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Joshue 20

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1 Et locutus est Dominus ad Josue, dicens : Loquere filiis Israël, et dic eis :

2 Separate urbes fugitivorum, de quibus locutus sum ad vos per manum Moysi :

3 ut confugiat ad eas quicumque animam percusserit nescius, et possit evadere iram proximi, qui ultor est sanguinis :

4 cum ad unam harum confugerit civitatum, stabit ante portam civitatis, et loquetur senioribus urbis illius ea quæ se comprobent innocentem : sicque suscipient eum, et dabunt ei locum ad habitandum.

5 Cumque ultor sanguinis eum fuerit persecutus, non tradent in manus ejus : quia ignorans percussit proximum ejus, nec ante biduum triduumve ejus probatur inimicus.

6 Et habitabit in civitate illa, donec stet ante judicium causam reddens facti sui, et moriatur sacerdos magnus, qui fuerit in illo tempore : tunc revertetur homicida, et ingredietur civitatem et domum suam de qua fugerat.

7 Decreveruntque Cedes in Galilæa montis Nephthali, et Sichem in monte Ephraim, et Cariatharbe, ipsa est Hebron in monte Juda.

8 Et trans Jordanem contra orientalem plagam Jericho, statuerunt Bosor, quæ sita est in campestri solitudine de tribu Ruben, et Ramoth in Galaad de tribu Gad, et Gaulon in Basan de tribu Manasse.

9 Hæ civitates constitutæ sunt cunctis filiis Israël, et advenis qui habitabant inter eos, ut fugeret ad eas qui animam nescius percussisset, et non moreretur in manu proximi, effusum sanguinem vindicare cupientis, donec staret ante populum expositurus causam suam.

  

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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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Joshua 20

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1 The LORD also spake unto Joshua, saying,

2 Speak to the children of Israel, saying, Appoint out for you cities of refuge, whereof I spake unto you by the hand of Moses:

3 That the slayer that killeth any person unawares and unwittingly may flee thither: and they shall be your refuge from the avenger of blood.

4 And when he that doth flee unto one of those cities shall stand at the entering of the gate of the city, and shall declare his cause in the ears of the elders of that city, they shall take him into the city unto them, and give him a place, that he may dwell among them.

5 And if the avenger of blood pursue after him, then they shall not deliver the slayer up into his hand; because he smote his neighbour unwittingly, and hated him not beforetime.

6 And he shall dwell in that city, until he stand before the congregation for judgment, and until the death of the high priest that shall be in those days: then shall the slayer return, and come unto his own city, and unto his own house, unto the city from whence he fled.

7 And they appointed Kedesh in Galilee in mount Naphtali, and Shechem in mount Ephraim, and Kirjath-arba, which is Hebron, in the mountain of Judah.

8 And on the other side Jordan by Jericho eastward, they assigned Bezer in the wilderness upon the plain out of the tribe of Reuben, and Ramoth in Gilead out of the tribe of Gad, and Golan in Bashan out of the tribe of Manasseh.

9 These were the cities appointed for all the children of Israel, and for the stranger that sojourneth among them, that whosoever killeth any person at unawares might flee thither, and not die by the hand of the avenger of blood, until he stood before the congregation.