Joshua 20

Joshua 20 has God direction Joshua to set up the “cities of refuge” which were commanded to Moses long before.  The purpose of these cities was to create a place where someone could flee and take refuge in the event they caused injury or death to someone accidentally.  The pattern of the day was ‘eye for eye, tooth for tooth’ so if someone caused a death, often the response was to kill them.  But there were times when someone might “strike any person without intent or unknowingly”.

In other words, if it was an accident, you could flee to these cities and be protected.  “If the avenger of blood pursues him, they shall not give up the manslayer into his hand, because he struck his neighbor unknowingly, and did not hate him in the past”.  The death had to be unintentional, but these cities were a place of safety until there was time for a trial.  It was a way to protect someone until they could come “before the congregation for judgment” and determine guilt or innocence.

If innocent, this person could return home to his own town and place.  There were a handful of cities that were designated as cities of refuge:

  • Kedesh in Galilee
  • Shechem in Ephraim
  • Kiriath-arba in Judah
  • Bezer in Reuben
  • Ramoth in Gilead
  • Golan in Bashan

So six cities across the Promised Land to assure justice was handled fairly.

It is a short chapter which defines God’s heart here for justice for His people.  “These were the cities designated for all the people of Israel and for the stranger sojourning among them, that anyone who killed a person without intent could flee there, so that he might not die by the hand of the avenger of blood, till he stood before the congregation”.  The intent is not to let people off the hook, but to be sure that justice is handled correctly and not based on vengeance.  God loves us all and wants the best for each of us.

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