And among the cities which you shall give to the Levites there shall be six cities for refuge, which you shall appoint for the manslayer, that he may flee thither: and to them you shall add forty and two cities.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)And among the cities which ye shall give . . . —The construction of this verse is involved; or, rather, there is a suspension of the subject in Numbers 35:6, and a resumption of it in Numbers 35:7-8. The verses may be rendered thus: And as to the cities which ye shall give to the Levites, viz., the six cities of refuge which ye shall give that the manslayer may flee thither (and in addition to these ye shall give forty and two cities); as to all the cities which ye shall give to the Levites, viz., forty and eight cities, them and their suburbs; now as to the cities which ye shall give from the possession of the children of Israel; from the many ye shall take many, and from the few ye shall take few . . . It had already been announced in general terms that a place should be appointed whither any one should flee who had unintentionally smitten a man so that he died, and had not lain in wait with a view to commit murder (Exodus 21:12-13). In the verses which follow, the law is delivered at length, and is repeated and further expanded in Deuteronomy 19:1-13. There were many reasons why all the cities of refuge were Levitical cities. Of these reasons the chief probably were:—(1) That these cities were specially consecrated to the Lord (see Joshua 20:7, “And they appointed,” &c.—Heb., consecrated); and (2) that it was to the priests and Levites that the people looked as administrators of justice.Numbers 35:6-7. Cities for refuge — Or, of escape for manslayers. And these cities are assigned among the Levites, partly because they might be presumed to be the most proper and impartial judges between manslayers and wilful murderers; partly because their presence and authority would more effectually bridle the passions of the avenger of blood who might pursue him thither; and perhaps to signify that it is only in Christ (whom the Levitical priests represented) that sinners find refuge and safety from the destroyer. Three of these cities of refuge were in the land of Canaan, and three on the other side Jordan, (Numbers 35:14,) and the names of them are set down, Joshua 20:7-8. Of the forty-eight cities given to the Levites, thirteen were appointed for the priests.Numbers 35:24 note.
6. there shall be six cities for refuge, which ye shall appoint for the manslayer—The establishment of those privileged sanctuaries among the cities of the Levites is probably traceable to the idea, that they would be the most suitable and impartial judges—that their presence and counsels might calm or restrain the stormy passions of the blood avenger—and that, from their being invested with the sacred character, they might be types of Christ, in whom sinners find a refuge from the destroyer (see De 4:43; Jos 20:8).For refuge, or, of receipt, or escape, or resort, to wit, for man-slayers; and these cities are assigned among the
Levites, partly, because they might be presumed to be the most proper and impartial judges between man-slayers and wilful murderers; partly, because their presence, and counsel, and authority would more effectually bridle the passions of the avenger of blood who might pursue him thither; and partly, to signify that it is only in Christ (whom the Levitical priests did represent) that sinners find refuge and safety from the destroyer. The names of these cities, we have Deu 4:41,43 Jos 20:8.
For the man-slayer, such as is here described, Numbers 35:11,15,22,23.
six cities for refuge; a sort of asylums, of which there were many among the Heathens, perhaps in imitation of these, for persons to have recourse to for safety, when in danger of life: the Septuagint render the words, "cities of flight" (b); or to flee unto, which certainly was the use of them: to this the apostle alludes when he speaks of some that fled for refuge, to lay hold on the hope set before them, Hebrews 6:18, the word (c) used for refuge signifies "gathering or receiving", for here persons in distress gathered or betook themselves; and here they were received, retained, protected, and sheltered: what and where these six cities were to be, and were, is after shown:
which ye shall appoint for the manslayer; not for any and everyone, not for one that killed a man presumptuously and purposely, through enmity and malice, but for one that did it ignorantly, unawares, and without design:
that he may flee thither; with all haste, after the commission of the fact; and, to facilitate his flight, and that he might have no interruption in it, the sanhedrim were obliged to prepare the ways to the cities of refuge, and to make them fit and large; and they removed everything that might cause him to stumble; and they did not leave in the way neither an hillock, nor a dale, nor a river but they made a bridge over it, that nothing might retard him that fled thither, as it is said:
thou shalt prepare thee a way; Deuteronomy 19:3 and the breadth of the way to the cities of refuge was not less than thirty two cubits; and at the parting of ways (on posts erected) were written, "refuge, refuge", so that the slayer might know (the way) and turn there (as this directed him): and on the fifteenth of Adar or February, they met every year, to take care of this business (d); and they also appointed two disciples of the wise men, or two studious and understanding persons, to accompany him, not so much for the direction of the way, as lest the avenger of blood should meet with him, and slay him in the way; and who were to talk to him, and persuade him not to do it, suggesting to him that it was not done designedly, but unawares, and that it would be a bad thing to kill a man for what he did not intend to do, and which was done without any malice or enmity to the person killed, and with such like words to cool and appease the avenger (e):
and to them ye shall add forty two cities; according to the Jewish writers these also were cities of refuge; for so they say (f),"all the cities of the Levites receive or are refuges, every one of them is a city of refuge, as it is said, "and to them ye shall add", &c. the Scripture makes them all alike for refuge: what difference is there between cities of refuge, which are separated for refuge, and the rest of the cities of the Levites? the gates of the cities of refuge receive, whether according to knowledge or not, (which Mr. Selden (g) interprets, whether the inhabitants will or not; but the sense of Maimonides elsewhere (h), and of other writers, is plainly this, whether according to the knowledge and intention of the manslayer or not, whether he knows it to be a city of refuge or :not, and whether he purposely came thither for safety or not,) and he that enters into them is safe; but the rest of the cities of the Levites do not receive, but according to knowledge (when the manslayer knowingly and designedly came thither for shelter); and a manslayer that dwells in a city of refuge gives no more for his house, but he that dwells in the other cities of the Levites gives more (or pays for it) to the owner of the house;''but though this is their unanimous opinion, it rather seems, according to the letter of the Scripture, that only six were cities of refuge, and the rest were for the Levites to dwell in by themselves.
(b) , Sept. (c) "receptus", Junius & Tremellius; "collectionis", Piscator; R. Sol. Ohel Moed, fol. 82. 1. "proprie significat collectionem vel retentionem", Munster. (d) Maimon. Hilchot Rotzeach, c. 8. sect. 5. (e) Misn. Maccot, c. 2. sect. 5. & Maimon. & Bartenora in ib. (f) Maimon. ut supra, (d)) sect. 11. (g) De Jure Natarae & Gentium, l. 4. c. 2. p. 489. (h) Maimon. & Bartenora in Misn. Maccot, l. 2. sect. 4.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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Verse 6. - And among the cities. Rather, "and the cities." וְאֶת הֶעָרים - καὶ τὰς πόλεις. The construction is broken, or rather is continuous throughout verses 6-8, the accusative being repeated. Six cities for refuge. See below on verse 11. Numbers 27:21, and the latter to occupy the second place as commander of the army, a prince was selected from each of the ten tribes who were interested in the distribution, as Reuben and Gad had nothing to do with it. Of these princes, namely heads of fathers' houses of the tribes (Joshua 14:1), not heads of tribes (see at Numbers 13:2), Caleb, who is well known from Numbers 13, is the only one whose name if known. The others are not mentioned anywhere else. The list of tribes, in the enumeration of their princes, corresponds, with some exceptions, to the situation of the territory which the tribes received in Canaan, reckoning from south to north, and deviates considerably from the order in which the lots came out for the different tribes, as described in Joshua 15-19. נחל in the Kal, in Numbers 34:17 and Numbers 34:18, signifies to give for an inheritance, just as in Exodus 34:8, to put into possession. There is not sufficient ground for altering the Kal into Piel, especially as the Piel in Numbers 34:29 is construed with the accusative of the person, and with the thing governed by ב; whereas in Numbers 34:17 the Kal is construed with the person governed by ל, and the accusative of the thing.
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