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Cities Of Refuge

Cities of refuge in The Bible were designated places where someone who had accidentally killed another person could go to escape the vengeance of outraged relatives or friends. There, they could safely await trial to officially determine their guilt or innocence. They were not places to escape justice, but rather places that saw justice was done.

Scales Of Justice There were six cities of refuge, three east of the Jordan River as designated to Moses before the Israelites crossed the river into the Promised Land, and three west of the Jordan as later designated to Joshua. All six were Levitical cities (see Levites), from among the 48 cities set aside for them (Numbers 35:6-8).

"Then Moses set aside three cities east of the Jordan, to which anyone who had killed a person could flee if he had unintentionally killed his neighbor without malice aforethought. He could flee into one of these cities and save his life. The cities were these: Bezer in the desert plateau, for the Reubenites; Ramoth in Gilead, for the Gadites; and Golan in Bashan, for the Manassites." (Deuteronomy 4:41-43)

"Then The Lord [see Rock Of Ages] said to Joshua: "Tell the Israelites to designate the cities of refuge, as I instructed you through Moses, so that anyone who kills a person accidentally and unintentionally may flee there and find protection from the avenger of blood."

"When he flees to one of these cities, he is to stand in the entrance of the city gate and state his case before the elders of that city. Then they are to admit him into their city and give him a place to live with them. If the avenger of blood pursues him, they must not surrender the one accused, because he killed his neighbor unintentionally and without malice aforethought. He is to stay in that city until he has stood trial before the assembly and until the death of the high priest who is serving at that time. Then he may go back to his own home in the town from which he fled."

"So they set apart Kedesh in Galilee in the hill country of Naphtali, Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim, and Kiriath Arba, that is, Hebron, in the hill country of Judah. On the east side of the Jordan of Jericho they designated Bezer in the desert on the plateau in the tribe of Reuben, Ramoth in Gilead in the tribe of Gad, and Golan in Bashan in the tribe of Manasseh. Any of the Israelites or any alien living among them who killed someone accidentally could flee to these designated cities and not be killed by the avenger of blood prior to standing trial before the assembly." (Joshua 20:1-9)

Fact Finder: (a) What is the Sixth Commandment? (b) What penalty did God say was to be carried out upon those guilty of deliberate, premeditated murder?
(a) See The Ten Commandments (b) Genesis 9:5-6

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