Deuteronomy 19 Commentary: Cities of refuge
The LORD provides 3 cities for escape in case one kills his neighbor unintentionally. These are appropriately called cities of refuge. The psalmist drew on this concept when he referred to the LORD as his refuge. You escaped deserved punishment or undeserved punishment by making good your escape to one of the cities of refuge. The LORD required them to be located within reachable distance.
We can indeed reflect on salvation and note that it is truly available and reachable.
We get the picture that Israel would occupy the land in phases. Initially only a portion of the Promised Land would be occupied, but as the nation expanded more land would be occupied. It is at this point that the LORD commands Moses to set up more cities of refuge.
To the suspect the city of refuge was like life itself. In other sections of the holy script we learn that the cities of refuge served other purposes in the justice system. For example, if the community accused you of murder, you had chance to escape to one of these cities until justice was established.
King David referred to the LORD as his refuge in moments of great fear because of false accusations. But we also know of times when the king was genuinely guilty. One does well to reflect on the need to think of the LORD as his refuge in both circumstances. The command to locate these cities near enough for an escape on foot reminds us of the closeness of the LORD to each one of us – just a prayer away.
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