Joshua Chapter 20


The law concerning the cities of refuge. (Verse 1-6.)

The cities appointed as refuges. (Verse 7-9.)

Chapter Twenty gives instructions concerning the cities of refuge as previously discussed in Numbers and
Deuteronomy – compare this chapter with the map found in the lesson over the book of Deuteronomy.

1  The Lord also spake unto Joshua, saying,

2 Speak to the children of Israel, saying, Appoint out for you cities of refuge, whereof I spake unto you by the hand of Moses:

Six cities are given unto the Levites with three on one side of the Jordan and three on the other side. These are spread out all over the land of Israel. This was spoken of by God unto Joshua in Exodus:

Exodus 21:12 He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall be surely put to death. 13 And if a man lie not in wait, but God deliver him into his hand; then I will appoint thee a place whither he shall flee.

Numbers 35:6 And among the cities which ye shall give unto the Levites there shall be six cities for refuge, which ye shall appoint for the manslayer, that he may flee thither:

Forty-eight cities of the Jews were given to the Levites and of these cities six were set apart as cities of refuge. Interesting enough they were open to Gentiles in the land. These cities are symbolic of the refuge we have in Christ.

3 That the slayer that killeth any person unawares and unwittingly may flee thither: and they shall be your refuge from the avenger of blood.

4 And when he that doth flee unto one of those cities shall stand at the entering of the gate of the city, and shall declare his cause in the ears of the elders of that city, they shall take him into the city unto them, and give him a place, that he may dwell among them.

5 And if the avenger of blood pursue after him, then they shall not deliver the slayer up into his hand; because he smote his neighbour unwittingly, and hated him not beforetime.

6 And he shall dwell in that city, until he stand before the congregation for judgment, and until the death of the high priest that shall be in those days: then shall the slayer return, and come unto his own city, and unto his own house, unto the city from whence he fled.

We have a high priest that ever liveth to make intercession for us, so if we are “in Christ” which is symbolic of being in a city of refuge we are eternally secure.

7 And they appointed Kedesh in Galilee in mount Naphtali, and Shechem in mount Ephraim, and Kirjatharba, which is Hebron, in the mountain of Judah.

8 And on the other side Jordan by Jericho eastward, they assigned Bezer in the wilderness upon the plain out of the tribe of Reuben, and Ramoth in Gilead out of the tribe of Gad, and Golan in Bashan out of the tribe of Manasseh.

Hebron is the city of refuge where Joab slew Abner.   Abner had only to stay inside the city under the protection of the high priest, but Abner died as a fool dieth. Many fools die because they are all considered as guilty in God’s eyes and in need of God’s protection.

9 These were the cities appointed for all the children of Israel, and for the stranger that sojourneth among them, that whosoever killeth any person at unawares might flee thither, and not die by the hand of the avenger of blood, until he stood before the congregation.

Israel and the world unknowingly and unwittingly killed the Messiah of Israel and the whole world must now run to the city of refuge that is nearest to us for protection, it is Christ.

Our only problem is that there are no literal cities of refuge to flee to and no earthly high priest to protect us, but we do have a high priest seated in the Heavenlies who will make intersession for us if we will run to Him without delay. He is our refuge, and his name is Jesus. Romans 8:34

Commentary by Matthew Henry, 1710.

Verse 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, Numbers 35; Deuteronomy 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.

Verse 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.