Numbers 35:12
Verse (Click for Chapter)
New International Version
They will be places of refuge from the avenger, so that anyone accused of murder may not die before they stand trial before the assembly.

New Living Translation
These cities will be places of protection from a dead person's relatives who want to avenge the death. The slayer must not be put to death before being tried by the community.

English Standard Version
The cities shall be for you a refuge from the avenger, that the manslayer may not die until he stands before the congregation for judgment.

New American Standard Bible
'The cities shall be to you as a refuge from the avenger, so that the manslayer will not die until he stands before the congregation for trial.

King James Bible
And they shall be unto you cities for refuge from the avenger; that the manslayer die not, until he stand before the congregation in judgment.

Holman Christian Standard Bible
You will have the cities as a refuge from the avenger, so that the one who kills someone will not die until he stands trial before the assembly.

International Standard Version
They are to serve as cities of refuge from a blood avenger in order to keep the inadvertent killer from dying until he has stood trial in the presence of the community.

NET Bible
And they must stand as your towns of refuge from the avenger in order that the killer may not die until he has stood trial before the community.

New Heart English Bible
The cities shall be to you for refuge from the avenger, that the manslayer not die, until he stands before the congregation for judgment.

GOD'S WORD® Translation
These cities will be places of refuge from any relative who can avenge the death. So anyone accused of murder will not have to die until he has had a trial in front of the community.

JPS Tanakh 1917
And the cities shall be unto you for refuge from the avenger, that the manslayer die not, until he stand before the congregation for judgment.

New American Standard 1977
‘And the cities shall be to you as a refuge from the avenger, so that the manslayer may not die until he stands before the congregation for trial.

Jubilee Bible 2000
And they shall be unto you cities for refuge from the avenger {Heb. redeemer} that the manslayer not die until he stands before the congregation in judgment.

King James 2000 Bible
And they shall be unto you cities for refuge from the avenger; that the manslayer die not, until he stands before the congregation in judgment.

American King James Version
And they shall be to you cities for refuge from the avenger; that the manslayer die not, until he stand before the congregation in judgment.

American Standard Version
And the cities shall be unto you for refuge from the avenger, that the manslayer die not, until he stand before the congregation for judgment.

Douay-Rheims Bible
And when the fugitive shall be in them, the kinsman of him that is slain may not have power to kill him, until he stand before the multitude, and his cause be judged.

Darby Bible Translation
And ye shall have these cities for refuge from the avenger; that the manslayer die not, until he have stood before the assembly in judgment.

English Revised Version
And the cities shall be unto you for refuge from the avenger; that the manslayer die not, until he stand before the congregation for judgment.

Webster's Bible Translation
And they shall be to you cities for refuge from the avenger; that the man-slayer may not die, until he stands before the congregation in judgment.

World English Bible
The cities shall be to you for refuge from the avenger, that the manslayer not die, until he stands before the congregation for judgment.

Young's Literal Translation
and the cities have been to you for a refuge from the redeemer, and the man-slayer doth not die till his standing before the company for judgment.
Study Bible
Six Cities of Refuge
11then you shall select for yourselves cities to be your cities of refuge, that the manslayer who has killed any person unintentionally may flee there. 12The cities shall be to you as a refuge from the avenger, so that the manslayer will not die until he stands before the congregation for trial. 13'The cities which you are to give shall be your six cities of refuge.…
Cross References
Numbers 35:13
'The cities which you are to give shall be your six cities of refuge.

Deuteronomy 19:4
"Now this is the case of the manslayer who may flee there and live: when he kills his friend unintentionally, not hating him previously--

Joshua 20:2
"Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, 'Designate the cities of refuge, of which I spoke to you through Moses,

Joshua 20:3
that the manslayer who kills any person unintentionally, without premeditation, may flee there, and they shall become your refuge from the avenger of blood.

Joshua 20:5
'Now if the avenger of blood pursues him, then they shall not deliver the manslayer into his hand, because he struck his neighbor without premeditation and did not hate him beforehand.

Joshua 20:6
'He shall dwell in that city until he stands before the congregation for judgment, until the death of the one who is high priest in those days. Then the manslayer shall return to his own city and to his own house, to the city from which he fled.'"
Treasury of Scripture

And they shall be to you cities for refuge from the avenger; that the manslayer die not, until he stand before the congregation in judgment.

from the avenger

Numbers 35:19,25-27 The revenger of blood himself shall slay the murderer: when he meets …

Deuteronomy 19:6 Lest the avenger of the blood pursue the slayer, while his heart …

Joshua 20:3-6,9 That the slayer that kills any person unawares and unwittingly may …

2 Samuel 14:7 And, behold, the whole family is risen against your handmaid, and …

until he stand

Numbers 35:24 Then the congregation shall judge between the slayer and the revenger …

Deuteronomy 19:11,12 But if any man hate his neighbor, and lie in wait for him, and rise …

Joshua 20:4-6 And when he that does flee to one of those cities shall stand at …

(12) And they shall be unto you cities for refuge . . . --Better, And the cities shall be unto you for refuge (or, as a place of refuge) from the avenger, that the manslayer may not die until he stand before the congregation for judgment. The avenger (Heb., goel) was the near kinsman whose office it was to redeem the person or inheritance of his kinsman, if that kinsman was reduced by poverty to sell himself into slavery, or to sell his inheritance; and also to avenge his blood in the event of his being slain. (See Leviticus 25:25-55, and Notes.) The law of the goel, as contained in this chapter, served to keep in check the excited passions of the near relations of the man who had been slain, and to secure for him a fair and impartial trial. The duties which devolved upon the congregation are stated in Numbers 35:24-25. Christ, as our "Redeemer" (Heb., goel), ever lives (Job 19:25). He has redeemed the persons and the inheritance of His people by His death; and He will in the last great day, ransom them from the power of the grave, and redeem them from death (Hosea 13:4, where the cognate verb to goel occurs), and will avenge their blood on them that dwell on the earth (Revelation 6:10).

Verse 12. - From the avenger. Hebrew, גֹאֵל. Septuagint, ὁ ἀγχιστεύων τὸ αῖμα. In all other passages (twelve in number) where the word occurs in this sense it is qualified by the addition "of blood." Standing by itself, it is everywhere else translated "kinsman," or (more properly) "redeemer," and is constantly applied in that sense to God our Saviour (Job 19:25; Isaiah 63:16 etc.). The two ideas, however, which seem to us so distinct, and even so opposed, are in their origin one. To the men of the primitive age, when public justice was not, and when might was right, the only protector was one who could and would avenge them of their wrongs, and by avenging prevent their repetition. This champion of the injured individual, or rather family, - for rights and wrongs were thought of as belonging to families rather than to individuals, was their goel, who had their peace, their safety, above all, their honour, in his charge. For no sentiments spring up quicker, and none exercise a more tyrannous sway, than the sentiment of honour, which in its various and often strangely distorted forms has always perhaps outweighed all other considerations in the minds of men. Now the earliest form in which the sentiment of honour asserted itself was in the blood-feud. If one member of a family was slain, an intolerable shame and sense of contumely rested upon the family until blood had been avenged by blood, until "satisfaction" had been done by the death of the manslayer. He who freed the family from this intolerable pain and humiliation - who enabled it to hold up its head, and to breathe freely once more - was the goel; and in the natural order of things he was the nearest "kinsman" of the slain who could and would take the duty upon him. To these natural feelings was added in many cases a religious sentiment which regarded homicide as a sin against the higher Powers for which they too demanded the blood of the guilty. Such was the feeling among the Greeks, and probably among the Egyptians, while among the Hebrews it could plead Divine sanction, given in the most comprehensive terms: "Your blood of your lives will I require, at the hand of every beast will I require it; and at the hand of man;... whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed" (Genesis 9:5, 6). The moral difficulties of this proclamation need not here be considered; it is enough to take note that the Divine law itself recognized the duty as well as the lawfulness of private blood-revenge when public justice could not be depended on. The goel, therefore, was not merely the natural champion of his family, nor only the deliverer who satisfied the imperious demands of an artificial code of honour; he was a minister of God, in whose patient efforts to hunt down his victim the thirst for vengeance was to some extent at least superseded by, or rather transmuted into, the longing to glorify God (compare the difficult case of Revelation 6:10). It was not merely human feelings of great reach and tenacity which were outraged by the immunity of the manslayer; it was still more the justice of God which received a grievous wound. Just because, however, God had made the cause of the slain man his own, and had sanctioned the avenging mission of the goel, he could therefore regulate the course of vengeance so as to make it run as even as possible with true justice. It was not indeed possible to distinguish ab initio between the homicide which deserved and that which did not deserve capital punishment. Such distinction, difficult under any circumstances, was impossible when vengeance was in private hands. But while the goel could not be restrained from immediate pursuit unhindered by investigation or compunction (lest his whole usefulness be paralyzed), the manslayer might have opportunity to escape, and to be sheltered under the Divine mercy until he could establish (if that were possible) his innocence. No better instance can be found of the way in which the King of Israel adopted the sentiments and institutions of a semi-barbarous age, added to them the sanctions of religion, and so modified them as to secure the maximum of practical good consistent with the social state and moral feelings of the people. No doubt many an individual was overtaken and slain by the goel who did. not deserve to die according to our ideas; but where perfection was unattainable, this error was far less dangerous to that age than the opposite error of diminishing the sanctity of human life and the awfulness of Divine justice. The congregation. Hebrew, עֵדָה. This word is used frequently from Exodus 12:3 to the end of this chapter, and again in Joshua and the last two chapters of Judges. It is not found in Deuteronomy, nor often in the later books. In every case apparently eydah signifies the whole nation as gathered together, e.g., as represented by all who had an acknowledged right to appear, for of course 600,000 men could not gather together in any one place. The force of the word may be understood by reference to its use in Judges 20:1; Judges 21:10, 13, 16. Another word (קָהָל) is also used, less frequently in Leviticus and Numbers, but more frequently in the later books, for the general assembly of the people of Israel. No distinction of meaning can be drawn between the two words, and it cannot, therefore, be maintained that the "congregation" of this verse means the local elders of Joshua 20:4. The regulations there laid down are not inconsistent with the present law, but are quite independent of it. They refer to a preliminary hearing of the case as stated by the fugitive alone in order to determine his right to shelter in the mean time; which right, if accorded, was without prejudice to the future judgment of the "congregation" on the whole facts of the case (see below on verse 25). And they shall be unto you cities of refuge from the avenger,.... Or near kinsman; for as the right of redemption of an estate that was mortgaged belonged to such an one, so of revenging the blood of any one that was killed:

that the manslayer die not; by the hand of the avenger, who in the heat of his passion would, could he come at him, fall upon him, and slay him, to avenge the death of his relation on him:

until he stand before the congregation in judgment; before the court of judicature, to be examined, tried, and judged, whether the murder was committed knowingly and willingly, or whether through mistake and at unawares: this was done either before the court of judicature in the city of refuge, who took cognizance of such cases directly, that they might know whom to harbour and protect, and whom not; or before the court in the place where the act was committed: interpreters are divided about this; and Calmet (l) is of opinion that he was examined in both courts, first more strictly in the city of refuge, and then more slightly in the place where it was done, which is not improbable; however, this seems manifest from Numbers 35:25, that the court where it was committed had power to fetch him from the city of refuge, and set him before them, and examine into the case; and, if an innocent person, restored him to the city of refuge, whither he had fled.

(l) Dictionary, on the word "Refuge". 35:9-34 To show plainly the abhorrence of murder, and to provide the more effectually for the punishment of the murderer, the nearest relation of the deceased, under the title of avenger of blood, (or the redeemer of blood,) in notorious cases, might pursue, and execute vengeance. A distinction is made, not between sudden anger and malice aforethought, both which are the crime of murder; but between intentionally striking a man with any weapon likely to cause death, and an unintentional blow. In the latter case alone, the city of refuge afforded protection. Murder in all its forms, and under all disguises, pollutes a land. Alas! that so many murders, under the name of duels, prize-fights, etc. should pass unpunished. There were six cities of refuge; one or other might be reached in less than a day's journey from any part of the land. To these, man-slayers might flee for refuge, and be safe, till they had a fair trial. If acquitted from the charge, they were protected from the avenger of blood; yet they must continue within the bounds of the city till the death of the high priest. Thus we are reminded that the death of the great High Priest is the only means whereby sins are pardoned, and sinners set at liberty. These cities are plainly alluded to, both in the Old and New Testament, we cannot doubt the typical character of their appointment. Turn ye to the strong hold, ye prisoners of hope, saith the voice of mercy, Zec 9:12, alluding to the city of refuge. St. Paul describes the strong consolation of fleeing for refuge to the hope set before us, in a passage always applied to the gracious appointment of the cities of refuge, Heb 6:18. The rich mercies of salvation, through Christ, prefigured by these cities, demand our regard. 1. Did the ancient city rear its towers of safety on high? See Christ raised up on the cross; and is he not exalted at the right hand of his Father, to be a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance and remission of sins? 2. Does not the highway of salvation, resemble the smooth and plain path to the city of refuge? Survey the path that leads to the Redeemer. Is there any stumbling-block to be found therein, except that which an evil heart of unbelief supplies for its own fall? 3. Waymarks were set up pointing to the city. And is it not the office of the ministers of the gospel to direct sinners to Him? 4. The gate of the city stood open night and day. Has not Christ declared, Him that cometh unto me I will in nowise cast out? 5. The city of refuge afforded support to every one who entered its walls. Those who have reached the refuge, may live by faith on Him whose flesh is meat indeed, and whose blood is drink indeed. 6. The city was a refuge for all. In the gospel there is no respect of persons. That soul lives not which deserves not Divine wrath; that soul lives not which may not in simple faith hope for salvation and life eternal, through the Son of God.
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