God would teach us to conceive a dread and horror of the guilt of blood and to be very careful of life,
lest even by negligence we occasion the death of any.
(This is taught by confinement to the city of refuge, of those who killed even by accident.)
1 And the LORD spake unto Moses in the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho, saying,
2 Command the children of Israel, that they give unto the Levites of the inheritance of their possession cities to dwell in; and ye shall give also unto the Levites suburbs for the cities round about them.
3 And the cities shall they have to dwell in; and the suburbs of them shall be for their cattle, and for their goods, and for all their beasts.
4 And the suburbs of the cities, which ye shall give unto the Levites, shall reach from the wall of the city and outward a thousand cubits round about.
5 And ye shall measure from without the city on the east side two thousand cubits, and on the south side two thousand cubits, and on the west side two thousand cubits, and on the north side two thousand cubits; and the city shall be in the midst: this shall be to them the suburbs of the cities.
6 And among the cities which ye shall give unto the Levites there shall be six cities for refuge, which ye shall appoint for the manslayer, that he may flee thither: and to them ye shall add forty and two cities.
7 So all the cities which ye shall give to the Levites shall be forty and eight cities: them shall ye give with their suburbs.
8 And the cities which ye shall give shall be of the possession of the children of Israel: from them that have many ye shall give many; but from them that have few ye shall give few: every one shall give of his cities unto the Levites according to his inheritance which he inheriteth.
9 ¶ And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
10 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come over Jordan into the land of Canaan;
11 Then ye shall appoint you cities to be cities of refuge for you; that the slayer may flee thither, which killeth any person at unawares.
12 And they shall be unto you cities for refuge from the avenger; that the manslayer die not, until he stand before the congregation in judgment.
13 And of these cities which ye shall give six cities shall ye have for refuge.
14 Ye shall give three cities on this side Jordan, and three cities shall ye give in the land of Canaan, which shall be cities of refuge.
15 These six cities shall be a refuge, both for the children of Israel, and for the stranger, and for the sojourner among them: that every one that killeth any person unawares may flee thither.
16 And if he smite him with an instrument of iron, so that he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death.
17 And if he smite him with throwing a stone, wherewith he may die, and he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death.
18 Or if he smite him with an hand weapon of wood, wherewith he may die, and he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death.
19 The revenger of blood himself shall slay the murderer: when he meeteth him, he shall slay him.
20 But if he thrust him of hatred, or hurl at him by laying of wait, that he die;
21 Or in enmity smite him with his hand, that he die: he that smote him shall surely be put to death; for he is a murderer: the revenger of blood shall slay the murderer, when he meeteth him.
22 But if he thrust him suddenly without enmity, or have cast upon him any thing without laying of wait,
23 Or with any stone, wherewith a man may die, seeing him not, and cast it upon him, that he die, and was not his enemy, neither sought his harm:
24 Then the congregation shall judge between the slayer and the revenger of blood according to these judgments:
25 And the congregation shall deliver the slayer out of the hand of the revenger of blood, and the congregation shall restore him to the city of his refuge, whither he was fled: and he shall abide in it unto the death of the high priest, which was anointed with the holy oil.
26 But if the slayer shall at any time come without the border of the city of his refuge, whither he was fled;
27 And the revenger of blood find him without the borders of the city of his refuge, and the revenger of blood kill the slayer; he shall not be guilty of blood:
28 Because he should have remained in the city of his refuge until the death of the high priest: but after the death of the high priest the slayer shall return into the land of his possession.
29 So these things shall be for a statute of judgment unto you throughout your generations in all your dwellings.
30 Whoso killeth any person, the murderer shall be put to death by the mouth of witnesses: but one witness shall not testify against any person to cause him to die.
31 Moreover ye shall take no satisfaction for the life of a murderer, which is guilty of death: but he shall be surely put to death.
32 And ye shall take no satisfaction for him that is fled to the city of his refuge, that he should come again to dwell in the land, until the death of the priest.
33 So ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are: for blood it defileth the land: and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it.
34 Defile not therefore the land which ye shall inhabit, wherein I dwell: for I the LORD dwell among the children of Israel.
Numbers 1 – J. Vernon McGee
Numbers 35:1-15 – The Cities of Refuge for the Manslayer
This chapter is full of provision for the Levites, the chosen ministers of God’s house. They who serve there may be at rest about their maintenance. He is not unrighteous to forget their labor of love.
These forty-eight cities must have been centers of religious influence throughout the land. As cities set on a hill that could not be hid, as salt staying corruption, as lights along a rock-bound coast—so must they have stood in the Holy Land. So should our homes be in our land.
Six of the Levite cities were set apart for those who were guilty of manslaughter—i.e., those who had killed some one unwittingly. They were within easy access from all parts of the land, and offered sanctuary until a judicial inquiry could be held. In Jesus we find refuge, Hebrews 6:18. No avenger following the track of past sin can hurt the soul that shelters in Him. Only we must never venture beyond the precincts of His salvation. —Through the Bible Day by Day
Numbers 35:16-34 – The Penalty for the Murderer
For murder the penalty was death, Numbers 35:30-31; but for accidental homicide there was freedom within the city limits until the death of the high priest, when all these refugees might return to their homes with impunity. The institution of the blood-avenger was almost a necessity in those lands of scattered population and without communal organization. Here, without destroying the practice, it has been placed under careful limitations. We are our brethren’s keepers, and instead of passing on a slander, we should stand for them against those who have wrongfully maligned them.
What an exquisite promise is contained in Numbers 35:34! To think that Jehovah actually dwelled in the Holy Land! He dwells also in each assembly of His saints and in our hearts. See Ezekiel 48:35; Matthew 18:20; II Corinthians 6:16; Revelation 21:3. —Through the Bible Day by Day
Numbers 35:25, 28, 32—The Death of the High Priest.
One after another they passed away. They were not able to continue by reason of death. Their offices, and garments, and ministry, passed from each in turn, as from Aaron, whom Moses stripped with his own hands on Nebo. But their death only brings into greater prominence the encouraging contrast in the case of our blessed Lord, who ever liveth, and hath, therefore, an unchangeable priesthood.
Christ ever lives: what an encouragement to the penitent!—All that He ever was, He is; all that He ever did for others, He is willing to do for thee. The records of His earthly life, with His tenderness for those who were out of the way, are leaves and specimen pages of the diary of His life. Therefore, there need be no hesitation in applying to Him.
Christ ever lives: what a blessing to the saint!—“I am He that liveth” (Revelation 1:18). He bent over his fainting apostle, and said in effect, You remember what I was when you leaned on my bosom, followed Me to the shore on which I had prepared your repast, and assured you of my never-altering affection. I am all that still; through death I have come to a life which can never decay; because I live, ye shall live also. Let us rest our souls on this sweet word—from His heart there will ever stream to us rivers of incorruptible life. Let us keep all the channels of our being open towards the fountain of eternal life, that there may be no stint or restraint to our reception.
Christ ever lives: what a warning to the Church!—There is no need, therefore, of the human priest to transact matters between man and God. The Son is Priest and King in His own house, in the power of an endless life; and human mediators are no more necessary than flickering night-lights at noon. —Our Daily Homily