Joshua 20


Joshua is commanded to appoint cities of refuge, 1, 2.

The purpose of their institution, 34.

Three cities are appointed in the promised land, 7;

and three on the east side of Jordan, 8, 9.


Verse 2. Cities of refuge] An institution of this kind was

essentially necessary wherever the patriarchal law relative to the

right of redemption and the avenging of blood was in force; we

have already seen that the nearest of kin to a deceased person had

not only the right of redeeming an inheritance that had been

forfeited or alienated, but had also authority to slay on the spot

the person who had slain his relative. Now, as a man might

casually kill another against whom he had no ill-will, and with

whom he had no quarrel, and might have his life taken away by him

who was called the avenger of blood, though he had not forfeited

his life to the law; therefore these privileged cities were

appointed, where the person might have protection till the cause

had been fully heard by the magistrates, who certainly had

authority to deliver him up to the avenger, if they found, on

examination, that he was not entitled to this protection. On this

subject see the notes on Nu 35:11 to the end.

Verse 7. They appointed Kedesh in Galilee] The cities of refuge

were distributed through the land at proper distances from each

other that they might be convenient to every part of the land; and

it is said they were situated on eminences, that they might be

easily seen at a distance, the roads leading to them being broad,

even, and always kept in good repair. In the concluding note on

Nu 35:33 it has been stated that these cities were a type of

our blessed Lord, and that the apostle refers to them as such,

Heb 6:17, 18. Hence their names have been considered as

descriptive of some character or office of Christ. I shall give

each and its signification, and leave the application to others.

1. KEDESH, from kadash, to separate or set apart,

because it implies the consecration of a person or thing to the

worship or service of God alone; hence to make or be holy, and

hence Kedesh, holiness, the full consecration of a person to God.

2. SHECHEM, from shacham, to be ready, forward, and

diligent; hence Shechem, the shoulder, because of its readiness

to bear burdens, prop up, sustain, &c., and from this ideal

meaning it has the metaphorical one of GOVERNMENT.

3. chebron; HEBRON, from chabar, to associate,

join, conjoin, unite as friends; and hence chebron, fellowship,

friendly association, or with the diminutive nun, the

little fellow-ship or association.

4. BEZER, from batsar, to restrain, enclose, shut up, or

encompass with a wall; and hence the goods or treasure thus

secured, and hence a fortified place, a fortress.

5. RAMOTH, from raam, to be raised, made high or

exalted, and hence Ramoth, high places, eminences.

6. GOLAN, from galah, to remove, transmigrate, or

pass away; hence Golan, a transmigration or passage. Some

derive it from gal, to rejoice, hence GOLAN, rejoicing or


A person of the spirit and turn of Origen could preach the whole

Gospel from these particulars.

Kedesh and Hebron were at the two extremities of the promised

land; one was in Galilee, the other in the tribe of Judah, both in

mountainous countries; and Shechem was in the tribe of Ephraim,

nearly in the middle, between both.

Bezer was on the east side of Jordan, in the plain, opposite to


Ramoth was about the midst of the country occupied by the two

tribes and a half, about the middle of the mountains of Gilead.

Golan was the capital of a district called Gaulonitis, in the

land of Bashan, towards the southern extremity of the lot of


Verse 9. For all the children of Israel, and for the stranger]

As these typified the great provision which God was making for the

salvation of both Jews and Gentiles, hence the stranger as well as

the Israelite had the same right to the benefits of these cities

of refuge. Is HE the God of the Jews only? Is HE not also the God

of the Gentiles?

Until he stood before the congregation.] The judges and elders

of the people, in trying civil and criminal causes, always sat;

the persons who came for judgment, or who were tried, always

stood; hence the expressions so frequent in Scripture,

STANDING before the Lord, the judges, the elders, &c.

IT is worthy of remark that the cities of refuge were given to

the Levites; see the following chapter. The sacrificial system

alone afforded refuge; and while the suspected person was excluded

from his family, &c., he had the advantage of being with those

whose business it was to instruct the ignorant, and comfort the

disconsolate. Thus he had the means constantly at hand, by a

careful use of which he might grow wiser and better; secure the

favour of his God, and a lot of blessedness in a better world. How

wise, equal, and beneficent are all the institutions of God!

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