Why these (six) Cities of Refuge?
One reason: “That the slayer that killeth any person unawares and unwittingly may flee thither: and they shall be your refuge from the avenger of blood.” Joshua 20:3, today’s Text.
They have something to do with “killers!”
But not cold-blooded (with forethought and malice) “murderers!”
(There is no doubt what was to be done to a cold-blooded murderer! If tried properly and found guilty, he was to be put to death! “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.” These words are from Genesis 9:6 … clearly having been instituted long before the Law of Moses was ever penned on stone! God Himself is the Author of capital punishment … because anyone maliciously killing a “man” has terminated life, life belonging to a human being “made in the image of God!” That’s how “special” man is, at least in the Eyes of God his Creator!)
But the Cities of Refuge were for “accidental” killers!
Those who took life … without meaning to do so!
“That the slayer that killeth any person unawares and unwittingly …”
“Unawares” (in Hebrew “Shegagah”) can even mean “not knowing” one committed the tragedy! And it certainly means “without purposing” to hurt anyone!
Then “unwittingly” (spelled “daath” but here accompanied by a negative adverb “beliy”) means “without foreknowledge.” Not planning to take a person’s life!
Certainly this is NOT premeditated murder!
This “manslayer” (the term used by the King James Version in Numbers 35:6 and 35:12) needs a place to “flee” from the wrath of the next-of-kin of the dead person! Who might want to kill the (inadvertent) murderer!
IMPORTANT POINT TODAY … Note here a perfect blend of God’s Judgment (a true murderer must die) and God’s Mercy (the accidental killer must be protected) … at least until a proper trial can be conducted, until the facts can be determined!
What a blessed truth!
Habakkuk 3:2 prays: “O Lord, in wrath remember mercy!”
That’s the idea (the Truth) behind the Cities of Refuge!
Stopping hot-headed murder!
“That the slayer that killeth any person unawares and unwittingly may flee thither: and they shall be your refuge from the avenger of blood.” That “avenger of blood” usually being the furious relative of the deceased!
Do remember God had already said: “To ME belongeth vengeance, and recompence ….” Deuteronomy 32:35
A Truth so important Paul repeats it in the New Testament. “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” Romans 12:9
The Lord willing, more tomorrow on these Cities of Refuge, from the perspective of Joshua chapter 20.
— Dr. Mike Bagwell