Monday, September 20, 2010

Numbers 34, 35, 36 Cities of Refuge

Map of the "Cities of Refuge".Image via Wikipedia
As the nation of Israel was getting ready to move into the Promised Land of Canaan, God, through Moses, gave Israel numerous last minute instructions.  While the Levites knew that they would have no land allotted to them, God assured the Levites that they would be given dedicated cities within the tribal territories, in which they would live.

Though the Levites were assigned forty-eight towns with pastureland, of greatest interest to me are six of those towns which were designated as cities of refuge: Shechem, Hebron, Kedesh, Golan, Ramoth, and Bezer.  The function of these cities was to provide a safe place for someone accused of involuntary manslaughter, while he awaited trial before the assembly.  In this chapter, God distinguished between two types of murder: accidental or premeditated.  Even if someone accidentally killed another and was exonerated in the trial, he had to remain in the city of refuge until the death of the High Priest at which time he could return to his home and not fear the blood avenger.

Since pre-meditated murder was punishable by death, the Levitical cities of refuge housed people guilty of involuntary manslaughter.  In effect, these people were prisoners of those towns because outside of the city, the avenger of blood could murder them.  As they had to live out their lives in the priestly city, they had to come to terms with themselves, their lives, the family they may never see again, a community they enjoyed, etc.  So, God placed them in the midst of the Levites, who were charged with teaching God's Word.  I think that this is a beautiful example of God meeting hurting people at the point of their hurt and revealing Himself to them, so that they might be healed.

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