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Deuteronomy Chapter 19
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Refuge Cities
19:1 When God your Lord excises the nations in the land that God your Lord is giving you, so that you can occupy it and live in their cities and houses,
19:2 you must separate three cities in the land which God your Lord is giving you to occupy.
19:3 Establish yourself a road, and divide the land area that God your Lord is allotting you into three parts. [The cities in each of these parts] shall be places where a murderer can find refuge.
19:4 The murderer who seeks refuge [in these cities] shall be allowed to live if he accidentally killed his neighbor, without prior hatred.
19:5 [Thus for example,] one may join his friend in the forest to cut wood, and as his hand swings the ax to cut the wood, the head slips off the handle, striking the friend and killing him. In such a case, [the accidental killer] shall find refuge in one of these cities and live.
19:6 If the journey were too far, however, the blood avenger would be able to pursue the killer in hot anger and catch up to him. He could then kill him, even though [the killer] did not previously hate his victim, and therefore could not lawfully be put to death.
19:7 It is for this reason that I am commanding you to separate three cities.
19:8 God will [eventually] expand your borders, as He swore to your fathers, and He will give you all the territory that He promised them.
19:9 He will do so because you will carefully keep the entire mandate that I am prescribing for you today, loving God your Lord, and constantly walking in all His paths. [When your borders are thus expanded] you will have to add an additional three cities to the above-mentioned three.
19:10 Thus, innocent blood will not be spilled in the land which God your Lord is giving you as a heritage. [But if you do not do this, then] you yourselves will be guilty of murder.

Murder
19:11 [This is what you must do] if a person hates his neighbor, and lays a trap for him, doing something to wound him mortally. If [the victim] then dies and [the killer] seeks refuge in one of these cities,
19:12 the elders of his city shall send messengers and take him from there. They shall then place [the murderer] in the hand of the blood avenger, and he shall die.
19:13 Do not have pity on the [killer]. If you rid Israel of [those who have shed] innocent blood, things will go well for you.

Preserving Boundaries
19:14 Do not move your neighbor's boundary marker, which was set in place by the first settlers who were allotted hereditary property in the land that God your Lord is giving you to occupy.

Witnesses
19:15 One witness must not testify against a person to inflict any punishment or penalty for a crime that he may have committed. A case must be established through the testimony of [at least] two or three witnesses.
19:16 [This is what you must do] if a corrupt witness acts to testify falsely against a person.
19:17 Two men who have testimony to refute [the false witnesses] shall stand before God, before the priests and judges who are involved in that case.
19:18 The judges shall carefully interrogate [the refuting witnesses], and if the [first] two witnesses are found to have testified falsely against their brother,
19:19 you must do the same to them as they plotted to do to their brother, thus removing evil from your midst.
19:20 When the other people hear about this, they will have fear and never again do such an evil thing in your midst.
19:21 Do not have pity in such a case, [since you must take] a life for a life, a tooth for a tooth, a hand for a hand, and a foot for a foot.



Commentary:

three cities
  See Numbers 35:14. Also see Exodus 21:13, Joshua 20:2.

a road
  Joining the refuge cities (Makkoth 9b). These roads were 32 cubits (48 feet) wide (Bava Bathra 100b).

expand your borders
  In the Messianic age (Yad, Melakhim 11:2).

all the territory that He promised them
  This includes the lands of the Kenites, Kenizites and Kadmonites mentioned in Genesis 15:19 (Sifri; Yad, Rotze'ach 8:4). Some say that this is the land extending as far as the Euphrates (Genesis 15:18) (Bachya).

those who have shed...
  (Saadia; Cf. HaKethav VeHaKabbalah).

to refute the false witnesses
  By testifying that they were elsewhere at the time that they supposedly saw the act regarding which they testified (Ramban; Makkoth 5a).

involved in that case
  Literally, 'who are in those days.'

plotted
  That is, where the sentence has not yet been carried out on the basis of their testimony. However, if it has, the witnesses are not punished, since the punishment is an atonement (Makkoth 5b; Ramban).





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