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Cities of Refuge




Appoint out for you cities of refuge, whereof I spake unto you by the hand of Moses.Jos., 20, 2.

FTER the division of Palestine among the tribes,
Joshua turned his mind to thoughts of peace.

He took two important steps toward the establishment of law and national government among his people. To keep them united in religion, he set up a central sanctuary. The tabernacle and the ark were removed from Gilgal, their first abiding place in the Promised Land, and were reërected at Shiloh, an elevated field situated in the centre of the land within the domain of his own tribe, the powerful Ephraimites. Here the sanctuary seemed secure from human enemies.

Joshua also strengthened the sense of national unity and respect for law, by establishing six “cities of refuge,” equally placed throughout the land. In those rough days man often perished at the hand of man. Even though the killing was accidental, or done in self-defense, the kinsmen of the dead were supposed to avenge him. To escape them, the “shedder of blood” fled to one of the refuge cities. Here there were always placed watchers at the gates, to protect him and to hear his story. If they adjudged his deed to be excusable, then he might dwell in safety within the city. Outside, the avengers still awaited him.




10 And Judah went against the Canaanites that dwelt in Hebron: (now the name of Hebron before was Kirjath-arba:) and they slew Sheshai, and Ahiman, and Talmai.

11 And from thence he went against the inhabitants of Debir, and the name of Debir before was kirjath-sepher:

12 And Caleb said, He that smiteth Kirjath-sepher, and taketh it, to him will I give Achsah my daughter to wife.

13 And Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother, took it: and he gave him Achsah his daughter to wife.

14 And it came to pass when she came to him, that she moved him to ask of her father a field: and she lighted from off her ass; and Caleb said unto her, What wilt thou ?

15 And she said unto him, Give me a blessing: for thou hast given me a south land: give me also springs of water. And Caleb gave her the upper springs and the nether springs."

16 | And the children of the Kenite, Moses's father-in-law, went up out of the city of palm trees with the children of Judah into the wilderness of Judah, which lieth in the south of Arad; and they went and dwelt among the people.

17 And Judah went with Simeon his brother, and they slew the Canaanites that inhabited Zephath, and utterly destroyed it. And the name of the city was called Hormah.

18 Also Judah took Gaza with the coast thereof, and Askelon with the coast thereof, and Ekron with the coast thereof.

19 And the LORD was with Judah; and he drave out the inhabitants of the mountains; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron.

20 And they gave Hebron unto Caleb, as Moses said: and he expelled thence the three sons of Anak.

21 And the children of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites that inhabited Jerusalem; but the Jebusites dwell with the children of Benjamin in Jerusalem unto this day.

22 | And the house of Joseph, they also went up against Beth-el: and the LORD was with them.

23 And the house of Joseph sent to descry Beth-el. (Now the name of the city before was Luz.)

24 And the spies saw a man come forth out of the city, and they said unto him, Shew us, we pray thee, the entrance into the city, and we will shew thee mercy.

25 And when he shewed them the entrance into the city, they smote the city with the edge of the sword; but they let go

the man and all his family.

26 And the man went into the land of the Hittites, and built a city, and called the name thereof Luz: which is the name thereof unto this day.

This passage is a repetition of the account in Joshua, Chapter 15. 2Or “brother-in-law."

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