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Joshua 20. The Cities of Refuge.— The cities of refuge (p. 113) were not appointed till after the Deuteronomic reform under Josiah in Joshua 6:21. In early times the asylum or refuge for the manslayer was the altar at the local sanctuary. This is seen from the Book of the Covenant ( Exodus 21:14): “ If a man come presumptuously upon his neighbour to slay him with guile, thou shalt take him from my altar that he may die.” See also 1 Kings 1:50, where Adonijah, in fear of his life, flees to the altar for safety. When the law of the single sanctuary was promulgated in Dt., other provision had to be made for asylum; hence the institution of the cities of refuge. As Dt. says that Moses commanded the institution of these cities, a later writer, ignorant of the exact standpoint of the Deuteronomic school, naturally concluded that Joshua carried out that command; he accordingly stated that what he thought must or ought to have occurred, did, as a fact, actually occur. The standpoint of Dt. was that the cities of refuge were to be appointed after the Temple of Solomon had been built and the law of the single sanctuary had thus become possible. This being so, there was no need for Joshua to appoint these cities. See further Numbers 35*, Deuteronomy 19:1-13 *.
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Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Joshua 20". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/
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