I am amazed at this Bible concept known as the “Cities of Refuge.”
Today’s Verse adds to the beauty of the whole arrangement, in fact. “And if the avenger of blood pursue after him, then they shall not deliver the slayer up into his hand; because he smote his neighbour unwittingly, and hated him not beforetime.” Joshua 20:5
Let me identify the pronouns now. “And if the avenger of blood (angry relative) pursue after him (the ‘accidental’ killer), then they (the elders of the City of Refuge) shall NOT deliver the slayer up into his hand; because he (the ‘perpetrator’) smote his neighbour unwittingly (no premeditation here), and hated him not beforetime (without malice).” Joshua 20:5
Yes, the one being “chased” in our verse is a man who had “accidentally” killed a human being! It might today be called “involuntary manslaughter.” And even though the mishap was not preplanned … human life had been “taken.” And if the deceased man had living relatives (nearly everyone did) … his next of kin (a brother or father or even cousin) might pursue the so called “killer” … desiring to execute “wrath, vengeance, retribution” on him!
In our Text the pursuer is called the “avenger of blood.”
So six places (the “Cities of Refuge”) … scattered evenly throughout the little Nation of Israel … were established. Places of safety, where the inadvertent manslayer could find asylum.
Where he could be shielded from this “avenger of blood.”
Yet … through all the Bible accounts (in 4 different Old Testament Books, yesterday’s Lesson) of the “Cities of Refuge” … not once can I find a detrimental word against those “avengers of blood!”
Apparently God understood their rage?
No laws about “locking them up,” those hot-headed chasers of their relative’s killer!
No vile adjectives hurled their way!
Yes, I was surprised … until this thought came.
IF these Cities picture Jesus our Refuge, our Saviour! (And they do!)
And if the manslayer was indeed guilty of some (minor) error (he certainly might have been “neglectful” in some small measure) … slightly culpable … then the accidental slayer is a picture of a “sinner.”
One fleeing to Jesus!
This is Bible typology I’m sharing.
Then … that “avenger of blood” could be a “symbol” of the Law.
The Law of Moses.
The Law of God!
The Law that emphasizes what WRONG we have committed!
(No matter how small the sin!)
James 2:10 fits here rather well. “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.”
Indeed … the Law chased me, calling me a sinner … seeking my death. (Remember: “For the wages of sin is death.” Romans 6:23a)
And I had nowhere to run … but to the Refuge Place, to Jesus Christ my Saviour!
(This scenario may be why the Bible says nothing against the “avenger of blood!”)
“Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.” Romans 7:12, Paul taught us this long ago.
The Law … chasing me to Jesus?
Yes, I think maybe so! “Wherefore the law was our SCHOOLMASTER to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” Paul again, Galatians 3:24.
And that, fellow Bible students, may be why the “avengers of blood” were not criticized in any of the Bible accounts of the Cities of Refuge!
Oh, I feel so safe this morning … in the Arms of Jesus!
In MY “City of Refuge!”
— Dr. Mike Bagwell