Matthew Poole's Commentary
The LORD also spake unto Joshua, saying,God commands six cities of refuge for those who unawares should slay a man, Joshua 20:1-4. The right use of them, Joshua 20:5,6. The Israelites appoint hereunto three cities on this, and three on the other side of Jordan, Joshua 20:7-9.
No text from Poole on this verse.
Speak to the children of Israel, saying, Appoint out for you cities of refuge, whereof I spake unto you by the hand of Moses:The possessions being now divided among you, do you reserve some of them for the use which I have commanded.
That the slayer that killeth any person unawares and unwittingly may flee thither: and they shall be your refuge from the avenger of blood.Unawares and unwittingly, Heb. through ignorance, or error, or mistake, and without knowledge; the same thing twice repeated, to cut off all the claims and expectations that wilful murderers might have of protection here; and God having declared that such should be taken even from his altar, that they might be killed, Exodus 21:14; and accordingly Joab was by Solomon’s order killed even at the altar, 1 Kings 2:28-31,34. It is the more strange and impudent that any Christians should make their sanctuaries give protection to such persons whom God hath so expressly excepted from it, which the papists do; and their doctors are not ashamed to defend it upon frivolous reasons.
The avenger of blood; the kinsman, who had right or power to demand or take vengeance of the slaughter.
And when he that doth flee unto one of those cities shall stand at the entering of the gate of the city, and shall declare his cause in the ears of the elders of that city, they shall take him into the city unto them, and give him a place, that he may dwell among them.The judges used to sit
at the entering of the gate. His cause, or, his matters or business, what he hath done, and why, and how; he shall give them a true relation of the fact, and all its circumstances.
They shall take him into the city; understand, if they are satisfied in the relation he makes concerning the fact, otherwise it had been a vain thing to examine his cause.
Give him a place; which they might well allow him, because God gave them the city with a reservation for such persons.
And if the avenger of blood pursue after him, then they shall not deliver the slayer up into his hand; because he smote his neighbour unwittingly, and hated him not beforetime.No text from Poole on this verse.
And he shall dwell in that city, until he stand before the congregation for judgment, and until the death of the high priest that shall be in those days: then shall the slayer return, and come unto his own city, and unto his own house, unto the city from whence he fled.Standing was the posture of the accused and accusers, Exodus 18:13 Isaiah 1:8 Zechariah 3:1.
Before the congregation, or, company, or assembly, to wit, the council appointed to judge of these matters: not the council of the city of refuge, for they had examined him before, Joshua 20:4; but of the city to which he belonged, or in or nigh which the fact was committed, as appears from Numbers 35:25.
Until the death of the high priest; of which see Poole "Numbers 35:25".
And they appointed Kedesh in Galilee in mount Naphtali, and Shechem in mount Ephraim, and Kirjatharba, which is Hebron, in the mountain of Judah.Concerning these cities, note,
1. That they were all upon mountains, that they might be seen at a great distance, and so direct those who fled thither.
2. That they were seated at convenient distance one from another, for the benefit of the several tribes; for Kedesh was in the north, Hebron in the south, and Shechem between them.
3. That they all belonged to the Levites; partly that these causes might be more impartially examined and justly determined by them, who are presumed best able to understand the law of God, and most obliged and likely to follow it in their judgment, and not to be biassed by any affection or corrupt interest; and partly that their just reputation with the people, and their good counsels, might lay some restraint upon revengeful persons, who might be inclined or tempted to follow the man-slayer thither, and endeavour to kill him there.
And on the other side Jordan by Jericho eastward, they assigned Bezer in the wilderness upon the plain out of the tribe of Reuben, and Ramoth in Gilead out of the tribe of Gad, and Golan in Bashan out of the tribe of Manasseh.They assigned, or gave, or had assigned, or
given; for they were given by Moses, Deu 4:41, &c.; or they confirmed Moses’s grant, and applied them to that use to which Moses designed and separated them.
These were the cities appointed for all the children of Israel, and for the stranger that sojourneth among them, that whosoever killeth any person at unawares might flee thither, and not die by the hand of the avenger of blood, until he stood before the congregation.For the stranger; not only proselytes, but others also; because this was a matter of common right, that a distinction might be made between casual man-slayers and wilful murderers.