Appoint For Yourselves Cities of Refuge

The lands have been given, an inheritance to Israel, by tribe and family but there is still the shift they must make from the time of sojourning and war to the time of peaceful possession that was before them. Moses had instructed them to establish cities of refuge but God had not prescribed which cities, he only said in Numbers 35:11 “you will select for yourselves cities for your cities of refuge”. So the people did select cities across their land, “Bezer (Bozrah) … and Ramoth … and Golan (Dt 4:43; Jos 20:8)”2 and “Kedesh … Shechem … Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron) (Joshua 20:7)”2. And, the Levites still had no inheritance, yet needed a place to carry out their duties to the Lord in Shiloh where the ark of the covenant resided, but also their duties to the people. Again, God had not prescribed where the Levites would live, he only said in Numbers 35:2 “Command the Israelites that they give to the Levites from the inheritance of their property cities to live in; and you will give to the Levites pastureland all around the cities”. And they did give the Levites place across the land, even in their most prominent cities.

The Sixth Allotment Fell For the Children of Naphtali

Joshua 19:32–39

The Seventh Lot Fell For the Tribe of the Descendants of Dan

Joshua 19:40–48 

Appoint For Yourselves Cities of Refuge

Joshua 20:1–9
God understands the emotions he created us with. He also understood that these people were separated from him, they didn’t have the gift of the Holy Spirit that Jesus has given us as believers. They had reason and learning and emotion, the state of fallen man. This is why this idea is so prominent throughout the old testament, “observe diligently all that is written” in Joshua 1:8 or it might be written “observe to do according to all that I have commanded them” in 2 Kings 21:8. But emotion can overwhelm reason and there are few things in life felt so deeply as the loss of a loved one, whether intentionally or accidentally. So, the Lord spoke to Moses to establish cities of refuge in Numbers 35:9-15. And, the killer, the person accused or the person guilty, will stay in one of those cities until trial in

Joshua 20:6 The killer will stay in that city until he stands before the congregation for the trial, until the death of the one who is the high priest in those days. Then the killer will return to his city and to his house, to the city from which he fled.’ ”

This is much as it is with us today where a trial is before a jury of our peers, for them it was before the congregation. And it was this way to prevent anger and emotion from doing further wrong. These decisions were to be made with witnesses and with thoughtful consideration for all parties involved. 

By Command of Yahweh, The Israelites Gave The Levites Cities and Pasturelands

Joshua 21:1–12
The tribes and families of Israel have all received their inheritance, their allotment of land. And all know that the Levite’s were not part of that inheritance. But the Levites also had families, they also had need of natural provision to be able to fulfill their role as keepers of the temple of God. So, they come and ask for what they need in

Joshua 21:3 So, by command of Yahweh, the Israelites gave the Levites these cities and their pasturelands from their inheritance.

The families of the Levite’s were given cities, a place to live, a place to keep their goods, their clothes and personal belongings. And, they were given pasturelands for their flocks. 

To The Descendants of Aaron The Priest They Gave Hebron The City of Refuge

Joshua 21:13–26
Some of these cities were well known to Israel and Hebron was one. In Joshua’s day, it was “Fortified, 2 Chronicles 11:10” 1 and had been the capital city for “Hoham, … (who) confederated with other kings of the Canaanites against Joshua, Josh. 10:3–39” 1. But long before that, it was the place where Sarah died and Abraham purchased a burial place for her “Called Kirjath-arba, Gen. 23:2” 1 and Hebron is the place “where Abraham and Isaac dwelled as aliens” in Genesis 35:27 1.

Hebron was also the city that had been given to Caleb at his request and as his reward for his faithfulness. So these cities were shared in a way that we might not easily understand. However, in Caleb’s request, he asked for the “hill country” and was given Hebron, meaning he would take the fortified city and the region around it in

Joshua 14:12–13 So now give me this hill country that Yahweh spoke of on that day, for you heard on that day that the Anakites were there, with great and fortified cities. Perhaps Yahweh is with me, and I will drive them out just as Yahweh promised.” 13 And Joshua blessed him and gave Hebron to Caleb son of Jephunneh as an inheritance.

Now, in describing the area given to the Levites, it simply says in

Joshua 21:12 But the field of the city and its villages they gave to Caleb son of Jephunneh as his property.

and then in

Joshua 21:13 “To the descendants of Aaron the priest they gave Hebron, the city of refuge for the killer, and its pasturelands”

Study Verses

Today’s Reading

  • Joshua 19:32-48
  • Joshua 20:1-9
  • Joshua 21:1-36


  • 1. Swanson, J., & Nave, O. (1994). New Nave’s Topical Bible. Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems.
  • 2. Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). Cities of Refuge. In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible (Vol. 1, p. 466). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.