|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
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, &c. 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.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
So these things shall be for a statute of judgment unto you,.... A judicial law, according to which they were to proceed in all the above cases:
throughout your generations in all your dwellings; throughout all ages, as long as they dwelt in the land of Canaan, even unto the times of the Messiah, in whom the things figured hereby had their accomplishment: the cities of refuge were types of Christ: hence a divine person, even the Messiah, is often spoken of as the refuge of his people, Psalm 9:9 with which compare Hebrews 6:18 these were places to flee to, as the word is rendered by the Greek version; to Christ sensible sinners flee for shelter and safety, which supposes danger in themselves from the law and justice of God; a sense of that danger which makes them flee from wrath to come; a view of Christ, as a place of refuge, and that no other but he will serve their purpose, and therefore make all the haste and speed they can unto him. The word properly signifies cities of gathering, or of reception. There was a gathering of the elect of God to Christ at his death; and there is another at effectual calling, which is an act of God's grace, and a distinguishing one, when souls gather to Christ as their Saviour for righteousness, peace, pardon, rest, and everlasting life; and when Christ receives them, though sinners, into his arms, and into his heart, and into open fellowship with him, so as to dwell in him, where they dwell pleasantly and safely; he receives them into his house here, and into heaven hereafter; and by, and in Christ, those that flee to him, and are received by him, are retained and preserved from Satan, law, hell and death. The cities of refuge were of God's appointing; so Christ, as a Saviour, and rock of refuge to his people, is appointed and foreordained of God; they were well known for refuges, as the Lord is in the places of Zion; they were open for all, at all times, as Christ is for all sinners, even the chief of sinners, Jews or Gentiles; they are all one in Christ, the Israelite, and the stranger and sojourner; all impediments were removed out of the way of them, and plain directions to them given, as are in the Gospel, and by the ministers of it; and there is always room in Christ for such that flee to him, as there was in those cities; and being in him, they are safe from the curse and condemnation of the law, from wrath to come, and from the second death; and their redemption and atonement, peace and reconciliation, liberty, life and salvation, are owing to the death of Christ, their high priest. Abendana (a) observes, that the death of the high priest atoned for the offence (of manslaughter), which was the reason the manslayer continued in the city of refuge till his death, and then was released: however, certain it is, that the death of Christ, our high priest, atones for every sin of those that flee to him, and by which they are reconciled to God. In some things there is a difference between these cities of refuge and Christ; they were six, he but one; they were for such only who shed blood ignorantly, he for such that were enemies to him, and lived in malice towards others, and guilty of the most enormous crimes: to be in these cities of refuge was a kind of exile and imprisonment, but they that are in Christ are freemen; it was possible that such might die that were in them, and at most were only delivered from temporal death, but they that flee to Christ for refuge are saved with an everlasting salvation.
(a) Not. in Miclol Yophi in ver. 25.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
29-34. these things shall be for a statute of judgment unto you throughout your generations—The law of the blood-avenger, as thus established by divine authority, was a vast improvement on the ancient practice of Goelism. By the appointment of cities of refuge, the manslayer was saved, in the meantime, from the blind and impetuous fury of vindictive relatives; but he might be tried by the local court, and, if proved guilty on sufficient evidence, condemned and punished as a murderer, without the possibility of deliverance by any pecuniary satisfaction. The enactment of Moses, which was an adaptation to the character and usages of the Hebrew people, secured the double advantage of promoting the ends both of humanity and of justice.
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