When the land was to be divided between the tribes the Levite tribe was not to receive a portion in any particular area. God had ordered this in Numbers 18:20-24. (Deuteronomy 10:8-9) The tribe of Levi was special because they had special work to do. Instead of land they were allotted 48 towns to live in. the Levites were not the owners of the towns, as the tribes who gave them were. But they were towns in which they could live. The towns that were made available for the Levites to live had to have good pasture land around them. This was so the Levites could care for their cows and sheep. They could be used for their food as well as the food they received from the offerings. (Numbers 18:8-32)
These 48 towns were to be spread out through the Promised Land. The tribes which had received more land had to give more towns to the Levites. This demonstrates the justness of God in that He is concerned in all practical matters. Just as He cares about every part of our lives.
Of the 48 towns that the Levites were given 6 of them we to be “safe towns.” If a person had killed another person he could flee to one of the safe towns to take refuge. The redeemer of blood had a right to kill the person who had killed. This was a law and the people expected it to happen (Genesis 9:6) Even if the killing was an accident the people still expected the blood redeemer to avenge the death.
Most of the time the redeemer of blood was a close relative of the person who had been killed. There were certain rights and duties for the blood redeemer. He could buy the land that belonged to the family and he could buy their slaves as well. The blood redeemer also had the right and the responsibility to kill the person’s murderer.
In these verses God has given the people a new law. Here God is allowing any person who has killed by accident to take refuge in a safe town. In the Safe town the people would arrange for a fair trial of the fugitive. At the trial it would be determined if the killing was an accident or intentional. If the killing was not intentional then the fugitive was not guilty of murder.
In these verses the difference is given between murder and a death by accident. If the death was an accident then the redeemer of blood could not kill him. But the one who killed by accident would have to remain in the safe town until the High Priest had died. The death of the High Priest removed the uncleanness of the one who did the killing by accident. Once the High Priest had did then that person could return to his home. But, if he did this the redeemer of blood had a right to kill him.
If the one caused the death on purpose then he was judged as a murderer. This being the case the redeemer of blood would have to kill him. The redeemer of blood was carrying out the judgement of God.
If one was to be declared guilty of murder, then there had to be two witnesses to testify that the man had killed with intention. There had to be clear evidence that a murder had occurred. These were not rules that gave a person the right to take revenge. The purpose of the rules was to protect innocent people who had not killed with intent to commit murder. The redeemer of blood could not kill a person unless he was judged guilty or he two would be judged a murderer. This new law protected a person who had caused a death by accident. It also showed that death was a serious matter even if caused by accident.
God also made it clear that blood also makes the land unclean, therefore, any death, accident or of murder, made Israel’s land unclean. Therefore the Israelites had to punish anyone who caused a murder. This would deter people from killing and the land of Israel would be clean.
This new law did not allow the family of a dead person to take revenge. With the law there was a proper arrangement for a trial. There had to be witnesses at that trial. And there were safe towns that would protect the person until their trial. There was also proper punishment for one who was guilty of murder.