While doing research for my current work in progress, I came upon some interesting information about cities of refuge in ancient Israel. From ancient times and all over the world, cultures have allowed the killing of a person to be avenged, no matter the circumstances of the killing.
The ancient Israelites understood the idea of an avenger of blood so well that scriptures do not explain it. The Law merely allows for cities of refuge among the tribes.
Interesting fact: Moses and Joshua told the Israelites to establish six cities of refuge, three on the east side of the River Jordan, three on the west. (A lot of what we now call the nation of Jordan was once the territory of the eastern tribes of Israel.)
These six cities became refuges for those who accidentally killed another. If murderous intent could be shown, the killer was to be sent out of the city where the avenger of blood waited.
Fact: If murderous intent could not be proved through the testimony of at least two witnesses, the killer was allowed – nay, had – to stay within the safety of the city walls. He or she could not leave even to attend the three mandatory festivals of worship. That person was cut off from the community of faith.
Final interesting fact: “…until the death of the high priest. ” Four times the Law stipulates that the death of the high priest set killers free to return to their home towns. Since the refugee could not safely go to the Tabernacle in Shiloh or the Temple in Jerusalem to sacrifice a lamb, Yahweh provided another means to free them.
Isn’t it interesting that Messiah took every part in the sacrifice to cover sin? He was the Lamb of God who took away every person’s sin, as John the Baptizer said. He was also the High Priest who took the blood of His sacrifice into the Holy of Holies as the writer of Hebrews said. Finally, Messiah was the High Priest who died so that even killers may be set free.