Numbers 35:25
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.
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(25) And he shall abide in it unto the death of the high priest.—Although the death which had been occasioned was accidental, not intentional, nevertheless the shedding of blood demanded expiation. The manslayer was, therefore, required to remain an exile from his own home until the death of the high priest who had been anointed with the holy oil. As the high priest, by reason of the anointing with the holy oil, became qualified to act as the representative of the nation, and in that capacity acted as their mediator on the great day of atonement, so the death of the high priest assumed a symbolical or representative character, and became a type of that of the great High Priest who, through the eternal Spirit, offered Himself without spot to God, and who by His death made a propitiation for the sins of the world. Thus, as by the death of the Jewish high priest a typical atonement was made for the sin of the Israelitish manslayer, and he was restored thereupon to “the land of his possession” amongst his brethren, so by the death of our High Priest they who have fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before them, are restored to the inheritance which had been forfeited by sin, and made joint heirs with Christ of those mansions which He has gone before to prepare for those who love Him.

Numbers 35:25. He shall abide in it — Shall be confined to it. Which was appointed, 1st, To show the hatefulness of murder in God’s account, by such a severe punishment, inflicted upon the very appearance of it: 2d, For the security of the manslayer, lest the presence of such a person, and his living among the kindred of the deceased, might occasion reproach and bloodshed: And, 3d, To teach others to be very watchful over themselves, lest by negligence they should chance to kill any one, and so be compelled to leave their own homes, families, and friends. The death of the high- priest — Perhaps to show that the death of Christ, the true High-Priest, whom the others represented, is the only means whereby sins are pardoned, and sinners set at liberty.

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.The homicide was safe only within the walls of his city of refuge. He became a virtual exile from his home. The provisions here made serve to mark the gravity of the act of manslaughter, even when not premeditated; and the inconveniences attending on them fell, as is right and fair, upon him who committed the deed.

Unto the death of the high priest - The atoning death of the Saviour cast its shadow before on the statute-book of the Law and on the annals of Jewish history. The high priest, as the head and representative of the whole chosen family of sacerdotal mediators, as exclusively entrusted with some of the chief priestly functions, as alone privileged to make yearly atonement within the holy of holies, and to gain, from the mysterious Urim and Thummim, special revelations of the will of God, was, preeminently, a type of Christ. And thus the death of each successive high priest presignified that death of Christ by which the captives were to be freed, and the remembrance of transgressions made to cease.

22-28. But if he thrust him suddenly without enmity, or have cast upon him any thing without laying of wait, &c.—Under the excitement of a sudden provocation, or violent passion, an injury might be inflicted issuing in death; and for a person who had thus undesignedly committed slaughter, the Levitical cities offered the benefit of full protection. Once having reached the nearest, for one or other of them was within a day's journey of all parts of the land, he was secure. But he had to "abide in it." His confinement within its walls was a wise and salutary rule, designed to show the sanctity of human blood in God's sight, as well as to protect the manslayer himself, whose presence and intercourse in society might have provoked the passions of the deceased's relatives. But the period of his release from this confinement was not until the death of the high priest. That was a season of public affliction, when private sorrows were sunk or overlooked under a sense of the national calamity, and when the death of so eminent a servant of God naturally led all to serious consideration about their own mortality. The moment, however, that the refugee broke through the restraints of his confinement and ventured beyond the precincts of the asylum, he forfeited the privilege, and, if he was discovered by his pursuer, he might be slain with impunity. He shall abide in it, be confined to it, partly to show the hatefulness of wilful murder in God’s account by so severe a punishment, as this in many cases might prove, inflicted upon the very appearance of it; and partly for the security of the man-slayer, lest the presence of such a person, and his conversation among the kindred of the deceased, might occasion reproach and bloodshed.

Unto the death of the high priest; partly because the public grief for the loss of so public a person was likely to assuage the private griefs and passions of men, the rather, because by this example they were minded of their own mortality, and thereby withheld from taking vengeance; and principally to show that the death of Christ (the true High Priest, whom the others did evidently and eminently represent and typify) is the only mean whereby sins are pardoned, and sinners are set at liberty.

And the congregation shall deliver the slayer out of the hand of the avenger of blood,.... Put him under the care of proper persons, to conduct him to one of the cities of refuge, or put him in the way to it; and restrain the avenger of blood from pursuing him, until such time that it may be judged he is safe arrived there:

and the congregation shall restore him to the city of refuge, whither he was fled; so that it seems by this, when one had been guilty of manslaughter, and fled to one of the cities of refuge, he might be taken from thence and had before a court of justice, and there take his trial; and if it appeared that the fact was committed by him, ignorantly, unawares, and without design, then he was returned to his city of refuge; but, if otherwise, he was put to death, notwithstanding he had fled thither; and so it is said in the Misnah (t), that"at first, or formerly, one that killed another ignorantly or presumptuously, they sent him before to one of the cities of refuge, and the sanhedrim sent and fetched him from thence: he who was condemned to death by the court, they slew him; he that was not condemned was dismissed; he that was condemned to banishment they returned him to his place, according to Numbers 35:25."

and he shall abide in it, unto the death of the high priest, which was anointed with the holy oil: and then he was to be set at liberty, and return to his house and family and have his former possessions and honours, if he had any, restored unto him, the commission or warrant for his detainer there ceasing, being made void by the death of the high priest; who was the prince of the priests and Levites, to whom those cities belonged, and so under his jurisdiction: or so it was ordered, because such was the general mourning for such a public loss as an high priest, that all private revenges would subside, and the cause of them be buried, in grief and forgetfulness; though, no doubt, this had a respect to something which will be hereafter taken notice of: the Jews say (u), that the mothers of the priests used to supply with a sufficient quantity of food and raiment such who fled to the cities of refuge, that they might not pray for the death of their sons; and according to them, a man's case was very bad when there was no high priest; for so they write (w)"he whose cause is finished (or his case determined in a court of judicature), and there is no high priest; and he that slays an high priest, or an high priest slays another, he never goes out, no not so much as to bear testimony in any cause, and even in what the congregation has need of him, but there are his dwelling, his death, and his burial.''

(t) Misn. Maccot. c. 2. sect. 6. (u) Misn. Maccot. c. 2. sect. 3.((w) Misn. Maccot, c. 2. sect. 7.

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 {i} high priest, which was anointed with the holy oil.

(i) Under this figure is declared, that our sins could not be remitted, but by the death of the high Priest Jesus Christ.

25. shall restore him] It is not stated where the congregation had taken him for judgement, but it was presumably to his own city. It is not, however, impossible that ‘the congregation’ means, as elsewhere in P , the whole community of Israel, and that P tacitly assumed that Jerusalem would be the place of judgement.

the high priest] lit. ‘the great priest.’ The title is used in P of Aaron and his eldest descendants. Outside the Hexateuch, it first appears of Jehoiada (2 Kings 12:10), then of Hilkiah (2 Kings 22:4; 2 Kings 22:8); and after the exile, of Joshua (Haggai 1:1 &c., Zechariah 3:1; Zechariah 3:8) and Eliashib (Nehemiah 3:1; Nehemiah 3:20; Nehemiah 13:28). The high priest was the head of the religious affairs of the Jewish church, and rose, in the popular estimation, to a higher importance than the civil governor who was appointed by a foreign power. So that ‘until the death of the high priest’ would have almost the same force that the words ‘until the death of the reigning sovereign’ would bear to-day.

Verse 25. - The congregation (עֵדָה) shall restore him to the city of his refuge. It is perfectly plain from this (and from Joshua 20:6) that the general assembly of all Israel was to summon both homicide and avenger before them with their witnesses, and, if they found the accused innocent, were to send him back under safe escort to the city in which he had taken refuge. He shall abide in it unto the death of the high priest. No doubt his family might join him in his exile, and his life might be fairly happy as well as safe within certain narrow limits; but under ordinary circumstances he must forfeit much and risk more by his enforced absence from home and land. It is not easy to see why the death of the high priest should have set the fugitive free from the law of vengeance, except as foreshadowing the death of Christ. No similar significance is anywhere else attributed to the death of the high priest; and it was rather in its unbroken continuance than in its recurring interruption that the priesthood of Aaron typified that of the Redeemer. To see anything of a vicarious or satisfactory character in the death of the high priest seems to be introducing an element quite foreign to the symbolism of the Old Testament. The stress, however, which is laid upon the fact of his decease (cf. verse 28), and the solemn notice of his having been anointed with the holy oil, seem to point unmistakably to something in his official and consecrated character which made it right that the rigour of the law should die with him. What the Jubilee was to the debtor who had lost his property, that the death of the high priest was to the homicide who had lost his liberty. If it was the case, as commonly believed, that all blood feuds were absolutely terminated by the death of the high priest, might this not be because the high priest, as chief minister of the law of God, was himself the goel of the whole nation? When he died all processes of' vengeance lapsed, because they had really been commenced in his name. Numbers 35:25In such a case as this, the congregation was to judge between the slayer and the avenger of blood, according to the judgments before them. They were to rescue the innocent man from the avenger of blood, to bring him back to his (i.e., the nearest) city of refuge to which he had fled, that he might dwell there till the death of the high priest, who had been anointed with the holy oil.
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