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"Honoring God in the Morning"


 Numbers 35:9-36:13
“They shall be cities of refuge for you from the avenger, that the manslayer may not die until he stands before the congregation in judgment.” –Numbers 35:12
In ancient times, no highly developed judiciary or police force existed to implement the law. People sometimes took the judgment and punishment of alleged crimes into their own hands. God provided cities of refuge for protection from the revenge killings often carried out by this sort of vigilante justice. A city of refuge protected a person who had unintentionally caused the death of another, affording the perpetrator the opportunity to prove his innocence. These cities were under the authority of the priestly tribe of Levites, so there was also a spiritual covering to assure people in trouble of God’s desire to offer them refuge.
These cities provide us with a wonderful picture of the refuge we all can flee to in Jesus Christ. In our case, the avenger of death already has a judgment against us. The fact is we have all committed intentional sins and unintentional sins that are known by God. The scriptures make it clear that “the wages of sin is death.” The judgment due us is therefore apparent. However, Jesus Christ Himself has become our city of refuge. He protects us from the judgment, shame, and alienation of sin. The scriptures tell us that although “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God,” we are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ (Rom. 3:23-24).
The faith we place in what Christ did for us upon the cross forever protects us from the judgment of sin. Let us not be deceived. There is no refuge in self-righteousness, or the rituals of religion and vain philosophies of man. These have no authority to provide any refuge from the justice of God. Only the cross, Christ’s death in our place, opens the gate to an everlasting city of refuge.
Before we leave the book of Numbers let’s also look at a practical lesson addressing the unique and valued application of God’s will. In this account, members of the tribe of Manasseh raise issues regarding daughters with their own inheritance marrying outside their own tribe. Moses accepts their concern as entirely legitimate (36:5), even though their suggestion overrode an ordinance he had set in place. 
Others can interpret situations such as this and see people who are seeking to avoid submitting to God’s Word. In light of this, consider the intense conflict Jesus had with the religious leaders during His early ministry. They became extremely upset by the way Jesus treated the Sabbath, a day of rest and worship. They thought it was wrong to even heal on the Sabbath! They had lost touch with the intent of the law concerning the Sabbath. In the example here in Numbers, the intent of the law in question was to safeguard the daughters from becoming immediately homeless because of their father’s death. But it was not intended to be applied identically in every situation. If these women married outside their tribe they would have property through their husbands. So, the intent of the law (Num. 27:1-7) was not applicable. In fact, following the law that gave them the land while marrying into another tribe would violate God’s will for maintaining distribution of the land given to each tribe.
It is vital that we step back at times and make sure we clearly understand the intention of God’s will. If this is not done, you will find yourself arguing about the “letter of the law,” but perhaps violating its original intent. This is applicable all the way down to enforcing rules for your children. Therefore, be open to the wisdom of God as you seek to apply His word to your life and your relationships with others. Make sure you are using the right medicine for the sickness you seek to cure. Remember, the “right” medicine given for the wrong sickness can kill a person!


NUMBERS 35:9-36:13


9 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 10 “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you cross the Jordan into the land of Canaan, 11 then you shall appoint cities to be cities of refuge for you, that the manslayer who kills any person accidentally may flee there. 12 They shall be cities of refuge for you from the avenger, that the manslayer may not die until he stands before the congregation in judgment. 13 And of the cities which you give, you shall have six cities of refuge. 14 You shall appoint three cities on this side of the Jordan, and three cities you shall appoint in the land of Canaan, which will be cities of refuge. 15 These six cities shall be for refuge for the children of Israel, for the stranger, and for the sojourner among them, that anyone who kills a person accidentally may flee there.
16 ‘But if he strikes him with an iron implement, so that he dies, he is a murderer; the murderer shall surely be put to death.17 And if he strikes him with a stone in the hand, by which one could die, and he does die, he is a murderer; the murderer shall surely be put to death. 18 Or if he strikes him with a wooden hand weapon, by which one could die, and he does die, he is a murderer; the murderer shall surely be put to death. 19 The avenger of blood himself shall put the murderer to death; when he meets him, he shall put him to death. 20 If he pushes him out of hatred or, while lying in wait, hurls something at him so that he dies, 21 or in enmity he strikes him with his hand so that he dies, the one who struck him shall surely be put to death. He is a murderer. The avenger of blood shall put the murderer to death when he meets him.
22 ‘However, if he pushes him suddenly without enmity, or throws anything at him without lying in wait, 23 or uses a stone, by which a man could die, throwing it at him without seeing him, so that he dies, while he was not his enemy or seeking his harm,24 then the congregation shall judge between the manslayer and the avenger of blood according to these judgments. 25 So the congregation shall deliver the manslayer from the hand of the avenger of blood, and the congregation shall return him to the city of refuge where he had fled, and he shall remain there until the death of the high priest who was anointed with the holy oil. 26 But if the manslayer at any time goes outside the limits of the city of refuge where he fled, 27 and the avenger of blood finds him outside the limits of his city of refuge, and the avenger of blood kills the manslayer, he shall not be guilty of blood, 28 because he should have remained in his city of refuge until the death of the high priest. But after the death of the high priest the manslayer may return to the land of his possession.
29 ‘And these things shall be a statute of judgment to you throughout your generations in all your dwellings. 30 Whoever kills a person, the murderer shall be put to death on the testimony of witnesses; but one witness is not sufficient testimony against a person for the death penalty. 31 Moreover you shall take no ransom for the life of a murderer who is guilty of death, but he shall surely be put to death. 32 And you shall take no ransom for him who has fled to his city of refuge, that he may return to dwell in the land before the death of the priest. 33 So you shall not pollute the land where you are; for blood defiles the land, and no atonement can be made for the land, for the blood that is shed on it, except by the blood of him who shed it. 34 Therefore do not defile the land which you inhabit, in the midst of which I dwell; for I the Lord dwell among the children of Israel.’”



1 Now the chief fathers of the families of the children of Gilead the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, of the families of the sons of Joseph, came near and spoke before Moses and before the leaders, the chief fathers of the children of Israel. 2 And they said: “The Lord commanded my lord Moses to give the land as an inheritance by lot to the children of Israel, and my lord was commanded by the Lord to give the inheritance of our brother Zelophehad to his daughters. 3 Now if they are married to any of the sons of the other tribes of the children of Israel, then their inheritance will be taken from the inheritance of our fathers, and it will be added to the inheritance of the tribe into which they marry; so it will be taken from the lot of our inheritance. 4 And when the Jubilee of the children of Israel comes, then their inheritance will be added to the inheritance of the tribe into which they marry; so their inheritance will be taken away from the inheritance of the tribe of our fathers.”
5 Then Moses commanded the children of Israel according to the word of the Lord, saying: “What the tribe of the sons of Joseph speaks is right. 6 This is what the Lord commands concerning the daughters of Zelophehad, saying, ‘Let them marry whom they think best, but they may marry only within the family of their father’s tribe.’ 7 So the inheritance of the children of Israel shall not change hands from tribe to tribe, for every one of the children of Israel shall keep the inheritance of the tribe of his fathers. 8 And every daughter who possesses an inheritance in any tribe of the children of Israel shall be the wife of one of the family of her father’s tribe, so that the children of Israel each may possess the inheritance of his fathers. 9 Thus no inheritance shall change hands from one tribe to another, but every tribe of the children of Israel shall keep its own inheritance.”
10 Just as the Lord commanded Moses, so did the daughters of Zelophehad; 11 for Mahlah, Tirzah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Noah, the daughters of Zelophehad, were married to the sons of their father’s brothers. 12 They were married into the families of the children of Manasseh the son of Joseph, and their inheritance remained in the tribe of their father’s family.
13 These are the commandments and the judgments which the Lord commanded the children of Israel by the hand of Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan, across from Jericho.




v. 11 Cities of Refuge - These cities were asylums where a person who had killed a man could flee and be safe from a retribution slaying until he could have a fair trial (v. 11-12). If he was proven guilty of intentional murder, he was to be put to death (Num. 35:30-33). If proven that he killed the person unintentionally, he must remain in the city of refuge until the death of the high-priest, and after that he would be free (Num. 35:11, 15-28). These cities of refuge were distributed across the land in such a way that it would never take more than a day’s journey to flee to one. They were also spaced so the one who sought refuge would not have to cross a mountain range or a river to get to one.
v. 12 The Avenger - This was usually a blood relative of the one slain (thus the title “avenger of blood” v. 19). This blood avenger would be appointed by the family of the slain person to kill their relative’s murderer (v. 19, 25-27).
v. 21 In Enmity - Refers to actions made with anger, hostility, or the intent to cause harm.
v. 24 The Congregation Shall Judge - This was an ancient form of “trial by jury.”
v. 30 Not Sufficient Testimony - A person under suspicion of murder should not be put to death without sufficient evidence.
v. 31 You Shall take no Ransom for the Life of a Murderer - No fine or payoff is sufficient to satisfy the penalty required by the crime of murder.
v. 32 You Shall Take No Ransom for Him who has Fled to his City of Refuge - The innocent person could not purchase his right to be released from the city of refuge before the death of the high priest.



v. 1 Chief Fathers - These were the tribal leaders and heads of families from the tribe of Manasseh.
Chief Fathers of the Children of Israel - The tribal leaders and heads of families from all the other tribes of Israel with the exception of Manasseh.
v. 2 Zelophehad - A man from the tribe of Manasseh who died in the wilderness with no sons to inherit their father’s portion of the Promised Land. His daughters petitioned Moses for a right to inherit their father’s land. Before this time, sons (not daughters) were able to inherit property. Moses sought the Lord for a decision in this matter and the Lord instructed Moses to pass Zelophehad’s inheritance down to his daughters (Num. 26:33, 27:1-7). This was the first case of its kind for the people of Israel and it set precedence for future cases like it.
v. 3 If They are Married - The concern here was that if Zelophehad’s daughters married men outside the tribe of Manasseh, their inherited land would eventually be lost to the other tribes through the current inheritance laws.
v. 4 The Jubilee - Jubilee was a year-long celebration among the Jews that took place every 50 years. One of the laws of the Jubilee was that all land would be permanently returned to the tribe of its original owner on the year of Jubilee (Lev. 25:23-28). The leaders from the tribe of Manasseh were concerned that the land that would be rightfully theirs might be lost forever on the year of Jubilee if the daughters of Zelophehad married outside their tribe.
v. 6 Marry Whom They Think Best - Moses gave a solution to this matter in the name of the Lord. The daughters of Zelophehad had total freedom to choose whom they would marry as long as they choose a husband from within their own tribe. If they chose to marry outside of the tribe, they would have to let the land go for the sake of the love they had for their future husband.
v. 7 Shall Keep the Inheritance - The portions of the Promised Land were supposed to forever remain properly divided and possessed by their original tribes (v. 9). Their sins eventually caused loss of the land.
v. 8 Every Daughter - This became the new law and standard or all similar cases.
v. 13 The Lord Commanded the Children of Israel by the Hand of Moses - These laws and amendments were not simply the judgments of Moses, but were passed down through Moses from God Himself.


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