In the Book of Numbers Chapter 35 we read of the Cities of Refuge. Why were these cities setup at the time of the nation of Israel entering the promised land?
Let’s first read what it says,
Numbers 35:6, “Now among these cities which you give to the Levites you shall appoint six cities of refuge, to which a manslayer may flee.”
Why would a manslayer need to flee to one of the cities of refuge?
These cities were setup so that a person who was accused of being a manslayer may flee to. Now this wasn’t just any manslayer who happened to kill requiring a quick hideout. This person was a person who would have killed someone accidently.
In Numbers 35:10-11, “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: When you cross over the Jordan into the land of Canaan, then you shall appoint cities of refuge for you, that the manslayer who kills any person accidently may flee there.”
Why did they need these cities to flee to?
In Numbers 35:12, “They shall be cities of refuge for you from the avenger, that the manslayer may not die until he stands before the congregation in judgement.”
So, what we see here, is that a person who accidently killed someone, would need to have a place to escape to, a refuge city. He would need this city of refuge to escape the person who was to avenge him through death. The city initially would only serve as a temporary refuge until he stood in judgement of the elders or magistrates.
Now included in this law were not only the Israelite but also the sojourners or foreigners who lived among them.
In Numbers 35:15, “These cities shall be for refuge for the children of Israel, for the stranger, and for the sojourner among them…”
If the manslayer was found innocent. Then he was permitted to stay indefinitely in the city of refuge. The city would provide him safety from the avenger who could not exact revenge on him. However, he had to stay in the city until the death of the High Priest.
In Numbers 35:25,” So the congregation shall deliver the manslayer from the hand of the avenger of blood, and the congregation shall return him to the city of refuge where he had fled, and the shall remain there until the death of the high priest who was anointed with the holy oil.”
If he left the city before the death of the high priest, then the avenger could kill him.
In Numbers 35:26-28,” But if the manslayer at any time goes outside the limits of the city of refuge where he fled, and the avenger of blood finds him outside the limits of his city of refuge, and the avenger of blood kills the manslayer, he shall not be guilty of blood because he should have remained in his city of refuge until the death of the high priest.
The manslayer could return back to their land
This situation was not all doom and gloom for the manslayer. He was able to eventually return to his land or part of the country. This was able to occur when the high priest died.
Numbers 35:28,” …But after the death of the high priest the manslayer may return to the land of his possession.”
Article was written by Alkire Road Church of Christ in Grove City, Ohio.