Joshua 20

Cities of Refuge

1 Then the LORD said to Joshua:
2 “Tell the Israelites to designate the cities of refuge, as I instructed you through Moses,
3 so that anyone who kills a person accidentally and unintentionally may flee there and find protection from the avenger of blood.
4 When they flee to one of these cities, they are to stand in the entrance of the city gate and state their case before the elders of that city. Then the elders are to admit the fugitive into their city and provide a place to live among them.
5 If the avenger of blood comes in pursuit, the elders must not surrender the fugitive, because the fugitive killed their neighbor unintentionally and without malice aforethought.
6 They are to stay in that city until they have stood trial before the assembly and until the death of the high priest who is serving at that time. Then they may go back to their own home in the town from which they fled.”
7 So they set apart Kedesh in Galilee in the hill country of Naphtali, Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim, and Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron) in the hill country of Judah.
8 East of the Jordan (on the other side from Jericho) they designated Bezer in the wilderness on the plateau in the tribe of Reuben, Ramoth in Gilead in the tribe of Gad, and Golan in Bashan in the tribe of Manasseh.
9 Any of the Israelites or any foreigner residing among them who killed someone accidentally could flee to these designated cities and not be killed by the avenger of blood prior to standing trial before the assembly.

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 16

  • 1. S Leviticus 4:2
  • 2. S Numbers 35:12
  • 3. S Genesis 23:10; Ruth 4:1; Jeremiah 38:7
  • 4. S Joshua 7:6
  • 5. S Numbers 35:12
  • 6. S Joshua 12:22; Joshua 21:32; 1 Chronicles 6:76
  • 7. S Genesis 12:6
  • 8. S Genesis 35:27
  • 9. S Joshua 10:36; Joshua 21:11
  • 10. Luke 1:39
  • 11. Joshua 21:36; 1 Chronicles 6:78
  • 12. 1 Chronicles 6:80
  • 13. S Joshua 12:2
  • 14. S Joshua 12:5; 1 Chronicles 6:71
  • 15. S Leviticus 4:2
  • 16. S Exodus 21:13; Numbers 35:15

Chapter Summary

INTRODUCTION TO JOSHUA 20

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