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 Kirjatharba, 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.
The six cities of Refuge that are mentioned in this chapter were chosen to provide safety for one who might accidentally have killed his neighbor. There were three such cities on the west side of the Jordan River, and three on the east side. They were so arranged that they could be reached from any point in the country within a half day. Roads were kept clear, and directional signs were maintained. The “avenger of blood” was considered any near relative of the victim who might want to take revenge.
Anyone seeking entrance to a city of refuge had to stand trial to have the judges to decide whether the death was manslaughter or first-degree murder. If the killing was unintentional, he was allowed to stay in the city and be protected as long as he stayed inside the city limits. He must live there until the death of the current high priest.
Those cities of refuge pointed to our great Refuge, Jesus Christ. If we have sinned (and no one can say that he or she has not), we can rush to Jesus by faith and we shall be safe as long as we remain with Him.
Retired Professor and Missionary