Today we begin two or three lessons (at least) focusing on Joshua chapter 20. Best I can tell (with just a quick look) it is the shortest chapter (only 9 verses) in the whole Book, which has a total of 24 chapters. (If you count the verses, 658 in all.) Interesting note: Joshua chapter 16 has only 10 verses (next to the shortest) and Joshua chapter 19 has 51 verses (the longest)! I enjoy Bible statistics!
Our Text now, King James Version: “The LORD also spake unto Joshua, saying, Speak to the children of Israel, saying, Appoint out for you cities of refuge, whereof I spake unto you by the hand of Moses ….” Joshua 20:1-2
Sounds like they (the Jews) are here to actually DO something God had earlier instructed Moses to do … once they had entered the land of Canaan. Moses was thus the “hearer” about the Cities of Refuge. But Joshua was the “doer” of the Cities of Refuge!
The “Moses” chapter about those six Cities … Numbers 35, with its 34 verses.
Talk about studying “parallel texts,” this is a golden opportunity! (Joshua 20 alongside Numbers 35, an exciting possibility!) I already have a “Bible Portion” Booklet printed with these 2 chapters inside it! I plan on, having been led of the Lord to do so, preaching five Sermons in a Revival somewhere on the “Cities of Refuge!”
Notice this too, about today’s Text. “The LORD also spake unto Joshua, saying, Speak to the children of Israel, saying, Appoint out for you cities of refuge, whereof I spake unto you by the hand of Moses ….” What God had told Moses decades earlier, He still expected Joshua to do … God had not changed His Mind one slight iota!
He is the Same God … yesterday, today and forever! (Precisely what the New Testament says about Jesus, too! “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” Hebrews 13:8)
The verb “appoint” translates “nathan” in Hebrew, a verb meaning “to give” 1,078 different times in the Old Testament! Thus … these Cities are “gifts” from God to his people! (As we shall later see, they are also “Pictures” or “Symbols” or “Types” of our Lord Jesus Christ, also a GIFT from God to the people of earth! “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.” 2 Corinthians 9:15)
Then I’d like to mention the meaning of that little noun “Refuge.” It’s spelled “miqlat” in Hebrew, and the word carries the idea of “asylum,” a place of safety! But the etymology (history) of “miqlat” is interesting, being derived from “qalat,” the linguists tell us. That root word means “stunted, handicapped, deformed,” and is only used once in the Old Testament, there translated “lacking in its parts!” In Leviticus 22:23, used of an animal not acceptable for some sacrifices!
Clearly then, the Cities of Refuge are places of safety for people who are sinners, law-breakers (crippled by sin, diminished), although not purposefully so! Not outright rebels! Not reprobates! (Sort of like repentant sinners!)
What little I have learned this morning just whets my appetite to learn more about these Places! I hope some of you (readers) are wanting to glean with me!
Which we shall do again tomorrow morning, the Lord willing.
— Dr. Mike Bagwell