The Cities of Refuge

The lessons that come to us from the cities of refuge are instructive and help to broaden our understanding and deepen our appreciation for the sinner’s provision made available through the finished work of Christ. In the Old Testament God made provision for the person who committed manslaughter–the unintentional killing of another individual. In five separate passages (Ex. 21:12-14; Num. 35:6-34; Deut. 4:41-43; 19:1-13; and Josh. 20:1-9) God gives thorough instruction for the establishment and use of cities of refuge–places designated as a safe haven for the manslayer. Needing protection from the vengeful relative, the manslayer could be lawfully sheltered from harm, but only if he fled immediately to one of the appointed cities.

Conceived by God, the appointment of these cities was the primary responsibility of Moses who was instructed to select six cities from among the 48 Levitical cities prior to entering the land of Canaan (Num. 35:6-8). Three were to be established in the wilderness on the east side of Jordan, and three were to be located on the west side of the Jordan in Canaan (v.14).

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