The law concerning the cities of refuge. (1-6) The cities appointed as refuges. (7-9)
Verses 1-6 When the Israelites were settled in their promised inheritance, they were reminded to set apart the cities of refuge, whose use and typical meaning have been explained, Nu 35; De 19. God's spiritual Israel have, and shall have in Christ and heaven, not only rest to repose in, but refuge to secure themselves in. These cities were designed to typify the relief which the gospel provides for penitent sinners, and their protection from the curse of the law and the wrath of God, in our Lord Jesus, to whom believers flee for refuge, ( Hebrews 6:18 ) .
Verses 7-9 These cities, as those also on the other side Jordan, stood so that a man might in half a day reach one of them from any part of the country. God is ever a Refuge at hand. They were all Levites' cities. It was kindness to the poor fugitive, that when he might not go up to the house of the Lord, yet he had the servants of God with him, to instruct him, and pray for him, and to help to make up the want of public ordinances. Some observe a significance in the names of these cities with application to Christ our Refuge. Kedesh signifies holy, and our Refuge is the holy Jesus. Shechem, a shoulder, and the government is upon his shoulder. Hebron, fellowship, and believers are called into the fellowship of Christ Jesus our Lord. Bezer, a fortification, for he is a strong hold to all those that trust in him. Ramoth, high or exalted, for Him hath God exalted with his own right hand. Golan, joy or exultation, for in Him all the saints are justified, and shall glory.
Joshua 20:1-6 . THE LORD COMMANDS THE CITIES OF REFUGE.
1-3. The Lord spake unto Joshua . . . Appoint out for you cities of refuge--(See Numbers 35:9-28 , Deuteronomy 19:1-13 ). The command here recorded was given on their going to occupy their allotted settlements. The sanctuaries were not temples or altars, as in other countries, but inhabited cities; and the design was not to screen criminals, but only to afford the homicide protection from the vengeance of the deceased's relatives until it should have been ascertained whether the death had resulted from accident and momentary passion, or from premeditated malice. The institution of the cities of refuge, together with the rules prescribed for the guidance of those who sought an asylum within their walls, was an important provision, tending to secure the ends of justice as well as of mercy.
4. he that doth flee unto one of those cities shall stand at the entering of the gate of the city--It was the place of public resort, and on arriving there he related his tale of distress to the elders, who were bound to give him shelter and the means of support, until the local authorities ( Joshua 20:6 ), having carefully investigated the case, should have pronounced the decision. If found guilty, the manslayer was surrendered to the blood-avenger; if extenuating circumstances appeared, he was to remain in the city of refuge, where he would be safe from the vindictive feelings of his pursuers; but he forfeited the privilege of immunity the moment he ventured beyond the walls.
6. until the death of the high priest--His death secured the complete deliverance of the manslayer from his sin, only because he had been anointed with the holy oil ( Numbers 35:25 ), the symbol of the Holy Ghost; and thus the death of the earthly high priest became a type of that of the heavenly one ( Hebrews 9:14 Hebrews 9:15 ).
Joshua 20:7-9 . THE ISRAELITES APPOINT BY NAME THE CITIES OF REFUGE.
7-9. they appointed . . . cities--There were sis: three on the west, and three on the east, of Jordan. In the first instance, they were a provision of the criminal law of the Hebrews, necessary in the circumstances of that people typically to point out the sinner's way to Christ ( Hebrews 6:18 ).