OceanSide church of Christ

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Victor M. Eskew




A.   Three times in the New Testament, the Old Testament’s principles and practices are called “a shadow” of things to come.

1.    A shadow of things to come (Col. 2:17)

2.    Shadow of heavenly things (Heb. 8:5)

3.    A shadow of good things to come (Heb. 10:1)


B.   Some of the shadows, or types,, we know well:  the sacrifices, the temple, and the exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt.


C.   Some of the shadows we do not know as well.

1.    One of them is the subject of this lesson:  “The Six Cities of Refuge.”

2.    In this lesson, we will examine ten points about the cities of refuge.




A.   Exodus 21:13


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.


B.   Numbers 35:1-34;


C.   Deuteronomy 4:41-43


D.   Deuteronomy 19:1-13


E.   Joshua 20:1-9




A.   The Land of Canaan is divided into two large sections that are separated by the Jordan River:  Canaan is on the west and the Transjordan is on the east.


B.   In these two regions, the Levites were given 48 Levitical cities as their part of the inheritance.  Six of these cities were known as the cities of refuge (Num. 35:13-14).


And of these cities which ye shall give six cities shall ye have for refuge.  Ye shall give three on this side Jordan, and three cities shall ye give in the land of Canaan, which shall be cities of refuge.


C.   These cities are named in Joshua 20:7-8

1.    On the west side (Josh. 20:7):  Kadesh, Shechem, and Hebron

2.    On the east side (Josh. 20:8):  Bezer, Ramoth, Golan







A.   If a person killed someone accidentally, this manslayer would flee to a city of refuge and would be protected from “the avenger of blood,” and would be given his day in court.

B.   Verses:

1.    Numbers 35:11


Then shall ye appoint you cities to be cities of refuge for you; that the slayer may flee thither, which killeth any person not unawares.


2.    Deuteronomy 4:42; 19:4; Joshua 20:3


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




A.   There were two types of killers in the Law of Moses.

1.    The murderer

a.    This was a man who took another’s life purposely.

b.    This action was forbidden by the Ten Commandments (Exo. 20:13).


Thou shalt not kill.


c.    This was punishable by death (Exo. 21:12; Lev. 24:17; Num. 35:30-31).


And he that killeth any man shall surely be put to death.

2.    The man who kills another accidentally.

a.    This was a death that occurred:

1)    Accidentally

2)    Without premeditation

3)    Without hatred

4)    Without the use of a weapon

5)    Without ambushing an individual

b.    Example: cutting wood with an ax (Deut. 19:5)


As when a man goeth into the wood with his neighbor to hew wood, and his hand fetcheth a stroke with the axe to cut down the tree, and the head slippeth from the helve, and lighteth upon his neighbor, that he die; he shall flee unto one of those cities, and live.


B.   It was the manslayer that had the right to flee to a city of refuge.




A.   Murder was a very serious crime under the Old Covenant.


B.   Death was the sentence that was placed upon it (Gen. 9:6).


Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed:  for in the image of God made he him.


C.   Under the Law of Moses, there was also the concept of an eye for an eye (Exo. 21:23-25; Lev. 24:20).


And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.


D.   Because of these regulations, when murder occurred, an avenger of blood, usually a close family member, would seek the life of the murderer.

1.    See Genesis 9:5


And surely your blood of your lives will I require at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man’s brother will I require the life of man.


2.    This was true even for the man who killed another accidentally.

3.    Because there was an avenger of blood, the accidental slayer would have to flee (Josh. 20:5).


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


VI.         A DAY IN COURT


A.   The slayer would be protected by those in the refuge cities until he could be judged in court.


B.   Joshua 20:6a


And he shall dwell in that city, until he stand before the congregation for judgment…






A.   Even though the slayer killed a man accidentally, he was still considered one who had polluted the land.

1.    The man who was killed as a sinner.  His shed blood polluted the land when it was shed.

2.    Numbers 35:33-34


So ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are:  for blood it defileth the land:  and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it.  Defile no therefore the land which ye shall inhabit, wherein I dwell:  for I the Lord dwell among the children of Israel.


B.   When a body of a slain person was found and there was no killer to be found, the city had to offer up the sacrifice of a heifer in order to obtain forgiveness (See Deut. 21:1-9).


C.   Because of this principle, there were consequences that still came upon the slayer.




A.   The slayer of blood had to remain in the city of refuge until the death of the high priest.


B.   Numbers 24:25; Joshua 20:6a


…and the congregation shall restore him to the city of his refuge, whither he as fled:  and he shall abide in it unto the death of the high priest, which was anointed with oil.


C.   If he came out of the city at any time, the avenger of blood would have the right to take his life (Num. 35:26-28a).


D.   After the death of the high priest, he could return to his city and to his personal property (Josh. 20:6b).




A.   The high priest represented all who sought refuge.


B.   He bore the iniquity of the spilled blood to his grave.       

1.    His death “served to pay the price of the required penalty” (www.studylight.org, Holman Bible Dictionary, “Cities of Refuge”).

2.    His death enabled the manslayer to be free from the burden of accountability.




A.   In this lesson, we have considered very briefly the “basics” with regard to the cities of refuge under the Old Covenant.


B.   In our next lesson, we will look at how these cities were a shadow of good things to come.  There is something in the New Testament that is the substance, the antitype of the cities of refuge.