In ancient biblical times, anyone who killed someone else accidentally or unintentionally could legitimately be tracked down and killed by members of the dead person’s family or someone they employed called the avenger of blood.
The city of refuge was a place someone could run to and be protected and safe, until they faced a proper trial by the elders and wise men of that city.
There were 6 cities in all and these were strategically placed throughout Israel so that they were within easy reach for whoever should need them.
There are a number of points to make about these cities;
- They were God’s idea, they were a provision of grace. They showed His mercy and loving heart for justice and mercy and indeed an ordered society.
- Anyone could access these cities; Israelites, strangers and sojourners. As mentioned earlier, they were spaced out throughout the land so that they were easily accessible. God even commanded that decent roads should be provided into them for easy access (Deuteronomy 19:3).
- It is also mentioned in Jewish literature outside the bible that these roads were to be repaired every spring after the rains and the bad weather of winter. Special signs were also placed at crossroads, clearly indicating where the nearest city of refuge could be found. Bridges were also built, to cross ravines etc to further enable easy access. The doors of these cities were never locked day or night. They were also stocked with plenty of food.
How do the cities of refuge relate to Jesus?
- Jesus is easy to reach! He has made himself available to all, the invitation for safety is on offer to everybody, Jew and gentile alike.
The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. (Revelation 22:17)
Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)
“Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. (Isaiah 45:22)
- Jesus never locks His gates! He is accessible all the time. He accepts us whatever we have done and Paid the punishment for our sin on the cross.
- His refuge (salvation) is completely sufficient. We are totally safe as no-one can snatch us out of His hands.
All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. (John 6:37)
- Jesus is better than any shadow. He won’t turn us away no matter what we have done.
- He is nearer than any city, we can ‘access’ Him immediately.
- The cities only protected the innocent, Jesus died for the sinful and the guilty, which is great news because we all fall into that category!