Joshua 20

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1 En die HERE het met Josua gespreek en gesê:

2 Spreek met die kinders van Israel en : Wys die vrystede vir julle aan waarvan Ek deur die diens van Moses met julle gespreek het,

3 dat hy wat 'n doodslag begaan het--wat per ongeluk, sonder opset, 'n mens doodgeslaan het, daarheen kan vlug, sodat dié vir julle kan dien as toevlugsoord vanweë die bloedwreker.

4 As hy dan na een van hierdie stede toe vlug en gaan staan by die ingang van die stadspoort en sy saak voor die ore van die oudstes van daardie stad meedeel, moet hulle hom by hulle in die stad opneem en aan hom plek gee, dat hy by hulle kan woon;

5 en as die bloedwreker hom agternajaag, mag hulle hom wat die doodslag begaan het, nie aan hom uitlewer nie, omdat hy sy naaste sonder opset doodgeslaan het, sonder dat hy hom gister en eergister vyandig was;

6 en hy moet in daardie stad bly totdat hy voor die vergadering tereggestaan het, tot op die dood van die hoëpriester wat in dié dae daar sal wees; dan mag hy wat die doodslag begaan het, weer na sy stad en sy huis terugkeer, na die stad waar hy vandaan gevlug het.

7 Daarop het hulle geheilig: Kedes in Galiléa, op die gebergte van Náftali, en Sigem op die gebergte van Efraim, en Kirjat-Arba, dit is Hebron, op die gebergte van Juda;

8 en oorkant die Jordaan, oos van Jérigo, het hulle afgestaan: Beser in die woestyn op die gelykveld, uit die stam van Ruben, en Ramot in Gílead, uit die stam van Gad, en Golan in Basan uit die stam van Manasse.

9 Dit is die stede wat bepaal was vir al die kinders van Israel en vir die vreemdeling wat onder hulle vertoef; sodat elkeen wat per ongeluk 'n mens doodgeslaan het, daarheen sou kan vlug en nie hoef te sterf deur die hand van die bloedwreker voordat hy voor die vergadering gestaan het nie.


Exploring the Meaning of Joshua 20      

Napsal(a) Rev. Julian Duckworth

Joshua 20: The six cities of refuge.

Once all twelve tribes of Israel had received their inheritance, the Lord commanded Joshua and the Israelites to designate six cities of refuge, which were spread throughout the land on both sides of the Jordan. These cities would serve as safe havens, so that anyone who accidentally killed another person could flee to safety there. At the gate of the city, the refugee would declare his case to the city elders, and they would shelter him there until the high priest died. Then, the refugee could go back to his own city.

The six cities of refuge were evenly spaced throughout the land. In the north, Kedesh; in the center, Shechem; in the south, Kirjath Arba. Across the Jordan: Bezer, in Reuben; Ramoth, in Gad; and Golan in Manasseh. The three cities in Canaan are all said to be ‘on the mountains’, while the three cities across the Jordan are said to be ‘in the wilderness’ or ‘on the plain’.

There is a humanitarian purpose in granting safety when someone is accused of murder, a crime punishable by death. The spiritual meaning of this provision partly lies in the difference between justice and mercy. Justice has to do with the penalty of the law, while mercy recognizes that there could be more to the picture than just the intention to harm.

The Word acknowledges the place of both justice and mercy. Truth condemns, but love forgives. Ultimately, it is not we who know the real intentions of human hearts. This is something known only to the Lord, who will treat us justly, but also feel tender mercy and compassion towards us “for our low estate” (see Psalm 136:23 and Swedenborg’s work, Arcana Caelestia 6180).

In his work, True Christian Religion, Swedenborg writes: “We acquire justice the more we practice it. We practice justice the more our interaction with our neighbour is motivated by a love for justice and truth. Justice dwells in the goodness itself or the useful functions themselves that we do. The Lord says that every tree is recognized by its fruit. Surely we get to know other people well through paying attention not only to what they do but also to what outcome they want, what they are intending and why. All angels pay attention to these things, as do all wise people in our world” (see True Christian Religion 96[2]).

Innocence is the wish not to harm, and it is one of the cornerstones of heaven. We can easily begin to feel guilt when we cause harm to someone without intending to. They suffer and we suffer also. Reconciliation is needed for everyone in that kind of situation. Spiritually, these cities of refuge mean giving others and ourselves the time and space to let go of harmful feelings – which hell often plays on – and after finding refuge, allowing the Lord to bring us healing (Arcana Caelestia 9011).

There are six cities of refuge because the number ‘six’ represents all the labors of regeneration and spiritual temptation. ‘Seven’ follows after ‘six’ and refers to the Sabbath, the day of the Lord’s rest, when He has brought us through hardships into a new peace (Arcana Caelestia 8975).

The fact that the six cities of refuge were spread on both sides of the Jordan also holds a valuable spiritual meaning. Being in Canaan means that we are consciously living with a sense of the Lord’s guidance in our thinking and actions. This gives us a higher level of understanding, rather like seeing life from up on the mountain. Being across the Jordan means that we are more acutely experiencing the uncertainties of life, although we still try to do what is good because of our faith and trust in the Lord. No matter what situation we face, we need our personal cities of refuge where we meet the ‘elders’ of the city – the leading truths in the Word – who bring us in, and offer us sanctuary with the Lord (Arcana Caelestia 8578).

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