Numbers 35 – Provision, Protection, and Punishment

Some thoughts for meditation following our daily devotional Scripture reading that is provided each week.

Instead of each Israelite’s firstborn being devoted to God, the Lord chose the tribe of Levi (3:11-13). Consequently they did not receive any land but would be scattered throughout Israel, enabling their various teaching and other responsibilities in the theocratic kingdom. Accordingly each tribe was to give four cities for Levites to dwell in (for a total of 48 cities) as well as common land for their various animals. Israel was responsible for including and caring for the Levites (cf. Deut 12:12, 18-19) because of their essential ministry.

Israel was also to set aside six cities of refuge, three on each side of the Jordan River. Killers–whose guilt or innocence had yet to be determined–could go to such cities for protection from avengers until a proper trial could be held by the congregation. If the killer left the city of refuge he could be executed by the victim’s nearest relative who was responsible for doing so (v. 19). The killer needed to stay there until the high priest died, after which he was free to go back to his home.

At his trial there needed to be at least two witnesses to render a death sentence. One witness was insufficient. Guilt or innocence was determined by whether or not the death was intentional or accidental. If the accused was found guilty he must be put to death no matter who he was or where he was from.

Moreover, no amount of money should be accepted to buy the guilty murderer’s freedom. The only acceptable payment for murder was the death of the murderer (cf. Gen 9:6). Allowing murderers to escape justice would pollute, desecrate, and defile the land where the Lord himself dwelt. Indeed, he dwelt “among and in the midst of the children of Israel.”

Note:

  1. God’s ministers must be cared and provided for. Such is in everyone’s best interests. The laborer is worthy of his hire.
  2. God’s laws express his attribute of righteousness. Ignoring them offends his very nature and character.
  3. True justice is rooted in and expressive of God’s righteousness. It is carried out on the basis of established fact. It is not to be thwarted.
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