In Num 34.2 Moses is commanded to tell Israel, “This is the land.” What did they think? It was going to take a fight and it wasn’t going to be easy and there was a lot of work involved. Many people think that when they become a believer that all of their problems will be solved. But then we are faced with with reality (giants in the land) and things begin to settle down and all of a sudden we realize we have a fight on our hands. If we don’t drive the enemy out trouble is going to be all around us (Num 33.55-56). This is the case in Israel today. Another concept can be seen in the phrase, “the land of Canaan according to its borders (boundaries.” In Hebrew it is “ha eretz Canaan lig v’lot’eah.” This phrase has a numerical value of 961, the exact amount of letters in Gen 15 which has the “Covenant between the Halves.” Borders are the things that divided a believer from a non-believer in this world. The Torah is a book of borders and declarations.
In Num 35.1-34 we have the Lord giving the Levites an inheritance of cities to live in because they did not have a land inheritance, but they were to be placed in these cities by the Lord so that they were scattered throughout the land to shepherd, teach and minister to the people living in the area. Pasture lands were also to be given around these cities for them to use. These pasture lands were for their cattle, flocks and herds and all their animals. These pasture lands were to extend from the wall of the city outward for a thousand cubits. On the east, west, north and south side of the city two thousand cubits were to be measured for fields, vineyards and orchards, besides the pasture land.
In Num 35.6-35 we have the instruction for forty-eight cities, and six are to be “cities of refuge.” Forty-two will be cities for the Levites to live in. The cities of refuge is an interesting concept and it has eschatological meaning. They were for a “manslayer” who has killed someone unintentionally to flee to as a refuge from the “avenger of blood (Goel).” The manslayer won’t have to die until he can stand before a court to determine what happened. Three cities will be across the Jordan (east side) and three cities in Canaan.
This law will apply to the “Ger” (alien who has embraced the Lord and the Torah) and for the “T’shav” (sojourner who lives by the Torah laws that apply to him and lives in the land). However, if the person intentionally killed someone he is a murderer and shall be put to death. If the person is not a murderer and is innocent, then he is delivered from the hand of the avenger of blood and he is taken to his city of refuge until the death of the High Priest who was anointed with oil at the time of the slaying (v 25). If the manslayer goes beyond the border of his city of refuge and the avenger of blood finds him and kills him, the avenger will not be held guilty (v 26-27). A murderer is to be put to death and they were not to accept a ransom for their life. Now we are going to look at this instruction and see some very interesting concepts that relate to our spiritual walk.
The manslayer was to live with the priests and Levites and these cities of refuge were not seen as “jails” or “detention camps.” They were environments in which reckless people became aware that careless actions have consequences. They were instantly under the influence of their neighbors, the Levites. They would observe them, pray with them and learn to interact with others. They would see what awareness and concern for others really was. Its goal was to mold a new person, a person who was kinder, gentler and careful.
We need to be like the Levites and be “signposts” leading the way to these cities, clearly marking the way to Yeshua and life. Sometimes people need a refuge from the “avenger” who is called “Satan.” We learn from the cities of refuge that life can be altered by our destructive behavior and it may take fifty years till we are released. God has bound the killer with the High Priest and each has boundaries for doing the right thing. Now we are going to take a look at how these cities give us an eschatological picture.
Heb 6.18-20 says, “in order that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge in laying hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil where Yeshua has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.” This means that Yeshua is the only direct descendant of the heavenly Temple there in the Olam Haba. The writer of Hebrews goes on to explain what this “order of Melchizedek” means in Heb 7.1-28.
This order of priesthood is superior to the Aaronic priesthood because man is still in the Olam Ha Zeh (this present age) and subject to death, but Yeshua lives on forever in the Olam Haba (the world to come). The ages in Scripture will relate to two things, chronology and state of being. For example, the Talmidim lived in the Olam Ha Zeh when Yeshua appeared to them after the resurrection (chronological), but Yeshua was in the Olam Haba (his state of being, having a glorified body and living forever). These ages can “overlap” at times. That’s what makes the Olam Haba better than the present age we live in, and that is one of the main subjects of the Book of Hebrews and must be understood if one is to correctly interpret what is being said.
These passages in Heb 6.18-20 are a clear allusion to the cities of refuge, and “within the veil” speaks of the Olam Haba. These verses relate to our salvation. The Mishkan was a “seventh” place of refuge into God’s presence, alluding to the Olam Haba. In the Kodesh Ha Kodeshim (Holy of Holies) there were six boards on the west side of the room, and these six boards allude to the six cities of refuge (Exo 26.22).
Are we guilty of the death of Yeshua? If so, the avenger of blood can take us out and slay us if we are not in the city of refuge. However, let’s look at this a little closer. If we reject Yeshua deliberately, his blood is on our hands. However, if a person has faith and accepts Yeshua, even though his sin caused his death and did not realize the end result of his actions, he is guilty of manslaughter and allowed to stay within the veil (the Olam Haba and seventh place of refuge) as long as the the high priest (Yeshua) lives, which is “L’Olam Vaed” (forever and ever).
In Part 35 we will pick up with Num 36.1-13 and the “Law (instruction) of the Heiress.”