally may ¬‚ee; the cities shall be as a
refuge from the avenger.” The double characterization of this type of murder,
t¡EAyp<“ hPP•“ “by mistake unintentionally,” is a con¬‚ation of the criteria of
Numbers and Deuteronomy. Num 35:11b denotes this category of killing by
the term hgg`b, “by mistake,” while Deut 19:4 uses t[d ylbb, “unintention-
Josh 20:4a hk5W !yï√Vx t\.Al0 sn¨, “He shall ¬‚ee to one of these cities.” “

This clause is similar to Deut 19:5b, yk„ hk5W !yï√V t\.Al0 sWnŸ aWh, “that man

shall ¬‚ee to one of these cities and live.”
Josh 20:5a± wy«`. !˜U l5‚ #D¬ª yi¨, “If the blood avenger should pursue
him” “ This is paralleled in Deut 19:6, \¥óW y®`. !˜U l5‚ #D¬ªA@X, “lest the
blood avenger pursue him.”
Josh 20:5b !/vmß l/m!y /l aWh aqcA4l¨ Wh«®At0 hE[ t¡DAypij yH, “for he
struck his neighbor unintentionally and had not been his enemy before.” “
This is paralleled in Deut 19:4b, l/m!y /l aqc 4l aWh¨ t¡EAypi“ Wh«®At0 hD‚ r£3
!®mß, “whoever slays his fellow without intent and was not hostile to him in
the past.”
Josh 20:6aβ fY•ym hE«W yq–p /du√ d¡, “until he stands before the assembly
for trial.” “ A trial before the assembly is stipulated in Num 35:24.
Josh 20:6γ l˜d¬U @ZIU t˜m d¡, “until the death of the priest” “ The release
date of the accidental homicide is the same as in Num 35:28.
Josh 20:6b .!&y sn r£3 ry»WAl0 ˜ty“Al0¨ ˜ry»Al0 a;W jA¥˜rW bWvŸ z1; “Then the
killer may return to his town and his home from where he ¬‚ed.” “ Num

70 Theremay be another parallel, if a textual emendation is warranted. In v. 7, the cities west of
the Jordan are set aside (wvdqyw), and I would argue that this is an error for wrqyw, the same verb
used in Num 35:11. The error was caused by the proximity of the place name Kadesh (vFâ) in
the same verse.

35:28 stipulates that the killer may return to his patrimonial estate, hl`m.
Deut 19:12 mentions that the killer departed from “his town,” /ry».
Joshua 20, however, does contain one verse that constitutes a departure
from Numbers 35 and Deuteronomy 19. Josh 20:4 mandates that before the
fugitive is permitted to enter the city of refuge, a hearing must take place
in order to determine whether he is eligible for admission to the city at all.
The accidental killer is to be stopped at the gate of the city of refuge. He
can only gain admittance after he presents his case to the elders of the city
of refuge that the slaying was accidental. This appears to be separate from
his trial, which must still take place before the assembly (Josh 20:6). The
hearing is apparently a way to prevent intentional slayers from entering the
city of refuge at all.
This new element, the procedure of admission in Josh 20:4, has a re-
lationship to certain elements in Deuteronomy. In Deut 19:12, the elders
of the slayer™s city play a role in determining his guilt and, if he is found
culpable, deliver him to the blood avenger. City elders resolve disputes in


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( 55 .)