Moses sets aside the first of the cities of refuge. There were to be six in all; three on each side of the Jordan.
Because Moses was told by God that he wouldn’t be going into the Promised Land, he wouldn’t see where each tribe’s inheritance would be. But three tribes had requested lands on this side of the Jordan. Moses got to participate in assigning them their portions. He also got to assign the cities of refuge within their borders.
There were only going to be six cities of refuge in all of Israel. Not every tribe would contain one of them within their own territory but the three tribes who remained on this side of the Jordan each hosted one. This is a testament to the size of land they received. The tribes of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh were 23% of the total population of the Israelite’s. I don’t know if their portion of land was bigger because they were the only ones who wanted this side of the Jordan or not but their territory was substantial.
On the far side of the Jordan the land would be divided between the remaining nine tribes and would be proportionate to the numbers of their people. These nine would share the remaining three cities of refuge.
These cities were important for protection of those who killed someone by accident. God demanded a life for a life to balance the scales but He made provisions for those who did so accidentally. This was not a “get out of jail free” card for those whose actions resulted in the death of another but it did let them live. The person would stand trial for their actions and if found innocent of malice and forethought would be confined to this city until either the high priest died or they did. If they left before the high priest’s death their lives were no longer protected and could be killed to settle the debt of a life for a life.
I have often wondered about the one who takes up the task of balancing the scales of justice. They take the life of someone on purpose. What becomes of them? Are they then accountable for the life they just took? If so it would be a never ending circle of retribution and new debts. It doesn’t sound fair to me that one person gets away with murder while another is required to pay the price. This is probably one of the arguments behind the death penalty; “state sanctioned murder.”
Jesus’ teachings would have us forgive the person who both voluntarily and accidentally took someone’s life. He teaches us to forgive even up to 70 x 70. He calls for us to let God judge instead. I like that option better. I KNOW God will make the right judgement and impose the appropriate sentence.
Father God, thank You for putting in provisions for man’s mistakes. You know our hearts better than even we do. You certainly know mine better than I do. I get lost in the “what if’s” of this world. I KNOW I wouldn’t make a very good judge. Probably a good reason You didn’t send my life in that direction. I’m going to leave the job of judgement in Your hands and PRAY I never get called on to make that judgement regarding another. If I do, I KNOW that You will have to be the one to guide me to the truth contained in the matter. Thank You for giving me a heart that tries to see the best in everyone. And thank You for protecting me when I follow it.