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Bible Commentaries
Joshua 20

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 2560. B.C. 1444.

The laws concerning the cities of refuge, Joshua 20:1-6 . The appointment of those cities, Joshua 20:7-9 .

Verses 1-2

Joshua 20:1-2. The Lord also spake unto Joshua Probably from the tabernacle, at the door of which he and Eleazar and the princes had been making a division of the land, as the last verse of the preceding chapter informs us. Appoint out for you The possessions being now divided among you, reserve some of them for the use which I have commanded; cities of refuge Designed to typify the relief which the gospel provides for poor penitent sinners, and their protection from the curse of the law and the wrath of God, in our Lord Jesus, to whom believers flee for refuge.

Verse 3

Joshua 20:3. Unwittingly Hebrew, Through ignorance, or error, or mistake, and without knowledge. The same thing is twice repeated, to cut off all expectations that wilful murderers might have of protection here. God having declared that such should be taken even from his altar, that they might be killed. It is strange that any Christians should make their sanctuaries give protection to such persons whom God hath so expressly excepted from it! Avenger The nearest kinsman, who had right or power to demand or take vengeance for the slaughter.

Verse 4

Joshua 20:4. The gate Where the judges used to sit. His cause Shall give them a true relation of the fact, and all its circumstances. They shall take him If they are satisfied in the relation he makes concerning the fact, otherwise it had been a vain thing to examine. Give a place Which they might well allow him, because God gave them the city with a reservation for such persons.

Verse 6

Joshua 20:6. Stand Which was the posture of the accused and accusers. The congregation The council appointed to judge of these matters, not the council of the city of refuge, for they had examined him before, (Joshua 20:4,) but of the city to which he belonged, or in or nigh which the fact was committed, as appears from Numbers 35:25.

Verse 7

Joshua 20:7. And they appointed Concerning these cities, note, 1st, That they were all upon mountains, that they might be seen at a great distance, and so direct those who fled thither. 2d, That they were seated at a convenient distance one from another, for the benefit of the several tribes; for Kedesh was in the north, Hebron in the south, and Shechem between them. 3d, That they all belonged to the Levites; partly, that these causes might be more impartially examined and justly determined by them, who were presumed best able to understand the law of God, and most obliged to follow it, and not to be biased by any affection or corrupt interest; and partly, that their reputation with the people, and their good counsels, might lay a restraint upon revengeful persons, who might be inclined to follow the manslayer thither, and endeavour to kill him there. It was likewise an advantage to the poor refugee, that when he might not go up to the house of the Lord, yet he had the servants of God’s house with him, to instruct him, and pray for him, and help to make up the want of public ordinances.

Verses 8-9

Joshua 20:8-9. On the other side Jordan they assigned Or had assigned, or given; for these cities were assigned by Moses before he died, Deuteronomy 4:41. They were not, however, properly speaking, invested with the privilege till now, when they were applied to the use for which Moses had designed them. The stranger Not only proselytes, but others also; because this was a matter of common right, that a distinction should be made between casual man-slayers and wilful murderers.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Joshua 20". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/joshua-20.html. 1857.
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