Seven Cities of Refuge

Back at the beginning, Noah and his family stepped out of the Ark, and God had some advice as to how to protect the world, the concept of Capital Punishment or an Eye for an Eye and a Tooth for a Tooth Genesis 9:5-6.  So the avenger of death, the one who was to carry out the administration of death was the closest of kin.  The closest of kin became the avenger of death, his other role could also be in other circumstances as a “kinsman Redeemer” and in both roles it is looking out for family.

Now why would God institute a law like this? Very clearly, the words of God say because man’s life should be kept at a high value, because man was created in the image of God, so the value of this life needs to remain high, and someone who takes another life needs to know that their life will be required.

Now down to Exodus 21:12-14 where the rules are laid out.  These six cities are actually the home of the Levites, or in today’s terms, where all the ministers/preachers live.  Further expansion of Israel meant that there were to be eventually fourty eight cities of refuge.  Experts on roading tell us that the best roads/highways in Israel today are actually built upon the ruins of the ancient roads joining the Cities of Refuge.

Deuteronomy goes on in Chapter 19:4-13 giving the rules.  The man slayer ran into the city, reported to the Levites, his case was heard, if found guilty he was thrown out of the city to the avenger of blood, who killed him and thus avenges the wrongful death, and harmony and justice was restored.  If it was an accident then a home was allocated to the man slayer and there he stayed inside the city until the death of the High Priest, at which time he was released from his punishment and was a free man to return home safe from the avenger of blood.

Here are the six cities of refuge; Kedesh, Shechem, Hebron, Bezer, Ramoth, Golan.   Now Hebrew names have meanings,   Kedesh – our sanctuary,  Shechem – our strength, Hebron – known as friend, sometimes called the city of Abraham who was the friend of God, Bezer – our fortress, Ramoth (Ramoth Gilead) literally means our home, Golan -enclosed or embraced.  I think you can begin to understand if you had accidentally killed someone, and you of course, wanting to preserve your life, and you headed as fast as you could travel to one of these cities, you would appreciate these names wouldn’t you? Embraced, a home, like a home away from home, a friend, a place of strength to protect you from the avenger of death, our sanctuary, to be set apart, to be made fresh, given a new lease on life if you will.  The meaning of the names of the cities of refuge so much parallels the character of Christ and God, but that is another whole different study.

A quick study of these characteristics and you discover a City left out of the list, that has all these characteristics in an over abundance, Jerusalem.  Guess what, that is the home of the Redeemed throughout eternity, “Home.”  Read Psalms 46:1-11.  Remember principally a city of refuge was a place where God was (Levites) and Jerusalem was the ultimate of that, God dwelt there.  Also Jerusalem means City of Peace.  Now Jerusalem is called the city of lights.  It sits on the top of a mountain ridge 3200 feet above sea level and as the Jordan is below sea level it is even higher  from there so if you look up you will see the lights and as you journey up towards it the lights get brighter and brighter the closer you get to it.  David uses symbols here in Psalms of; Water, Light and Sanctuary.

How many of Jesus’ parables had people bound and tossed outside to weeping and gnashing of teeth, they are really in trouble with the Avenger of Blood now, and Satan wears that title very well, our accuser.

“He who fled to the city of refuge could make no delay. Family and employment were left behind. There was no time to say farewell to loved ones. His life was at stake, and every other interest must be sacrificed to the one purpose–to reach the place of safety. Weariness was forgotten, difficulties were unheeded. The fugitive dared not for one moment slacken his pace until he was within the wall of the city.       The sinner is exposed to eternal death, until he finds a hiding place in Christ; and as loitering and carelessness might rob the fugitive of his only chance for life, so delays and indifference may prove the ruin of the soul. Satan, the great adversary, is on the track of every transgressor of God’s holy law, and he who is not sensible of his danger, and does not earnestly seek shelter in the eternal refuge, will fall a prey to the destroyer.       The prisoner who at any time went outside the city of refuge was abandoned to the avenger of blood. Thus the people were taught to adhere to the methods which infinite wisdom appointed for their security. Even so, it is not enough that the sinner believe in Christ for the pardon of sin; he must, by faith and obedience, abide in Him. “For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.” Hebrews 10:26, 27.”  {PP 517}

So let us today re-dedicate and commit fully to serving God, be true, and to forever abide in Jesus our ultimate City of Refuge, and eternal Hope and Destiny.

Thanks to David Register for his input.