Cities of Refuge
Joshua 20:1 The LORD also spake unto Joshua, saying, 20:2 Speak to the children of Israel, saying, Appoint out for you cities of refuge, whereof I spake unto you by the hand of Moses: 20:3 That the slayer that killeth any person unawares and unwittingly may flee thither: and they shall be your refuge from the avenger of blood.
These cities were places where an accused person could plead his case before authorities; hence they were cities of justice as well as of refuge. The command is for accused persons to come to these places for justice.
Here too it is also commanded that the judges or elders sit in the gates of the cities where they can be easily found and the case can be publicly heard.
20:4 And when he that doth flee unto one of those cities shall stand at the entering of the gate of the city, and shall declare his cause in the ears of the elders of that city, they shall take him into the city unto them, and give him a place, that he may dwell among them.
20:5 And if the avenger of blood pursue after him, then they shall not deliver the slayer up into his hand; because he smote his neighbour unwittingly, and hated him not beforetime.
The refugee must live in the city until an investigation has been conducted and a hearing takes place.
20:6 And he shall dwell in that city, until he stand before the congregation for judgment, and until the death of the high priest that shall be in those days: then shall the slayer return, and come unto his own city, and unto his own house, unto the city from whence he fled.
Three cities appointed west of Jordan
20:7 And they appointed Kedesh in Galilee in mount Naphtali, and Shechem in mount Ephraim, and Kirjatharba, which is Hebron, in the mountain of Judah.
Three cities appointed east of Jordan
20:8 And on the other side Jordan by Jericho eastward, they assigned Bezer in the wilderness upon the plain out of the tribe of Reuben, and Ramoth in Gilead out of the tribe of Gad, and Golan in Bashan out of the tribe of Manasseh.
20:9 These were the cities appointed for all the children of Israel, and for the stranger that sojourneth among them, that whosoever killeth any person at unawares might flee thither, and not die by the hand of the avenger of blood, until he stood before the congregation.
These six cities of refuge are Levitical cities to which 42 other Levitical cities are added; totaling 48 Levitical cities. The cities of refuge are run by the Levites and the judgments are made by the Priests and Levites.
The cities of refuge are more fully explained in Numbers 35:8-34.
The six cities of refuge and justice are Levitical cities represented by rings on the map below, together with the additional 42 Levitical cities represented by dots.
After the ark was settled in Shiloh and would move no more, the Levites were given cities scattered throughout all Israel so that they could act as teachers to all Israel.
Joshua 21:1 Then came near the heads of the fathers of the Levites unto Eleazar the priest, and unto Joshua the son of Nun, and unto the heads of the fathers of the tribes of the children of Israel; 21:2 And they spake unto them at Shiloh in the land of Canaan, saying, The LORD commanded by the hand of Moses to give us cities to dwell in, with the suburbs thereof for our cattle.
21:3 And the children of Israel gave unto the Levites out of their inheritance, at the commandment of the LORD, these cities and their suburbs.
First the priests, the family of Kohath, being of Levi, were given thirteen cities. These cities were in Judah, Simeon and Benjamin; because the priests would serve at Shiloh and later at the Temple which was built in Jerusalem.
21:4 And the lot came out for the families of the Kohathites: and the children of Aaron the priest, which were of the Levites, had by lot out of the tribe of Judah, and out of the tribe of Simeon, and out of the tribe of Benjamin, thirteen cities.
Then the descendants of Kohath [Levites that were not priests of Aaron], were given ten cities listed in Joshua 21:20-26.
21:5 And the rest of the children of Kohath had by lot out of the families of the tribe of Ephraim, and out of the tribe of Dan [the southern portion of Dan by the Med. Seacoast], and out of the [western] half tribe of Manasseh, ten cities.
The Levites descended from Gershon received thirteen cities
Listed in Joshua 21:27-33
21:6 And the children of Gershon had by lot out of the families of the tribe of Issachar, and out of the tribe of Asher, and out of the tribe of Naphtali, and out of the [eastern] half tribe of Manasseh in Bashan, thirteen cities.
The Levites descended from Merari were given twelve cities
Listed in Joshua 21:34-40
21:7 The children of Merari by their families had out of the tribe of Reuben, and out of the tribe of Gad, and out of the tribe of Zebulun, twelve cities.
21:8 And the children of Israel gave by lot unto the Levites these cities with their suburbs, as the LORD commanded by the hand of Moses.
The cities of the priests named
21:9 And they gave out of the tribe of the children of Judah, and out of the tribe of the children of Simeon, these cities which are here mentioned by name. 21:10 Which the children of Aaron, being of the families of the Kohathites, who were of the children of Levi, had: for theirs was the first lot.
21:11 And they gave them the city of Arba the father of Anak, which city is Hebron, in the hill country of Judah, with the suburbs thereof round about it.
Hebron was given to the priests but the agricultural land surrounding Hebron remained the property of Caleb.
21:12 But the fields of the city, and the villages thereof, gave they to Caleb the son of Jephunneh for his possession.
The cities of the priests of Aaron the descendant of Levi
21:13 Thus they gave to the children of Aaron the priest Hebron with her suburbs, to be a city of refuge for the slayer; and Libnah with her suburbs, 21:14 And Jattir with her suburbs, and
Eshtemoa with her suburbs, 21:15 And Holon with her suburbs, and Debir with her suburbs, 21:16 And Ain with her suburbs, and Juttah with her suburbs, and Bethshemesh with her suburbs; nine cities out of those two tribes. 21:17 And out of the tribe of Benjamin, Gibeon with her suburbs [Remember Gibeon who’s people would be cutters of wood and drawers of water for the tabernacle and later the temple.], Geba with her suburbs, 21:18 Anathoth with her suburbs, and Almon with her suburbs; four cities.
God in his wisdom [knowing that he would yet choose Jerusalem] gave the priests the Levitical cities nearest to Jerusalem where the priests would serve after the temple was built.
21:19 All the cities of the children of Aaron, the priests, were thirteen cities with their suburbs.
The list of Levitical/Priestly cities restated
21:20 And the families of the children of Kohath, the Levites which remained of the children of Kohath, even they had the cities of their lot out of the tribe of Ephraim.
21:21 For they gave them Shechem with her suburbs in mount Ephraim, to be a city of refuge for the slayer; and Gezer with her suburbs, 21:22 And Kibzaimwith her suburbs, and Bethhoron with her suburbs; four cities. 21:23 And out of the tribe of Dan, Eltekeh with her suburbs, Gibbethon with her suburbs, 21:24 Aijalon with her suburbs, Gathrimmon with her suburbs; four cities. 21:25 And out of the [western] half tribe of Manasseh, Tanach with her suburbs, and Gathrimmon with her suburbs; two cities. 21:26 All the cities were ten with their suburbs for the families of the children of Kohath that remained. [the families of Kohath the son of Levi, a part of which were not descendants of Aaron the priest]
The inheritance of Gershon the son of Levi
21:27 And unto the children of Gershon, of the families of the Levites, out of the other [eastern] half tribe of Manasseh they gave Golan in Bashan with her suburbs, to be a city of refuge for the slayer; and Beeshterah with her suburbs; two cities. 21:28 And out of the tribe of Issachar, Kishon with her suburbs, Dabareh with her suburbs, 21:29 Jarmuth with her suburbs, Engannim with her suburbs; four cities.
21:30 And out of the tribe of Asher, Mishal with her suburbs, Abdon with her suburbs, 21:31 Helkath with her suburbs, and Rehob with her suburbs; four cities. 21:32 And out of the tribe of Naphtali, Kedesh in Galilee with her suburbs, to be a city of refuge for the slayer; and Hammothdor with her suburbs, and Kartan with her suburbs; three cities.
21:33 All the cities of the Gershonites according to their families were thirteen cities with their suburbs.
The inheritance of Merari the son of Levi
21:34 And unto the families of the children of Merari, the rest of the Levites, out of the tribe of Zebulun, Jokneamwith her suburbs, and Kartah with her suburbs, 21:35 Dimnah with her suburbs, Nahalal with her suburbs; four cities. 21:36 And out of the tribe of Reuben, Bezer with her suburbs, and Jahazah with her suburbs, 21:37 Kedemoth with her suburbs, and Mephaath with her suburbs; four cities. 21:38 And out of the tribe of Gad, Ramoth in Gilead with her suburbs, to be a city of refuge for the slayer; and Mahanaimwith her suburbs, 21:39 Heshbon with her suburbs, Jazer with her suburbs; four cities in all.
21:40 So all the cities for the children of Merari by their families, which were remaining of the families of the Levites, were by their lot twelve cities.
The Levites [including the priests] were given forty eight cities, scattered in all Israel; six of which were cities of refuge.
21:41 All the cities of the Levites within the possession of the children of Israel were forty and eight cities with their suburbs. 21:42 These cities were every one with their suburbs round about them: thus were all these cities.
As long as the people diligently followed and lived by every Word of God, they had peace and blessings from their Mighty One; it was when they departed from zeal to live by every Word of God that they were greatly distressed.
It was the responsibility of the priesthood to offer sacrifices and make mediatorial intercession for the nation.
In the same way today it is the duty of the ministry to teach the people throughout all the congregations, a diligent passionate Christ-like zeal to live by every Word of God; in order that the people be accepted and not rejected by Christ for turning away from a zealous wholehearted keeping of the whole Word of God.
The modern concept of church Deacons sprang from the Levites whose job was to HELP the priests in all physical things pertaining to the holy things; and to teach the people throughout all the land a diligent passionate zeal for every Word of God.
Modern Deacons and Deaconesses are to be teachers of God’s Word and are to care for the physical needs of the brethren, just as the Levites taught the people and took care of the physical needs of the priests.
A very large responsibility for the sins of physical Israel and Judah was because the priests and Levites went astray into idolatry first, and DID NOT TEACH the people zeal to learn and to live by every Word of God!
Today, a very large responsibility for the sins and lukewarm laxity for the zealous keeping of the whole Word of God and for today’s gross idolatry in spiritual Israel; falls squarely on the leaders and elders who are leading the brethren into idolatry and DO NOT TEACH any zeal to learn and to live by every Word of God!
21:43 And the LORD gave unto Israel all the land which he sware to give unto their fathers; and they possessed it, and dwelt therein. 21:44 And the LORD gave them rest round about, according to all that he sware unto their fathers: and there stood not a man of all their enemies before them; the LORD delivered all their enemies into their hand. 21:45 There failed not ought of any good thing which the LORD had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass.
After the death of Joshua and those who knew him, Israel fell into idolatry just as today’s Spiritual Ekklesia has done; and they turned away from any zeal to keep the Word of God and followed their idols of men and corporations just as we do today.
When we study through Judges and the history of the kings we will see what becomes of the lukewarm for the Word of God who follow their idols and do what is right in their own eyes.