Lesson 4 | Sabbath, 22 January 2022
“The cities of refuge appointed for God’s ancient people are a symbol of the Refuge provided and revealed in Jesus Christ. The offering made by our Saviour was of sufficient value to make a full expiation for the sins of the whole world, and all who by repentance and faith flee to this Refuge, will find security; here they will find peace from the heaviest pressure of guilt, and relief from the deepest condemnation. By the atoning sacrifice of Christ, and His work of mediation in our behalf, we may become reconciled to God. The blood of Christ will prove efficacious to wash away the crimson stain of sin.” –Signs of the Times, January 20, 1881.
CITIES FOR THE LEVITES
1. What did the Israelites give to the Levites in the territories of the various tribes? How many of them served as places of refuge?
Numbers 35:6, 7 And among the cities which ye shall give unto the Levites there shall be six cities for refuge, which ye shall appoint for the manslayer, that he may flee thither: and to them ye shall add forty and two cities. 7So all the cities which ye shall give to the Levites shall be forty and eight cities: them shall ye give with their suburbs.
“To Joshua, with Eleazar the high priest, and the heads of the tribes, the distribution of the land was committed, the location of each tribe being determined by lot. Moses himself had fixed the bounds of the country as it was to be divided among the tribes when they should come in possession of Canaan, and had appointed a prince from each tribe to attend to the distribution. The tribe of Levi, being devoted to the sanctuary service, was not counted in this allotment; but forty-eight cities in different parts of the country were assigned the Levites as their inheritance.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 511.
2. For whom did the Lord provide these refuges? Why did He make this special provision for preserving human life?
Numbers 35:10-12 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come over Jordan into the land of Canaan; 11Then ye shall appoint you cities to be cities of refuge for you; that the slayer may flee thither, which killeth any person at unawares. 12And they shall be unto you cities for refuge from the avenger; that the manslayer die not, until he stand before the congregation in judgment.
“Six of the cities assigned to the Levites–three on each side the Jordan– were appointed as cities of refuge, to which the manslayer might flee for safety…. This merciful provision was rendered necessary by the ancient custom of private vengeance, by which the punishment of the murderer devolved on the nearest relative or the next heir of the deceased. In cases where guilt was clearly evident it was not necessary to wait for a trial by the magistrates. The avenger might pursue the criminal anywhere and put him to death wherever he should be found. The Lord did not see fit to abolish this custom at that time, but He made provision to ensure the safety of those who should take life unintentionally.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 515.
PROVISION FOR MANSLAUGHTER
3. What example do the Scriptures give of an unintentional killing? What did the fugitive need to do to escape vengeance?
Deuteronomy 19:4-6, 10 And this is the case of the slayer, which shall flee thither, that he may live: Whoso killeth his neighbour ignorantly, whom he hated not in time past; 5As when a man goeth into the wood with his neighbour to hew wood, and his hand fetcheth a stroke with the ax to cut down the tree, and the head slippeth from the helve, and lighteth upon his neighbour, that he die; he shall flee unto one of those cities, and live: 6Lest the avenger of the blood pursue the slayer, while his heart is hot, and overtake him, because the way is long, and slay him; whereas he was not worthy of death, inasmuch as he hated him not in time past…. 10That innocent blood be not shed in thy land, which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance, and so blood be upon thee.
“He who fled to the city of refuge could make no delay. Family and employment were left behind. There was no time to say farewell to loved ones. His life was at stake, and every other interest must be sacrificed to the one purpose–to reach the place of safety. Weariness was forgotten, difficulties were unheeded. The fugitive dared not for one moment slacken his pace until he was within the wall of the city.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 517.
4. Because the country was divided by the Jordan River, where were the special cities located?
Numbers 35:13-15 And of these cities which ye shall give six cities shall ye have for refuge. 14Ye shall give three cities on this side Jordan, and three cities shall ye give in the land of Canaan, which shall be cities of refuge. 15These six cities shall be a refuge, both for the children of Israel, and for the stranger, and for the sojourner among them: that every one that killeth any person unawares may flee thither.
“The cities of refuge were so distributed as to be within a half day’s journey of every part of the land. The roads leading to them were always to be kept in good repair; all along the way signposts were to be erected bearing the word ‘Refuge’ in plain, bold characters, that the fleeing one might not be delayed for a moment….
“The sinner is exposed to eternal death, until he finds a hiding place in Christ; and as loitering and carelessness might rob the fugitive of his only chance for life, so delays and indifference may prove the ruin of the soul. Satan, the great adversary, is on the track of every transgressor of God’s holy law, and he who is not sensible of his danger, and does not earnestly seek shelter in the eternal refuge, will fall a prey to the destroyer.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 515, 517.
JUDGMENT BY AUTHORITIES
5. To what examination was the slayer subjected before he would be permitted to stay in such a city and be protected?
Numbers 35:23-25 Or with any stone, wherewith a man may die, seeing him not, and cast it upon him, that he die, and was not his enemy, neither sought his harm:
24Then the congregation shall judge between the slayer and the revenger of blood according to these judgments: 25And the congregation shall deliver the slayer out of the hand of the revenger of blood, and the congregation shall restore him to the city of his refuge, whither he was fled: and he shall abide in it unto the death of the high priest, which was anointed with the holy oil.
Joshua 20:4, 5 And when he that doth flee unto one of those cities shall stand at the entering of the gate of the city, and shall declare his cause in the ears of the elders of that city, they shall take him into the city unto them, and give him a place, that he may dwell among them. 5And if the avenger of blood pursue after him, then they shall not deliver the slayer up into his hand; because he smote his neighbour unwittingly, and hated him not beforetime.
“Any person–Hebrew, stranger, or sojourner–might avail himself of this provision. But while the guiltless were not to be rashly slain, neither were the guilty to escape punishment. The case of the fugitive was to be fairly tried by the proper authorities, and only when found innocent of intentional murder was he to be protected in the city of refuge. The guilty were given up to the avenger. And those who were entitled to protection could receive it only on condition of remaining within the appointed refuge. Should one wander away beyond the prescribed limits, and be found by the avenger of blood, his life would pay the penalty of his disregard of the Lord’s provision. At the death of the high priest, however, all who had sought shelter in the cities of refuge were at liberty to return to their possessions.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 515, 516.
6. What strict requirements did the slayer have to meet so as not to expose himself to danger?
Numbers 35:26, 27 But if the slayer shall at any time come without the border of the city of his refuge, whither he was fled; 27And the revenger of blood find him without the borders of the city of his refuge, and the revenger of blood kill the slayer; he shall not be guilty of blood.
“The prisoner who at any time went outside the city of refuge was aban- doned to the avenger of blood. Thus the people were taught to adhere to the methods which infinite wisdom appointed for their security. Even so, it is not enough that the sinner believe in Christ for the pardon of sin; he must, by faith and obedience, abide in Him. ‘For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.’ Hebrews 10:26, 27.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 517.
SYMBOL OF REFUGE PROVIDED IN CHRIST
7. Only when would the perpetrator be free to return home? Who was represented by the cities of refuge?
Numbers 35:28 Because he should have remained in the city of his refuge until the death of the high priest: but after the death of the high priest the slayer shall return into the land of his possession.
Joshua 20:6 And he shall dwell in that city, until he stand before the congregation for judgment, and until the death of the high priest that shall be in those days: then shall the slayer return, and come unto his own city, and unto his own house, unto the city from whence he fled.
“The cities of refuge appointed for God’s ancient people were a symbol of the refuge provided in Christ. The same merciful Saviour who appointed those temporal cities of refuge has by the shedding of His own blood pro- vided for the transgressors of God’s law a sure retreat, into which they may flee for safety from the second death. No power can take out of His hands the souls that go to Him for pardon. ‘There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.’ ‘Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us;’ that ‘we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us.’ Romans 8:1, 34; Hebrews 6:18.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 516, 517.
FOR ADDITIONAL STUDY
“In a trial for murder the accused was not to be condemned on the testimony of one witness, even though circumstantial evidence might be strong against him. The Lord’s direction was, ‘Whoso killeth any person, the murderer shall be put to death by the mouth of witnesses: but one witness shall not testify against any person to cause him to die.’ Numbers 35:30. It was Christ who gave to Moses these directions for Israel; and when personally with His disciples on earth, as He taught them how to treat the erring, the Great Teacher repeated the lesson that one man’s testimony is not to acquit or condemn. One man’s views and opinions are not to settle disputed questions. In all these matters two or more are to be associated, and together they are to bear the responsibility, ‘that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ Matthew 18:16.” –Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 516