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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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True Christian Religion # 96

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96. The leaders of the church in our time have a quite different description of the Lord's righteousness, and regard its impress on a man's faith as the key to salvation. Yet the truth is that the Lord's righteousness, being of such a nature and origin that it is purely Divine, could not be linked with any person, so that it could not cause anyone to be saved, any more than the Divine life can, which is the Divine Love and the Divine Wisdom. The Lord enters into every person with these, but unless that person lives in accordance with order, though he has that life within him, it contributes nothing to his salvation, giving him merely the ability to understand truth and to do good. Living in accordance with order is living in accordance with God's commandments. When a person so lives and acts, he acquires righteousness for himself, not the righteousness that comes from the Lord's redeeming, but the Lord Himself as righteousness. These are the people described by the following passages, as well as others.

Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of the heavens, Matthew 5:20.

Blessed are those who undergo persecution for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of the heavens, Matthew 5:10.

At the completion of the age angels will go forth and separate the wicked from out of the midst of the righteous, Matthew 13:49.

The righteous in the Word mean those who have lived in accordance with Divine order, since Divine order is righteousness.

[2] Righteousness itself, which by His redeeming acts the Lord became, cannot be ascribed to, impressed on, fitted on or linked with a person, otherwise than light to the eye, sound to the ear, will to the muscles of one who acts, thought to the lips of the speaker, air to the breathing lungs, heat to the blood, and so on. Anyone can see for himself that these things have an effect and are accessory without being linked to the organ. But righteousness is acquired the more a person applies it, and he applies righteousness, the more the love of what is right and true inspires his dealings with his neighbour. Righteousness dwells in the actual good, or the actual service, which he performs. For the Lord says that every tree is recognised by its fruit. We recognise another person by his actions, if we pay attention to the end and purpose of what he wills, and the intention or cause behind his actions. This is what all the angels observe, and so do all the wise people in our world. In general, every plant and shoot the earth puts forth is recognised by its flower and seed, and the service which its seed performs; likewise every metal by its worth, every stone by its quality, every piece of ground by its, every food by its, every land animal and every bird of the air by its. Why not man too? The quality and origins of a person's actions will be disclosed in the chapter on faith [336-391].

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