Other refuge have we none, in any trouble, save Him in whom our trust is stayed.
1 The LORD also spake unto Joshua, saying,
2 Speak to the children of Israel, saying, Appoint out for you cities of refuge, whereof I spake unto you by the hand of Moses:
3 That the slayer that killeth any person unawares and unwittingly may flee thither: and they shall be your refuge from the avenger of blood.
4 And when he that doth flee unto one of those cities shall stand at the entering of the gate of the city, and shall declare his cause in the ears of the elders of that city, they shall take him into the city unto them, and give him a place, that he may dwell among them.
5 And if the avenger of blood pursue after him, then they shall not deliver the slayer up into his hand; because he smote his neighbour unwittingly, and hated him not beforetime.
6 And he shall dwell in that city, until he stand before the congregation for judgment, and until the death of the high priest that shall be in those days: then shall the slayer return, and come unto his own city, and unto his own house, unto the city from whence he fled.
7 ¶ And they appointed Kedesh in Galilee in mount Naphtali, and Shechem in mount Ephraim, and Kirjath-arba, which is Hebron, in the mountain of Judah.
8 And on the other side Jordan by Jericho eastward, they assigned Bezer in the wilderness upon the plain out of the tribe of Reuben, and Ramoth in Gilead out of the tribe of Gad, and Golan in Bashan out of the tribe of Manasseh.
9 These were the cities appointed for all the children of Israel, and for the stranger that sojourneth among them, that whosoever killeth any person at unawares might flee thither, and not die by the hand of the avenger of blood, until he stood before the congregation.
Joshua 1 – J. Vernon McGee
Joshua 20:1-9 – Cities of Refuge
These arrangements carried out Numbers 35:9-34. Remember the distinction between deliberate murder and unintentional homicide. Only those who had committed the latter were eligible for refuge.
The fugitive told his story at the gate and was admitted provisionally, Joshua 20:4. His case was afterward investigated by the citizens or their delegates; and if his story were found correct, he might stay till the death of the high priest. This functionary was a type of our Lord; and thus the death of each high priest pre-signified that death by which captive souls are freed and the remembrance of sin made to cease.
The cities were placed so as to be within easy access from all parts of the country. See Proverbs 18:10; Hebrews 6:18. It is an urgent question for us all, Are we within the city, the walls and bulwarks of which are salvation? —Through the Bible Day by Day
Joshua 20:9—And for the stranger that sojourneth among them.
It is interesting to note this provision, made in the Land of Promise, for the passing over of sins which were not sins of presumption. In this verse there is that great word “Whosoever.” These cities of refuge were not for Hebrews only, but for whosoever had killed any person, without malice or forethought, but quite unintentionally, and had fled thither. Some poor Gentile might be sojourning among the chosen people, and suddenly find himself liable to the pursuit of the avenger of blood; but the gates of the refuge city were open to him, and the elders of the city were bound to give him a place that he might dwell among them (Joshua 20:4), not only safely, but in rest and peace.
Herein there was a foreshadowing of the days when God should open the door of faith unto the Gentiles. “For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him” (Romans 10:12).
There were two mysteries made known to the Apostle Paul: one be unfolds in the Epistle to the Ephesians, the other in the Epistle to the Colossians. First, he teaches us that the Gentiles may be fellowheirs and fellow-members of the body, and fellow-partakers of the promise of Christ through the Gospel. Next, he expatiates on the riches of the glory of this mystery, among the Gentiles, that the living Savior is prepared to dwell in their hearts also, as the Hope of Glory. It is a serious question, how far we are participating in our inheritance. The gates of the promises made to Abraham and his seed are open for us to enter in and dwell there; but there is too much backwardness and hesitancy in us all. “Whosoever will, let him take” (Revelation 22:17). —Our Daily Homily