Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
And the LORD spake unto Moses in the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho, saying,Jesus Christ Our Refuge
I. The Cities of Refuge were so placed, three on either side of Jordan, that they provided the greatest possible readiness of access. The devout imagination has always pictured for the cities conditions almost ideal in character. The gates of the cities, like those of the New Jerusalem, were to be kept always open, both day and night.
The refugee, whether an Israelite or a stranger, was safe the moment he entered the gate of the city of refuge.
This merciful provision of the Cities of Refuge acted as a preventive to idolatry; the involuntary manslayer was not driven to seek a home among the heathen nations around, but was allowed to live in his own land, among his own kindred, who held like him the faith in Israel's God.
The Cities of Refuge were not merely civil institutions serving a local purpose. They were also types of heavenly things, and taught the people lessons of the very deepest significance.
The Cities of Refuge embodied in themselves truths of the highest importance concerning the salvation of God, and His provision of grace and security for His children.
II. The Cities of Refuge point to Christ as the sinner's refuge, and that in more ways than one. They are found in careful and prayerful study to suggest Gospel principles, Gospel promises, Gospel privileges. Christ is the city of refuge.
The six Cities of Refuge belonged to the priestly tribe of Levi. The forty-eight cities of Levi possessed the right of asylum, but the six Cities of Refuge were bound to receive and to entertain, without cost, the involuntary homicide. They were priestly cities, with peculiar privileges of their own.
The refugee, flying from the avenger, had but to pass through the gate, and not only was he immune, free from the slightest danger, but he ranked at once as a fellow-citizen with the priests of the Most High God.
III. Jesus Christ is our first and only Priest. The Levitical priesthood which pointed to Him has been realized and fulfilled in His life and work.
Jesus Christ is the one eternal High Priest, through whom salvation comes to man, and in whom man has communion with God. The Christian believer stands safe and secure within this refuge.
Jesus Christ is not only the divinely appointed way of escape, He is, in Himself, the city of refuge.
—W.J. Armitage, The Cities of Refuge, p. 7.
References.—XXXV. 9-11.—C. Stowell Pedley, Christian World Pulpit, vol. liii. p. 217. XXXV. 11.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlv. No. 2621.
Command the children of Israel, that they give unto the Levites of the inheritance of their possession cities to dwell in; and ye shall give also unto the Levites suburbs for the cities round about them.
And the cities shall they have to dwell in; and the suburbs of them shall be for their cattle, and for their goods, and for all their beasts.
And the suburbs of the cities, which ye shall give unto the Levites, shall reach from the wall of the city and outward a thousand cubits round about.
And ye shall measure from without the city on the east side two thousand cubits, and on the south side two thousand cubits, and on the west side two thousand cubits, and on the north side two thousand cubits; and the city shall be in the midst: this shall be to them the suburbs of the cities.
And among the cities which ye shall give unto the Levites there shall be six cities for refuge, which ye shall appoint for the manslayer, that he may flee thither: and to them ye shall add forty and two cities.
So all the cities which ye shall give to the Levites shall be forty and eight cities: them shall ye give with their suburbs.
And the cities which ye shall give shall be of the possession of the children of Israel: from them that have many ye shall give many; but from them that have few ye shall give few: every one shall give of his cities unto the Levites according to his inheritance which he inheriteth.
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come over Jordan into the land of Canaan;
Then ye shall appoint you cities to be cities of refuge for you; that the slayer may flee thither, which killeth any person at unawares.
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.
And of these cities which ye shall give six cities shall ye have for refuge.
Ye shall give three cities on this side Jordan, and three cities shall ye give in the land of Canaan, which shall be cities of refuge.
These six cities shall be a refuge, both for the children of Israel, and for the stranger, and for the sojourner among them: that every one that killeth any person unawares may flee thither.
And if he smite him with an instrument of iron, so that he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death.
And if he smite him with throwing a stone, wherewith he may die, and he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death.
Or if he smite him with an hand weapon of wood, wherewith he may die, and he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death.
The revenger of blood himself shall slay the murderer: when he meeteth him, he shall slay him.
But if he thrust him of hatred, or hurl at him by laying of wait, that he die;
Or in enmity smite him with his hand, that he die: he that smote him shall surely be put to death; for he is a murderer: the revenger of blood shall slay the murderer, when he meeteth him.
But if he thrust him suddenly without enmity, or have cast upon him any thing without laying of wait,
Or with any stone, wherewith a man may die, seeing him not, and cast it upon him, that he die, and was not his enemy, neither sought his harm:
Then the congregation shall judge between the slayer and the revenger of blood according to these judgments:
And the congregation shall deliver the slayer out of the hand of the revenger of blood, and the congregation shall restore him to the city of his refuge, whither he was fled: and he shall abide in it unto the death of the high priest, which was anointed with the holy oil.
But if the slayer shall at any time come without the border of the city of his refuge, whither he was fled;
And the revenger of blood find him without the borders of the city of his refuge, and the revenger of blood kill the slayer; he shall not be guilty of blood:
Because he should have remained in the city of his refuge until the death of the high priest: but after the death of the high priest the slayer shall return into the land of his possession.
So these things shall be for a statute of judgment unto you throughout your generations in all your dwellings.
Whoso killeth any person, the murderer shall be put to death by the mouth of witnesses: but one witness shall not testify against any person to cause him to die.
Moreover ye shall take no satisfaction for the life of a murderer, which is guilty of death: but he shall be surely put to death.
And ye shall take no satisfaction for him that is fled to the city of his refuge, that he should come again to dwell in the land, until the death of the priest.
So ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are: for blood it defileth the land: and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it.
Defile not therefore the land which ye shall inhabit, wherein I dwell: for I the LORD dwell among the children of Israel.