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The Cities of Refuge.
Since the Lord had commanded, Numbers 35, that cities of refuge should be chosen in various parts of the country, this matter was next attended to.
v. 1. The Lord also spake unto Joshua, saying,
v. 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, Exodus 21:13; Numbers 35:6; Deuteronomy 19:2-9,
v. 3. that the slayer that killeth any person unawares and unwittingly, without malice, without evil intention, may flee thither; and they shall be your refuge from the avenger of blood, as had been provided for in detail by the precepts governing such cases.
v. 4. And when he that doth flee unto one of those cities shall stand at the entering of the gate of the city, when begging for admission to the safety of its sacred precincts, and shall declare his cause in the ears of the elders of that city, they shall take him into the city unto them, the preliminary hearing at the gate being made to safeguard their interests, and give him a place that he may dwell among them.
v. 5. And if the avenger of blood, the relative upon whom the duty of requiring an atonement devolved, pursue after him, then they shall not deliver the slayer up into his hand, because he smote his neighbor unwittingly, and hated him not beforetime, the slaying thus evidently being an accident.
v. 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. "He might not be delivered to the avenger of blood, but. . to the congregation of his own city, which should hold judgment upon him, and either, if they found him guilty, give him up to the avenger of blood or, if they esteemed him innocent, send him back to the city of refuge, where he must remain until the death of the anointed high priest, Numbers 35:25, that is, of the ruling high priest. After the death of the latter there follows, somewhat as upon the death of an anointed prince, an amnesty, and the manslayer is at liberty to return to his home. If, however, he presumptuously leaves his asylum sooner, he is exposed to the anger of the avenger, Numbers 35:26-28. " 2)
v. 7. And they, in accordance with this express order of the Lord, appointed Kedesh in Galilee in Mount Naphtali, in the extreme northern part of Canaan, and Shechem in Mount Ephraim, in the approximate center, and Kirjath-arba, which is Hebron, in the mountain of Judah, in the southern part of the land.
v. 8. And on the other side Jordan, by Jericho eastward, in the territory of the two and one half tribes, they assigned Bezer in the wilderness upon the plain out of the tribe of Reuben, in the south, and Ramoth in Gilead, out of the tribe of Gad, in the center, and Golan in Bashan out of the tribe of Manasseh, in the north, as Moses had directed, Deuteronomy 4:43.
v. 9. These were the cities appointed for all the children of Israel, literally, "the cities of appointment," 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 and thus had the opportunity of proving the absence of any evil intention in the slaying which had happened. The entire chapter testifies to the grace and mercy of the Lord. We Christians learn here that even sins that are done unintentionally, unwittingly, are nevertheless transgressions of God's holy Law, just as is the inherited tendency to all sins which we bear in our hearts. But God has placed before us the true city of refuge, in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Every one who flees to the Redeemer and His mercy, relying upon His atonement alone, will in no wise be cast out.
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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Joshua 20". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26