Joshue 20



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.




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).

Ze Swedenborgových děl


Arcana Coelestia # 9011

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9011. 'I will appoint for you a place to which he may flee' means a state of blamelessness and so of freedom from punishment. This is clear from the meaning of 'a place' as a state, dealt with in 2625, 2837, 3356, 3387, 3404, 4321, 4882, 5605, 7381; and from the meaning of refuge, or a place to which one who killed another without premeditation or by chance might flee, as a state of blamelessness and so of freedom from punishment. For those who struck another by chance, that is, not from set purpose, thus not because of any previous contemplation of the deed or of an evil desire in the will, were not at all culpable. Therefore when they came to the place of refuge they were freed from punishment. By them were represented those who injure, but not from set purpose, someone's truths and forms of the good of faith and as a result wipe out his spiritual life; for their state is one of blamelessness and freedom from punishment. This is true of those who have thorough trust in their religion, which however is full of falsity, and who use what it teaches to reason against the truth and good of faith, and to do this convincingly, as conscientious and consequently zealous heretics are sometimes accustomed to do.

[2] The fact that they were represented [by those] who fled to places of refuge is clear in Moses,

You shall select suitable cities, which are to be cities of refuge for yourselves, so that one who strikes and kills a soul accidentally may flee there. If without premeditation, without enmity, he pushes him; or throws at him some implement without forethought; or [strikes him] with any stone from which he may die, while not seeing him, so that he causes it to fall onto him and he dies, though he was not his enemy and did not seek to harm him ... Numbers 35:11-12, 22-23.

And in the same author,

This is the case 1 with one who kills, who shall flee there so that he may live, when he has struck his companion unwittingly, when he did not hate him previously 2 - as when he goes with his companion into a forest to cut down timber, but when his hand with the axe in it is swung to cut down wood, the iron flies off the handle and hits his companion so that he dies, 3 he shall flee to one of these cities so that he may live. Deuteronomy 19:4-5.

[3] This describes the state of one blameless and freed from punishment, who through the falsities of faith which he had believed to be truths, or through factual knowledge based on the illusions of the senses, has injured someone, and so has done harm to his internal or spiritual life. To convey this meaning such an accident or chance is described by an implement of some kind, and by a stone which he causes to fall onto his companion so that he dies, and also by the axe or iron coming off its handle, while both were cutting down timber in the forest. The reason why such details are used to describe the matter is that 'an implement' means some known fact, and 'a stone' a truth of faith or in the contrary sense a falsity; and in like manner 'the iron of an axe' and 'cutting down timber' means to argue about what is good, using what one's religion teaches.

[4] Anyone may see that but for some hidden reason a killing that occurred accidentally would not have been described by the iron of an axe coming off its handle in a forest, for such an accident happens rarely, scarcely once in many years. But that accident has been described in such a way for the sake of the internal sense, which describes the harm done to a soul by another through the falsities of faith which, because his religion teaches them, he has believed to be truths. For anyone who causes harm through falsities which he believes to be truths does not do harm from set purpose or in spite of knowing better, because he acts in accord with his religious faith and therefore out of zeal. So that these things might be meant in the internal sense they are described, as has been stated, by those who kill companions accidentally, and by 'a stone', by 'cutting down wood in a forest', and by 'the iron of the axe coming off its handle onto a companion during the process'. For 'a stone' is a truth of faith in the natural man, and in the contrary sense a falsity, see 643, 1298, 3720, 6426, 8609, 8941, and so is 'iron', 425, 426. 'The iron of the axe coming away from its handle' is truth separated from good, good being meant by 'handle' or 'wood', 643, 2812, 3720, 8354; 'cutting down wood' means placing merit in works, 1110, 4943, 8740; but 'cutting down timber in a forest' means discussing these and like matters, and also calling them into question; for 'a forest' means a religious system.

[5] Like matters are meant by 'cutting down timber in a forest with axes' in Jeremiah,

The mercenaries will go with strength, and they will come to her with axes, like those who cut down timber. They will cut down her forest, said Jehovah. Jeremiah 46:22-23.

Here 'cutting down timber in a forest' stands for acting in accord with false religious practices and destroying such things as constitute the Church. For the Church is called 'a forest', 'a garden', and 'a paradise'; it is called 'a forest' by virtue of its knowledge, 'a garden' by virtue of its intelligence, and 'a paradise' by virtue of its wisdom, 3220, 'trees' being perceptions of goodness and truth, and also cognitions or knowledge of them, 103, 2163, 2722, 2972, 4552, 7690, 7692. And since 'a forest' means the Church in respect of its knowledge, thus of its external aspects, it also means religious practices.

[6] The Church in respect of its knowledge or external aspects is also meant by 'a forest', or 'a wood', in David,

The field will be exultant and everything in it; then all the trees of the wood will sing. Psalms 96:12.

In the same author,

Behold, we heard of Him in Ephrathah; we found Him in the fields of the wood. Psalms 132:6.

These words refer to the Lord. In Isaiah,

The light of Israel will be a fire, and his Holy (One a flame. It will burn the glory of his forest, and his Carmel; it will consume from the soul even to the flesh. As a consequence the remaining trees of the wood will be [so small] a number that a child may write them down. He will cut down the entangled boughs of the forest with an axe, 4 and Lebanon will fall by a majestic one. Isaiah 10:17-20, 34.

'The forest' stands for the Church in respect of its cognitions of truth, and 'Carmel' for the Church in respect of its cognitions of good, in the same way as 'Lebanon' and 'Hermon' do. 'The trees of the wood' stands, as above, for cognitions, and 'being a number that a child may write down' stands for the fewness of them, 'entangled boughs of the forest' standing for factual knowledge, 2831.

[7] In the same prophet,

You said, By the multitude of my chariots I will go up [to] the height of the mountains, the sides of Lebanon, where I will cut down the tallness of its cedars, the choice of its fir trees, After that I will come to its remotest height, 5 the forest of its Carmel. Isaiah 37:24.

In Jeremiah,

I will visit on you according to the fruit of your works, and I will kindle a fire in its forest. Jeremiah 21:14.

In Ezekiel,

Prophesy against the forest of the field towards the south, and say to the forest of the south, Behold, I will kindle in you a fire, and it will devour every tree. Ezekiel 20:46-47.

In Micah,

Guide 6 Your people with Your staff, the flock of Your inheritance inhabiting alone a forest in the midst of Carmel. Micah 7:14.

Does anyone fail to see that in these places a forest is not meant by 'a forest', nor Lebanon and Carmel, which were forests, by 'Lebanon' and 'Carmel', but that some aspect of the Church is meant? What aspect of the Church it is however has lain hidden up to now because the internal sense has lain hidden. But how astonishing that in a world so learned as Europe - more learned than all the other continents - where the Word exists, in every detail of which the internal sense is present, there is no awareness of that sense! Yet it was known to the ancients in Chaldea, Assyria, Egypt, and Arabia, and from them in Greece, in whose books, symbols, and hieroglyphics such matters are still met with. The reason why awareness of that matter has perished is lack of belief that what is spiritual has any real existence.


1. literally, word or matter

2. literally, when he was not a hater of him yesterday and three days ago

3. literally, the iron is struck off the wood and finds his companion so that he dies

4. literally, iron

5. literally, the height of its end

6. literally, Feed or Pasture

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Thanks to the Swedenborg Society for the permission to use this translation.