by Ivor Powell

This content is part of a series.

The Cities Where Gates Were Never Closed (7 of 34)
Series: Bible Oases: Spiritual Refreshment From Unlikely Places
Ivor Powell
Joshua 20:7-8

Among the cities of Israel six were unique. They were specially selected to become havens of refuge for those whose lives were threatened. All were strategically situated; three were on the west side of the river Jordan and three on the east. They belonged to the tribe of Levi and each had its resident priest. Access was obtainable night or day, for the gates were never closed. According to Israel's legal system, when a person was inadvertently killed, his relatives were permitted to avenge the death of the deceased. The law supported the idea of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, and a person accused of murder was in great danger, even when the death had been accidental.

This procedure seemed to be unjust, and to rectify the situation six cities were chosen to become havens of refuge where those endangered could seek the protection of God and His priest. The accused was required to remain until his case could be examined by the "congregation" (city council), or until the priest died. Afterward, if he were innocent, he was permitted to return to his family.

Bible students believe this provision was a foreshadowing of the Savior, who was to become a refuge for sinners. God predicted, "And a man shall be as an hiding place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land" (Isa. 32:2). David expressed a similar thought when he wrote, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble" (Ps. 46:1). An illuminating statement was made by the writer to the Hebrews, who said, "That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us" (Heb. 6:18). After hiding from a storm in Somerset, England, the poet Toplady w ...

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