Joshua – Lesson 17 . . Joshua Chapter 20:1-9


Last week we saw Joshua dividing the remaining land up to the other tribes besides Judah and Joseph. We saw the inheritance vary based upon the size of the tribe, but sometimes the smaller tribe was given even more than that larger. Just as in this life, God grants different levels of blessing to each of us. Just because you have worked harder for the Lord, it does not necessarily mean that you will see more material earthly rewards. What we do know is that God will never fail to reward us for the sacrifices me make for Him. This week we see the Lord giving the children of Israel some rules to live by in the new land, the first being how to deal with a man slayer.


I. God's Law for the Man Slayer

Josh 20:1 The LORD also spake unto Joshua, saying,

Josh 20:2 Speak to the children of Israel, saying, Appoint out for you cities of refuge, whereof I spake unto you by the hand of Moses:

Josh 20:3 That the slayer that killeth any person unawares and unwittingly may flee thither: and they shall be your refuge from the avenger of blood.

Josh 20:4 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.

Josh 20:5 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.

Josh 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.

In chapter 20 we see a short record of the cities of refuge and God's rules concerning a man who had slain another man. This was important, due to the fact that sometimes people are killed and this is not due to malicious acts. If an ax head came off the ax handle, and it struck another man, it would be an accident. But the guilty man should be punished. It is much like today how we have manslaughter charges for accidental deaths where pre-meditated murder carries a much stiffer penalty. God was making it clear that by establishing these cities of refuge that the guilty were not to be cleared, nor the innocent executed. The rules were clear about the penalty for murder. God was the first one to establish capital punishment.

Exo 21:12 He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall be surely put to death.

God knew the nature of man long before he set up the rules of the cities of refuge. God made the rule to put a man to death who killed another. However, if one killed another unintentionally, he was to be given a chance for protection.

Even before the 10 commandments and the Mosaic Law, God had given instructions on what to do concerning murder.

Gen 9:6 Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.

Before a man was to be put to death, there was to be more than one witness.

Num 35:30 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.

In Deuteronomy, we have the rules given for accidental death.

Deu 19:4 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;

Deu 19:5 As 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:

Deu 19:6 Lest 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.

Deu 19:7 Wherefore I command thee, saying, Thou shalt separate three cities for thee.

Deu 19:8 And if the LORD thy God enlarge thy coast, as he hath sworn unto thy fathers, and give thee all the land which he promised to give unto thy fathers;

Deu 19:9 If thou shalt keep all these commandments to do them, which I command thee this day, to love the LORD thy God, and to walk ever in his ways; then shalt thou add three cities more for thee, beside these three:

Deu 19:10 That innocent blood be not shed in thy land, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance, and so blood be upon thee.

We see that there were to be six cities setup for Cities of Refuge.

Num 35:13 And of these cities which ye shall give six cities shall ye have for refuge.

Num 35:14 Ye 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.

Num 35:15 These 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.

We see these cities were not only for God's chosen nation, Israel, but for all the strangers and sojourners that came in. I am thankful that God does not limit salvation to the Jews

Only. Jesus came first to the Jews, but because they rejected Him, the Gospel was opened up to all men. I am so thankful that we, the Gentiles of the World, can come to Jesus just as a Jew can.


Acts 13:46 Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles.

Acts 13:47 For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth.

Acts 13:48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.


Num 35:19 The revenger of blood himself shall slay the murderer: when he meeteth him, he shall slay him.

We see in verse 19 that the Lord was not granting pardons to murderers. The man whose blood was shed had a revenger of blood from his own family, and that avenger of blood had the right to put to death a man who was tried and found guilty. Also, if the person in the city of refuge left before the death of the High Priest, the accused was not protected any longer, and the avenger of blood could take that man's life lawfully.

Num 35:20 But if he thrust him of hatred, or hurl at him by laying of wait, that he die;

Num 35:21 Or in enmity smite him with his hand, that he die: he that smote him shall surely be put to death; for he is a murderer: the revenger of blood shall slay the murderer, when he meeteth him.

Num 35:22 But if he thrust him suddenly without enmity, or have cast upon him any thing without laying of wait,

Num 35:23 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:

Num 35:24 Then the congregation shall judge between the slayer and the revenger of blood according to these judgments:

We see to prevent any guilty from taking advantage of this provision for the innocent, the accused had to stand before the congregation in judgment. This is somewhat like the judicial system we have here in America today where a jury of our peers listens and decides the fate of the accused. Most of the solid things about America today were formed upon the basis of the Word of God. Now, many want to tear it down because of so called need of separation of church and state. We should stand up and keep the government and churches separate, but the true teachings of the Word of God should never be ignored in setting up laws. Morals are not a thing of the past. God wants us to stand for all the right things, and to make up the hedge as Ezekiel put it in his book.

Ezek 22:30 And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none.

Num 35:25 And 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.

If the slayer was truly innocent, the congregation was to deliver him out of the hands of the revenger of blood. The congregation was to restore him to the city of refuge, wither he was fled. The slayer was to remain in that city until the death of the high priest. Like that innocent slayer mentioned here in Numbers, you and I have found refuge in our Great High Priest, Jesus Christ. We are safe until the death of our high priest, and we know Jesus will never die again. He has tasted death for all men, that those that come unto Him will in no likewise taste the sting of death.

Heb 6:18 That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:

Heb 6:19 Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil;

Heb 6:20 Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.

1 Cor 15:55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?

1 Cor 15:56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.

1 Cor 15:57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

We have like that slayer of innocent blood fled to refuge in Christ. And his refuge is both secure, and never ending. Verse 19 of Hebrews 6 say he is the anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast.

Once the slayer had been received into the city of refuge, the avenger of blood could not touch him. This is like how we are safe in the hands of Jesus. No one can touch us, not

Even ourselves, and pull us from the Love of Christ.

John 10:27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:

John 10:28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.

John 10:29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.

John 10:30 I and my Father are one.

Eph 4:29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

Eph 4:30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.

Thank God that while we yet sinners, Jesus died for us. And when we accept him, no evil can truly befall our souls.

Rom 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

Rom 8:36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.

Rom 8:37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

Rom 8:38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

Rom 8:39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

What peace to know that nothing, no power, no sin, no group of demons, not even Satan himself can separate us from the love of God.

We see in Numbers 35 that if the slayer went out of the city before the death of the high priest, and the revenger of blood found him outside the borders of the city, he was free to kill him and not be guilty of blood.

Num 35:26 But if the slayer shall at any time come without the border of the city of his refuge, whither he was fled;

Num 35:27 And 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:

Num 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.

There was to be no ransom paid for the life of the murderer.

Num 35:31 Moreover ye shall take no satisfaction for the life of a murderer, which is guilty of death: but he shall be surely put to death.

Num 35:32 And ye shall take no satisfaction for him that is fled to the city of his refuge, that he should come again to dwell in the land, until the death of the priest.

We see in verse 32 that there was to be no ransom received to let a man return to his home before the death of the high priest. Money can buy a lot of things, but when it comes to the things of God, man can not buy them. Salvation is free, and the powers that God gives are not for sale. Remember when Simon saw the great miracles being performed by the apostles, he desired to have this great power.

Acts 8:18 And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money,

Acts 8:19 Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.

Acts 8:20 But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.

Acts 8:21 Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God.

Acts 8:22 Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.


II. Notice Some of the Things About the Slayers Freedom

The slayer of blood had freedom that was limited. He was required to leave his home and family. He was to take up residence in the city of refuge. If he left the city before the appointed time (death of the high priest), he forfeited legal protection. He had no right to live if he went outside the city.

In verses 2 and 3 of Deuteronomy 19, we see a way led to each city which was prepared to guide the slayer of blood who was fleeing into it.

Deu 19:2 Thou shalt separate three cities for thee in the midst of thy land, which the LORD thy God giveth thee to possess it.

Deu 19:3 Thou shalt prepare thee a way, and divide the coasts of thy land, which the LORD thy God giveth thee to inherit, into three parts, that every slayer may flee thither.


When the man slayer arrived at the gate of the city of refuge, he received a preliminary hearing from the elders before he was admitted. The hearing by the elders was followed by a fuller and more formal investigation of his case in a court of justice.

Josh 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.


III. The Cities of Refuge were a Type of Christ

Josh 20:7 And they appointed Kedesh in Galilee in mount Naphtali, and Shechem in mount Ephraim, and Kirjatharba, which is Hebron, in the mountain of Judah.

Josh 20:8 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.

Josh 20:9 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.

We see the name of all the cities of refuge. 3 were on the east of Jordan, 3 on the west side.

These cities typified our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He presented and offered himself for the sins of all mankind. By the preaching of the Cross, the Gospel is presented to all who will but believe and repent, and accept Christ as Personal Savior.

The cities were appointed by God himself. The sacrifice that God demanded for our sins was decided also by God.

Gal 1:6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:

Gal 1:7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.

Gal 1:8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.

Gal 1:9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.

He proves the Divine authority of his doctrine and mission; and declares what he was before his conversion and calling

Gal 1:10 For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.

Gal 1:11 But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.

The cities of refuge were not created by man, and neither is the Gospel. No human intervention was needed in either.

These cities were available before they were needed. God appointed Christ to be the Savior of sinners. This was no second thought. Man falling from his sinless state did not catch God by surprise. God made a pact with Christ and the Holy Spirit for the redemption of man in eternity past. In the divine purpose of God, Christ was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

Rev 13:8 And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

These cities were built upon hills or mountain. This made them readily seen and kept them in sight by those who were fleeing to them for safety. When the Gospel is faithfully preached, the antitypical refuge is held forth. It may be said to the hearers, "Before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently sent forth"

Gal 3:1 O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?

We know that the road to the city was to be plainly marked out. They were to be in the midst of the land.

Deu 19:2 Thou shalt separate three cities for thee in the midst of thy land, which the LORD thy God giveth thee to possess it.

Deu 19:3 Thou shalt prepare thee a way, and divide the coasts of thy land, which the LORD thy God giveth thee to inherit, into three parts, that every slayer may flee thither.


IV. The Names of These Cities Spoke of What the Believer Has in Christ

Kadesh signifies "Holy". Shechem means "Shoulder", which is the place of strength.

Hebron means "Fellowship", while Bezer means "A Fortified Place." Ramoth mean "Height".

Eph 2:6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:

Eph 2:7 That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.

Golan means "Joy".

Rom 5:11 And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.

Who was guilty of putting Christ on the cross? Not just the Jews, but the whole World is guilty. Both Jew and Gentile must stand before God as having participated in that which brought the death of God's only begotten Son. But Christ came to give himself as a ransom for all.

Peter in his second sermon to his Jewish Brethren said:

Acts 3:17 And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers.

Acts 3:18 But those things, which God before had showed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled.

Acts 3:19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;

Acts 3:20 And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you:

Acts 3:21 Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.


Paul made it clear that the Gentiles were also Guilty of the Blood of Christ.

1 Cor 2:6 Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought:

1 Cor 2:7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:

1 Cor 2:8 Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

In his excellent study on Joshua and Judges, J. Vernon McGee summed it up.

'God looks down upon the whole world as guilty of the sin of manslaughter in connection with the death of Christ. To be specific, you are guilty. But you can point a finger back at me and say "You are guilty." But thank God, His death made a city of refuge, a place for you and me to come. ' *


* Joshua and Judges by J. Vernon McGee


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