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Scripture reading – Joshua 20-21
The Law of the LORD Concerning Cities of Refuge (Joshua 20:1-3)
After the Twelve Tribes of Israel were allotted their lands (Joshua 14-19), the LORD commanded Joshua to speak to the tribes and require them to appoint “cities of refuge… 3That the slayer that killeth any person unawares and unwittingly may flee thither: and they shall be [a] refuge from the avenger of blood” (20:2-3).
The Regulations and Cities Appointed for Refuge (Joshua 20:4-9)
The purpose of the cities of refuge has been discussed in earlier devotions. We are again reminded of the sanctity of human life (Genesis 9:4-6; Exodus 20:13) and the principle of capital punishment established by the LORD in Genesis 9:5-6. The cities of refuge afforded a safe place for those who had unintentionally taken the life of another (20:3-4). Those cities provided a place where a man’s case could be judged by the city’s elders and his life protected from those who felt compelled to avenge the death of a loved one (20:5).
Cities Designated for the Tribe of Levi (Joshua 21:1-42)
Having divided the land among the Twelve Tribes, the priestly tribe of Levi requested the cities they had been promised for their inheritance (Joshua 21:1-3). Each tribe was to give cities, and their surrounding lands, wherein the Levites would dwell (21:4-42). Forty-eight cities were given to the tribe of Levi and assigned by family (21:41).
Joshua 21 concluded with three affirmations of the LORD. (Joshua 21:43-45)
The LORD had given Israel the land He promised their forefathers (Genesis 12:7; 15:18; Joshua 1:3-4). He had given Israel victory over her enemies (21:44; Deuteronomy 12:9-10). Finally, He had not failed to fulfill “any good thing” of all that He “had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass” (21:45).
The Sanctity of Human Life and Capital Punishment
Some people oppose capital punishment and argue that it is an inhumane act of barbarity. The opposite is true! Because man was created in the image of God and is an eternal soul (Genesis 9:6), his life is sacred in the eyes of his Creator. Therefore, willfully taking the life of another, a life God deems sacred, demands the ultimate act of justice…the forfeiture of one’s own life (Genesis 9:5-6; Exodus 20:13).
Exodus 21:22 gives an example of where two men were fighting. The result was an expecting mother was injured, and her baby was born prematurely. The law demanded, should the mother and her child live, the judgment was there was “no mischief,” and the man who injured her would need only pay a fine. However, should the mother or her infant die, the judgment was “life for life” (21:23).
Imagine God’s judgment upon abortionists who routinely kill the unborn!
Questions to consider:
1) What purpose did the cities of refuge serve? (Joshua 20:1-3)
2) Who judged those who sought sanctuary in a city of refuge? (Joshua 20:4)
3) How long would a “slayer” have to abide in a city of refuge? (Joshua 20:6)
4) What did the leaders of the tribe of Levi request? (Joshua 21:1-2)
Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith
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