Numbers 35:6
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.
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(6, 7, 8) 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.

35:1-8 The cities of the priests and Levites were not only to accommodate them, but to place them, as religious teachers, in several parts of the land. For though the typical service of the tabernacle or temple was only in one place, the preaching of the word of God, and prayer and praise, were not thus confined. These cities were to be given out of each tribe. Each thus made a grateful acknowledgement to God. Each tribe had the benefit of the Levites dwelling amongst them, to teach them the knowledge of the Lord; thus no parts of the country were left to sit in darkness. The gospel provides that he who is taught in the word, should communicate to him that teaches, in all good things, Ga 6:6. We are to free God's ministers from distracting cares, and to leave them at leisure for the duties of their station; so that they may be wholly employed therein, and avail themselves of every opportunity, by acts of kindness, to gain the good-will of the people, and to draw their attention.The Levitical cities were in an special manner the Lord's; and therefore the places of refuge, where the manslayer might remain under the protection of a special institution devised by divine mercy, were appropriately selected from among them. No doubt also the Priests and Levites would be the fittest persons to administer the law in the doubtful cases which would be sure to occur: compare Numbers 35:24 note. Nu 35:6-8. Cities of Refuge.

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.

And among the cities which ye shall give unto the Levites,.... The number of which is not yet expressed, but is afterwards: there shall be

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.
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 35:6Of these cities which were given up to the Levites, six were to serve as cities of refuge (see at Numbers 35:12) for manslayers, and in addition to these (עליהם, over upon them) the Israelites were to give of their possessions forty-two others, that is to say, forty-eight in all; and they were to do this, giving much from every tribe that had much, and little from the one which had little (Numbers 26:54). With the accusatives הערים את and ערי שׁשׁ עת (Numbers 35:6), the writer has already in his mind the verbs תּרבּוּ and תּמעיטוּ of Numbers 35:8, where he takes up the object again in the word והערים. According to Joshua 21, the Levites received nine cities in the territory of Judah and Simeon, four in the territory of each of the other tribes, with the exception of Naphtali, in which there were only three, that is to say, ten in the land to the east of the Jordan, and thirty-eight in Canaan proper, of which the thirteen given up by Judah, Simeon, and Benjamin were assigned to the families of the priests, and the other thirty-five to the three Levitical families. This distribution of the Levites among all the tribes - by which the curse of division and dispersion in Israel, which had been pronounced upon Levi in Jacob's blessing (Genesis 49:7), was changed into a blessing both for the Levites themselves and also for all Israel - was in perfect accordance with the election and destination of this tribe. Called out of the whole nation to be the peculiar possession of Jehovah, to watch over His covenant, and teach Israel His rights and His law (Deuteronomy 33:9-10; Leviticus 10:11; Deuteronomy 31:9-13), the Levites were to form and set forth among all the tribes the ἐκλογή of the nation of Jehovah's possession, and by their walk as well as by their calling to remind the Israelites continually of their own divine calling; to foster and preserve the law and testimony of the Lord in Israel, and to awaken and spread the fear of God and piety among all the tribes. Whilst their distribution among all the tribes corresponded to this appointment, the fact that they were not scattered in all the towns and villages of the other tribes, but were congregated together in separate towns among the different tribes, preserved them from the disadvantages of standing alone, and defended them from the danger of moral and spiritual declension. Lastly, in the number forty-eight, the quadrupling of the number of the tribes (twelve) is unmistakeable. Now, as the number four is the seal of the kingdom of God in the world, the idea of the kingdom of God is also represented in the four times twelve towns (cf. Bhr, Symbolik, ii. pp. 50, 51).
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