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Deuteronomy 19 (ESV)
Laws Concerning Cities of Refuge
1 “When the Lord your God cuts off the nations whose land the Lord your God is giving you, and you dispossess them and dwell in their cities and in their houses, 2 you shall set apart three cities for yourselves in the land that the Lord your God is giving you to possess. 3 You shall measure the distances and divide into three parts the area of the land that the Lord your God gives you as a possession, so that any manslayer can flee to them.
4 “This is the provision for the manslayer, who by fleeing there may save his life. If anyone kills his neighbor unintentionally without having hated him in the past— 5 as when someone goes into the forest with his neighbor to cut wood, and his hand swings the axe to cut down a tree, and the head slips from the handle and strikes his neighbor so that he dies—he may flee to one of these cities and live, 6 lest the avenger of blood in hot anger pursue the manslayer and overtake him, because the way is long, and strike him fatally, though the man did not deserve to die, since he had not hated his neighbor in the past. 7 Therefore I command you, You shall set apart three cities. 8 And if the Lord your God enlarges your territory, as he has sworn to your fathers, and gives you all the land that he promised to give to your fathers— 9 provided you are careful to keep all this commandment, which I command you today, by loving the Lord your God and by walking ever in his ways—then you shall add three other cities to these three, 10 lest innocent blood be shed in your land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance, and so the guilt of bloodshed be upon you.
This section mandates the establishment of cities of refuge, places where people who commit an unintentional homicide may flee in order to avoid death at the hands of an avenging relative of the deceased. This law shows God’s concern to protect from harm those who do not deserve death even though their actions, perhaps even negligence, led to the death of another. It also shows that God’s people should be slow to send individuals to their death, being very careful that the accused get proper justice.
When I am angry and want to take revenge on someone, I ought to remember that God’s desire is for us to be slow to anger, lest innocent “blood” be shed. Although today we might not consider killing a standard way of retaliating, there are ways in which we can harm others in response for what they have done to us. Ask God to help you to learn to forgive as Christ has commanded us, letting go of our need to hurt back.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD “— and you forgave the guilt of my sin. ……. You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.