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Bible verses about City of Refuge
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Exodus 20:13  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The Hebrew of the sixth commandment is about as terse as it can be. It consists of two words that are the Hebrew equivalent of "No killing." However, enough other scriptures appear in God's Word to let us know that the commandment means that God does not permit violent and premeditated killing of one perceived as an enemy. Exodus 21:12-14 clarifies this:

He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death. However, if he did not lie in wait, but God delivered him into his hand, then I will appoint for you a place where he may flee. But if a man acts with premeditation against his neighbor, to kill him by treachery, you shall take him from My altar, that he may die.

This clearly separates a premeditated murder from an accidental killing. One can discern from verse 14 that, under this circumstance, constituted civil authorities are permitted by God to enact the death penalty.

Verses 12 and 13 imply that no amount of money or property settlement can atone for the destruction of the image of God in a murdered person. Even if the death was truly accidental, the killer still had to flee to a city of refuge. But for one guilty of deliberate murder, there were no sanctuaries whatsoever to flee to, not even the altar of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sixth Commandment


 

Exodus 21:12-14  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

Under the original letter of the law, it was intentional killing (murder) that was forbidden. Accidental killing was not regarded as murder. Nevertheless, manslaughter is a horrible crime, and the culprit had to remain in a city of refuge until the high priest died.

Martin G. Collins
The Sixth Commandment


 

Numbers 35:9-34  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

The cities of refuge were sanctuaries to which those who accidentally killed another could flee. There were six of them located throughout Israel, three on each side of the Jordan River. Even if the killer made it to a city of refuge, he still had to undergo a trial. If he was found guilty of committing an accidental death, he had to remain in the city until the death of the current high priest. Thus, the city served as his jail. However, he was otherwise free to move about, find employment, and live with and support his family.

If he left the city for any reason, the avenger of blood could lawfully take the killer's life. The avenger of blood (verses 12, 19) was usually a blood-relative of the manslaughter victim. His assignment from the family was to protect the family's rights and to avenge the family's loss of the killed person. The vengeance taken was not always to take the killer's life. If the avenger actually took the killer's life before he managed to reach a city of refuge, then he truly was an "avenger of blood." However, the Hebrew term translated "avenger" is go'el, which has fascinating ramifications when appearing in other contexts, as it can also be translated "redeem" or "redeemer."

In the book of Ruth, it is translated as "redeem" seven times. Boaz was Ruth's redeemer. The redeemer was the one who stood for his family in order to protect its rights. Boaz protected the rights of his family in behalf of Ruth and Naomi due to Naomi's husband's death. He was the family's "avenger."

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sixth Commandment


 

Hebrews 6:13-20  (Go to this verse :: Verse pop-up)

It has been said that the quality of a person's hope is the measure of any man. Abraham's hope is the illustration here. By this estimation, he was a great man because one cannot possibly hope in anything greater! In Romans 4:18, Paul says of Abraham, ". . . who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations." His hope was so strong that, in spite of having no physical reason to hope for descendants through Sarah because she was beyond childbearing years, he nonetheless hoped to the end. When Isaac was born, his hope was vindicated because he had placed his hope in God.

The writer's hope for the Hebrews is for the better things that accompany salvation. Better than what? The context of the chapter shows he feared they were falling away. He desires them to have the full assurance of hope to the end or, put another way, the full development of hope. Why? So that they will overcome the lassitude he detects in them and begin carrying out their Christian responsibilities.

He wanted them to be diligent and in earnest about their responsibilities to God in heaven all the way to the end—to be fully, spiritually, enthusiastically energized in going about their Father's business. They were on the verge of aimlessly drifting away. No longer were they thinking much about the hope that once burned in their minds and drove them on. Other interests and concerns had pushed the thrilling excitement of our great hope aside in mundane pursuits. Our minds must be systematically refreshed with study and meditation on our hope, or we will fall into the same spiritual torpor the Hebrews did. A movement, ideal, or visionary dream that does not inspire hope will not grip the hearts of people to give themselves in sacrifice and accomplishment.

The Hebrews were going through a hardship that is never fully explained. Whatever it was, through it they had regressed from a higher spiritual level. Oftentimes, we can do little but endure our hardships patiently. We simply cannot change much in this world, and it does us well to accept what we cannot change with hopeful resignation (Ecclesiastes 7:13-14). Patient endurance is in itself a worthy work because it is at least an exercise of self-control.

In America, government officials are sworn into their positions, promising to uphold the office and the laws of the land. We become dismayed because over time so many of them break their vows. Governments promise that their money is good; banks, that their customers' savings are safe, stockbrokers, that their counsel is sound; and insurance companies, that their policyholders will receive their due. These assurances fail all too often in bankruptcy or fraud. After enduring a number of these failures or observing others experience them, we become skeptical, perhaps even cynical.

Our hope, however, is in a Being and a government whose promises are absolutely faithful because it is impossible for Him to lie. Our hopes do not lie in our courage, intelligence, or even the finest of human qualities but in God's promises. He assures us in Hebrews 13:5, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."

The danger the Hebrews faced is unknown, but whether or not we consciously recognize it, we, like the Hebrews, are in danger. We may not be in a physical danger—threatened by religious martyrdom, imprisonment, disease, or great loss of income—but we face spiritual dangers. With its manifold temptations and distractions, the world is constantly pressing in on us to turn us out of the way. Our human nature inclines us not to see things from God's perspective. Our pride seduces us. Our passions, tempers, and other weaknesses trip us up, causing failure and despair. What does a person do when he realizes he is in danger? Does he not make for safety as quickly as he can?

That is precisely the advice of Hebrews 6:18: ". . . by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope that is set before us." The author may have had the Israelite cities of refuge in mind as he wrote this (Numbers 35). They were places of safety for those who killed another accidentally. Yet, the killer's only hope was to get to a city of refuge before the avenger of blood got to him! The refuge for those in the Hebrews' spiritual condition involves hope. The Greek word translated "set before" pictures hope lying before us like some inviting treat for us to take.

These people were in danger of falling away through their lethargic, lukewarm, careless, and lazy reaction to life and what it dealt them, yet they possessed the greatest hope a human could possibly entertain! As time passed, it had blurred in their minds almost to non-existence. They were forgetting it!

The author then describes hope as an anchor for our lives. Even as an anchor keeps a ship from drifting onto the rocks, hope keeps us from idly drifting to our spiritual destruction. Hope keeps us safe. It is a major stabilizing force for the whole of life because it has hold of something that does not move despite the tempests around us. Our hope is anchored in Jesus Christ, who as High Priest has entered in our behalf into the heavenly Holy of Holies beyond the veil. Though His blood justifies us, His life saves us. Because He lives, intercedes for us, and watches over our lives to bring us into the Father's Kingdom, we have hope.

Hope motivates, and its primary function is to enable us to endure. We know that our wonderful goal is sure because our hope is in God, who is absolute and all-powerful. If we are to be saved, the means to fulfill this must come from God. The relationship established through God's calling, Christ's sacrifice, and our making of the New Covenant with Him provides that means. Now we must do all we can to fulfill our part of the relationship.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Three): Hope


 

 




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