The Cities of Refuge

Steven VanderMolen

READ : Joshua 20:1-9

The six cities of refuge were taken from among the 48 cities of the Levites. If a member of a family was killed by someone, either intentionally or accidentally, the family would gather and appoint one of its members to be an “avenger” for his relative. If the death was accidental, the defendant could flee to one of these cities for safety.

Once there, the avenger could not harm him and the defendant would appear before the elders for a judgment on his case. (See Numbers 35 for a fuller explanation.) The gates of these cities were always unlocked. Most cities of that time locked their gates to protect their citizens from danger. The gates of these cities were always to be opened just as the arms of Christ are always open to receive anyone who will come to Him. Jesus said, “Whoever comes to me I will never drive away” (John 6:37).

If someone accused of manslaughter did not flee to one of these cities, there was no hope for him; there was no other provision by which he might be saved. You, too, are pursued by an untiring and inescapable avenger: his name is Death. You may live long, but though you outlast even Methuselah, you will eventually be stricken down by this dread enemy. There is only one way of escape: Jesus. You must flee to Him. “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live” (John 11:25).


Out of my bondage, sorrow and night, Jesus, I come; Into thy freedom, gladness and light, Jesus, I come to thee.” Amen.