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19. Cities of Refuge

1`When Jehovah thy God doth cut off the nations, whose land Jehovah thy God is giving to thee, and thou hast succeeded them, and dwelt in their cities, and in their houses, 2three cities thou dost separate for thee in the midst of thy land which Jehovah thy God is giving to thee to possess it. 3Thou dost prepare for thee the way, and hast divided into three parts the border of thy land which Jehovah thy God doth cause thee to inherit, and it hath been for the fleeing thither of every man-slayer. 4`And this [is] the matter of the man-slayer who fleeth thither, and hath lived: He who smiteth his neighbour unknowingly, and is not hating him heretofore, 5even he who cometh in with his neighbour into a forest to hew wood, and his hand hath driven with an axe to cut the tree, and the iron hath slipped from the wood, and hath met his neighbour, and he hath died -- he doth flee unto one of these cities, and hath lived, 6lest the redeemer of blood pursue after the man-slayer when his heart is hot, and hath overtaken him (because the way is great), and hath smitten him -- the life, and he hath no sentence of death, for he is not hating him heretofore; 7therefore I am commanding thee, saying, Three cities thou dost separate to thee. 8`And if Jehovah thy God doth enlarge thy border, as He hath sworn to thy fathers, and hath given to thee all the land which He hath spoken to give to thy fathers -- 9when thou keepest all this command to do it, which I am commanding thee to-day, to love Jehovah thy God, and to walk in His ways all the days -- then thou hast added to thee yet three cities to these three; 10and innocent blood is not shed in the midst of thy land which Jehovah thy God is giving to thee -- an inheritance, and there hath been upon thee blood. 11`And when a man is hating his neighbour, and hath lain in wait for him, and risen against him, and smitten him -- the life, and he hath died, and he hath fled unto one of these cities, 12then the elders of his city have sent and taken him from thence, and given him into the hand of the redeemer of blood, and he hath died; 13thine eye hath no pity on him, and thou hast put away the innocent blood from Israel, and it is well with thee. 14`Thou dost not remove a border of thy neighbour, which they of former times have made, in thine inheritance, which thou dost inherit in the land which Jehovah thy God is giving to thee to possess it. 15`One witness doth not rise against a man for any iniquity, and for any sin, in any sin which he sinneth; by the mouth of two witnesses, or by the mouth of three witnesses, is a thing established. 16`When a violent witness doth rise against a man, to testify against him apostacy, 17then have both the men who have the strife stood before Jehovah, before the priests and the judges who are in those days, 18and the judges have searched diligently, and lo, the witness [is] a false witness, a falsehood he hath testified against his brother: 19`Then ye have done to him as he devised to do to his brother, and thou hast put away the evil thing out of thy midst, 20and those who are left do hear and fear, and add not to do any more according to this evil thing in thy midst; 21and thine eye doth not pity -- life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

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Verses 1–13

Here is the law settled between the blood of the murdered, and the blood of the murderer; provision is made, that the cities of refuge should be a protection, so that a man should not die for that as a crime, which was not his willing act. In Christ, the Lord our Righteousness, refuge is provided for those who by faith flee unto him. But there is no refuge in Jesus Christ for presumptuous sinners, who go on still in their trespasses. Those who flee to Christ from their sins, shall be safe in him, but not those who expect to be sheltered by him in their sins.

Verse 14

Direction is given to fix landmarks in Canaan. It is the will of God that every one should know his own; and that means should be used to hinder the doing and suffering of wrong. This, without doubt, is a moral precept, and still binding. Let every man be content with his own lot, and be just to his neighbours in all things.

Verses 15–21

Sentence should never be passed upon the testimony of one witness alone. A false witness should suffer the same punishment which he sought to have inflicted upon the person he accused. Nor could any law be more just. Let all Christians not only be cautious in bearing witness in public, but be careful not to join in private slanders; and let all whose consciences accuse them of crime, without delay flee for refuge to the hope set before them in Jesus Christ.




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