Numbers 35:33
So you shall not pollute the land wherein you are: for blood it defiles the land: and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it.
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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.No satisfaction - Rather, ransom (see Exodus 21:30). The permission to demand pecuniary compensation for murders (expressly sanctioned by the Koran) undoubtedly mitigates, in practice, the system of private retaliation; but it does so by sacrificing the principle named in Numbers 35:12, Numbers 35:33. 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. These words are added as a reason not of the last law, Numbers 35:32, for in that case the land was cleansed without the blood of the man-slayer. but of the law next foregoing that, Numbers 35:31, in which case it holds; and the sense is, If you shall spare the murderer, or take any satisfaction for him, you do together with yourselves involve your land and people in guilt, and will certainly bring down God’s vengeance upon yourselves and them. So ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are,.... The land of Canaan, as it had been by the old inhabitants of it, by idolatry, adultery, and murder:

for blood it defileth the land: the shedding of innocent blood defiles a nation, and the inhabitants of it, brings guilt thereon, and subjects to punishment:

and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it; or "there can be no expiation" (b), or "atonement made" for it in any other way; the blood of the murderer is required at his hands, and nothing short of it will satisfy law and justice, see Genesis 9:6.

(b) "non posset expiatio", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator; to the same sense Pagninus, Montanus, Tigurine version.

So ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are: for blood it defileth the land: and the land cannot be {n} cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it.

(n) So God is mindful of the blood wrongfully shed, that he makes his dumb creatures demand vengeance of it.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Verse 33. - The land cannot be cleansed. Literally, "there is no expiation (יְכֻפַר) for the land." Septuagint, οὐχ ἐξιλασθήσεται ἡ γῆ. By these expressions the Lord places the sin of murder in its true light, as a sin against himself. The land, his land, is defiled with the blood of the slain, and nothing can do away with the guilt which cleaves to it but the strict execution of Divine justice upon the murderer. Money might satisfy the relatives of the slain, but cannot satisfy his Maker. If he left the city of refuge before this, and the avenger of blood got hold of him, and slew him outside the borders (precincts) of the city, it was not to be reckoned to him as blood (דּם לו אין, like דּמים לו אין, Exodus 22:1). But after the death of the high priest he might return "into the land of his possession," i.e., his hereditary possession (cf. Leviticus 27:22), sc., without the avenger of blood being allowed to pursue him any longer.

In these regulations "all the rigour of the divine justice is manifested in the most beautiful concord with His compassionate mercy. Through the destruction of life, even when not wilful, human blood had been shed, and demanded expiation. Yet this expiation did not consist in the death of the offender himself, because he had not sinned wilfully." Hence an asylum was provided for him in the free city, to which he might escape, and where he would lie concealed. This sojourn in the free city was not to be regarded as banishment, although separation from house, home, and family was certainly a punishment; but it was a concealment under "the protection of the mercy of God, which opened places of escape in the cities of refuge from the carnal ardour of the avenger of blood, where the slayer remained concealed until his sin was expiated by the death of the high priest." For the fact, that the death of the high priest was hereby regarded as expiatory, as many of the Rabbins, fathers, and earlier commentators maintain (see my Comm. on Joshua, p. 448), is unmistakeably evident from the addition of the clause, "who has been anointed with the holy oil," which would appear unmeaning and superfluous on any other view. This clause points to the inward connection between the return of the slayer and the death of the high priest. "The anointing with the holy oil was a symbol of the communication of the Holy Ghost, by which the high priest was empowered to act as mediator and representative of the nation before God, so that he alone could carry out the yearly and general expiation for the whole nation, on the great day of atonement. But as his life and work acquired a representative signification through this anointing with the Holy Ghost, his death might also be regarded as a death for the sins of the people, by virtue of the Holy Ghost imparted to him, through which the unintentional manslayer received the benefits of the propitiation for his sin before God, so that he could return cleansed to his native town, without further exposure to the vengeance of the avenger of blood" (Comm. on Joshua, p. 448). But inasmuch as, according to this view, the death of the high priest had the same result in a certain sense, in relation to his time of office, as his function on the day of atonement had had every year, "the death of the earthly high priest became thereby a type of that of the heavenly One, who, through the eternal (holy) Spirit, offered Himself without spot to God, that we might be redeemed from our transgressions, and receive the promised eternal inheritance (Hebrews 9:14-15). Just as the blood of Christ wrought out eternal redemption, only because through the eternal Spirit He offered Himself without spot to God, so the death of the high priest of the Old Testament secured the complete deliverance of the manslayer form his sin, only because he had been anointed with the holy oil, the symbol of the Holy Ghost."

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