The Encourager

The Encourager

“The Cities of Refuge - A Type of the Lord's Church - Heath Rogers”

The Cities of Refuge - A Type of the Lord’s Church

by Heath Rogers

In Numbers 35:11-34, the Lord gave instructions regarding the cities of refuge. These cities played an important role in maintaining justice in Israel.

The ancient Near East had a custom - when a person was killed, their nearest relative had the responsibility to slay the murderer. This relative was called the “avenger of blood.” The cities of refuge were set apart so that if anyone accidentally killed a person (without hatred, enmity, or premeditation – Num. 35:20-21) they could flee to one of these cities and be protected from the avenger of blood.

Upon reaching the city, they were to be received by the elders and their case was to be heard. If the trial showed they had taken a life by accident, they would be given asylum in the city of refuge. They had to remain in the city until the death of the high priest. If they left the city before the death of the high priest, they were subject to death at the hands of the avenger of blood.

There were six cities of refuge in Israel: three in the land of Canaan and three beyond the Jordan. In Deuteronomy 4:41-43, Moses set up three of these cities on the east side of the Jordan River: Bezer, Ramoth, and Golan. In Joshua 20, the other three cities were set up on the west side of the Jordan River: Kedesh, Shechem, and Hebron (also known as Kirjath Arba). These cities were spread equally throughout the land and were easily accessible by roads (Deut. 19:2-3). These cities were six of the 48 cities given to the Levites (Joshau 21), so the inhabitants of these cities of refuge would have been knowledgeable of the law and merciful towards their countrymen.

We don’t read much of the cities of refuge in the remainder of the Bible, but it is apparent they were a type of the Lord’s church. The Hebrew writer tells Christians that “we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us” (Heb. 6:18). In coming to Christ for salvation we have fled for refuge. The moment we are saved, we are added by the Lord to the church (Acts 2:47).

Consider the analogies between the cities of refuge and the church.

· The cities of refuge were for those who were in danger of the avenger of blood. Sinners are in danger of death (Ezek. 18:20; Rom. 6:23).

· The roads to the cities of refuge were plain and accessible. The “road” to salvation in Christ and His church is equally plain and accessible to “whosoever is willing.”

· One had to abide within the city of refuge to remain safe from the avenger of blood. One has to abide in Christ and His church to remain in a saved condition (John 15:1-6; Eph. 5:23; Rev. 2:10).

· The manslayer had to remain in the city of refuge until the death of the high priest. Jesus is our High Priest forever because He can’t die (Heb. 7:23-24, 28). We must always remain in His church to escape the penalty for our sins.

· The cities of refuge were made up of Levites who knew the law and were to be merciful to the people. The Lord’s church is made up of priests (all Christians are priests – 1 Pet. 2:5, 9) who are to know God’s word and show mercy to one another.

All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). Refuge is offered to you in the Lord’s church. Entrance into the church is possible if you will follow the “road” in obedience to the gospel.

Meditate on these things:

Proverbs 17:22

A merry heart does good, like medicine, but a broken spirit dries the bones.