Shedding the Blood of An Innocent Life, Defiles the Land, and Demands God’s Judgment (Numbers 34-35)

Scripture reading – Numbers 34-35

Numbers 34 records the boundaries of the land the LORD had promised Abraham, and his seed as their inheritance (Genesis 15:18-21; 26:4; 28:13-14). Although the land would not be formally divided by tribe until Joshua 15-19, we are given the southern boundaries (34:3-5), with the western boundary being the “great sea” (the Mediterranean Sea, 34:6). The northern most boundary of Israel was to be Mount Hor (34:7-9), and the eastern boundary was the Jordan River (34:10-13). Per their request, the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh had “received their inheritance on [the east] side Jordan [River] near Jericho” (34:14-15).

With the assistance of “Eleazar the priest, and Joshua the son of Nun” (34:17), the LORD chose a man from each of the tribes, to represent his tribe when the land would be divided (34:18-29).

Numbers 35 – The Inheritance of the Tribe of Levi, and the Laws Governing Murder

Unlike the other tribes, the priestly tribe of Levi was not assigned a portion of the land. Their inheritance would be forty-eight cities, and suburbs that would be allotted to the Levites. These cities and suburbs were to be located in the midst of the lands apportioned to the Twelve Tribes, both on the east and west sides of the Jordan River (35:1-5,7).

Of the forty-eight Levite cities, six were to be designated “cities for refuge,” to which men would flee in the event they had taken the life of another (35:6-8). Three cities of refuge were to be located on the east side of the Jordan, and three on the west side (35:9-14).

The cities of refuge offered haven to a man killer (“man slayer”), until he was tried by the congregation, and a determination was made whether or not he was guilty of murder (35:15-29). The cities of refuge could not serve as a safe haven for a man guilty of murder.

Taking the life of another was a violation of the sixth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill” (Exodus 20:13), and the judgment of God was: “The murderer shall surely be put to death” (35:16). A blood kinsman had the right to avenge the death of his loved one, and to him fell the responsibility of slaying the murderer (35:17-21).

Should a man slay another “unawares,” an unintentional, accidental killing, he could seek sanctuary in a city of refuge, and so long as he stayed within the city, he was safe. Should a man guilty of manslaughter depart from the protection of his city of refuge, a blood kinsman could avenge the death of his loved one (35:25-28). Only the death of the high priest would release a manslaughterer from the borders of the city of refuge (35:28).

In cases of capital punishment, it was required that more than one witness would give testimony before a man could be convicted of murder, and killed (35:30). Ransom or bribes that were intended to spare the life of a murderer were forbidden (35:31-32).

Numbers 35 closes with a dire, sober warning:

Numbers 35:33–3433So 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. 34Defile not therefore the land which ye shall inhabit, wherein I dwell: for I the Lord dwell among the children of Israel.

Take a moment, and weigh the seriousness of taking the life of another. When there is no justice for the slain, and the murderer goes unpunished, the innocent blood “defileth the land: and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood” (35:33b). The only means of cleansing a land of innocent blood, and a nation of its guilt, was by exacting justice, and taking the life of the murderer.

When justice for the innocent fails, a nation is cursed, and its people live under the shadow of God’s judgment.

What hope is there for a people, and nation that is guilty of injustice, and the slaying of the innocent, and unborn?

2 Chronicles 7:1414If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith