Joshua 20

Listen to Joshua 20

The Cities of Refuge

1 Then the LORD said to Joshua,
2 "Say to the people of Israel, 1'Appoint the cities of refuge, of which I spoke to you through Moses,
3 that the manslayer who strikes any person without intent or unknowingly may flee there. They shall be for you a refuge from the avenger of blood.
4 He shall flee to one of these cities and shall stand 2at the entrance of the gate of the city and explain his case to the elders of that city. Then they shall take him into the city and give him a place, and he shall remain with them.
5 And if the avenger of blood pursues him, they shall not give up the manslayer into his hand, because he struck his neighbor unknowingly, and did not hate him in the past.
6 And he shall remain in that city 3until he has stood before the congregation for judgment, until the death of him who is high priest at the time. Then the manslayer may return to his own town and his own home, to the town from which he fled.'"
7 So they set apart 4Kedesh in Galilee in the hill country of Naphtali, and 5Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim, and 6Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron) 7in the hill country of Judah.
8 And beyond the Jordan east of Jericho, they appointed 8Bezer in the wilderness on the tableland, from the tribe of Reuben, and 9Ramoth in Gilead, from the tribe of Gad, and 10Golan in Bashan, from the tribe of Manasseh.
9 These were the cities designated for all the people of Israel and 11for the stranger sojourning among them, that anyone who killed a person without intent could flee there, so that he might not die by the hand of the avenger of blood, till he stood before the congregation.

Joshua 20 Commentary

Chapter 20

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.

Cross References 11

  • 1. Exodus 21:13; See Num. 35:6, 11-14; Deuteronomy 4:41-43; Deuteronomy 19:2-9
  • 2. [Deuteronomy 21:19; Ruth 4:1, 2; Psalms 127:5]
  • 3. Num. 35:12, 24, 25
  • 4. Joshua 21:32; 1 Chronicles 6:76
  • 5. Joshua 21:21
  • 6. Joshua 21:11, 13; See Joshua 14:13-15
  • 7. Joshua 21:11; Luke 1:39
  • 8. Joshua 21:36; 1 Chronicles 6:78
  • 9. Joshua 21:38; [1 Kings 22:3]
  • 10. Joshua 21:27; 1 Chronicles 6:71
  • 11. Numbers 35:15

Chapter Summary


The contents of this chapter are the renewal of the order to appoint cities of refuge for such that commit manslaughter ignorantly, to flee unto, and have shelter in from the avenger of blood, Jos 20:1-6; and the execution of this order, Jos 20:7-9.

Joshua 20 Commentaries

The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.