THE CITIES OF REFUGE.
: Old Testament Stories
Revenge is contrary to the teaching of Jesus Christ, "If thine enemy
hunger, feed him," says the Saviour; but among the Israelites and
other eastern nations a different practice prevailed. If one slew
another, the kinsman of him that was slain felt bound to avenge his
relative, and to slay him that had done the deed. Sometimes people
were killed by accident, when it was clearly unjust that he who had
another should be slain. To guard against the
innocent thus suffering, God commanded that "cities of refuge" should
be appointed, to which the slayer might flee, "which killeth any
person at unawares."
These cities were six in number: Kedesh, Shechem, and Kirjath-arba, on
the west of Jordan; and Bezer, Ramoth, and Golan, on the east of that
river. They were so arranged that a few hours' rapid flight would
bring the slayer from any part of the land to one of the cities of
refuge. Jewish writers say that the roads leading to these cities were
always kept in good repair, and that guide-posts were placed at every
cross road with "Refuge! Refuge!" written upon them. But the man that
wilfully killed another was not sheltered. He was given up to the
avenger to be slain.
In our picture we see the slayer running to the city gate; the avenger
close behind, shooting arrows at him. He has thus far escaped, and two
or three more steps will place him in safety. But, once within the
city, he must not quit its refuge until the death of the high priest.
If he do so and the avenger find him he may be slain. But upon the
death of the high priest he will be allowed to return home, to dwell
in peace again.