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Jos 20:1 The LORD also spake unto Joshua, saying,
Ver. 1. The Lord also spake unto Joshua. ] Whether in a sensible apparition, or prophetic revelation, or otherwise: for "at sundry times and in divers manner God spake to those ancients." Heb 1:1
Jos 20:2 Speak to the children of Israel, saying, Appoint out for you cities of refuge, whereof I spake unto you by the hand of Moses:
Ver. 2. Speak unto the children of Israel. ] They had been spoken to before by Moses to do thus but made no haste to do it: such is men’s slackness in procuring the good of others.
Appoint out for you cities of refuge. ] Susceptionis aut recollectionis, for the preservation of man’s precious life, if causelessly sought after: not such sanctuaries of roguery as Romulus opened about the beginning of his reign to bring more company about him: nor as the Romanists now-a-days do for wilfnl murderers and other wicked persons, who should be pulled from the altar to the halter, as Joab was. See Exodus 21:14 . If a malefactor be going to execution, and a cardinal meeting him put his red hat upon his head, he is thereby free immediately, Proh nefas! The scripture saith, "A man that doeth violence to the blood of any person shall flee to the pit; let no man stay him." Pro 28:17 But the Pope professeth to have power to dispense against the New Testament and the Old: which made Sir Walter Raleigh say, that if he were to choose a religion for licentious liberty, he would become a Papist.
Jos 20:3 That the slayer that killeth [any] person unawares [and] unwittingly may flee thither: and they shall be your refuge from the avenger of blood.
Ver. 3. That killeth any person unawares and unwittingly. ] Not presumptuously, with a high hand, and of forethought malice; but either by chance medley, as they call it, or in his own necessary defence, when he must either kill or be killed, and he cannot avoid it. For that tenet of Soto is false, Defensio cum interfectione est licita, quia fuga est ignominiosa.
Jos 20:4 And when he that doth flee unto one of those cities shall stand at the entering of the gate of the city, and shall declare his cause in the ears of the elders of that city, they shall take him into the city unto them, and give him a place, that he may dwell among them.
Ver. 4. And when he that doth flee unto one of these cities. ] Which were to be cities of Levites, who were presumed to be both wise and merciful men, and such as would not favour wilful offenders. These cities also were to be at a just distance, that the party might repair thereunto from all parts in due time. And lastly, a way thereunto was to be paved, and marks of direction set up, as some note from Deuteronomy 19:2-3 .
They shall take him into the city unto them. ] God’s laws are not as Draco’s, that punished every peccadillo almost with death; and were, therefore, said to be written not with black but with blood. Howbeit that saying of King James is memorable, that if God did allow him to kill a man, though by casualty or beside his intention, he should think that God did not love him.
Jos 20:5 And if the avenger of blood pursue after him, then they shall not deliver the slayer up into his hand; because he smote his neighbour unwittingly, and hated him not beforetime.
Ver. 5. And if the avenger of blood pursue after him. ] Sanguinem pro interfecto posuit, saith Vatablus. If he in the heat of revenge, without taking leisure to consider the fault as well as the fact, and the degree of it, &c., for all faults are not equal, as the Stoics hold, neither are they to be alike punished. If the guilt of an evil conscience pursue after us, as it will, let us run to Christ our rock of refuge, our sanctuary of safety, and none shall be able to take us out of his hands: he and the Father are one. Joh 10:30
Jos 20:6 And he shall dwell in that city, until he stand before the congregation for judgment, [and] until the death of the high priest that shall be in those days: then shall the slayer return, and come unto his own city, and unto his own house, unto the city from whence he fled.
Ver. 6. Until he stand before the congregation for judgment. ] Until his cause be tried, and the truth bolted out, that he may be cleared or doomed by the judges, with the assent of the people, whose voice should be Currat lex, fiat iustitia, ruat orbis.
Until the death of the high priest. ] So long he shall live; in exile howsoever, because he should have looked better to it, there having been some heedlessness in the business. Besides, the high priest was amongst men the chief god upon earth, and so the offence did chiefly strike against him: lest, therefore, such an offender should happen to come into his presence, he might not be at liberty till the high priest’s death. Philo saith that the high priest was not to behold at any time any mournful object. Similarly among the Romans, Tiberius, counterfeiting grief for the death of Drusus, had a veil laid betwixt the dead and him at the funeral, that he might not see the body; because, forsooth, the high priest is a sacred thing, and the devil loveth to be God’s ape. See on Numbers 35:25 .
Jos 20:7 And they appointed Kedesh in Galilee in mount Naphtali, and Shechem in mount Ephraim, and Kirjatharba, which [is] Hebron, in the mountain of Judah.
Ver. 7. And they appointed Kedesh. ] Heb., They sanctified Kedesh; where there is an elegancy in the Hebrew that cannot be Anglised. These cities of refuge belonged all to the Levites, who were best able to judge and to interpose betwixt party and party, both in respect of authority and advice. The priests’ lips were both to preserve knowledge, and to present it to the people.
And Shechem in mount Ephraim. ] All of them in mountains or on plains, that they might the sooner be seen and more easily repaired unto: so precious in the sight of the Lord is the death, not of his saints only, though chiefly, but of his reasonable creatures. He is the preserver of men, and delighteth to show his philanthropy, or love to all.
Jos 20:8 And on the other side Jordan by Jericho eastward, they assigned Bezer in the wilderness upon the plain out of the tribe of Reuben, and Ramoth in Gilead out of the tribe of Gad, and Golan in Bashan out of the tribe of Manasseh.
Ver. 8. They assigned Bezer. ] That is, They confirmed and ratified them according as Moses had assigned, and set them apart for such a use.
Jos 20:9 These were the cities appointed for all the children of Israel, and for the stranger that sojourneth among them, that whosoever killeth [any] person at unawares might flee thither, and not die by the hand of the avenger of blood, until he stood before the congregation.
Ver. 9. And for the stranger that sojourneth. ] Who dwelt with them for a time, and were not of the same religion: or such only as were proselyted.
Until he stood before the congregation. ] Till, after the death of the high priest, and the avenger’s wrath qualified, he be restored and re-established in his own house, under the security of public protection. a
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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Joshua 20". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany