Scripture Reading: Numbers 35:1-36:13 / Luke 9:10-27 / Proverbs 8:22-31
The presumption of innocence is a common and legal right in many nations. The accused is considered “innocent until proven guilty”. The burden of proof is on the prosecution to present enough compelling evidence to convict the accused as guilty beyond reasonable doubt. An injustice occurs when the guilty are freed but a greater injustice happens when the innocent are pronounced guilty.
God is interested in justice and established a process where the accused were protected until their guilt or innocence could be proven. God established “cities of refuge” as the places of protection. “Six of the towns you give the Levites will be cities of refuge to which a person who has killed someone may flee. Select some towns to be your cities of refuge, to which a person who has killed someone accidentally may flee.” (Numbers 35:6,11)
The Old Testament code called for “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”. If a person took the life of another, the Law called for justice to be served by the hands of the deceased’s next of kin….”The Avenger of Blood.” They had the authority to exact justice and slay the murderer. If a person accidently, inadvertently or without hostility killed someone, it was considered “manslaughter” and they could run to the shelter of refuge for protection from the avenger of blood.
God was interested in justice not vengeance. God did not want the people taking the law into their own hands so placed safeguards and protection for the innocent. Every person was entitled to a fair trial and for his or her case to be heard. The Avenger of Blood could not enter the city of refuge to execute justice and those within the city were safe as long as they stayed in the city.
If a person was found innocent, the City of Refuge was to be their home and dwelling place. They were to remain in the city and never leave until the death of the High Priest. God strategically placed 3 cities on the east side of the Jordan River and the other 3 cities on the west side of the Jordan River. God designed it this way so that no matter where you were, you were never more than a day or two's journey from one of these cities of refuge.
The cities were easily accessible, directional signs were prominently placed at intersections and they were open to all Israelites and strangers. Once within the city, the manslayer would find it was well supplied with water and all kinds of provisions. The Cities of Refuge were the only hope for the manslayer…they were their salvation. God established and ordained these gracious places of redemption. We may not have physical cities of refuge today but God does have places of safety and protection. We don’t need to be fearful or uncertain because Jesus is our refuge and in Him we find everything we need…we’re never too far from God’s help!