So, the first thing that I wondered as I read this chapter – I thought that there was a whole heap of these offerings to keep the Levites fed. I miscalculated, I guess. I mean, even if the Israelites were offering enough by way of cows, sheep and other creatures to feed all the Levites, could the altars physically manage to keep up with that amount of meat on a daily basis.
I guess I had a bigger view of things than really was possible.
So even though the Levites weren’t going to get any specific inheritance in the Promised Land, they were given cities. 48 of them in fact. In this occasion, too, it seems like all the Israelites got a piece. The word, when talking about the Cities of Refuge that are to be set up, says that three are to be set up on this side of the Jordan, and three in Canaan. So even if they didn’t get included in the Western Jordan inheritance, the tribes who decided to settle on the East of the Jordan did still get included when it came to the Levites – they were still given people to intercede between them and God.
I find the terminology here interesting. The passage speaks repeatedly about someone who kills another person.
Murder is just plain murder; the person is guilty and under the law – which does say an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth – it is also a life for a life.
The term used is the “Avenger of Blood.” To me it sounds like some kind of superhero, although I don’t know quite for certain whether he’d be a hero or villain.
The point is, though, that a person who sheds blood and takes a life is allowed to be killed by a person avenging them.
There is a recognition, though, that accidents can happen and so here, God provides provision for those situations. He says that they are to set up six Cities of Refuge, where a person who accidentally kills someone can seek salvation.
They are only safe, though, as long as they remain in the walls of that city. If they step outside the land of that city, and are found by the Avenger of Blood, then that person can kill them without further ramification. This is the way until the High Priest dies.
In the Psalms, and in quite a few modern songs, God is called our refuge.
We have all sinned. Perhaps we’re not all murderers, but we’re all guilty and thus deserving of the consequences of our actions – eternal separation from God. Yet we have a refuge – through the death of the High Priest – Jesus – we can seek refuge in God’s own throne room. Through the blood of Jesus, we can seek refuge.
But we too, are only really safe if we remain within the walls of that refuge. If we remain in God, then we are safe, but if we wander out of that place of safety, then we put ourselves in danger once more. We are safe in God; safe in the arms of our refuge and shelter.