Joshua 20 Commentary

 


Jensen's Survey of the NT - used by permission

Paul J Bucknell - Biblical Foundations for Freedom

LAND ALLOTMENTS
(Joshua 13-21)
Jensen's Survey of the NT - used by permission

Jensen's Survey of the NT - used by permission

Click charts to enlarge Charts from Jensen's Survey of the NT - used by permission

JOSHUA
A BOOK ON SPIRITUAL WARFARE and REST
HOW TO POSSESS YOUR POSSESSIONS

CONQUEST
OF THE PROMISED LAND

DIVISION
OF THE PROMISED LAND

CLOSE OF JOSHUA'S LIFE

ACTION ALLOCATION APPEAL
Josh 1:1-5:15 Josh 6:1-12:24 Joshua 13:1-21:45 Josh 22:1-24:33

WARLORDS IN
CANAAN

LANDLORDS IN
CANAAN

ENTERING
CANAAN

CONQUERING
CANAAN

DIVIDING
CANAAN

SECURING THE
LAND

SETTLING THE
LAND

Preparation

Conquest

Possession

Consecration

ca. 1 Month ca 7 Years ca. 18 Years

See also more detailed Chart by Charles R Swindoll

Joshua 20:1  Then the LORD spoke to Joshua, saying,

Then the LORD spoke to Joshua, saying,Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary - Verses 1-6. When the Israelites were settled in their promised inheritance, they were reminded to set apart the cities of refuge, whose use and typical meaning have been explained, Numbers 35; Deuteronomy 19. God's spiritual Israel have, and shall have in Christ and heaven, not only rest to repose in, but refuge to secure themselves in. These cities were designed to typify the relief which the gospel provides for penitent sinners, and their protection from the curse of the law and the wrath of God, in our Lord Jesus, to whom believers flee for refuge, Hebrews 6:18. 

Joshua 20:2  "Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, 'Designate the cities of refuge, of which I spoke to you through Moses,

  • Appoint: Ex 21:13,14 Nu 35:6,11-14 De 4:41-43 19:2-13 Ro 8:1,33,34 Heb 6:18,19 
  • you refuge: Nu 35:15-24 
  • Joshua 20 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries

Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, 'Designate the cities of refuge, of which I spoke to you through Moses,


GEORGE BUSH  Notes Critical and Practical on the Book of Joshua - Chapter 20

 Appoint out for your cities of refuge. Heb. תנו לכם tenu lâkem, give for yourselves. No delinquency on the part of Joshua is to be inferred from this command, as if he had neglected, or were likely to neglect, a very important part of the arrangements designed to be carried into effect after the settlement of Israel in Canaan. He was well aware of the divine intention in this respect, and would doubtless have acted upon it, as well as upon every other order with which he was charged, but God saw fit to interpose to remind him that now was the precise time, when the tribes had just received their inheritances, and while they were yet together, to separate the cities of refuge for the uses for which they were intended, and respecting which such copious instructions had been before given, Num. 35:11–34; Deut. 19:2–10. To the notes on these passages the reader is referred for a fuller account of the nature and object of this institution. It was an essential appendage to the patriarchal system of government, as far as the avenging of blood was concerned. It has been already remarked, that the nearest of kin to a deceased person had not only the right of redeeming an inheritance that had been forfeited or alienated, but had also authority to slay on the spot the person who had slain his relative. But as a man might casually kill another against whom he had no ill will, and with whom he had no quarrel, and might thus be liable to lose his own life undeservedly, at the hands of the avenger of blood, these privileged cities were wisely and humanely appointed for the protection of those who had committed accidental homicide, till the cause could receive a judicial hearing from the magistrate. They had authority, according as, upon strict examination, they found him guilty or not of wilful murder, to deliver him up to the avenger of blood, or, after the lapse of a certain time, to grant him a discharge.
By the hand of Moses. By the agency, by the ministry of Moses; by him as an organ of communication.

Joshua 20:3  that the manslayer who kills any person unintentionally, without premeditation, may flee there, and they shall become your refuge from the avenger of blood.

that the manslayer who kills any person unintentionally, without premeditation, may flee there, and they shall become your refuge from the avenger of blood

 


GEORGE BUSH  Notes Critical and Practical on the Book of Joshua - Chapter 20

The slayer that killeth any person. Heb. מכה נפש makkeh nëphesh, that smiteth (i. e. fatally) any soul. On this frequent sense of the word ‘soul,’ see Note on Gen. 12:5.

Unawares and unwittingly. Heb. בשגגה bishâagâh, through ignorance, error, and mistake and without knowledge. The conditions are stated with the utmost explicitness, in words amounting almost to repetition, as is evidently proper where a matter of so much consequence as the life of a human being is concerned. In cases of wilful murder, no place whatever could afford protection. A man might be taken even from the temple, or the horns of the altar. Ex 21:14; 1 Kings 2:31, 34.

Joshua 20:4  'He shall flee to one of these cities, and shall stand at the entrance of the gate of the city and state his case in the hearing of the elders of that city; and they shall take him into the city to them and give him a place, so that he may dwell among them.

  • at the entering: Ru 4:1,2 Job 5:4 29:7 Pr 31:23 Jer 38:7 
  • take: Ps 26:9 
  • that he may: Heb 6:18 
  • Joshua 20 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries

'He shall flee to one of these cities, and shall stand at the entrance of the gate of the city and state his case in the hearing of the elders of that city; and they shall take him into the city to them and give him a place, so that he may dwell among them


GEORGE BUSH  Notes Critical and Practical on the Book of Joshua - Chapter 20

Shall stand at the entering of the gate. The usual place of judicature among the people of the East.
Shall declare his cause. Shall give a true, honest, and exact statement of all the circumstances under which the accident occurred.
They shall take him into the city. Heb. אספו אתו âsephu otho, shall gather him. Provided they are satisfied, from his relation of the facts, that he is innocent.

That he may dwell among them. It may be asked why, if the proper judges were satisfied of his innocence of the crime of wilful murder, he were not at once dismissed from their jurisdiction, and suffered to go at large as usual. The proper reply doubtless is, (1) That he might still be in danger from the enraged passions of the pursuer. (2) He was to await the issue of another trial, v. 6. (3) His detention was probably designed as somewhat of a punishment for the rashness or heedlessness to which the homicide was owing. Something of a penalty was to be paid for carelessness, as well as for crime.

Joshua 20:5  'Now if the avenger of blood pursues him, then they shall not deliver the manslayer into his hand, because he struck his neighbor without premeditation and did not hate him beforehand.

Now if the avenger of blood pursues him, then they shall not deliver the manslayer into his hand, because he struck his neighbor without premeditation and did not hate him beforehand.

Joshua 20:6  'He shall dwell in that city until he stands before the congregation for judgment, until the death of the one who is high priest in those days. Then the manslayer shall return to his own city and to his own house, to the city from which he fled.'"

He shall dwell in that city until he stands before the congregation for judgment, until the death of the one who is high priest in those days. Then the manslayer shall return to his own city and to his own house, to the city from which he fled

Believer's Study Bible - God's concern for human life is shown not only in His desire to protect the manslayer, but also in the exile of the manslayer in the city. God considers the spilling of human blood to be a significant event, whatever the cause (cf. Gen. 4:10; 9:5, 6). The death of the high priest may have been understood as a form of satisfaction or cleansing of the land for the blood that had been shed (Deut. 21:1-9).


GEORGE BUSH  Notes Critical and Practical on the Book of Joshua - Chapter 20

Until he stand before the congregation for judgment. In order to a still greater security for the interests of justice, and to guard with the utmost vigilance against a wrong decision, another hearing seems to have been appointed, after a considerable interval, and before a larger court, whose verdict was to be final in the case. It is probable that the ‘congregation’ here spoken of was that of his own city, or of the people at large, who were also allowed to constitute a tribunal, and to sit in judgment on the case. Compare Notes on Num. 35:25.

Until the death of the high priest. See on Num. 35:25.

Joshua 20:7  So they set apart Kedesh in Galilee in the hill country of Naphtali and Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim, and Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron) in the hill country of Judah.

  • appointed: Heb. sanctified
  • Kedesh: Kedesh, called Cadesa, or Caidesa, by Josephus, was situated in Upper Galilee, twenty miles south-east from Tyre, according to Eusebius.  The cities of refuge were distributed through the land at proper distances from each other, that they might be convenient to every part of the land; and it is said they were situated on eminences, that they might be easily seen at a distance; the roads leading to them being broad, even, and always kept in good repair.  Kedesh and Hebron were at the two extremities of the land, the former being in Galilee, and the latter in Judah, both in mountainous districts, and Shechem was in mount Ephraim, nearly in the centre.  Bezer was east of Jordan, in the eastern part of the plain opposite Jericho; Ramoth was about the midst of the country of the two tribes and a half, being about the middle of the mountains of Gilead; and Golan, the capital of Gaulonitis, was situated in the tribe of Manasseh, in the land of Bashan.  As this institution is considered as a type of Christ, some expositors observe a significancy in the names of these cities with application to Him as Our Refuge.  Kedesh signifies holy, and our refuge is the holy Jesus.  Shechem, a shoulder, "and the government is upon his shoulder."  Hebron, fellowship, and believers are called into the fellowship of Christ Jesus our Lord.  Bezer, a fortification, for he is a strong hold to all them that trust in him.  Ramoth, high, or exalted, for him hath God exalted with his own right hand.  Golan, joy, or exultation, for in him all the saints are justified, and shall glory. Jos 21:32 1Ch 6:76 
  • Shechem: Jos 21:21 Ge 33:18,19 2Ch 10:1 
  • Kirjatharba: Jos 14:15 21:11,13 
  • mountain: Lu 1:39 
  • Joshua 20 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries

So they set apart Kedesh in Galilee in the hill country of Naphtali and Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim, and Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron) in the hill country of Judah - In vv7-8 the three cities were also Levitical cities, with three on each side of the Jordan.

Henry Morris - mount Ephraim.  All the cities of refuge were located at high elevations, so they could be seen from a great distance. They were also located so that everyone was within a day's journey from at least one of them. Furthermore, "whosoever" (Joshua 20:9) needed to flee to one of the cities was free to do so, whether he was an Israelite or not.

Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary - Verses 7-9. These cities, as those also on the other side Jordan, stood so that a man might in half a day reach one of them from any part of the country. God is ever a Refuge at hand. They were all Levites' cities. It was kindness to the poor fugitive, that when he might not go up to the house of the Lord, yet he had the servants of God with him, to instruct him, and pray for him, and to help to make up the want of public ordinances. Some observe a significance in the names of these cities with application to Christ our Refuge. Kedesh signifies holy, and our Refuge is the holy Jesus. Shechem, a shoulder, and the government is upon his shoulder. Hebron, fellowship, and believers are called into the fellowship of Christ Jesus our Lord. Bezer, a fortification, for he is a strong hold to all those that trust in him. Ramoth, high or exalted, for Him hath God exalted with his own right hand. Golan, joy or exultation, for in Him all the saints are justified, and shall glory. 


GEORGE BUSH  Notes Critical and Practical on the Book of Joshua - Chapter 20

And they appointed. Heb. יקדשו yakdishu, sanctified, consecrated; a term implying the peculiar sacredness which God would have attached in the minds of his people to this institution. Accordingly they are sometimes, though not perhaps by the sacred writers, called sanctuaries.

In mount Naphtali. Or, Heb. ‘in the mountain,’ i. e. the mountainous region or district of Naphtali; and so in respect to the two other places mentioned. They were situated on high hills that they might be more conspicuous at a distance. It may also be remarked of these cities, (1) That they were located at convenient distances from each other for the benefit of the several tribes. So of those here mentioned, Kedesh was in the northern, Shechem in the central, and Hebron in the southern district of Canaan. (2) They were all Levitical cities; which appears to have been so ordered, that the cases of manslaughter might come under the cognizance of those who might be presumed to be most thoroughly versed in the law of God, and most competent to give judgment according to it, and who, moreover, would be less likely than any others to be swayed by private bias in their decisions. Compare Deut. 21:5, where it is said of the priests, the sons of Levi, that ‘by their word shall every controversy and every stroke be tried.’ See also to the same purpose, Deut. 17:8–13, and the Notes on Deut. 33:9, 10.

Joshua 20:8  Beyond the Jordan east of Jericho, they designated Bezer in the wilderness on the plain from the tribe of Reuben, and Ramoth in Gilead from the tribe of Gad, and Golan in Bashan from the tribe of Manasseh.

  • Bezer: Jos 21:36 De 4:43 1Ch 6:78 
  • Ramoth: Jos 21:38 1Ki 22:3,4,6 1Ch 6:80 
  • Golan: Jos 21:27 
  • Joshua 20 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries

Beyond the Jordan east of Jericho, they designated Bezer in the wilderness on the plain from the tribe of Reuben, and Ramoth in Gilead from the tribe of Gad, and Golan in Bashan from the tribe of Manasseh


GEORGE BUSH  Notes Critical and Practical on the Book of Joshua - Chapter 20

They assigned. Or, ‘had assigned,’ for the assignment had been previously made by Moses, Deut. 4:41–43; or the meaning may be, that they formally acknowledged, confirmed, and ratified the selection that Moses had before made of these cities.

Joshua 20:9  These were the appointed cities for all the sons of Israel and for the stranger who sojourns among them, that whoever kills any person unintentionally may flee there, and not die by the hand of the avenger of blood until he stands before the congregation.

  • the cities: Nu 35:15 
  • until he stood: Jos 20:4,6 
  • Joshua 20 Resources - Multiple Sermons and Commentaries

These were the appointed cities for all the sons of Israel and for the stranger who sojourns among them, that whoever kills any person unintentionally may flee there, and not die by the hand of the avenger of blood until he stands before the congregation


GEORGE BUSH  Notes Critical and Practical on the Book of Joshua - Chapter 20

Until he stood before the congregation. The judges and elders of the people, in trying civil and criminal causes, always sat; the persons who came for judgment, or who were tried, always stood. Hence the expressions so frequent in the Scripture, ‘Standing before the Lord, before the judges, before the elders,’ &c.

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