James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
The LORD also spake unto Joshua, saying,Joshua 20:1-22:34
SPECIAL CITIES; ALTAR OF WITNESS
THE CITIES OF REFUGE (Joshua 20)
The decree concerning the cities of refuge was considered in its place. It will be well, however, again to notice that they were not instituted to shield criminals but innocent murderers. Whether innocent or guilty though, the murdered had an asylum until his case could be heard by the authorities (Joshua 20:6). If innocent he was permitted to remain in the city, immune from the legal avenger, until the death of the high priest. When this occurred he was free to return to his home town, and the rights of the avenger ceased (Joshua 20:6).
Observe the symbolical character of the high priest in this particular. How the man-slayer, desirous of his liberty, must have calculated the probabilities of his death, and wondered whether, after all, it would antedate his own? But what a type it is of the Mediator of the new covenant who by means of death has secured redemption and deliverance for all that believe on Him (Hebrews 9:15-17).
THE CITIES OF THE LEVITES (Joshua 21)
In the distribution of these there is nothing more remarkable than the allotment of the priests (Joshua 21:9-19), in which all the cities falling to them were located within the territories of Judah and Benjamin. Simeon indeed is named (Joshua 21:9), but an earlier chapter showed that this tribe had received part of the territory of Judah which had proven too large for them.
Behold, the providence of God! At a later period there is a revolt among the tribes (1 Kings 12), and they separate themselves on the north to form the kingdom of Israel, while two on the south remain loyal to the Davidic and Messianic line, retaining the temple worship and Aaronic priesthood intact, and these two are Judah and Benjamin!
THE ALTAR OF WITNESS (Joshua 22)
Notice the commendation Joshua is enabled to give the men of war of the two and a half tribes, who for a probable period of seven years, had separated themselves from their families and flocks in fulfillment of their pledge, to assist in the conquest of the land and the settlement of the tribes on the other side of the Jordan (Joshua 22:1-4).
Note the warning and benediction he bestows upon them (Joshua 22:5-6), and the share of the spoil they carry back, and the purpose of it (Joshua 22:8).
But soon a misunderstanding arises. Note its cause (Joshua 22:10); the commotion it occasioned among the tribes on the west (Joshua 22:11-12); the wise counsels that prevailed (Joshua 22:13-14); the conference with the supposed offenders (Joshua 22:15-20); the explanation (Joshua 22:21-29), and the satisfaction experienced (Joshua 22:30-34).
1. In what parts of the Pentateuch are the cities of refuge referred to?
2. What type of Christ, not heretofore mentioned in these lessons, is found in the record concerning them?
3. What providence is seen in the lot of the priests?
4. Can you give the history of the altar of witness?
5. What name was given it, and why?