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You shall separate three cities for yourself in the midst of your land which the Lord your God is giving you to possess. You shall prepare roads for yourself, and divide into three parts the territory of your land which the Lord your God is giving you to inherit, that any manslayer may flee there. (Deuteronomy 19:2-3)

The cities of refuge that were strategically situated in the land of Israel were an interesting and unique aspect of Israeli life. First of all, we need to understand that the refuge these cities provided was not for someone who killed intentionally. In fact, if such a person fled to one of these cities, the elders were to take him by force and deliver him to the avenger of blood. Moreover, because innocent blood had to be addressed, to execute a proven murderer insured things “would go well” for the rest of the community.

In reality, these sanctuary cities provided refuge for those who found themselves, unintentionally, in a precarious situation. If someone had been badly hurt or, worse, killed accidentally, the person could avoid the wrath of the “avenger of blood” by running to one of these cities and await a hearing to determine what actually happened. It is implied that, in the course of time, the angst and emotion felt by those who were close to the deceased might die down — at least enough to hear the facts.

Never have I made a decision when I was angry and later determined that it was one of the best decisions I had ever made. To the contrary, acting out in that state of mind almost always complicates life further. So then, can you imagine how someone whose emotions are possibly out of control would feel if, having acted on those emotions in the most deliberate way, they were to discover that the demise of their loved one was an unfortunate accident? The point that all of us can take away from this is, it is never a good idea to take action, or for that matter, say things when emotions are running high. As James said, “Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20).

Blessings and Shalom,  




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