Dividing the land of Canaan; inheritance of the Levites
The tribe of Levi, which included the priests, did not inherit a separate territory in the promised land. They were to depend on the people’s tithes, as God had commanded. Forty-eight cities and pasturelands scattered throughout the other tribes were assigned to them as permanent residences (Joshua 21:1-42). Of their 48 cities, six were assigned as cities of refuge, which were easily accessible throughout the 12 tribes. These cities were vitally important as places of safety for those who had unintentionally killed someone until a trial could determine their guilt or innocence (Numbers 35:6-7,11,13).
Our Creator demands that whoso killeth any person, the murderer shall be put to death by the mouth of witnesses: but one witness (accuser) shall not testify against any person to cause him to die. Moreover ye shall take no satisfaction (ransom) for the life of a murderer, which is guilty of death: but he shall be surely put to death. . . . So ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are: for blood it defileth the land: and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it (35:30-31,33).
Not all killing is murder and murder should not be confused with killing in times of war. The Lord had sanctioned war in order for Israel to possess the promised land as well as many other wars (31:2; 25: 17,18). The prohibition, Thou shalt not kill (Exodus 20:13), means to slay with premeditation and malice. The one who had inadvertently killed another must dwell in the city of refuge after being found not guilty (Numbers 35:6-29). Such cities, however, could not harbor those who were truly guilty of willfully taking another’s life. When it was proven to the satisfaction of the congregation that the accused person was guilty of murder, he had to be put to death, regardless of age or whether it was a man or a woman. There was to be no consideration of being sentenced to time in prison, the possibility of parole, rehabilitation, or any kind of financial settlement.
Without a doubt, the prosecution and execution of criminals is an exceedingly painful situation that everyone would prefer to avoid; and yet, it is necessary to maintain justice and order, the welfare of our society, and, most importantly, the approval of God. Blessed are they that do His Commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. For without are dogs (morally corrupt), and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie (Revelation 22:14-15).
Thought For The Day:
When you stand before the judgment seat of Christ, will your works survive the test of fire?
34:5 fetch a compass, take a turn toward, goings out, end; 35:15 unawares, unintentionally; 35:26 come without, go outside; 36:4 jubilee, refers to every fiftieth year, when all debts were canceled (Leviticus 25:10-12,28).
By the cities of refuge. Christ is our Refuge from the judgment of God and the curse of the Law. We . . . have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us . . . even Jesus (Hebrews 6:18-20).
Optional Reading: Luke 15
Memory Verse for the Week: Hebrews 4:16