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1 The LORD also spake unto Joshua, saying,

2 Speak to the children of Israel, saying, Appoint out for you cities of refuge, whereof I spake unto you by the hand of Moses:

3 That the slayer that killeth any person unawares and unwittingly may flee thither: and they shall be your refuge from the avenger of blood.

4 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.

5 And 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.

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.

7 And they appointed Kedesh in Galilee in mount Naphtali, and Shechem in mount Ephraim, and Kirjatharba, which is Hebron, in the mountain of Judah.

8 And on the other side Jordan by Jericho eastward, they assigned Bezer in the wilderness upon the plain out of the tribe of Reuben, and Ramoth in Gilead out of the tribe of Gad, and Golan in Bashan out of the tribe of Manasseh.

9 These were the cities appointed for all the children of Israel, and for the stranger that sojourneth among them, that whosoever killeth any person at unawares might flee thither, and not die by the hand of the avenger of blood, until he stood before the congregation.

Commentary for Joshua 20

The law concerning the cities of refuge. (1-6) The cities appointed as refuges. (7-9)1-6 When the Israelites were settled in their promised inheritance, they were reminded to set apart the cities of refuge, whose use and typical meaning have been explained, #Nu 35; De 19|. God's spiritual Israel have, and shall have in Christ and heaven, not only rest to repose in, but refuge to secure themselves in. These cities were designed to typify the relief which the gospel provides for penitent sinners, and their protection from the curse of the law and the wrath of God, in our Lord Jesus, to whom believers flee for refuge, #Heb 6:18|.

7-9 These cities, as those also on the other side Jordan, stood so that a man might in half a day reach one of them from any part of the country. God is ever a Refuge at hand. They were all Levites' cities. It was kindness to the poor fugitive, that when he might not go up to the house of the Lord, yet he had the servants of God with him, to instruct him, and pray for him, and to help to make up the want of public ordinances. Some observe a significance in the names of these cities with application to Christ our Refuge. Kedesh signifies holy, and our Refuge is the holy Jesus. Shechem, a shoulder, and the government is upon his shoulder. Hebron, fellowship, and believers are called into the fellowship of Christ Jesus our Lord. Bezer, a fortification, for he is a strong hold to all those that trust in him. Ramoth, high or exalted, for Him hath God exalted with his own right hand. Golan, joy or exultation, for in Him all the saints are justified, and shall glory.

Commentary by Matthew Henry, 1710.

Discussion for Joshua 20

  • Christ Magnified Glorifying Jesus on Joshua 20
    Day 64 of "Bible in a Year Reading. I have had to read a number of chapters to get caught up. The history of Israel is so important to understand the relationship God offers to all.
  • Anne on Joshua 20
    Places of refuge were to be established so that persons who committed this act unintentionally
    could receive justice. God is a Just God.
  • Lu2677 on Joshua 20
    April, That does clarify it, thanks for posting it.
  • April on Joshua 20
    I found something to hopefully clarify,Deuteronomy Ch.4vs42,That the slayer might flee thither, which should kill his neighbour unawares, and hated him not in times past; and that fleeing unto one of these cities he might live.Deuteronomy,Ch.19vs3-5,talks more about this matter.it does say neighbor,that's why I figured its not like you go to battle and kill them,it's an accident,spoken of hereAmen
  • Lu2677 on Joshua 20
    Joshua 19 explains how the inheritance of land is divided.Joshua 20 is about the cities named for refuge. Joshua 21:44"and there stood not a man of all their enemies before them,the Lord delivered all their enemies into their hand." I don't see anywhere that these chapters are talking specifically (which one) about friend or foe being killed unawares.
  • April on Joshua 20
    I will say that I don't think that its talking of just enemies,but ANY person,who in your heart you were not SEEKING out to ever harm them nor ever intended to,something happend to cause their death and it was not meant to be ON PURPOSE,so I think it goes beyond your enemies,for enemies would be,I'd think you have beef with,other wise why r they your enemy?accidents do happen,God is just and fair.
  • Dennis on Joshua 20
    To insight 777: This is not "collateral damage. " This is accidentally causing the death of a fellow human being. Think about it. Not one and the same.
  • Insight 777 on Joshua 20
    Verse 3 is talking about what today is called collateral damage. These are innocent people that are killed because they are close to an enemy that is killed with a weapon. Basically, what is being said is innocent death in war is tragic but the proverbial ends justify the means will prevail.


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Why did God tell Joshua to establish cities of refuge?
  • For men who were wounded in war and needed a place to recover
  • For anyone who accidentally killed another person; they could take refuge in one of these cities
  • As a place for widows to dwell in who had no family to care for them
  • Cities that the foreigners could dwell in