christine's bible study

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever. Isa 40:8

deuteronomy 19:1-10, cities of refuge

Read Deuteronomy 19:1-10 at Bible Gateway.

Previously: deuteronomy 19:1-21:9, do not commit murder

(Please review the teaching tools of scripture, especially the Hebrew paragraph divisions. The paragraphs marked by an “s” at their close are weak paragraphs, which indicate a change of facet but not a change of theme or topic. The paragraphs marked by a “p” at their close are strong paragraphs, which indicate the completion of a theme or topic.)

This is the first section explaining the sixth commandment, Do not commit murder. The sixth commandment is explained in Deu 19:1-21:9, and this is my summary of it. The Hebrew paragraph divisions are:

Deu 19:1-10 {p} Three cities of refuge

We saw yesterday that this section completes an overarching theme begun in Deu 17:8, but also, this is the first complete paragraph explaining Do not commit murder. In fact this paragraph forms its own chiastic structure:

1a) Deu 19:1, When the Lord God cuts off the nations from your land;
1b) Deu 19:2-3, Separate three cities of refuge that any manslayer may flee there;
1c) Deu 19:4, The manslayer who may flee there: whoever kills unintentionally + not hating him in time past;
central axis) Deu 19:5a, Definition of manslaughter: causing an accidental death;
2c) Deu 19:5b-6, He shall flee there and live, to escape the avenger of blood + not hating him in time past;
2b) Deu 19:7, Therefore I command you, saying, ‘You shall separate three cities for yourself;’
2a) Deu 19:8-10, If the Lord God enlarges your territory.

We learn, then, that the command is not, Do not kill, but, Do not commit murder. There is a distinction between murder and manslaughter. The clue is in vs. 4 and 6, “.. not hating the victim in time past.” Murder is a premeditated crime that comes from hatred:

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.” Mat 5:21-22

And hatred comes from unresolved anger, therefore Jesus teaches us be reconciled with one another on a regular basis if there are issues between one another. Unresolved issues, unforgiveness, anger, and hatred are not something to be taken lightly. They are the seeds that grow to produce the fruit of murder, if left alone. Jesus is here teaching us, that a believer who never acts on the impulse to murder someone, but who hates him, is embracing wicked ways still, from which God is calling His people to turn.

We have learned previously in Torah that some crimes are punishable by death; these are capital crimes. One of these crimes, is murder. So the command is not, Do not kill, but, Do not commit murder — as sometimes the judge must impose death in order to remain obedient to God’s Law. Unfortunately there are some crimes so heinous and abominable that capital punishment is the only just and merciful way to protect society (and future innocent victims) from their spread.

So therefore we are to establish refuge for the one who does not murder, but causes a death accidentally. Manslaughter – causing an accidental death – is not murder, and is not punishable with the same sentence of capital punishment that the crime of murder is. This is for the protection of the avenger of blood as well as the manslaughterer. If the avenger of blood (usually the next of kin to the victim) was to kill a manslaughterer, to avenge the victim’s death, then he would become guilty of shedding innocent blood himself.

This is the practical “meat” from this passage as applied to the proper exercise of justice. But the three cities of refuge also paint a prophetic picture of Messiah: He is our refuge, to whom we flee to escape our sentence of death (Num 35-36).

Continued: deuteronomy 19:11-21, the murderer shall not find refuge


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