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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 35

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


A.M. 2552. B.C. 1452.

Forty-eight cities assigned to the Levites, of which six were cities of refuge, Numbers 35:1-15 . In what cases it was not allowed to flee to these, Numbers 35:16-21 . In what cases it was allowed, Numbers 35:22-24 . Laws concerning them, Numbers 35:25-34 .

Verse 2

Numbers 35:2. That they give unto the Levites cities The reason of this appointment was, that the Levites, being a body of people distinct from the rest of the nation, had no share in the division of the country. It is to be observed that the priests, the sons of Aaron, being also of the tribe of Levi, are here comprehended under the common name of Levites, as well as those inferior ministers of religion generally signified by that term.

Verse 3

Numbers 35:3. The cities shall they have to dwell in Notwithstanding this provision, it was lawful for them to hire or purchase houses in any other city, particularly at Jerusalem; for we find in Scripture many proofs of their dwelling in other cities besides those which are here assigned them; and, in like manner, other people, with their permission, might dwell with them in their cities. The suburbs for their cattle and for their goods For stables and pasturage for their cattle, and stowages for their household stuff of all kinds. But they might not build houses, nor plant gardens, orchards, or vineyards; no, nor sow corn in these suburbs, for which things they were abundantly supplied from the first-fruits. And these suburbs did not belong to the Levites in common, but were distributed to them in convenient proportions. They were thus provided for, that they might the more closely attend to the study of the law, and might have more leisure for teaching the people. And living thus near together, they could easily converse one with another about divine things, to their mutual edification; in doubtful cases could consult each other; and in all cases strengthen one another’s hands.

Verses 4-5

Numbers 35:4-5. From the wall of the city a thousand cubits It appears, by comparing these two verses together, that there were three thousand cubits allowed them from the wall of the city; the first thousand, properly called the suburbs, probably for outhouses, gardens, vineyards, and olive-yards; and the other two for pasturage, which are therefore called the field of the suburbs, (Leviticus 25:34,) by way of distinction from the suburbs themselves.

Verses 6-7

Numbers 35:6-7. Cities for refuge Or, of escape for manslayers. And these cities are assigned among the Levites, partly because they might be presumed to be the most proper and impartial judges between manslayers and wilful murderers; partly because their presence and authority would more effectually bridle the passions of the avenger of blood who might pursue him thither; and perhaps to signify that it is only in Christ (whom the Levitical priests represented) that sinners find refuge and safety from the destroyer. Three of these cities of refuge were in the land of Canaan, and three on the other side Jordan, (Numbers 35:14,) and the names of them are set down, Joshua 20:7-8. Of the forty-eight cities given to the Levites, thirteen were appointed for the priests.

Verse 11

Numbers 35:11. Unawares Or ignorantly, as it is, Deuteronomy 19:4, and Joshua 20:3; that is, besides his intention, having no such design, and no hatred to him, Numbers 35:22.

Verse 12

Numbers 35:12. From the avenger Hebrew, from the redeemer, or, from the next kinsman; to whom, by the law, belonged the right of redemption of the lands of, and vindication of the injury done to, the person deceased. Die not Be not killed by the avenger meeting him in some other place. Before the congregation Before the judges or elders who were appointed in every city for the decision of criminal causes, who were to examine, and that publicly before the people, whether the murder was wilful or casual.

Verses 14-16

Numbers 35:14-16. On this side Jordan Because that land was as long as Canaan, though not so broad; and besides, these might be convenient for many of them that lived in Canaan. If he smite him Wittingly and wilfully, though not with premeditated malice. He shall be put to death Yea, though he had fled into the city of refuge.

Verse 18

Numbers 35:18. With a hand-weapon It made no difference with what kind of weapon he was killed, whether it was of iron, wood, or stone. If he was killed wittingly and knowingly, it was murder, and the guilty person was to die for it. For though perhaps he had no intention to kill the person, yet he ought to have moderated his passion, and could not be ignorant that such an instrument was capable of inflicting a deadly wound.

Verse 19

Numbers 35:19. Himself shall slay the murderer Le Clerc translates it, It shall be lawful for the revenger to kill him: for it seems to be a mere permission, not a precept. He might, without offence to God, or danger to himself, kill the murderer with his own hand. But if he were not able, or did not choose to do it, he stood bound to prosecute him and bring him to justice.

Verse 25

Numbers 35:25. He shall abide in it Shall be confined to it. Which was appointed, 1st, To show the hatefulness of murder in God’s account, by such a severe punishment, inflicted upon the very appearance of it: 2d, For the security of the manslayer, lest the presence of such a person, and his living among the kindred of the deceased, might occasion reproach and bloodshed: And, 3d, To teach others to be very watchful over themselves, lest by negligence they should chance to kill any one, and so be compelled to leave their own homes, families, and friends. The death of the high- priest Perhaps to show that the death of Christ, the true High-Priest, whom the others represented, is the only means whereby sins are pardoned, and sinners set at liberty.

Verse 27

Numbers 35:27. Not guilty Not liable to punishment from men, though not free of guilt before God. This God ordained, to oblige the manslayer to abide in his city of refuge.

Verses 30-31

Numbers 35:30-31. By the mouth of witnesses A wise precaution to prevent the shedding of innocent blood. If we may credit the Jews, where there was but one witness, and the person accused of murder could not, therefore, be put to death, yet he did not escape without punishment, but was thrown into a very strait prison, and there fed with bread and water. Ye shall take no satisfaction This rigid severity of the law served to impress the minds of the people with a deep sense of the heinousness of the crime of murder, since nothing less than the blood of the murderer could compensate for the crime, and cleanse the land from its pollution. And it is but just in itself that life should pay for life.

Verse 34

Numbers 35:34. Defile not the land wherein I dwell It is often assigned as a reason why they should put away all polluted persons and things out of their camp and land, because God dwelt in them, by his peculiar presence, whence this land was called the Holy Land. It is the case of all crimes, that they defile the land in which they are committed, and render it odious and unclean in the sight of God; but it is more especially true of murder, which is the highest of all injuries against human society, and against God, in whose image man was created.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Numbers 35". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/numbers-35.html. 1857.
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