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Appointment of Cities of Refuge (20:1-9)
The function of cities of refuge has already been discussed in connection with the Deuteronomic law providing for them (see comment on Deuteronomy 19:1-21). Here it will suffice to identify them and to explain the reason for their particular location.
They are six in number and are located in the north, center, and south of both sides of the Jordan River. Kedesh lay in northern Galilee, near the foot of Mount Hermon. Shechem was the
old tribal center between the mountains of Ebal and Gerizim in central Samaria. Kiriath-arba is Hebron in the hill country of Judah. The exact location of Bezer is unknown, but since it is placed in the territory of Reuben, it lay east of the north half of the Dead Sea. Ramoth is Ramoth-gilead, an important site near the edge of the eastern desert, about twenty-five miles southeast of the Sea of Galilee. Golan in Bashan is somewhat farther north, probably about seventeen miles straight east of the Sea of Galilee.
Accessibility to the people of all the tribes was a prime factor in the location of these cities. But beyond this was the fact that all these towns contained shrines (see Joshua 21). From earliest times sanctuary was allowed at the altar of the Deity. The accused put himself under the protection of the Deity until the charges could be heard by constituted authority and the case fairly tried (Exodus 21:12-14; 1 Kings 1:50-53; 1 Kings 2:28). The principle of blood-revenge was a deterrent to homicide, but safeguards against its abuse had to be constructed in the interest of justice.
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"Commentary on Joshua 20". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany