Matthew Poole's Commentary
And the LORD spake unto Moses in the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho, saying,Eight and forty cities given to the Levites, together with their suburbs; among which six cities of refuge, for an Israelite or stranger who had killed another unawares, Numbers 35:1-15. Wilful murder decided, and the murderer to be put to death, Numbers 35:16-21. The man-slayer must abide in the city of refuge till the death of the high priest; and if caught out of it, might be killed, Numbers 35:25-29. Two witnesses required to condemn a man to die, Numbers 35:30. No satisfaction to be taken for the life of a murderer, Numbers 35:31, nor that any one might return from a city of refuge before the time, Numbers 35:32; that the land be not defiled and polluted, and not cleansed of the blood shed in it, Numbers 35:33,34.
No text from Poole on this verse.
Command the children of Israel, that they give unto the Levites of the inheritance of their possession cities to dwell in; and ye shall give also unto the Levites suburbs for the cities round about them.No text from Poole on this verse.
And the cities shall they have to dwell in; and the suburbs of them shall be for their cattle, and for their goods, and for all their beasts.For their cattle; for pasturage for their cattle; where they might not build houses, nor plant gardens, orchards, or vineyards, no, nor sow corn, for which they were abundantly provided out of the first-fruits and tithes. And these suburbs did not belong to the Levites in common, but were distributed to them in convenient proportions, as may appear from Joshua 21:18 1 Chronicles 6:60.
And the suburbs of the cities, which ye shall give unto the Levites, shall reach from the wall of the city and outward a thousand cubits round about.Object. In the next verse it is
two thousand. How do these agree?
Answ. 1. LXX. interpreters read both here and Numbers 35:5 two thousand cubits, whence some suppose this to be an error in the Hebrew text, which, being in a matter neither concerning faith nor good manners, is not prejudicial to the authority of the Holy Scriptures.
Answ. 2. The one thousand cubits may be in length from the city, and the two thousand cubits in breadth on each side of the city, and so they well agree; for a line of a thousand cubits being draw in length eastward, and another westward, and another northward, and another southward, a line drawn at a thousand cubits distance from the city, from east to west, must needs contain two thousand cubits, and so must the other line from north to south, and so on every side of the city there must be two thousand cubits.
Answ. 3. This verse and the next do not speak to the same thing: this speaks of the space or place from whence the suburbs shall be measured, the next verse speaks of the space unto which that measure shall be extended; and the words may very well be read thus, And the suburbs—shall be (so it is only an ellipsis of the verb substantive, which is most frequent, and the meaning is, shall be taken or accounted)
from the wall of the city, and from (that particle being supplied or understood from the foregoing words, which is very usual) without it, or, from the outward parts of it, (which being a general and indefinite expression is limited and explained by the following words,) even from
a thousand cubits round about; which are mentioned not as the thing measured, for as yet there is not a word of measuring, but as the term or space from which the measuring line should begin. And then it follows, Numbers 35:5, And ye shall measure from without the city (not from the wall of the city, as was said before, Numbers 35:4, but from without it, i.e. from the said outward part or space of a thousand cubits without the wall of the city round about) on the east side two thousand cubits, &c. So in truth there were three thousand cubits from the wall of the city, whereof one thousand probably were for out-houses, stalls for cattle, gardens, vineyards, and olive-yards, and the like, and the other two thousand for pasture, which are therefore called the field of the suburbs, Leviticus 25:34, by way of distinction from the suburbs themselves, which consist of the first thousand cubits from the wall of the city.
And ye shall measure from without the city on the east side two thousand cubits, and on the south side two thousand cubits, and on the west side two thousand cubits, and on the north side two thousand cubits; and the city shall be in the midst: this shall be to them the suburbs of the cities.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.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.
So all the cities which ye shall give to the Levites shall be forty and eight cities: them shall ye give with their suburbs.No text from Poole on this verse.
And the cities which ye shall give shall be of the possession of the children of Israel: from them that have many ye shall give many; but from them that have few ye shall give few: every one shall give of his cities unto the Levites according to his inheritance which he inheriteth.Ye shall give many: compare Numbers 33:54 Joshua 20:2.
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,No text from Poole on this verse.
Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come over Jordan into the land of Canaan;No text from Poole on this verse.
Then ye shall appoint you cities to be cities of refuge for you; that the slayer may flee thither, which killeth any person at unawares.i.e. Not wilfully, designedly, or maliciously, but inconsiderately, through mistake, or indiscretion, or carelessness. See Leviticus 4:2.
And they shall be unto you cities for refuge from the avenger; that the manslayer die not, until he stand before the congregation in judgment.The avenger, to wit, of the party slain, or, of blood, as it is fully expressed below, Numbers 35:19,25; Heb. from the redeemer, or, from the next kinsman, to whom by the law belonged the right of redemption of the lands of, and vindication of the injury done to the person deceased.
Die not, i.e. be not killed by the avenger meeting him in some other place.
Before the congregation, i.e. before the society or convention of judges or elders, who were appointed in every city for the decision of criminal causes, who were twenty-three, who were to examine the matter, and that publicly before the people, whether the murder was wilful or casual.
Quest. In what city was this cause to be tried?
Answ. Some say in the city of refuge, others say in the city in or near which the fact was committed. It seems to me it was done in both, at first in the city of refuge, as is manifest in Joshua 20:4; but if that trial and sentence did not satisfy the avenger of blood, it was fully and finally determined in the other city, as is sufficiently evident both by comparing this place with Numbers 35:25 Joshua 20:6, and from the usual and most reasonable course of justice, which is that facts should be examined, as far as may be, in or near the places where they were committed, and where the witnesses and evidences were at hand. In judgment, or, for judgment, i. e. to receive sentence there according to the nature of the fact.
And of these cities which ye shall give six cities shall ye have for refuge.No text from Poole on this verse.
Ye shall give three cities on this side Jordan, and three cities shall ye give in the land of Canaan, which shall be cities of refuge.On this side Jordan; because that land was as long as Canaan, though not so broad, and besides these might be convenient for many of them that lived in Canaan.
These six cities shall be a refuge, both for the children of Israel, and for the stranger, and for the sojourner among them: that every one that killeth any person unawares may flee thither.For the stranger; not the proselyte only, but all strangers, this being no matter of religious privilege, but of common right, and agreeable to the law of nature and practice of wise heathens.
And if he smite him with an instrument of iron, so that he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death.If he smite him, wittingly and wilfully, though not with premeditated malice or design, as appears by comparing this with Numbers 35:20-23.
So that he die, to wit, suddenly, not so if he walked abroad afterward, Exodus 21:19,20.
Shall surely be put to death; yea, though he were fled into the city of refuge.
And if he smite him with throwing a stone, wherewith he may die, and he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death.With throwing a stone, Heb. with the stone of the hand, i.e. cast by the hand, and that knowingly, as appears by Numbers 35:23.
Or if he smite him with an hand weapon of wood, wherewith he may die, and he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death.No text from Poole on this verse.
The revenger of blood himself shall slay the murderer: when he meeteth him, he shall slay him.Either,
1. By himself, as the following words show: so it is only a permission, that he may do it without offence to God or danger to himself. Or,
2. By the magistrate, from whom he shall demand justice: so it is a command, as may appear by comparing this with Numbers 35:31 Deu 19:12,13.
But if he thrust him of hatred, or hurl at him by laying of wait, that he die;No text from Poole on this verse.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
But if he thrust him suddenly without enmity, or have cast upon him any thing without laying of wait,Suddenly; through sudden passion or provocation. Or, by chance, or unawares.
Or with any stone, wherewith a man may die, seeing him not, and cast it upon him, that he die, and was not his enemy, neither sought his harm:No text from Poole on this verse.
Then the congregation shall judge between the slayer and the revenger of blood according to these judgments:If the man-slayer flee to the city of refuge.
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.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.
But if the slayer shall at any time come without the border of the city of his refuge, whither he was fled;No text from Poole on this verse.
And the revenger of blood find him without the borders of the city of his refuge, and the revenger of blood kill the slayer; he shall not be guilty of blood:i.e. Not liable to punishment from men, though not free from guilt before God, because he kills an innocent person, as appears from Deu 19:10. This God ordained to oblige the man-slayer to abide in his city of refuge. See Numbers 35:32.
Because he should have remained in the city of his refuge until the death of the high priest: but after the death of the high priest the slayer shall return into the land of his possession.No text from Poole on this verse.
So these things shall be for a statute of judgment unto you throughout your generations in all your dwellings.No text from Poole on this verse.
Whoso killeth any person, the murderer shall be put to death by the mouth of witnesses: but one witness shall not testify against any person to cause him to die.No judge shall condemn any man to death upon a single testimony.
Moreover ye shall take no satisfaction for the life of a murderer, which is guilty of death: but he shall be surely put to death.No intercession nor ransom shall be accepted to save his life, or procure him a pardon.
And ye shall take no satisfaction for him that is fled to the city of his refuge, that he should come again to dwell in the land, until the death of the priest.Whereby God would signify the absolute and indispensable necessity of Christ’s death to expiate sin, and to redeem the sinner.
So ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are: for blood it defileth the land: and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it.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.
Defile not therefore the land which ye shall inhabit, wherein I dwell: for I the LORD dwell among the children of Israel.Be not cruel to your own land by making it a den of murderers.