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The Cities of Refuge.

The Cities of Refuge.

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Published by glennpease

Joshua xx.

Joshua xx.

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Published by: glennpease on Sep 05, 2013
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THE CITIES OF REFUGE.BY WILLIAM GARDE BLAIKIE, D.D, LL.D.Joshua xx.CITIES of refuge had a very prominent placeassigned to them in the records of the Mosaiclegislation. First, in that which all allow to be theearliest legislation (Exod. xx. — xxiii.) intimation is givenof God's intention to institute such cities (Exod. xxi.13); then in umbers (xxxv. 9-34) the plan of theseplaces is given in full, and all the regulations applicableto them; again in Deuteronomy (xix. 1-13) the law onthe subject is rehearsed; and finally, in this chapter, weread how the cities were actually instituted, three oneither side of Jordan. This frequent introduction of the subject shows that it was regarded as one of greatimportance, and leads us to expect that we shall findprinciples underlying it of great value in their bearingeven on modern life. 1Little needs to be said on the particular citiesselected, except that they were conveniently dispersed1 These frequent references do not prevent modern critics fromaffirming that the cities of refuge were no part of the Mosaic legislation.They found this view upon the absence throughout the history of allreference to them as being in actual use. They were not instituted,it is said, till after the Exile. But the very test that rejects themfrom the early legislation fails here. There is no reference to them»s actually occupied in the post-exilian books, amounting, as theso326xx.] THE CITIES OF REFUGE. 327
over the country. Kedesh in Galilee in the northernpart, Shechem in the central, and Hebron in the south,were all accessible to the people in these regionsrespectively ; as were also, on the other side the river,Bezer in the tribes of Reuben, Ramoth in Gilead, andGolan in Bashan. Those who are fond of detectingthe types of spiritual things in material, and whotake a hint from Heb. vi. 18, connecting these citieswith the sinner's refuge in Christ, naturally think inthis connection of the nearness of the Saviour to allwho seek Him, and the certainty of protection anddeliverance when they put their trust in Him.1. The first thought that naturally occurs to us whenwe read of these cities concerns the sanctity of humanlife ; or, if we take the material symbol, the precious-ness of human blood. God wished to impress on Hispeople that to put an end to a man's life under anycircumstances, was a serious thing. Man was some-thing higher than the beasts that perish. To end ahuman career, to efface by one dread act all the joysof a man's life, all his dreams and hopes of cominggood ; to snap all the threads that bound him to hisfellows, perhaps to bring want into the homes anddesolation into the hearts of all who loved him orleant on him — this, even if done unintentionally, wasa very serious thing. To mark this in a very emphaticway was the purpose of these cities of refuge. Thoughin certain respects (as we shall see) the practice of are said to do, to half the Old Testament. Their occupation, it is said,with the other Levitical cities, was postponed to the time of Messiah.The shifts to which the critics are put in connection with thisinstitution do not merely indicate a weak point in their theory ; theyshow also how precarious is the position that when you do not hearof an institution as in actual operation you may conclude that it waaof later date.
328 THE BOOK OF JOSHUA.avenging blood by the next-of-kin indicated a relicof barbarism, yet, as a testimony to the sacredness of human life, it was characteristic of civilization. It isnatural for us to have a feeling, when through careless-ness but quite unintentionally one has killed another ;when a young man, for example, believing a gun to beunloaded, has discharged its contents into the heart of his sister or his mother, and when the author of thisdeed gets off scot-free, — we may have a feeling thatsomething is wanting to vindicate the sanctity of humanlife, and bear witness to the terribleness of the act thatextinguished it. And yet it cannot be denied that in ourday life is invested with pre-eminent sanctity. ever,probably, was its value higher, or the act of destroyingit wilfully, or even carelessly, treated as more serious.Perhaps, too, as things are with us, it is better in casesof unintentional killing to leave the unhappy perpetratorto the punishment of his own feelings, rather thansubject him to any legal process, which, while endingwith a declaration of his innocence, might needlesslyaggravate a most excruciating pain.It is not a very pleasing feature of the Hebreweconomy that this regard to the sanctity of human lifewas limited to members of the Hebrew nation. Alloutside the Hebrew circle were treated as little betterthan the beasts that perish. For Canaanites there wasnothing but indiscriminate slaughter. Even in thetimes of King David we find a barbarity in the treat-ment of enemies that seems to shut out all sense of brotherhood, and to smother all claim to compassion.We have here a point in which even the Hebrew racewere still far behind. They had not come under theinfluence of that blessed Teacher who taught us to loveour enemies. They had no sense of the obligation

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