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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.
Verse 2. "Appoint out for you cities of refuge."-See the notes on Num. xxxv. 12, and Deut. xix. 3. The Hebrew writers inform us that all the cities of the Levites were, in point of fact, cities of refuge, but not in the same sense with the six properly so called. The difference was, that the six cities were bound to receive the fugitive; but in the other forty-two, the Levites exercised their discretion, whether to allow or refuse admittance to him. Also, in the six cities, the refugee was provided with a house to reside in gratuitously; but in the other towns he was obliged to pay for his lodging. The same authorities furnish us with some other information concerning the manner in which the exile lived in the cities of refuge. A convenient habitation being assigned him, the citizens were obliged to instruct him in some trade, by which he might earn his own living; the pursuits of agriculture, which occupied the great body of the people, being no longer open to him. It is added, that as the death of the high-priest enabled these persons to leave the city without any further fear from the blood-avenger, and as it was natural enough, under such circumstances, that they should not feel very anxious for the long life of that high personage, the mother of the existing pontiff usually gave them supplies of food and clothing, and otherwise endeavoured to promote their comfort, that their impatience might not lead them to pray for the death of her son. It is also said, that the manslayer happened to die in the city, before the time of release arrived, his bones were delivered to his relations, after the death of the high-priest, to be interred in the sepulchre of his fathers. This last intimation is exceedingly characteristic. (See more on this subject in Lewis's Origines Hebræææ,' b. ii. ch. 13.)
The law having conceded something to rooted habits in the matter of blood-revenge, regulations became necessary to obviate the evil effects which this concession was calculated to produce. The establishment of sanctuaries was a necessary consequence of this concession. In countries where individuals possess irresponsible power of punishment, whether that power be hereditary, or official, or arise from circumstances, there must be a sanctuary of some kind or other to afford protection to the weak against the strong, or to save the involuntary offender from the hasty vengeance of the offended. In the same proportion that individuals are dispossessed, by the progress of civilization, of powers beyond the laws, sanctuaries come to be considered as evils, and the law directs its power towards their extinction, in which it almost never succeeds without a vehement struggle with popular prejudices. These principles have been illustrated in the history of almost every country under the sun-our own not excepted. Sanctuaries, however useful at first, and in their primary intention, have, in the end, operated as premiums on crime by the impunity which they offered, and have become nests of abomination where all crime and iniquity might safely harbour, and from whence hardened criminals might laugh with scorn at the feebleness of the law."
Now, the law of Moses having established the right of sanctuary on the one hand, because it had conceded the exercise of an irresponsible power on the other, it is highly interesting to observe the regulations which were framed in order to prevent those abuses of sanctuary to which we have adverted. These regulations at once obviated all the enormous evils which, in ancient nations, attended the allowance of sanctuary-which, until within these few centuries, attended it in civilized Europe-and which do still attend it in many nations. The period had almost arrived when the Jews ceased to have a country, before the Romans could correct the evils which the law of Moses, given before the Jews had a country, prevented by the first act of legislation. We have seen (Num. xxxv.) how the establishment of sanctuary prevented the abuse of blood-revenge; let us now see how the right of sanctuary was itself prevented from
1. Among most other nations, the sanctuaries generally afforded a refuge to all homicides, without distinction; and as the refuge which was conceded to homicides could not well be refused to inferior offenders, they commonly offered impunity to criminals of every sort. But, by the law of Moses, such protection was afforded only to those who were in fact guilty of no crime; and was intended to protect the innocent from the punishment due only to the guilty. The only persons entitled to remain in a city of refuge were-a person who had slain another unintentionally, or who had killed a person who had unjustly attempted his life, or who had slain a thief in the night-time.
2. Among other nations, a criminal who had fled to a place of refuge could not be brought to trial against his will. But, among the Hebrews, the asylum was only designed to protect a person from private vengeance till his cause could be fairly heard; and to afford him such protection permanently, if, after trial, he should be proved to deserve it. The Jewish writers, whose statement is, in the main, supported by the text of Num. xxxv., say, that when the manslayer came to the gates of the city of refuge, he was there examined, before admission, by some persons appointed for the purpose, but who, however, were not judges, and had no power to examine witnesses. But if the avenger pursued him so closely as to endanger his safety, he was at once admitted, and the merits of his case afterwards examined. The only point to be ascertained was, whether the manslayer could make out any good claim for the admission he demanded. He was afterwards sent to the town where the homicide was committed, to take his trial before the proper tribunal; and, if found innocent of murder, was sent back to the city of refuge, there to remain till the death of the high-priest. This was something very different indeed from the practice among other nations.
3. It being determined that sanctuaries should be granted, they were fixed in distinct cities, and not at the tabernacle, the temple, or the altar. This was diametrically opposite to the universal practice in all nations, among whom the temple or the altar was pre-eminently a place where the offender might find refuge. The law of Moses guarded the worship of God from the pollutions of crime and from the assaults of avengers. The results of the contrary practice are explained by Tacitus, who says that, in the time of Augustus and Tiberius, the licence of asylum was so abused, that at Rome and in the cities of Greece, the temples were full of debtors, fugitives, and criminals, whom the magistrates could not control, and who were protected by the furious prejudices of the people, who regarded the right of asylum as a popular privilege, and who imagined that any infraction of its inviolability was sure to bring down upon the community the vengeance of the god whose sanctuary had been profaned. This state of things could not exist in a nation or city where the law had acquired strength; but it was no where without great difficulty that the privileges of the asylum were retrenched, and ultimately confined to involuntary delinquents and minor offenders. It was thought a great thing when the law dared to force great offenders from the altars and the statues of the gods, and bring them to trial and punishment. Yet this great thing the law of Moses did at once:—“ '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. But if a man come presumptuously upon his neighbour, to slay him with guile, thou shalt take him from mine altar, that he may die.” (Exod. xxi. 13, 14.) This was efficient legislation. That which the Gentile nations regarded as the most awful profanation,
was not only permitted but commanded by Jehovah. In practice, also, we see that it was deemed lawful to kill at the altar a criminal who refused to leave its protection. Thus when Joab fled to the tabernacle and took hold of the horns of the altar, Benaiah, who was sent to slay him, commanded him, in the king's name, to come forth. He refused, saying, "Nay, but I will die here." Benaiah went to the king for further instructions, and Solomon told him to "Do as he hath said, and fall upon him and bury him; that thou mayest take away the innocent blood which Joab shed." (1 Kings ii. 28, &c.) In all this there is a healthiness of principle-a freedom from any thing like superstition, which we should look for vainly among other ancient nations, or find only as a sentiment of some philosophers and poets. The ancient sanctuaries were not, however, exclusively places consecrated to the worship of the gods. Towns, and parts of towns, and even islands, had this privilege. The whole island of Samothracia was a sanctuary, according to Livy. The whole city of Smyrna was made a sanctuary by Seleucus. The people of Hierocæsarea held the right of asylum to extend for two miles around their temple, dedicated to the Persian Diana; and indeed it was not unusual for the sanctuary to include a considerable extent of ground around a temple. It seems indeed to have been a favourite device of antiquity to people a new founded city by declaring it an asylum for all the criminals and fugitives who wanted refuge. Thus Cadmus is said to have attracted a population to Thebes; and thus Romulus, when he built Rome, left a place, covered with wood, between the capital and the Tarpeian rock, which he promised to make a safe asylum to all who fled thither. All these were however very different indeed from the Hebrew cities of refuge. One rather remarkable analogy exists among the North American Indians, and is noticed by Adair, whose statements are generally entitled to credit, although mostly adduced to support a favourite hypothesis-which is, that the North Americans are descended from the Jews. He says, "The North American Indian nations have most of them either a house or town of refuge, which is a sure asylum to protect a manslayer or an unfortunate captive. The Cheerake, though now exceedingly corrupt, still observe that law so inviolably, as to allow their beloved town the privilege of protecting a wilful murderer, but they seldom allow them to return home afterwards in safety: they will revenge blood for blood, unless in some very particular case where the eldest can redeem. In almost every Indian nation there are several peaceable towns, which are called old, beloved, ancient, holy, or white towns, (white being their fixed emblem of peace, friendship, prosperity, happiness, purity, &c.) They seem to have been formerly towns of refuge, for it is not in the memory of their oldest people that ever human blood was shed in them, although they often force persons from thence and put them to death elsewhere."
1 Eight and forty cities given by lot, out of the other tribes, unto the Levites. 43 God gave the land, and rest unto the Israelites, according to his promise.
THEN came near the heads of the fathers of the Levites unto Eleazar the priest, and unto Joshua the son of Nun, and unto the heads of the fathers of the tribes of the children of Israel;
2 And they spake unto them at Shiloh in the land of Canaan, saying, 'The LORD commanded by the hand of Moses to give us cities to dwell in, with the suburbs thereof for our cattle.
3 And the children of Israel gave unto the Levites out of their inheritance, at the commandment of the LORD, these cities and their suburbs.
4 And the lot came out for the families of the Kohathites: and the children of Aaron the priest, which were of the Levites, had by lot out of the tribe of Judah, and out of the tribe of Simeon, and out of the tribe of Benjamin, thirteen cities.
5 And the rest of the children of Kohath had by lot out of the families of the tribe of Ephraim, and out of the tribe of Dan, and out of the half tribe of Manasseh, ten cities.
6 And the children of Gershon had by lot out of the families of the tribe of Issachar, and out of the tribe of Asher, and out of the tribe of Naphtali, and out of the
half tribe of Manasseh in Bashan, thirteen cities.
7 The children of Merari by their families had out of the tribe of Reuben, and out of the tribe of Gad, and out of the tribe of Zebulun, twelve cities.
8 And the children of Israel gave by lot unto the Levites these cities with their suburbs, as the LORD commanded by the hand of Moses.
9¶ And they gave out of the tribe of the children of Judah, and out of the tribe of the children of Simeon, these cities which are here mentioned by name,
10 Which the children of Aaron, being of the families of the Kohathites, who were of the children of Levi, had for their's was the first lot.
11 And they gave them the city of Arba the father of Anak, which city is Hebron, in the hill country of Judah, with the suburbs thereof round about it.
12 But the fields of the city, and the villages thereof, gave they to Caleb the son of Jephunnch for his possession.
13 Thus they gave to the children of Aaron the priest Hebron with her suburbs, to be a city of refuge for the slayer; and Libnah with her suburbs,
14 And Jattir with her suburbs, and Eshtemoa with her suburbs,
15 And Holon with her suburbs, and Debir with her suburbs,
16 And Ain with her suburbs, and Juttah
Chap. 14. 14. 1 Chron, 6, 56.
1 Num. 35. 2. 2 Heb. called, 6 Or, Kirjath-arba
with her suburbs, and Bethshemesh with her suburbs; nine cities out of those two tribes.
17 And out of the tribe of Benjamin, Gibeon with her suburbs, Geba with her suburbs,
32 And out of the tribe of Naphtali, Kedesh in Galilee with her suburbs, to be a city of refuge for the slayer; and Hammoth-dor with her suburbs, and Kartan with her suburbs; three cities.
33 All the cities of the Gershonites ac
18 Anathoth with her suburbs, and Almon cording to their families were thirteen cities with her suburbs; four cities. with their suburbs.
19 All the cities of the children of Aaron, the priests, were thirteen cities with their suburbs.
20 And the families of the children of Kohath, the Levites which remained of the children of Kohath, even they had the cities of their lot out of the tribe of Ephraim. gave them Shechem with her suburbs in mount Ephraim, to be a city of refuge for the slayer; and Gezer with her suburbs,
22 And Kibzaim with her suburbs, and Beth-horon with her suburbs; four cities.
23 And out of the tribe of Dan, Eltekch with her suburbs, Gibbethon with her suburbs,
24 Aijalon with her suburbs, Gath-rimmon with her suburbs; four cities.
25 And out of the half tribe of Manasseh, Tanach with her suburbs, and Gath-rimmon with her suburbs; two cities.
26 All the cities were ten with their suburbs for the families of the children of Kohath that remained.
34 And unto the families of the children of Merari, the rest of the Levites, out of the tribe of Zebulun, Jokneam with her suburbs, and Kartah with her suburbs,
35 Dimnah with her suburbs, Nahalal with her suburbs; four cities.
36 And out of the tribe of Reuben, Bezer with her suburbs, and Jahazah with her suburbs,
37 Kedemoth with her suburbs, and Me phaath with her suburbs; four cities.
38 And out of the tribe of Gad, Ramoth in Gilead with her suburbs, to be a city of refuge for the slayer; and Mahanaim with her suburbs,
30 And out of the tribe of Asher, Mishal with her suburbs, Abdon with her suburbs, 31 Helkath with her suburbs, and Rehob with her suburbs; four cities.
39 Heshbon with her suburbs, Jazer with her suburbs; four cities in all.
40 So all the cities for the children of Merari by their families, which were remaining of the families of the Levites, were by their lot twelve cities.
41 All the cities of the Levites within the possession of the children of Israel were forty and eight cities with their suburbs.
42 These cities were every one with their suburbs round about them; thus were all these cities.
43 ¶ And the LORD gave unto Israel all the land which he sware to give unto their fathers; and they possessed it, and dwelt therein.
27 And unto the children of Gershon, of the families of the Levites, out of the other half tribe of Manasseh they gave Golan in Bashan with her suburbs, to be a city of refuge for the slayer; and Beesh-terah with her suburbs; two cities.
28 And out of the tribe of Issachar, Kishon with her suburbs, Dabareh with her suburbs,
44 And the LORD gave them rest round about, according to all that he sware unto
29 Jarmuth with her suburbs, Engannim their fathers: and there stood not a man of with her suburbs; four cities.
all their enemies before them; the LORD delivered all their enemies into their hand.
45 "There failed not ought of any good thing which the LORD had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass. Chap. 23. 14, 15.
Verse 4. "Thirteen cities.”—We must not here overlook a remarkable instance of arrangement, with so distinct a reference to future circumstances as could only have taken place under the direction of ONE whose cognizance of things is not memory or foresight, but to whose infinite mind all the events of eternity and time are simultaneously present. We observe that the priestly division of the family of Kohath have all their cities in the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and Simeon. None in any other tribe;-not even in that of Ephraim in which the tabernacle then stood. Indeed, we may almost say that they were all in Judah and Benjamin; for only one was in the tribe of Simeon, and that one (Ain) is supposed to have been on the frontier of Judah, and subject in some degree to its control. We cannot reasonably doubt that this arrangement had a prospective reference to the ultimate establishment of the Temple and the services of religion at Jerusalem, when this distribution of their towns placed the priests in the most advantageous situation for that attendance at the capital which their duty required. Dr. Hales has also a very probable idea as to the ulterior intention of this arrangement; namely, that it had a reference to the division which ultimately took place,
and by which Judah and Benjamin became an independent state, which remained far more faithful to Jehovah than did the kingdom which the other tribes composed. He says: "By this arrangement all the sacerdotal cities (except one) lay in the faithful tribes of Judah and Benjamin, to maintain the national worship in them, in opposition to the apostacy of the other tribes. Otherwise the kingdom of Judah might have experienced a scarcity of priests, or have been burdened with the maintenance of those who fled from the kingdom of Israel (2 Chron. xi. 13, 14), when the base and wicked policy of Jeroboam made priests of the lowest of the people to officiate in their room."
41. "All the cities of the Levites....were forty and eight cities with their suburbs."—Considering the inferior numbers of the tribe of Levi, this seems a very disproportionate number of cities, as compared with those of the other tribes. But we are to recollect that in this account every Levitical city is enumerated, whereas, in the account of the towns in the lot of the other tribes, only the principal, and sometimes only those that occur on the frontiers, are mentioned. Besides, the Levites had only these cities, with a strictly-defined circuit of ground around each. They had no villages or extensive grounds connected with their towns. These, like most of the others in Palestine at this period, were doubtless towns of small extent and consequence, although they included some of the best towns the land possessed. We need not suppose them to be so very small, however, as Michaelis imagines: he says, "The tribe of Levi, which, including children, consisted of 22,000 males, and, of course, with its females, would amount to about 44,000 souls, received forty-eight cities for its share: and who but must see that all of them must have been inconsiderable?" According to this calculation, the population of each Levitical town would not have amounted to one thousand. But it is founded on a mistake, into which it is singular that so acute an analyst should have fallen. The Levites were by no means the exclusive occupants of the cities which belonged to them. This is implied in the right which they possessed to sell their houses for a term of years, although not in perpetuity. We may easily conceive that the grant of forty-eight cities was not exclusively intended with a view to their present numbers only, but prospectively, with reference to their future wants. And as they were proprietors, but not necessarily occupants, they doubtless let such houses as, while their numbers were low, they did not require for their own accommodation. Thus it is, that, in the course of the sacred history, we meet with Levitical cities in which the Levites do not appear to have formed any considerable part of the population. We observe, for instance (v. 17), that Geba, or Gibeah, is one of the Levitical cities in the lot of Benjamin; yet, in Judges xix., we see that city occupied by Benjamites, who treated in the most atrocious manner a Levite, who happened to seek a lodging there. We afterwards find the same city the birthplace and residence of Saul, a layman; who, when he became king, made it the seat of his government. After him, David resided with his court, and reigned, in Hebron, which was not only a Levitical city, but a priestly city, and a city of refuge. Is it also not possible that the present arrangement merely determines the right of the Levites to the cities in question, whenever their increased numbers should render the whole of them necessary; and that, till then, such of them as were not immediately wanted, remained in the hands of the tribe in whose domain they were situated?
As, on the one hand, other persons might reside in the cities of the Levites, so, on the other, might the Levites reside in other cities than their own. We accordingly meet with them as stated residents in other towns; and we know that most of the priests resided at Jerusalein, or in its immediate vicinity, after the building of the Temple. As, however, every man naturally desires to live on his own estate, there is no question that the Levites did substantially, and in the course of time, reside principally in the cities which belonged to them: and even those who did not, did, by dispersing themselves in other towns, fulfil one of the great objects of their institution, as instructors and advisers of the people.
42. "With their suburbs round about them."-There is a particular account of the suburbs of the Levitical cities in Num. xxxv. It is there said, in verse 4, that the suburbs should "reach from the wall of the city and outward a thousand cubits round about;" but, in verse 5, it is said that the suburbs should extend two thousand cubits, measured from each side of the city. The apparent discrepancy has been variously explained. The Septuagint reads "two thousand” in verse 4, as well as in verse 5; and the elucidation which this reading offers has been adopted by many commentators. It, of course, gives two thousand cubits as the extent of the suburbs in every direction from the city wall. We rather incline to this opinion, as it is a very usual custom in the sacred writings to state a measurement first in general terms and then in detail. In fact, were we to read, with the Septuagint, "two thousand cubits round about," in verse 4, we should, from analogy, expect the statement to be followed by the particular detail which is given in the ensuing verse. Josephus and Philo agree with this statement, in assigning two thousand cubits to the suburbs. Another explanation concludes that the one thousand refers to the extent of the suburbs from the walls, and that the two thousand is a measurement from the exterior margin of the suburbs inward, not to the wall but to the centre of the city. A considerable number of writers, however, adopt the explanation of Maimonides, that the thousand cubits were for suburbs, properly so called, for outhouses, barns, stables, &c., and perhaps for gardens of herbs and flowers; and that the two thousand extended beyond this, and were intended as pastures for the cattle of the Levites; being, in fact, what is called, in Lev. xxv. 34, "the fields of the suburbs." This explanation gives an extent of three thousand cubits in every direction from the walls of the city; and from the high authorities by which it is supported, as well as from apparent probability, we should prefer it to any of the others which reject the explanation afforded by the Septuagint and Josephus. The Levites could not, as they might with their houses, sell the fields of the suburbs even for a term of years (that is, till the jubilee), "For these fields were not enclosed, that every family might have its several allotment; but they were common to the whole body of the Levites, who would have been undone if they had wanted pasture for their flocks, which were all their substance.” (Lewis.) It will be recollected that the Levites only wanted land for this purpose, as they had no occasion to engage in agriculture, being abundantly supplied with all kinds of produce from the tithes and firstfruits of the other tribes. The Jewish writers say that the suburbs of their cities were not restored to the Levites after the return from the Babylonish captivity; but this seems very doubtful, as it is not easy to perceive how they could manage without some portion of land around their towns. (See Lewis's Origines Hebrææ; Lowman's Civil Government of the Hebrews; and Jennings's 'Jewish Antiquities.")
1 The two tribes and half with a blessing are sent
2 And said unto them, Ye have kept all that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, and have obeyed my voice in all that I commanded you:
3 Ye have not left your brethren these many days unto this day, but have kept the charge of the commandment of the LORD your God.
4 And now the LORD your God hath given rest unto your brethren, as he promised them therefore now return ye, and get you unto your tents, and unto the land of your possession, 'which Moses the servant of the LORD gave you on the other side Jordan.
5 But take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law, which Moses the servant of the LORD charged you, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to cleave unto him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.
6 So Joshua blessed them, and sent them away: and they went unto their tents.
7 Now to the one half of the tribe of Manassch Moses had given possession in Bashan: but unto the other half thereof gave Joshua among their brethren on this side Jordan westward. And when Joshua sent them away also unto their tents, then he blessed them,
8 And he spake unto them, saying, Return with much riches unto your tents, and with very much cattle, with silver, and with gold, and with brass, and with iron, and with very much raiment: divide the spoil of your enemies with your brethren.
Num. 32, 33. Chap. 13. 8.
9¶ And the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh returned, and departed from the children of Israel out of Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan, to go unto the country of Gilead, to the land of their possession, whereof they were possessed, according to the word of the LORD by the hand of Moses.
10 And when they came unto the borders of Jordan, that are in the land of Canaan, the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half tribe of Ma
Deut. 10. 12.
nasseh built there an altar by Jordan, a great altar to see to.
11 ¶ And the children of Israel heard say, Behold, the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh have built an altar over against the land of Canaan, in the borders of Jordan, at the passage of the children of Israel.
12 And when the children of Israel heard of it, the whole congregation of the children of Israel gathered themselves together at Shiloh, to go up to war against them.
13 And the children of Israel sent unto the children of Reuben, and to the children of Gad, and to the half tribe of Manasseh, into the land of Gilead, Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest,
14 And with him ten princes, of each chief house a prince throughout all the tribes of Israel; and each one was an head of the house of their fathers among the thousands of Israel.
16 Thus saith the whole congregation of the LORD, What trespass is this that ye have committed against the God of Israel, to turn away this day from following the LORD, in that ye have builded you an altar, that ye might rebel this day against the LORD?
17 Is the iniquity of Peor too little for us, from which we are not cleansed until this day, although there was a plague in the congregation of the LORD,
18 But that ye must turn away this day from following the LORD? and it will be, seeing ye rebel to day against the LORD, that to morrow he will be wroth with the whole congregation of Israel.
19 Notwithstanding, if the land of your possession be unclean, then pass ye over unto the land of the possession of the LORD wherein the LORD's tabernacle dwelleth, and take possession among us: but rebel not against the LORD, nor rebel against us, in building you an altar beside the altar of the LORD our God.
20 'Did not Achan the son of Zerah commit a trespass in the accursed thing, and wrath fell on all the congregation of Israel? and that man perished not alone in his iniquity. 21 Then the children of Reuben and Heb. house of the father. 4 Num. 25. 4. 5 Chap. 7. 1, 5.
15 And they came unto the children of Reuben, and to the children of Gad, and to the half tribe of Manasseh, unto the land of Gilead, and they spake with them, saying,