“that innocent blood not be shed in the land which the God has given to you”
Located strategically throughout the lands of Israel and Judah were 48 cities of refuge.
They were established by Moses who had been commanded to set up the original six and they grew
according to need. Today we might call these places of asylum or sanctuary. And their protection was
not offered exclusively to the Israelites. Any sojourner could take advantage
of the offer.
This generosity spoke volumes about the Israelis’ view of the sanctity of life. Under the control of Levites,
there were several reasons for these protective destinations, the most common being a place of refuge for
someone who had accidentally killed someone else. In other words, an act which was not premeditated.
But with the Levite priests running the operation, once a person was granted asylum within the city walls, he
or she was not allowed to leave until the current high priest died. In some cases that would have resulted in
a life sentence for the person under protective custody if the priest lived a long time.
Rules were kept simple. The cities of refuge were geographically placed so that someone could reach one
of them within a half day’s travel, but until one reached the safety of the walls they were fair game. Not
everyone made it. Once a year the elders did maintenance work making sure roadways were kept clear and
bridges repaired, making the escape as easy as possible given that someone could be running toward the
city gates with chasers in hot pursuit.
I like the parallels. There are so many that everyone can draw their own. Here’s a couple of mine. Simply
put, we have a place of refuge, or rather, a person. His name is Jesus. He is our fortress and protector.
Jesus, our sanctuary, was offered to the Jews first and then to the Gentiles who we might say were the
sojourners. But not everyone makes it. Our job is to keep our pathways clear and unobstructed at all times
so that when we need to flee to Him we can. Once a year won’t do it though. It’s an ongoing thing.
And He’s not a half day’s journey away either.
|Cities of Refuge