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The Cities of Refuge

INTRODUCTION: The cities of refuge were locations where those accused of murder, but innocent, could flee for refuge. Once inside the city, the accused was free from the wrath of the accuser. Not only was this a great blessing to those in the Old Testament, but in Christ we have a refuge that far exceeds the benefits of the cities of refuge.

  1. THE POSSESSION OF THE CITIES (Numbers 35:1-8)
    1. A Possession for the Levites (Numbers 35:1-2)
      1. To have no inheritance in the land (Numbers 18:20-24; Deuteronomy 10:8-9; Joshua 14:1-3)
      2. To be scattered in the land (Genesis 49:5-7)
    2. The Cities and Their Suburbs (Numbers 35:3-5)
      1. The breakdown of their gift (Numbers 35:3)
        1. Cities to dwell in
        2. Suburbs for their cattle, their goods and their beasts
      2. The size of the suburbs (Numbers 35:4-5)
        1. From the wall of the city a thousand cubits round about (Numbers 35:4)
        2. From without the city two thousand cubits each direction (Numbers 35:5)
        3. The easiest explanation is that the two measurements should be added together to make a total of 3,000 cubits or almost one mile. The first thousand cubits could have been for buildings, pens, etc., while the last 2,000 cubits could have been used for grazing.
      3. The city shall be in the midst of the suburb (Numbers 35:5)
      4. NOTE:  The Sabbath days journey
        1. The 2,000 cubits around the city is used by Jewish tradition to establish the length of a Sabbath days journey.
        2. It is equal to the 2,000 cubits between the priests and the people when they cross the Jordan River (Joshua 3:3-4).
        3. The Sabbath days journey is based on the teaching of Exodus 16:29 See, for that the LORD hath given you the sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.
        4. Every man is to stay in his place on the Sabbath day.
        5. The Jews determined 2,000 cubits (almost two thirds of a mile) to be the allowed distance.
        6. This is the approximate distance from Jerusalem to the Mount of Olives (Acts 1:12).
        7. This could explain the statement in Matthew 24:20 where it says, But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day.
    3. The Number of Cities for the Levites (Numbers 35:6-8)
      1. Six cities for refuge (Numbers 35:6)
      2. Plus forty-two cities (Numbers 35:6)
      3. A total of forty-eight cities (Numbers 35:7)
      4. Given by Israel according to what they have (Numbers 35:8)
  2. THE PLACEMENT OF THE CITIES (Numbers 35:9-14)
    1. When Ye Be Come over Jordan (Numbers 35:9-10)
    2. The Appointing of Cities of Refuge (Numbers 35:11-12)
      1. A place for a man to flee when he kills someone accidentally (Numbers 35:11)
      2. They are a place of refuge from an avenger of blood (Numbers 35:12).
      3. They are a place where the slayer can present his case before the congregation (Numbers 35:12).
    3. The Location of the Cities of Refuge (Numbers 35:13-14)
      1. Six cities available for refuge for Israel (Numbers 35:13)
      2. Three cities on the east side of Jordan (Numbers 35:14)
      3. Three cities on the west side of Jordan (Numbers 35:14)
    1. The Availability of the Cities of Refuge (Numbers 35:15)
      1. For the children of Israel
      2. For the stranger
      3. For the sojourner
      4. For those who kill someone accidentally
    2. Not a Protection for the Murderer (Numbers 35:16-21)
      1. Scenario 1 (Numbers 35:16)
        1. A man smote another man with an instrument of iron.
        2. He did this with the intention of killing the man.
        3. He is a murderer.
        4. He shall be put to death.
      2. Scenario 2 (Numbers 35:17)
        1. A man smote another man by throwing a stone at him.
        2. He did this knowing that the man could die.
        3. He is a murderer.
        4. He shall be put to death.
      3. Scenario 3 (Numbers 35:18-19)
        1. A man smote another man with a hand weapon of wood.
        2. He did this knowing that the man could die.
        3. He is a murderer.
        4. He shall be put to death.
      4. Scenario 4 (Numbers 35:20)
        1. A man thrusts another man or hurls at him by lying of wait out of anger.
        2. He did this with the intention of killing the man.
      5. Scenario 5 (Numbers 35:21)
        1. A man smites another man with his hand out of enmity.
        2. He did this with the intention of killing the man.
        3. The revenger of blood shall slay him.
    3. A Protection for the Manslayer (Numbers 35:22-25)
      1. Scenarios (Numbers 35:22-23)
        1. A man thrusts another man suddenly without enmity (Numbers 35:22).
        2. A man casts something upon another man without lying in wait (Numbers 35:22).
        3. A man casts a stone upon another man (Numbers 35:23).
          1. He did not see him.
          2. The man was not his enemy previously.
          3. He was not seeking to harm the man.
      2. The safety offered (Numbers 35:24-25)
        1. The congregation shall judge between the slayer and the revenger of blood (Numbers 35:24).
        2. The congregation shall deliver the slayer out of the hand of the revenger of blood (Numbers 35:25).
    1. The Protection Upheld (Numbers 35:25)
      1. The slayer will be placed in the city of refuge (Numbers 35:25).
      2. The slayer will abide in the city of refuge until the death of the high priest (Numbers 35:25).
    2. The Protection Rejected (Numbers 35:26-28)
      1. The departure of the slayer (Numbers 35:26)
      2. The revenger of blood (Numbers 35:27)
        1. Finds the slayer outside of the borders of the city of refuge
        2. The revenger of blood kills the slayer.
        3. The revenger of blood is not guilty of blood.
      3. The disobedience of the slayer (Numbers 35:28)
  5. PROTECTION OF THE LAND (Numbers 35:29-34)
    1. The Nature of These Statutes (Numbers 35:29)
      1. Throughout your generations
      2. Throughout your dwellings
    2. The Proper Response to Blood Shed (Numbers 35:30-32)
      1. The need for evidence (Numbers 35:30)
        1. The man shall be put to death by the mouth of witnesses.
        2. One witness shall not testify against a person that he die.
      2. The absence of satisfaction (Numbers 35:31-32)
    3. The Danger of Blood Shed (Numbers 35:33-34)
      1. Blood defiles the land (Numbers 35:33).
        1. When a murderer was allowed to go free, the unrevenged blood that he shed defiled the land.
        2. Even in the case of unsolved murders, a sacrifice was to be made for the land (Deuteronomy 21:1-9).
        3. This defilement of the land eventually led to its destruction by the judgment of God (see Leviticus 18:25; Deuteronomy 19:10; 2 Kings 24:4; Psalm 106:38; Ezekiel 22:3-4).
      2. The land must be cleansed (Numbers 35:33).
      3. The Lord dwells in the land (Numbers 35:34).
      4. NOTE: Abner died as a fool because he was in the gate of Hebron, one of the cities of refuge when Joab killed him for the killing of Joabs brother Asahel.  (See 2 Samuel 3:22-37.)

CONCLUSION: What a blessing it was to the people of God to have a place to find refuge in time of need. Are you guilty of sin? Do you have need of a refuge? Will you flee to the Lord Jesus Christ in order to find refuge from the punishment for sins?