: 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

unwittingly killed
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.