A Summary of the Journey and a Plan for the Future

Numbers 33:1-35:34

This lengthy passage details all the journeys the Children of Israel make in the desert, from Egypt to the banks of the Jordan. Although they spent 50 years in the desert, the Torah tells us that they only made camp 38 times. The Israel Bible points out this sign of God’s incredible compassion: rather than forcing them to wander aimlessly during their punishment in the wilderness, he allows them to rest for extended periods of time between travels.


On the plains of Moab opposite the Canaanite city of Jericho, God tells Moses to instruct the people on their conduct in the Promised Land. They must drive out the current inhabitants and destroy any idolatrous artifacts left behind, otherwise they will become a stumbling block before the Children of Israel, causing them to be exiled. These verses, the Israel Bible explains, are also the source for the commandment to settle the Land of Israel.


The borders of the Land of Israel are delineated, an important detail that the Israel Bible reminds us, because certain laws, particularly those regarding agricultural provisions for the poor, are applicable only in the Holy Land. This shows that caring for others is an inherent part of living in Israel.


The land is divided among the tribes by lot, with larger families being awarded a larger portion and smaller families less property. Only the Levites are not given a specific inheritance. Rather, the Children of Israel are commanded to set aside 48 cities for them to live in. The Israel Bible explains this was to allow them to set a spiritual example for the entire nation, by being spread out among them and serving as spiritual leaders.


Six of these cities are also set aside as cities of refuge, three on each side of the Jordan River. The purpose of these cities is to offer sanctuary to someone who kills another person by accident and is sought by an avenger. If the avenger finds him outside the city of refuge and kills him, the avenger is not guilty of murder. If the manslayer reaches the safety of the city of refuge, he is safe, but he must remain there until the High Priest’s death. The Torah also states that one witness is not sufficient for a capital case and warns against polluting the land with spilled blood.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

Why do you think the manslayer is sent to live among the Levites to escape the avenger?

Comments ( 5 )

The comments below do not necessarily reflect the beliefs and opinions of The Israel Bible™.

  • Damian Sco

    Are you certain they spent 50 years in the desert and not 40? The generation that needed to die out beforeentering the promised land would have died after 40 years.

  • If someone killed a human unintentially and when this person is pursued by the avenger he will be safe in one of the six cities of the Levites.But he has to stay there inside until the Kohen Gadol's death. Levites are cared for by others They own no land and they are living as spiritual examples for the nation. They live from the gifts of men. So to say by the grace of G-d.
    These killers also have to learn to live by the grace of HaShem. They could learn this of these spiritual fathers. The only obligation for the killer was to stay close to his spiritual mentor IN town. So to say they learned to live close to HaShem and to live a life of gratitude for HIM.

  • The man-slayer is sent to live among the Levites because the Levites lived in cities that could not easily be accessed by other tribes of Yisrael and also, among the Levites' cities were cities of refuge for one who has unintentionally killed another. Secondly, the Levites were the persons to make atonement for such a person, and probably this atonement was fulfilled upon the death of the high-priest — See Numbers 35.

  • I really don't know, which is not really an answer. As I understand it the "avenger" was the male that was next of kin of the Murdered person and was part of the Israel justice system at that time as there were no police and as the Israelites were a nomadic people there could be no jails until they settled in Haeretz Israel. I would appreciate a rabbi's comment on why there were sanctuary cities.

  • Diana Brown

    The Levites were the Arbitrators between the Lord and the people. They were to minister to the Lord by keeping Torah and also to minister the people to protect the innocent, to teach the people how to live before a holy Creator God and to bring the sinful souls to repentance. They were also to administer justice properly so the manslayer would receive justice due him.

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