And among the cities which ye shall give unto the Levites
The number of which is not yet expressed, but is afterwards: there shall be
six cities for refuge;
a sort of asylums, of which there were many among the Heathens, perhaps in imitation of these, for persons to have recourse to for safety, when in danger of life: the Septuagint render the words, "cities of flight" F2; or to flee unto, which certainly was the use of them: to this the apostle alludes when he speaks of some that fled for refuge, to lay hold on the hope set before them, ( Hebrews 6:18 ) , the word F3 used for refuge signifies "gathering or receiving", for here persons in distress gathered or betook themselves; and here they were received, retained, protected, and sheltered: what and where these six cities were to be, and were, is after shown:
which ye shall appoint for the manslayer;
not for any and everyone, not for one that killed a man presumptuously and purposely, through enmity and malice, but for one that did it ignorantly, unawares, and without design:
that he may flee thither;
with all haste, after the commission of the fact; and, to facilitate his flight, and that he might have no interruption in it, the sanhedrim were obliged to prepare the ways to the cities of refuge, and to make them fit and large; and they removed everything that might cause him to stumble; and they did not leave in the way neither an hillock, nor a dale, nor a river but they made a bridge over it, that nothing might retard him that fled thither, as it is said;
thou shalt prepare thee a way;
( Deuteronomy 19:3 ) and the breadth of the way to the cities of refuge was not less than thirty two cubits; and at the parting of ways (on posts erected) were written, "refuge, refuge", so that the slayer might know (the way) and turn there (as this directed him): and on the fifteenth of Adar or February, they met every year, to take care of this business F4; and they also appointed two disciples of the wise men, or two studious and understanding persons, to accompany him, not so much for the direction of the way, as lest the avenger of blood should meet with him, and slay him in the way; and who were to talk to him, and persuade him not to do it, suggesting to him that it was not done designedly, but unawares, and that it would be a bad thing to kill a man for what he did not intend to do, and which was done without any malice or enmity to the person killed, and with such like words to cool and appease the avenger F5:
and to them ye shall add forty two cities;
according to the Jewish writers these also were cities of refuge; for so they say F6,
``all the cities of the Levites receive or are refuges, every one of them is a city of refuge, as it is said, "and to them ye shall add" the Scripture makes them all alike for refuge: what difference is there between cities of refuge, which are separated for refuge, and the rest of the cities of the Levites? the gates of the cities of refuge receive, whether according to knowledge or not, (which Mr. Selden F7 interprets, whether the inhabitants will or not; but the sense of Maimonides elsewhere F8, and of other writers, is plainly this, whether according to the knowledge and intention of the manslayer or not, whether he knows it to be a city of refuge or :not, and whether he purposely came thither for safety or not,) and he that enters into them is safe; but the rest of the cities of the Levites do not receive, but according to knowledge (when the manslayer knowingly and designedly came thither for shelter); and a manslayer that dwells in a city of refuge gives no more for his house, but he that dwells in the other cities of the Levites gives more (or pays for it) to the owner of the house;''
but though this is their unanimous opinion, it rather seems, according to the letter of the Scripture, that only six were cities of refuge, and the rest were for the Levites to dwell in by themselves.
F2 (jlqmh yre) (poleiv twn fugadeuthriwn) , Sept.
F3 (jlqm) "receptus", Junius & Tremellius; "collectionis", Piscator; R. Sol. Ohel Moed, fol. 82. 1. "proprie significat collectionem vel retentionem", Munster.
F4 Maimon. Hilchot Rotzeach, c. 8. sect. 5.
F5 Misn. Maccot, c. 2. sect. 5. & Maimon. & Bartenora in ib.
F6 Maimon. ut supra, (F4) sect. 11.
F7 De Jure Natarae & Gentium, l. 4. c. 2. p. 489.
F8 Maimon. & Bartenora in Misn. Maccot, l. 2. sect. 4.