3. SETTLEMENT OF THE RELIGIOUS COMMUNITY
(1) Six Cities of Refuge
God had given instruction to Moses in regards to establishing these cities of refuge . He instructed Moses to establish six cities for the specific reason “… so that anyone who kills a man may flee there.” . God also indicated to Moses the rules governing these cities . So after the land had been conquered and each Tribe had received their portion, Joshua designates the other three cities of refuge according the instructions through Moses. Bezer, Ramoth, and Golan had already been designated by Moses on the east side of the Jordan in the Tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, so Joshua set apart Kedesh, Shechem, and Kiriath Arba (Hebron) on the west side of the Jordan, among the tribes of Naphtali, Ephraim, and Judah. The rules remained the same: “so that anyone who kills a person accidentally and unintentionally may flee there and find protection from the avenger of blood.” : whether that person was a Jew, or a Gentile living among the Jews. The Law covered all unintentional acts of the people and also provided for unintentional sins, prescribing sacrifices for the people to offer to God , and the Cities of Refuge provided security for the offender either until he had a fair trial or until the death of the high priest, provided that the offender remained within the boundaries of the City of Refuge. It should be noted, however, that there was no provision of protection to anyone who sinned intentionally; “But anyone who sins defiantly, whether native-born or alien, blasphemes the LORD, and that person must be cut off from his people. Because he has despised the LORD’s word and broken his commands, that person must surely be cut off; his guilt remains on him. , such defiance to God’s Law would be immediately condemned and punishment executed. It should also be noted that punishment would be executed by the blood-relative of the dead person (“the avenger of blood”), so we see that the Cities of Refuge were not intended to provide shelter to intentional murderers. The accused must then stand before a court of justice where he would be given a fair trial allowing him every opportunity to prove his innocence.
The account of the Cities of Refuge speaks to us of the life of the sinner. Living maybe singly or with family, without any thought of trouble; then killing another unintentionally shattering the peace. Life is now totally changed experiencing the fear of what is about to happen. So the sinner hears the Word of God, recognizing his/her condemnation and that eternal death is sure; enquires, “What must I do?”, “Where can I go to escape?”, “I stand condemned before God!” . The answer is to run to God and no other, leave all that we have and depend upon – friends and even family if they stand in the way – for God is our Refuge from vengeance and wrath . Thus the Cities of Refuge typify our Lord Jesus Christ in many ways:
· They were appointed by God – God did not wait for the first unintentional sin to occur, so God gave His Son as our atonement for sin while we were still sinners
· They provided shelter from the avenger – it would have been certain death for the one who sinned unintentionally if he did not run to the city of refuge, so the sinner must also recognize that there should be no delay in trusting Christ
· They were easily identified, and the roads were clear – so the gospel clearly points the way to Christ
· Those that took refuge had to remain there – so the Christian is to remain in Christ
· They were available for both Jew and Gentile – so the gospel concludes all under sin and both Jew and Gentile can obtain God’s righteousness
· The death of the high priest secured full and final pardon and freedom – so the death of our High Priest secured our freedom from our sin and condemnation .