"9 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 10 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you cross the Jordan into the land of Canaan, 11 then you shall select cities to be cities of refuge for you, that the manslayer who kills any person without intent may flee there. 12 The cities shall be for you a refuge from the avenger, that the manslayer may not die until he stands before the congregation for judgment. 13 And the cities that you give shall be your six cities of refuge. 14 You shall give three cities beyond the Jordan, and three cities in the land of Canaan, to be cities of refuge. 15 These six cities shall be for refuge for the people of Israel, and for the stranger and for the sojourner among them, that anyone who kills any person without intent may flee there.
16 “But if he struck him down with an iron object, so that he died, he is a murderer. The murderer shall be put to death. 17 And if he struck him down with a stone tool that could cause death, and he died, he is a murderer. The murderer shall be put to death. 18 Or if he struck him down with a wooden tool that could cause death, and he died, he is a murderer. The murderer shall be put to death. 19 The avenger of blood shall himself put the murderer to death; when he meets him, he shall put him to death. 20 And if he pushed him out of hatred or hurled something at him, lying in wait, so that he died, 21 or in enmity struck him down with his hand, so that he died, then he who struck the blow shall be put to death. He is a murderer. The avenger of blood shall put the murderer to death when he meets him.
22 “But if he pushed him suddenly without enmity, or hurled anything on him without lying in wait 23 or used a stone that could cause death, and without seeing him dropped it on him, so that he died, though he was not his enemy and did not seek his harm, 24 then the congregation shall judge between the manslayer and the avenger of blood, in accordance with these rules. 25 And the congregation shall rescue the manslayer from the hand of the avenger of blood, and the congregation shall restore him to his city of refuge to which he had fled, and he shall live in it until the death of the high priest who was anointed with the holy oil. 26 But if the manslayer shall at any time go beyond the boundaries of his city of refuge to which he fled, 27 and the avenger of blood finds him outside the boundaries of his city of refuge, and the avenger of blood kills the manslayer, he shall not be guilty of blood. 28 For he must remain in his city of refuge until the death of the high priest, but after the death of the high priest the manslayer may return to the land of his possession. 29 And these things shall be for a statute and rule for you throughout your generations in all your dwelling places.
30 “If anyone kills a person, the murderer shall be put to death on the evidence of witnesses. But no person shall be put to death on the testimony of one witness. 31 Moreover, you shall accept no ransom for the life of a murderer, who is guilty of death, but he shall be put to death. 32 And you shall accept no ransom for him who has fled to his city of refuge, that he may return to dwell in the land before the death of the high priest. 33 You shall not pollute the land in which you live, for blood pollutes the land, and no atonement can be made for the land for the blood that is shed in it, except by the blood of the one who shed it. 34 You shall not defile the land in which you live, in the midst of which I dwell, for I the Lord dwell in the midst of the people of Israel."
We should note particularly the significance of the fact that the cities of refuge were Levite cities (13). The Levites were set apart specially to be ministers of the Lord, and teachers of His law to the people, and the cities of refuge were appointed from the cities they were given by the other tribes. The association of ideas in this is impressive and remarkable: the function of these cities of refuge matched the function of the Levites themselves. Happy is the man separated unto the ministry of the Word of the Lord who is recognised as constituting and creating a 'place' to which the burdened and the heavyladen can turn in time of need, and find refuge and rest. We should not forget, in this connection, our Lord's words to the disciples: 'Ye are the light of the world: a city that is set on a hill cannot be hid'. Here is the idea of a city of refuge as the calling and function of the Church. And how can we be this? By being like the Levites, separated unto God for the gospel's sake. We may well take Paul as an example in this. He was a man who knew something of the loneliness of the calling to the ministry. What a record of privation and suffering was his! He also had no inheritance, in the sense of earthly possessions,
Lone on the land, and homeless on the water, Pass I in patience till my work is done.
'As possessing nothing...' - this was the simple truth about him. He counted all things loss for Christ's sake; and it was because of this that he could go on to say... - 'yet possessing all things; as poor, yet making many rich'. The privation, the costly loneliness, the being cut off from so much that makes life humanly speaking attractive all this bore fruit in a life that told, wherever it went, for God. This is how to be a city set on a hill!