Saturday, October 16, 2004

Joshua 20

This chapter proposes an innovation that must have been a leading edge development for tribal societies. In cases of accidental death, the killer could seek and obtain refuge in defined cities, staying there until the death of the high priest. By seeking refuge, the interminable blood feuds that still plague the Middle East could be avoided. Of course, escape presumes that the killer manages to elude his pursuers for a day or two. The city of refuge was also required to inquire into the matter through a trial.

There appears to be a contradiction between the number of cities designated for refuge in Deuteronomy 19:2 and the number designated in Numbers 35:14.

As Matthew Henry notes, the cities of refuge were Levite cities, assigned in the following chapter ( They were also hill cities, making them especially easy to defend should pursuers be loth to let slip their prey. To quote Henry, "Kedesh was in Naphtali, the most northern tribe, Hebron in Judah, the most southern, and Shechem in Ephraim, which lay in the middle, about equally distant from the other two. " Bezer, Ramoth, and Golan were the cities of refuge east of the Jordan.

Henry finds a Christian significance in the names, saying "Kedesh signifies holy, and our refuge is the holy Jesus. Shechem, a shoulder, and the government is upon his shoulder. Hebron, fellowship, and believers are called into the fellowship of Christ Jesus our Lord. Bezer, a fortification, for he is a strong-hold to all those that trust in him. Ramoth, high or exalted, for him hath God exalted with his own right hand. Golan, joy or exultation, for in him all the saints are justified, and shall glory."


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