There have been many courtrooms in America where a family member has looked in the eyes of the person responsible for the death of their child and said, “I hope you rot in hell.” What if they were given permission to kill the person right there in the courtroom? In the book of Numbers, HaShem makes a rule for people who accidentally murder someone. He opens up cities where they can flee. Why? Because the person’s family members would try and avenge the blood of their relative.
“These cities will be places of protection from a dead person’s relatives who want to avenge the death. The slayer must not be put to death before being tried by the community” Numbers 35:12 NLT.
“Six of the towns you give the Levites will be CITIES OF REFUGE…” Numbers 35:6 NLT. The next verse says, “Select some towns to be your cities of refuge, to which a person who has killed someone accidentally may flee.” Numbers 35:11.
Imagine you have a son who is working all day in the hot sun, and he accidentally lifts a huge stone and places it on a cart of some sort and it rolls off and kills a man, or he accidentally falls into another man who falls off a cliff. The law (Torah) stated they must stone him to death. Therefore, HaShem placed these cities of refuge where the men could go flee from those pursuing them. They would be given a trial, and they would be placed before a judge and a verdict would be given on their innocence or their guilt.
Don’t fall asleep on me, we are just getting to the climax. Also, they could never put a person to death on the testimony of only one witness. There must always be two or three witnesses according to Deuteronomy 17:6. So, let’s get back to these cities that were set up to save those who may have been guilty of an accidental death.
“The victims nearest relative is responsible for putting the murderer to death. When they meet, the avenger must put the murderer to death.” Numbers 35:19 NLT. Let’s just imagine someone murdered you or me. Basically, one of our family members would go put them to death.
His blood had to be shed to pay for the blood of the one who died. Can you imagine? If the one accused of murder left the city of refuge, he was an open target. Only under the covering of the High Priest, was he safe.
What does the Bible say to do? “If this should happen, the community must follow these regulations in making a judgment between the slayer and the avenger, the victim’s nearest relative: The community must protect the slayer from the avenger and must escort the slayer back to live in the city of refuge to which he fled. There he must remain until the death of the High Priest, who was anointed with the sacred oil” Numbers 35:23-25.
Did you catch that? Yes, when the High Priest died, the person accused of murder could return to their family, and so it is said in the Talmud that the mothers of the high priest would bring gifts, care packages, and bribes to the slayers, so they would not pray for their sons to die. Oh, my! Yeshua gave his blood, His very life, so you and I can live. “So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe.” Hebrews 4:14.
To these cities of refuge, man-slayers might flee and be safe until they had a fair trial. If acquitted of the charge, they were protected from the avenger of blood; yet they must continue within the bounds of the city until the death of the High Priest. Thus we are reminded that the death of the great High Priest is the only means whereby sins are pardoned, and sinners set at liberty.
The picture of the high priest dying instead of the unintentional murderer is a perfect picture of Jesus-Yeshua. Weren’t we all just running aimlessly and living in hiding until His light found us and bathed us and set us free from death and the grave?