King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Joshua 20

The law concerning the cities of refuge. (1-6) The cities appointed as refuges. (7-9)

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The law concerning the cities of refuge

1 The LORD also spake unto Joshua, saying,

2 Speak to the children of Israel, saying, Appoint out for you cities of refuge, whereof I spake unto you by the hand of Moses:

3 That the slayer that killeth any person unawares and unwittingly may flee thither: and they shall be your refuge from the avenger of blood.

4 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.

5 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.

6 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.

The cities appointed as refuges

7 And they appointed Kedesh in Galilee in mount Naphtali, and Shechem in mount Ephraim, and Kirjatharba, which is Hebron, in the mountain of Judah.

8 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.

9 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.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 3. Of blood, and authorized to kill the manslayer, (M.) if he find him out of one of these cities. See Num. xxxv. 6. Deut. xix. 4. Revenge was never lawful: but to prosecute offenders in the courts of justice, (C.) or agreeably to the law of God, can never deserve blame. H. — If some of the saints of the old law seem to have taken delight in revenge, their expressions must be explained in a favourable sense. David, who is accused of this crime, (C.) repels the charge with horror. Ps. vii. 5. The evils which he denounces to his adversaries, were predictions of what they had reason to expect. Ps. lvii. 11. Jer. xi. 20. H. — If some of the Jews looked upon vengeance as lawful, it cannot be a matter of surprise, when we reflect that even some, who have been taught the mild law of the gospel, think themselves bound, in some cases, to revenge an affront. C. — So far have the maxims of the world supplanted Christianity in their breasts! How severely does Jacob rebuke his children for what they had done to the Sichemites, though they falsely thought that the affront offered to their sister, would justify them! Gen. xxxiv. H.

Ver. 4. Gate, where justice was administered. M. — Here the ancients heard what the manslayer had to say in his own defence; and if they thought his account plausible, they gave him a retreat till he might be safely brought to answer the charges of the avenger, who might endeavour to prove that the murder was wilful.

Ver. 5. Before. This is generally taken literally. But if sufficient proof could be brought that the contending parties were at variance, or reconciled some time before the accident happened, the person who had taken refuge, would be judged accordingly. It might lawfully be presumed that they were enemies, if, after being at variance, they had given no signs of reconciliation. C.

Ver. 6. Fact. Sept. “before the synagogue for judgment.” H. — Whether this took place in the same city, or where the murder was committed, (see Num. xxxv. 12. and v. 25.) the reasons are given why the manslayer was released at the death of the high priest. C. — By the death of Christ, the greatest criminals are redeemed. M.

Ver. 7. Cedes and Gaulon lay on the north, Sichem and Ramoth in the middle, Hebron and Bosor on the south of the country. H.

Ver. 9. Strangers. The limitations of the Jews in favour of their own nation are rejected. The civil and criminal law should affect all alike, except, God order it otherwise. — Stand. This was the posture of the people accused, while the judges sat. Drusius. C.