January 22, 2019

JOSHUA 16-20    


Focus Verses for Today: Joshua 20:1-9


Joshua chapters 16, 17, 18, and 19 detail the distribution of the Promised Land to the people of the 12 tribes of Israel.  You may want to look at a map from your Bible and see the areas each of the 12 tribes were given.  


Chapter 20 deals with protecting people who have killed someone, until it is determined if the death was an accident or intentional.  Our focus verses for today is the entirety of chapter 20.


Then the Lord said to Joshua: 2“Tell the Israelites to designate the cities of refuge, as I instructed you through Moses, 3so that anyone who kills a person accidentally and unintentionally may flee there and find protection from the avenger of blood.  4When they flee to one of these cities, they are to stand in the entrance of the city gate and state their case before the elders of that city.  Then the elders are to admit the fugitive into their city and provide a place to live among them.  5If the avenger of blood comes in pursuit, the elders must not surrender the fugitive, because the fugitive killed their neighbor unintentionally and without malice aforethought.  6They are to stay in that city until they have stood trial before the assembly and until the death of the high priest who is serving at that time.  Then they may go back to their own home in the town from which they fled.”


7So they set apart Kedesh in Galilee in the hill country of Naphtali, Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim, and Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron) in the hill country of Judah.  8East of the Jordan (on the other side from Jericho) they designated Bezer in the wilderness on the plateau in the tribe of Reuben, Ramoth in Gilead in the tribe of Gad, and Golan in Bashan in the tribe of Manasseh.  9Any of the Israelites or any foreigner residing among them who killed someone accidentally could flee to these designated cities and not be killed by the avenger of blood prior to standing trial before the assembly.  (Joshua 20:1-9, NIV)


God values life in a way that human understanding cannot comprehend.  The sixth commandment is often misquoted as “you shall not kill,” actually means you shall not murder.  (Exodus 20:13)  The reality of life is accidents happen, and sometimes those accidents result in the death of an innocent person.  In Joshua’s time, Israel did not have a police force, resulting in law enforcement, loosely speaking, very loosely speaking, being handled by the family of the wronged individual.  Unfortunately justice, due to the passion of the moment could be reduced to revenge.  God wanted people to have time to cool off especially in cases involving a death.  Although the sixth commandment requires the penalty of death for murder it does not for an accidental death.  God provides the Cities of Refuge.


Chapter 20 of Joshua explains the purpose of the Six Cities of Refuge.  Principally they are to protect people who either killed, or have been accused of, killing someone from the avengers of blood (typically the family of victim), until it can be determined if the death was intentional killing, murder, or an unintended killing, accidental death.  This sounds a lot like the judicial system of the United States of America.  


Let’s walk though an example.  David’s sickle blade breaks loose from its handle and strikes Simon, the Schuster families only child, killing him.  Immediately upon learning  of Simon’s death Papa Schuster, instantly overwhelmed by grief, set’s out to avenge his son’s death.  In the meantime David flees to Hebron, one of the six Cites of Refuge, where he finds protection from Papa Schuster until the assembly of Hebron holds trial to sort the details of Simon’s killing out.  They find Simon Schuster’s death to be an accident and not punishable in any way.  David will remain in Hebron until the chief priest dies, as required in the Rules of City of Refuge Protection.  Papa Schuster has been spared committing the murder of David which would have ultimately resulted in Papa Schuster being handed over to the avengers of blood, Simon’s family, who would have killed him as commanded in the 6th of the 10 commandments.  (Exodus 20:13)


There were six Cites of Refuge set about Israel in a manner that no matter where you were you could get to one in a day.  The trails to the City of Refuge were marked with signs and diligently maintained.  It was apparent that everyone understood the importance of the Cities of Refuge and the importance of getting to them if necessary.  The Cities of Refuge protected the wrongly accused and the avengers of blood from becoming murders.  As you reflect on this arrangement you will see God’s love and order.  God loves mankind so much that He seeks justice for those wronged, not vengeance, and protection for the wrongly accused which may ultimately result in protecting a misguided accuser.  


Take some time to reflect on the great lengths God goes to protect the wrongly accused of murder while seeking justice for the murdered.  Today’s journey has been about justice, it has been about protecting the wrongly accused, it has been about protecting people overcome with grief from uncontrolled passion.  Today’s journey is about the length God goes to protect us.  Is God speaking to you? Pray, meditate, reflect on today’s journey.  You may want to take out your journal to make note of where today’s journey has taken you.  


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