Numbers 35:21
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 meets him.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
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.When he meeteth him - Provided, of course, it were without a city of refuge.16-21. If he smite him with an instrument of iron, so that he die, &c.—Various cases are here enumerated in which the Goel or avenger was at liberty to take the life of the murderer; and every one of them proves a premeditated purpose. No text from Poole on this verse. Or in enmity smite him with his hand, that he die,.... Give him a blow with his fist, on some part of his body where life is most in danger, and which issues in death:

he that smote him shall surely be put to death, for he is a murderer; and therefore, according to the original law, ought to die, without reprieve or pardon; and notwithstanding this law made for cities of refuge, which were to be denied him:

the revenger of blood shall slay the murderer when he meeteth him: that is, when he is condemned, as both the Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan interpret it, after a hearing and trial of his case.

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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
These towns were to serve for a refuge from the avenger of blood, that the manslayer might not die before he had taken his trial in the presence of the congregation. The number of cities was fixed at six, three on the other side of the Jordan, and three on this side in the land of Canaan, to which both the children of Israel, and also the foreigners and settlers who were dwelling among them, might flee. In Deuteronomy 19:2., Moses advises the congregation to prepare (הכין) the way to these cities, and to divide the territory of the land which Jehovah would give them into three parts (שׁלּשׁ), i.e., to set apart a free city in every third of the land, that every manslayer might flee thither, i.e., might be able to reach the free city without being detained by length of distance or badness of road, lest, as is added in Deuteronomy 19:6, the avenger of blood pursue the slayer while his heart is hot (יחם, imperf. Kal of חמם), and overtake him because the way is long, and slay him (נפשׁ הכּה, as in Genesis 37:21), whereas he was not worthy of death (i.e., there was no just ground for putting him to death), "because he had not done it out of hatred." The three cities of refuge on the other side were selected by Moses himself (Deuteronomy 4:41-43); the three in Canaan were not appointed till the land was distributed among the nine tribes and a half (Joshua 20:7). Levitical or priests' towns were selected for all six, not only because it was to the priests and Levites that they would first of all look for an administration of justice (Schultz on Deuteronomy 19:3), but also on the ground that these cities were the property of Jehovah, in a higher sense than the rest of the land, and for this reason answered the idea of cities of refuge, where the manslayer, when once received, was placed under the protection of divine grace, better than any other places possibly could.

The establishment of cities of refuge presupposed the custom and right of revenge. The custom itself goes back to the very earliest times of the human race (Genesis 4:15, Genesis 4:24; Genesis 27:45); it prevailed among the Israelites, as well as the other nations of antiquity, and still continues among the Arabs in unlimited force (cf. Niebuhr, Arab. pp. 32ff.; Burckhardt, Beduinen, 119, 251ff.). "Revenge of blood prevailed almost everywhere, so long as there was no national life generated, or it was still in the first stages of its development; and consequently the expiation of any personal violation of justice was left to private revenge, and more especially to family zeal" (Oehler in Herzog's B. Cycl., where the proofs may be seen). The warrant for this was the principle of retribution, the jus talionis, which lay at the foundation of the divine order of the world in general, and the Mosaic law in particular, and which was sanctioned by God, so far as murder was concerned, even in the time of Noah, by the command, "Whoso sheddeth man's blood," etc. (Genesis 9:5-6). This warrant, however, or rather obligation to avenge murder, was subordinated to the essential principle of the theocracy, under the Mosaic law. Whilst God Himself would avenge the blood that was shed, not only upon men, but upon animals also (Genesis 9:5), and commanded blood-revenge, He withdrew the execution of it from subjective caprice, and restricted it to cases of premeditated slaying or murder, by appointing cities of refuge, which were to protect the manslayer from the avenger, until he took his trial before the congregation. גּאל, redeemer, is "that particular relative whose special duty it was to restore the violated family integrity, who had to redeem not only landed property that had been alienated from the family (Leviticus 25:25.), or a member of the family that had fallen into slavery (Leviticus 25:47.), but also the blood that had been taken away from the family by murder" (Oehler). In the latter respect he was called הדּם גּאל, (Numbers 35:19, Numbers 35:21, Numbers 35:24.; Deuteronomy 19:6, Deuteronomy 19:12). From 2 Samuel 14:7, we may see that it was the duty of the whole family to take care that blood-revenge was carried out. The performance of the duty itself, however, was probably regulated by the closeness of the relationship, and corresponded to the duty of redeeming from bondage (Leviticus 25:49), and to the right of inheritance (Numbers 27:8.). What standing before the congregation was to consist of, is defined more fully in what follows (Numbers 35:24, Numbers 35:25). If we compare with this Joshua 20:4., the manslayer, who fled from the avenger of blood into a free city, was to stand before the gates of the city, and state his cause before the elders. They were then to receive him into the city, and give him a place that he might dwell among them, and were not to deliver him up to the avenger of blood till he had stood before the congregation for judgment. Consequently, if the slayer of a man presented himself with the request to be received, the elders of the free city had to make a provisional inquiry into his case, to decide whether they should grant him protection in the city; and then if the avenger of blood appeared, they were not to deliver up the person whom they had received, but to hand him over, on the charge of the avenger of blood, to the congregation to whom he belonged, or among whom the act had taken place, that they might investigate the case, and judge whether the deed itself was wilful or accidental.

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