|Messages By Ovid Need|
Avenger of Blood - Exodus 20:13
Numbers 35:9-34 (Deu. 19:1-13), records the giving of the possession to the tribe of Levi. In fulfillment of the prophecy by Jacob, Levi is scattered throughout the nation of Israel, Genesis 49:7. Levi's scattering throughout the nation enabled him to fulfill his call, which we described under the tithe.
Levi is given forty eight cities in all to dwell in, with the surrounding land to supply his needs. He is not scattered by individual families in each city of Israel, but by groups in sperate cities. They were congregated together in separate towns among the different tribes, which would aid in preserving them from the disadvantages of standing alone. It defended them from the danger of the apostasy into which the nation so easily fell. Levi's call included reminding Israel that they were to be a godly nation. This establishment of godly communities throughout Israel would better enable Levi fulfill his calling.
Out of these forty eight cities, there were to be six set aside. These cities were called Cities of Refuge and were conveniently located throughout the nation, with three on each side of the Jordan. The purpose of these cities was for the safety of the manslayer, one who unintentionally slays another, Exodus 21:12-14. God gave to the next of kin of the one slain, permission and the responsibility to slay the killer.
The congregation was responsible to keep the way to these cities clear and well marked. The manslayer could not be hindered as he fled the avenger of blood, who's heart would be hot with anger, Deuteronomy 19:3-6. If the manslayer made it to a city before the avenger of blood got to him, he was safe for the time being.
Notice three points here: First, the law does not prohibit anger. It prohibits uncontrolled anger. The anger of the avenger had to be controlled by the law. He could not peruse the manslayer into the city, and he had to abide by the ruling of the elders.
Second, it is obvious that the law of God is basically family law. Even though the Lord gave the state the power of the sword (Gen. 9:5, 6; Rom. 13), Mosaic law always protects the integrity of the family. In fact, this law shows that it is primarily the family's responsibility to protect itself. When this responsibility is abrogated, the family is destroyed and the state replaces the family. Godly government must start with the godly family accepting its Biblical responsibilities of government in every area, including education and welfare.
Third, we are given another basic principle of the law of God, restitution. The elders of the city of refuge were to receive the killer and protect him from the avenger of blood. Then the elders of the slayer's home city, or the city where the slaying took place, were to send to the city of refuge where the man was and bring him back for trial, Deuteronomy 19:12; Numbers 35:24, 25. This trial included a diligent inquire into the matter, and as examination of more than one witness, Deutronomy 19:15-21. If the witnesses were found to be false, seeking to harm the one charged, then the false witness was to have done to him what he sought to have done to the one he witnesses against. (We have seen what happens when one witness is allowed to bring charges against an accused.)
The point to which I want to draw our attention is the determining factor. What determined if the killer was guilty of murder, requiring him to be delivered over to the avenger of blood for death? What detirmined if he was guilty of manslaughter, thus protected from death?
The basic inquiry into the matter was whether or not the killer hated the one killed in the past. Did he have guile toward the dead person? He was found innocent of murder if there was no past evidence of hatred.
Deuteronomy 19:4-6, God, the Law Giver, gives an example to enable us to understand the principle. The example is that the death took place where no one could see it; maybe the two went into the woods to cut wood and only one returns. Maybe one was killed by a tree falling on him. The inquiry into the matter seeks to find if there was hatred between the two before the accident. If two or more witnesses testify that there had been anger, bitterness, guile and hatred between the two in the past, the survivor is found guilty of murder.
Thus, no matter how loudly the survivor proclaimed his innocence, and he may have been but there were no witnesses, if he had exhibited hatred toward the one killed, he was found guilty of murder. In other words, there was no refuge from destruction for the one who harbored hatred, anger or bitterness, no matter how loudly he proclaimed his incense, Hebrews 12:14-17. Obviously, the law taught that if there was anger, bitterness and hatred between two, it needed to be settled quickly. And the closer the two had to work together, the more important it was to settle any differences.
This is the legal background for our Lord's words in Matthew 5:21-26, where He quotes the Sixth Commandment. Then, danger of judgment.. not necessarily judgment.
V. 22, angry.. When diligent inquiry was made into the matter, what did the witnesses say? Did they say that there had been hard feelings between the two? How did the two speak to each other in the past? How did they act toward each other before they went off into the woods together? Did the congregation find the survivor guilty or innocent of hatred in the past? If he is found guilty of attitudes, actions and words which exhibited hatred, he is guilty of murder under the law. If so, the Lord tells us that hatred is the same as murder.
Vs. 23, 24, the Lord gives us the answer to this danger; settle the problem as quickly as possible. If it is not settled, we are in danger of hell fire. The problem is to be resolved as soon as we know about it and before it goes any further. He tells us to agree with our adversary quickly while there is a chance to do so. If we do not, we are in danger of being found guilty before the judge. He added nothing to the law of Moses. He taught the law in its proper perspective.
Now, let's consider this law in Deuteronomy 19:4-6. Under the OT economy, there was no choice but to work close together. It was all for one and one for all. Even though a conflict arises between ourselves and our neighbor, we still have to work together, help one another and bear one another's burdens. This cannot be avoided. Christ, in explaining this law, points out that we had better make things right with that person as soon as it arises and while we are still together, or as soon as we know about it. The term the Lord uses was whiles thou art in the way with him. Before we part company, it needs to be settled. If it isn't, there is danger of judgment.
In the Bible economy under Mosaic law, tomorrow I may have to work alone together with the one I had the conflict with today. While we are working together, something completely beyond my control happens and the one I am with is killed. I am known to be at odds with him. Those who saw us knew we had a conflict over something. Now they think, "He saw his chance and he did it." Under the Bible economy, I parted company yesterday with that one I had a conflict with in danger of the judgment by not settling it when it happened. We parted company in anger and bitterness, and the witnesses knew it. Therefore, I am held accountable as a murderer of the one who's life was lost, whether I did it or not.
Therefore, even under the Mosaic law, any differences needed to be settled immediately, while the two were still in the way with each other. If there was evidence of anger and hatred when they parted company, both were in danger of the death penalty. If evidence of hatred and bitterness arose between the two that even two others could see, and there was an accidental killing, the charge would be murder against the survivor; life for a life.
On the other hand, if the survivor were determined not to be guilty of hatred (murder), he still had a price to pay. He had to move to the free city of refuge where he stayed until the death of the high priest. The manslayer was now under the protection of the divine grace of God, but only as he remained within the city, Numbers 35:26, 27. Only after the death of the high priest could he return to his land of possession. The manslayer would have to move from the home community of where the killing took place. This removed the killer from among the family of the killed.
This gives us four more points: First, the manslayer was still under the death penalty, but was under the protection of God's law. Second, he had to abide by the law if he expected the protection of the law. As long as he remained in the city, the law protected him. Third, if he presumed that since he was not guilty of murder he could go on about his business as usual, and departed from that protection, death could meet him at any time. Fourth, the death penalty was not removed until the death of the high priest; at which time, the death penalty was paid for him and he is free to go.
Now, some applications: The law of God offers protection, but only as that law is followed. To depart from the principles which He has established and still expect His protection, is presumption. The avenger is waiting outside the walls of His protection. Presumption will place us in the enemy's territory. But, His law also makes provision through the death of our High Priest, which enables us to go out into the enemy's territory and claim our inheritance, but only within the protection of the word of God.
Our city of refuge is Christ. He instructed us in one of the most important matters of protection from the revenger of blood; make the situation right as soon as it happens or as soon as we know about it. If we do not, we are in danger of the judgment.
Three concluding points to consider:
First, Deuteronomy 19:14, places the law prohibiting the removing the neighbor's landmark with the law concerning the killing of a neighbor. The similarities are obvious. Under the Bible economy, the land was the life of the individual, and to move his landmark, the border marker of his land, was in effect, taking his life. It was theft and attempted murder.
Second, the guilty could not buy his way out of the death sentence, nor could he make any deal with the family of the one killed, that he might return to his own land before the death of the high priest, Numbers 35:31, 32. There was no way around the fact that the debt had to be paid, restitution had to be made.
Third, if restitution was not made, the land was polluted with the blood of the innocent, and can only be cleansed by the blood of him that shed it, v. 33. The blood of the innocent cries out from the very ground for justice, Genesis 4:10.
AND SO IT DOES TODAY!
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