THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 22
SCRIPTURE: Joshua 20
This chapter presents some interesting information that a lot of Christ followers are not aware of. If you knew about this provision for cities of refuge, good. If you didn’t know about this provision for cities of refuge, don’t worry about it. For some reason it is not talked about very often in the church today.
Interestingly enough, one of the first ordinances God gave Israel after He gave them the 10 Commandments was the ordinance about cities of refuge. These cities were to provide asylum or safe haven for people who unintentionally killed someone else. They are referred to as manslayers in many different translations. The fact that these cities are discussed in four different books of the Bible indicate how important they were.
In the ancient cultures, revenge was widely practiced. If someone was killed, that person’s nearest male relative took responsibility for vengeance. This vengeance was a “life for a life”. This was practiced regardless of the motivation or intention of the killing.
In the case of someone who killed accidently and unintentionally, he was supposed to go as quickly as possible to a city of refuge. There he would present his preliminary case to the elders of that city. They would decide if he could stay in the city of refuge until a full trial could be held. If the result of the full trial was that person killed accidently and unintentionally, he could live in that city of refuge without fear of retribution or retaliation. He was to live there until the man who was high priest when the killing took place died. Upon the death of the high priest, the one who did the killing was free to go. As unusual as this may sound, it may have actually provided for a statute of limitations.
As you look at this chapter, you will see there were six cities of refuge scattered around the country. That would make it easier for one who accidentally and unintentionally killed to find a place of refuge until and if he was proven innocent of premeditated murder.
This process may seem a bit unusual. But it was one of the ways that God proved for the sanctity of life. The life of the one who was killed was obviously important. But the life of the one who accidently and unintentionally killed was important as well. If God had not provided for these cities of refuge, additional lives would have been loss.
From a symbolic view, these cities pointed to Jesus. There is one who is pursuing us with the intent of taking our lives. This is Satan, the enemy of our souls. There is only one place he can’t reach us. That is in Jesus. Jesus is the place of refuge for all Christ followers. It is only in Christ that we can find protection from the one who pursues us to take our lives.