Num. 32:1-42; 33:50-35:34
In every group, there seems to be someone who wants to do things differently than that proposed by the leaders. The children of Reuben and Gad had observed that the territory of Jazer and Gilead were desirable places for their many cattle. After suggesting to Moses, Eleazar and the other leaders their desire to receive their inheritance in that area, Moses was angry and reminded them of the consequences of their rebellion of nearly forty years earlier. He pointed out the unfairness of their accepting their land without helping the other Israelites fight for their inheritance.
The Reubenites and Gadites explained that they would settle their families in the land and proceed to help the remaining Israelites possess their land. This arrangement satisfied Moses and he allowed the children of Reuben, Gad and also a half tribe of Manasseh to settle on the eastern side of the Jordan River.
God instructed the Israelites to drive the inhabitants out of Canaan and to destroy all of their idols and places of worship. If they did not completely drive everyone out, they would, “be irritants in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall harass you in the land where you dwell.” God would also, “do to you as I thought to do to them.”
The land of Canaan would be divided among the remaining nine and one-half tribes according to the population of each tribe—larger tribes getting more land than smaller.
God continued to give instructions regarding settling the Promised Land. He pointed out the outside boundaries of the area that the Israelites would occupy. Eleazar and Joshua would be in charge of allotting the various parcels of land with a leader from each tribe assisting.
The Levites, being separated from the rest of Israel for the work of priests did not receive the same type of inheritance as the others. They were to be given forty-eight cities each within parcels of land with boundaries about a half-mile long on each side. Six of those cities were to be cities of refuge—three on each side of the Jordan River.
Taking the life of another person is a serious offence. God defined murder and accidental killing. He provided rules for dealing with each type of death. A person who accidently killed another person could flee to a city of refuge and be safe as long as he remained in that city. It was necessary for more than one witness to testify for a person to be convicted of murder.
After the death of the high priest, one could safely leave the city of refuge and return to his home.