When the LORD your God has cut off the nations, whose land the LORD your God gives you, and you succeed them, and dwell in their cities…
The universe was not constituted to give security to murderers: there is no shelter for a man hater. He may get into a city of refuge, but he is to be dragged out of it: the evil-doer may make a profession of religion, but his cloak, though of velvet and gold braided, must be torn from his shoulders. The universe has no lodgment for the man of malicious heart and murderous spirit; the city of refuge in Israel was not built for him; he has no right in it; to pity him is to despise the law; to pity the murderer is to forget the murdered. The eyes of justice are fixed upon both points in the case. It is an evil sentiment that spares the wrong-doer and forgets the wrong-endurer, the sufferer of wrong. There is one place appointed for the murderer. Who is the murderer? Not the shedder of blood: — whoso hateth his brother without a cause is a murderer. This is the great law, not of Israel only, but of the Church of Christ in all ages. Beware of malice! It does not always begin in its broadest form, or leap at once in all its intensity into human action: it begins in little frets and spites and jealousies; it starts out of a root of criticism, of fault finding, and investigations into consistency; it may begin as a clever action, showing the spirit of judgment, and proving itself to be equal to the analysis of the most hidden motive; but it grows; disappointed, it begins to justify itself; foiled in its attempts to succeed, it retires that it may increase the supposed evidence that is at command; then it returns to the onslaught; it grows by what it feeds on; at last, philanthropy — love of man — dies, and misanthropy — hatred of man — takes its place. Then is the soul a murderer; and, thank God, there is no city of refuge for the murderer of life, of hope, of love, of trust! — open the door and thrust ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness! — the sun will not spare a beam to bless the murderer. Christ is not a refuge in the sense of a criminal being able to outrun justice. The picture in Israel was the picture of a man fleeing for refuge and an avenger fleeing after him; and if the avenger were swifter of foot, the man slayer might be killed outside the city. There is no such picture in Christianity. In Christ we do not outrun justice: justice itself, by a mystery we can neither understand nor explain, has been satisfied by Christ.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: When the LORD thy God hath cut off the nations, whose land the LORD thy God giveth thee, and thou succeedest them, and dwellest in their cities, and in their houses;