Numbers 35

Numbers 35

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Cities for the Levites

35 The LORD spoke to Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho, saying, “Command the people of Israel to give to the Levites some of the inheritance of their possession as cities for them to dwell in. And you shall give to the Levites pasturelands around the cities. The cities shall be theirs to dwell in, and their pasturelands shall be for their cattle and for their livestock and for all their beasts. The pasturelands of the cities, which you shall give to the Levites, shall reach from the wall of the city outward a thousand cubits all around. And you shall measure, outside 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, the city being in the middle. This shall belong to them as pastureland for their cities.

“The cities that you give to the Levites shall be the six cities of refuge, where you shall permit the manslayer to flee, and in addition to them you shall give forty-two cities. All the cities that you give to the Levites shall be forty-eight, with their pasturelands. And as for the cities that you shall give from the possession of the people of Israel, from the larger tribes you shall take many, and from the smaller tribes you shall take few; each, in proportion to the inheritance that it inherits, shall give of its cities to the Levites.”

Cities of Refuge

And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you cross the Jordan into the land of Canaan, then you shall select cities to be cities of refuge for you, that the manslayer who kills any person without intent may flee there. The cities shall be for you a refuge from the avenger, that the manslayer may not die until he stands before the congregation for judgment. And the cities that you give shall be your six cities of refuge. You shall give three cities beyond the Jordan, and three cities in the land of Canaan, to be cities of refuge. These six cities shall be for refuge for the people of Israel, and for the stranger and for the sojourner among them, that anyone who kills any person without intent may flee there.

“But if he struck him down with an iron object, so that he died, he is a murderer. The murderer shall be put to death. And if he struck him down with a stone tool that could cause death, and he died, he is a murderer. The murderer shall be put to death. Or if he struck him down with a wooden tool that could cause death, and he died, he is a murderer. The murderer shall be put to death. The avenger of blood shall himself put the murderer to death; when he meets him, he shall put him to death. And if he pushed him out of hatred or hurled something at him, lying in wait, so that he died, or in enmity struck him down with his hand, so that he died, then he who struck the blow shall be put to death. He is a murderer. The avenger of blood shall put the murderer to death when he meets him.

“But if he pushed him suddenly without enmity, or hurled anything on him without lying in wait or used a stone that could cause death, and without seeing him dropped it on him, so that he died, though he was not his enemy and did not seek his harm, then the congregation shall judge between the manslayer and the avenger of blood, in accordance with these rules. And the congregation shall rescue the manslayer from the hand of the avenger of blood, and the congregation shall restore him to his city of refuge to which he had fled, and he shall live in it until the death of the high priest who was anointed with the holy oil. But if the manslayer shall at any time go beyond the boundaries of his city of refuge to which he fled, and the avenger of blood finds him outside the boundaries of his city of refuge, and the avenger of blood kills the manslayer, he shall not be guilty of blood. For he must remain in his city of refuge until the death of the high priest, but after the death of the high priest the manslayer may return to the land of his possession. And these things shall be for a statute and rule for you throughout your generations in all your dwelling places.

“If anyone kills a person, the murderer shall be put to death on the evidence of witnesses. But no person shall be put to death on the testimony of one witness. Moreover, you shall accept no ransom for the life of a murderer, who is guilty of death, but he shall be put to death. And you shall accept no ransom for him who has fled to his city of refuge, that he may return to dwell in the land before the death of the high priest. You shall not pollute the land in which you live, for blood pollutes the land, and no atonement can be made for the land for the blood that is shed in it, except by the blood of the one who shed it. You shall not defile the land in which you live, in the midst of which I dwell, for I the LORD dwell in the midst of the people of Israel.”

(ESV)


Numbers 35 Commentary

by Hank Workman

Cities of Refuge – it was a wonderful provision God gave to the Israelite’s in case there was an accidental killing. For instance if 2 men were cutting down a tree and something went wrong where the ax flew out of the one man’s hand, striking the other leading to death – this was a place of safety for a person to flee. For these were the days of “eye for an eye” and it would be reason to believe the family of the man who was killed would hunt him down and take his life.

God made a provision for such things. He did differentiate between killing and murder. Yes, murder is killing but not all killings are murder. God spoke toward the weapons used in such a situation but also the heart of the surviving man and what was going on there. Yet in the meantime there was the need for a City of Refuge.

The Levites were given 48 cities in all to live. 6 of these would be places for such a matter. These 6 cities were then a place where the Levites could hear the cases and be impartial judges. These were essential for a man to actually get a fair trial. When that day came, the man would be brought outside the city gates to have his case heard. Until even this preliminary hearing he was safe inside the walls. If the killing was ruled as accidental, the man would continue to stay in the city until the death of the High Priest.

After that he could walk out the gates and start a new life. If it was deemed murder, the individual would be handed over to the victim’s family for them to do what they wanted to him based on the law. Remember, the eye for the eye rule was very active in these days. It’s not hard to draw the lines between the Cities of Refuge and Jesus Christ – as Brad will pick up on.


Numbers 35 Commentary

by Brad Boyles

When we take a deeper look into the cities which were selected as places of refuge and we utilize the Hebrew text, we see obvious parallels to the refuge Jesus provides for His church.

The First City – Bezer

Bezer was the first city in the wilderness of the Reubenites (Deu 4:43). The city’s name, Bezer, literally means ‘stronghold’ in Hebrew. It was a fortified place that provided shelter for someone in trouble. We can observe the connection between Christ and His people when reading these passages in Zechariah and Nahum.

Return to the stronghold, O prisoners who have the hope; This very day I am declaring that I will restore double to you.

Zechariah 9:12 NASB

The LORD is good, A stronghold in the day of trouble, And He knows those who take refuge in Him.

Nahum 1:7 NASB

Using beautiful imagery and practical thoughts, we can conclude that Jesus is the stronghold we must turn to. He is a fortress and place of defense for His people. A useful analogy for this concept is a courtroom scene. We know that Satan relentlessly accuses us day and night before the throne of God (Rev 12:10). He has a lifetime of evidence built up against us, and if left to ourselves, we stand guilty as charged. However, Jesus steps in as our refuge. He not only acts as our defense team, but He also serves our sentence! What lawyer has ever done that?

The Second City – Ramoth

The second city of refuge was Ramoth-Gilead of the Gadites. The word literally means high and exalted. The picture we are drawn to is a place so elevated that it allows the fugitive to rise above their trouble and escape the danger below. There are some wonderful examples in Scripture of how Christ fills this same role.

Once You spoke in vision to Your godly ones, And said, “I have given help to one who is mighty; I have exalted one chosen from the people.

Psalms 89:19 NASB

“He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.

Acts 5:31 NASB

The apostle Paul expresses how those who place their faith in Jesus are exalted and raised up with Him to heavenly places.

But God’s mercy is so abundant, and his love for us is so great, [5] that while we were spiritually dead in our disobedience he brought us to life with Christ. It is by God’s grace that you have been saved. [6] In our union with Christ Jesus he raised us up with him to rule with him in the heavenly world. [7] He did this to demonstrate for all time to come the extraordinary greatness of his grace in the love he showed us in Christ Jesus.

Ephesians 2:4-7 GNB

I’ve only covered two cities, but they beautifully illustrate the amazing characteristics of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It should bring us great joy to know that He is our refuge and that in Him we are raised up as His children and heirs!

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