Numbers 35


וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָה אֶל־מֹשֶׁה בְּעַרְבֹת מֹואָב עַל־יַרְדֵּן יְרֵחֹו לֵאמֹר   35:1

Numb. 35:1  And the Lord spoke to Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho saying,

צַו אֶת־בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְנָתְנוּ לַלְוִיִּם מִנַּחֲלַת אֲחֻזָּתָם עָרִים לָשָׁבֶת וּמִגְרָשׁ לֶעָרִים סְבִיבֹתֵיהֶם תִּתְּנוּ   35:2


Numb. 35:2  “Command the children of Israel that they shall give cities to the Levites from the inheritance of their possession for dwelling.  ‘And the cities’ open land surrounding them, you shall give to the Levites.’

Note that the latter part of this verse is enclosed in single quotes, as are all of the next six verses.  The reason for this is as follows.  I have to assume that the Lord is no longer talking after the first part of this verse because the Hebrew word for you shall give at the end of the top line is plural.  Therefore, it can’t refer to Moses.  It instead must refer to the children of Israel that Moses is now addressing at the Lord’s instruction.

וְהָיוּ הֶעָרִים לָהֶם לָשָׁבֶת וּמִגְרְשֵׁיהֶם יִהְיוּ לִבְהֶמְתָּם וְלִרְכֻשָׁם וּלְכֹל חַיָּתָם   35:3

Numb. 35:3  ‘And the cities shall be for them to dwell in, and their open fields shall be for their cattle and for their substance and for all their beasts.’

וּמִגְרְשֵׁי הֶעָרִים אֲשֶׁר תִּתְּנוּ לַלְוִיִּם מִקִּיר הָעִיר וָחוּצָה אֶלֶף אַמָּה סָבִיב   35:4

Numb. 35:4  ‘And the open fields of the cities, which you shall give to the Levites, shall be a thousand cubits from the wall of the city and outward all around.’

וּמַדֹּתֶם מִחוּץ לָעִיר אֶת־פְּאַת־קֵדְמָה אַלְפַּיִם בָּאַמָּה וְאֶת־פְּאַת־נֶגֶב אַלְפַּיִם בָּאַמָּה וְאֶת־פְּאַת־יָם   35:5

אַלְפַּיִם בָּאַמָּה וְאֵת פְּאַת צָפֹון אַלְפַּיִם בָּאַמָּה וְהָעִיר בַּתָּוֶךְ זֶה יִהְיֶה לָהֶם מִגְרְשֵׁי הֶעָרִים

Numb. 35:5  ‘And you shall measure from outside the east side of the city two thousand cubits, and the south side two thousand cubits, and the west side two thousand cubits, and the north side two thousand cubits, and the city shall be in the middle.  This shall be the open fields of the cities for them.’

וְאֵת הֶעָרִים אֲשֶׁר תִּתְּנוּ לַלְוִיִּם אֵת שֵׁשׁ־עָרֵי הַמִּקְלָט אֲשֶׁר תִּתְּנוּ לָנֻס שָׁמָּה הָרֹצֵחַ וַעֲלֵיהֶםּ   35:6

תִּתְּנוּ אַרְבָּעִים וּשְׁתַּיִם עִיר

Numb. 35:6  ‘And with the cities that you shall give to the Levites, you shall give six cities of refuge for flight there of one who is a killer.  And you shall give forty-two cities besides them.’

כָּל־הֶעָרִים אֲשֶׁר תִּתְּנוּ לַלְוִיִּם אַרְבָּעִים וּשְׁמֹנֶה עִיר אֶתְהֶן וְאֶת־מִגְרְשֵׁיהֶן   35:7

Numb. 35:7  ‘All the cities that you shall give to the Levites shall be forty-eight cities, they and their open fields.’

וְהֶעָרִים אֲשֶׁר תִּתְּנוּ מֵאֲחֻזַּת בְּנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵל מֵאֵת הָרַב תַּרְבּוּ וּמֵאֵת הַמְעַט תַּמְעִיטוּ אִישׁ כְּפִי   35:8

נַחֲלָתֹו אֲשֶׁר יִנְחָלוּ יִתֵּן מֵעָרָיו לַלְוִיִּם

Numb. 35:8  ‘And of the cities that you shall give from the possession of the children of Israel, from the many you shall take more, and from the few you shall take less.  Each, according to his portion that they shall inherit, shall give from his cities to the Levites.’”

וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָה אֶל־מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹר   35:9

Numb. 35:9  And the Lord spoke to Moses saying,

דַּבֵּר אֶל־בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאָמַרְתָּ אֲלֵהֶם כִּי אַתֶּם עֹבְרִים אֶת־הַיַּרְדֵּן אַרְצָה כְּנָעַן   35:10

Numb. 35:10   “Speak to the children of Israel and you shall say to them, ‘When you will be crossing the Jordan to the land of Canaan,

וְהִקְרִיתֶם לָכֶם עָרִים עָרֵי מִקְלָט תִּהְיֶינָה לָכֶם וְנָס שָׁמָּה רֹצֵחַ מַכֵּה־נֶפֶשׁ בִּשְׁגָגָה   35:11

Numb. 35:11   then you shall appoint cities for yourself; they shall be cities of refuge for you, where a killer smiting a person in error may flee.’

Notice that here we are told that the cities of refuge are for those who have killed accidentally and without malice.  The next verse also informs us that the cities are for the accidental killer before he stands trial, so that he would be relatively safe from vengeance until then.

וְהָיוּ לָכֶם הֶעָרִים לְמִקְלָט מִגֹּאֵל וְלֹא יָמוּת הָרֹצֵחַ עַד־עָמְדֹו לִפְנֵי הָעֵדָה לַמִּשְׁפָּט   35:12

Numb. 35:12   ‘And the cities shall be for refuge for you from an avenger, so the killer will not die until his standing before the congregation for judgment.’

וְהֶעָרִים אֲשֶׁר תִּתֵּנוּ שֵׁשׁ־עָרֵי מִקְלָט תִּהְיֶינָה לָכֶם   35:13

Numb. 35:13   ‘And of the cities that you will give, there shall be six cities of refuge for you.’

אֵת שְׁלֹשׁ הֶעָרִים תִּתְּנוּ מֵעֵבֶר לַיַּרְדֵּן וְאֵת שְׁלֹשׁ הֶעָרִים תִּתְּנוּ בְּאֶרֶץ כְּנָעַן עָרֵי מִקְלָט תִּהְיֶינָה   35:14

Numb. 35:14   ‘You shall give three of the cities out of the other side of the Jordan and three of the cities you shall give in the land of Canaan.  Cities of refuge they shall be.’

לִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְלַגֵּר וְלַתֹּושָׁב בְּתֹוכָם תִּהְיֶינָה שֵׁשׁ־הֶעָרִים הָאֵלֶּה לְמִקְלָט לָנוּס שָׁמָּה כָּל־מַכֵּה־   35:15

נֶפֶשׁ בִּשְׁגָגָה

Numb. 35:15   ‘These six cities shall be for refuge for the children of Israel and for the stranger and for the settler in your midst, any killer of a person in error to flee there.’

וְאִם־בִּכְלִי בַרְזֶל הִכָּהוּ וַיָּמֹת רֹצֵחַ הוּא מֹות יוּמַת הָרֹצֵחַ   35:16

Numb. 35:16   ‘But if he struck him so he died with an implement of iron, he is a murderer.  The murderer shall surely be put to death.’

וְאִם בְּאֶבֶן יָד אֲשֶׁר־יָמוּת בָּהּ הִכָּהוּ וַיָּמֹת רֹצֵחַ הוּא מֹות יוּמַת הָרֹצֵחַ   35:17

Numb. 35:17   ‘And if he struck him with a stone in hand, whereby one may die by it, and he died, he is a murderer.  The murderer shall surely be put to death.’

אֹו בִּכְלִי עֵץ־יָד אֲשֶׁר־יָמוּת בֹּו הִכָּהוּ וַיָּמֹת רֹצֵחַ הוּא מֹות יוּמַת הָרֹצֵחַ   35:18

Numb. 35:18   Or he struck him with an implement of wood in hand, whereby one may die by it, and he died, he is a murderer.  The murderer shall surely be put to death.’

גֹּאֵל הַדָּם הוּא יָמִית אֶת־הָרֹצֵחַ בְּפִגְעֹו־בֹו הוּא יְמִיתֶנּוּ   35:19

Numb. 35:19   ‘The avenger of blood shall himself put the murderer to death; when meeting up with him, he shall put him to death.’

וְאִם־בְּשִׂנְאָה יֶהְדָּפֶנּוּ אֹו־הִשְׁלִיךְ עָלָיו בִּצְדִיָּה וַיָּמֹת   35:20

Numb. 35:20   ‘And if in hatred he thrusts at him or hurls something at him while lying in wait, so he dies,

אֹו בְאֵיבָה הִכָּהוּ בְיָדֹו וַיָּמֹת מֹות־יוּמַת הַמַּכֶּה רֹצֵחַ הוּא גֹּאֵל הַדָּם יָמִית אֶת־הָרֹצֵחַ בְּפִגְעֹו־בֹו   35:21

Numb. 35:21   or in enmity he strikes him with his hand that he dies, surely the slayer shall be put to death; he is a murderer.  The avenger of blood shall put the murderer to death when meeting up with him.’

וְאִם־בְּפֶתַע בְּלֹא־אֵיבָה הֲדָפֹו אֹו־הִשְׁלִיךְ עָלָיו כָּל־כְּלִי בְּלֹא צְדִיָּה   35:22

Numb. 35:22   ‘But if he thrust him with suddenness without enmity, or hurl anything at him without lying in wait,

אֹו בְכָל־אֶבֶן אֲשֶׁר־יָמוּת בָּהּ בְּלֹא רְאֹות וַיַּפֵּל עָלָיו וַיָּמֹת וְהוּא לֹא־אֹויֵב לֹו וְלֹא מְבַקֵּשׁ רָעָתֹו   35:23

Numb. 35:23   or with any stone, whereby one might die by it, that he cast at him without his seeing, so he died, and he was not an enemy of his and he was not seeking his harm,

וְשָׁפְטוּ הָעֵדָה בֵּין הַמַּכֶּה וּבֵין גֹּאֵל הַדָּם עַל הַמִּשְׁפָּטִים הָאֵלֶּה   35:24

Numb. 35:24   then the congregation shall judge between the slayer and the avenger of blood according to these ordinances.’

The verses from 35:20 to this one are not at all clear.  There are almost too many vague third-person pronouns to determine their antecedents and make sense of what is intended.  However, the clues provided in v. 35:21 give us a reference point.  The subject pronouns “he” must refer to the slayer, whereas the object pronouns “he” must refer to the avenger.  So in this verse the avenger must be dead, either by intent (vss. 20, 21) or by accident (vss. 22, 23).  This is what the congregation must judge.  An additional very interesting clue is to be found in the next verse.  Notice it says that the slayer shall be restored to the city of his refuge.  This tells us that he was found by the avenger outside the city.

וְהִצִּילוּ הָעֵדָה אֶת־הָרֹצֵחַ מִיַּד גֹּאֵל הַדָּם וְהֵשִׁיבוּ אֹתֹו הָעֵדָה אֶל־עִיר מִקְלָטֹו אֲשֶׁר־נָס שָׁמָּה   35:25

וְיָשַׁב בָּהּ עַד־מֹות הַכֹּהֵן הַגָּדֹל אֲשֶׁר־מָשַׁח אֹתֹו בְּשֶׁמֶן הַקֹּדֶשׁ

Numb. 35:25   ‘And the congregation shall deliver the killer out of the hand of the avenger of blood and the congregation shall restore him to the city of his refuge where he fled, and he shall dwell in it until the death of the High Priest who anointed him with holy oil.’

The last seven words of this verse present a puzzle.  At first glance they seem to contain an error as I’ve translated them.  The High Priest would surely not anoint the killer with holy oil.  There is an alternative translation, but it doesn’t resolve the difficulty.  It is “”... the death of the High Priest whom he anointed with the holy oil.”  Now the puzzling question is who is the “he” who anointed the High Priest.  It certainly can’t be the killer.  A third possible translation is “... the High Priest who anointed himself with the holy oil.”  Now the unanswerable  question is:  How can any priest anoint himself?  Apparently to resolve -- or ignore -- this puzzle, other translations offer something like “... the High Priest who was anointed with the holy oil.”  However, this is a mistranslation.  The Hebrew just doesn’t say that.  So we’re left with the puzzle, or we call this another error by the scribe.  A resolution of this dilemma is to simply assume that the High Priest might anoint the slayer with oil.

וְאִם־יָצֹא יֵצֵא הָרֹצֵחַ אֶת־גְּבוּל עִיר מִקְלָטֹו אֲשֶׁר יָנוּס שָׁמָּה   35:26

Numb. 35:26   ‘But if the slayer will go at any time beyond the border of the city of his refuge to which he will flee,

וּמָצָא אֹתֹו גֹּאֵל הַדָּם מִחוּץ לִגְבוּל עִיר מִקְלָטֹו וְרָצַח גֹּאֵל הַדָּם אֶת־הָרֹצֵחַ אֵין לֹו דָּם   35:27

Numb. 35:27   and the avenger of blood finds him outside of the border of the city of his refuge and the killer slays the avenger of blood, there shall be no blood guilt for him,

כִּי בְעִיר מִקְלָטֹו יֵשֵׁב עַד־מֹות הַכֹּהֵן הַגָּדֹל וְאַחֲרֵי מֹות הַכֹּהֵן הַגָּדֹל יָשׁוּב הָרֹצֵחַ אֶל־אֶרֶץ   35:28


Numb. 35:28   because in the city of his refuge he must stay until the death of the High Priest, but after the death of the High Priest the slayer may return to the land of his possession.’

וְהָיוּ אֵלֶּה לָכֶם לְחֻקַּת מִשְׁפָּט לְדֹרֹתֵיכֶם בְּכֹל מֹושְׁבֹתֵיכֶם   35:29

Numb. 35:29   ‘And these shall be for a statute of judgment for you for your generations in all your habitations.’

כָּל־מַכֵּה־נֶפֶשׁ לְפִי עֵדִים יִרְצַח אֶת־הָרֹצֵחַ וְעֵד אֶחָד לֹא־יַעֲנֶה בְנֶפֶשׁ לָמוּת   35:30

Numb. 35:30   ‘Anyone having killed a person according to the word of witnesses, the murderer shall be slain.  But one witness shall not testify about a person to be put to death.’

                                                                                                                  [Return to Deut. 19:15]

וְלֹא־תִקְחוּ כֹפֶר לְנֶפֶשׁ רֹצֵחַ אֲשֶׁר־הוּא רָשָׁע לָמוּת כִּי־מֹות יוּמָת   35:31

Numb. 35:31   ‘And you shall not take a ransom for the life of a murderer who is a criminal to be put to death, but he shall surely be put to death.’

וְלֹא־תִקְחוּ כֹפֶר לָנוּס אֶל־עִיר מִקְלָטֹו לָשׁוּב לָשֶׁבֶת בָּאָרֶץ עַד־מֹות הַכֹּהֵן   35:32

Numb. 35:32   ‘And you shall not take a ransom for one having fled to the city of his refuge to return to dwell in the land before the death of the priest.’

The appearance of the word עַד, translated above as before, is unusual in that the word is not normally intended to mean before in a strict sense.  It is employed in general in instances in which before may be implied, but it primarily suggests the time frame leading up to an event, as in during or until.  More properly, the translation of the prepositional phrase should be “until the death of the priest.”  But that would imply that a ransom may be taken after the priest has died, which may or may not seem correct based on a reasonable interpretation of v. 35:28.  It would seem that the murderer might be free to go after the priest has died.  But the situation is ambiguous.  It may be that a ransom may be taken from the murderer   Nevertheless, the murderer who leaves before the death of the High Priest is subject to being smitten by the avenger of blood.  So this verse leaves us in some doubt as to its meaning.

וְלֹא־תַחֲנִיפוּ אֶת־הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר אַתֶּם בָּהּ כִּי הַדָּם הוּא יַחֲנִיף אֶת־הָאָרֶץ וְלָאָרֶץ לֹא־יְכֻפַּר לַדָּם   35:33

אֲשֶׁר שֻׁפַּךְ־בָּהּ כִּי־אִם בְּדַם שֹׁפְכֹו

Numb. 35:33   ‘Thus you shall not profane the land in which you are, for it is the blood that will profane the land, and one cannot make expiation for the land for the blood that is spilled on it, except with the blood of the one having spilled it.’”

וְלֹא תְטַמֵּא אֶת־הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר אַתֶּם יֹשְׁבִים בָּהּ אֲשֶׁר אֲנִי שֹׁכֵן בְּתֹוכָהּ כִּי אֲנִי יְהוָה שֹׁכֵן בְּתֹוךְ   35:34

בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל

Numb. 35:34   “So you shall not defile the land in which you shall be dwelling in whose midst I shall be abiding, for I, the Lord, am abiding in the midst of the children of Israel.”

The two appearances of the Hebrew participle שֹׁכֵן, are translated as shall be abiding in the first instance and am abiding in the second.   They both employ an implicit helping verb, and it can be assumed to be either present (am) or future (shall be) tense.  Because we may assume that the Lord has been already abiding in the midst of the Israelites (in the Tabernacle), it seems more appropriate to assume the present tense in the second case.  However, this verse first addresses the land that they will soon be entering.  Therefore, it’s more appropriate to assume the future tense in the first case.

Torah Commandments in this Chapter

385. The statutes governing cities for the Levites shall be obeyed.    V. 35:2 - 35:8

386. The statutes governing the slayer and the avenger shall be obeyed.    V. 35:11 - 35:28

387. The statutes governing judgment of the slayer shall be obeyed.   V. 35:29 - 35:32


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