These were the cities designated for all the Israelites, and for the aliens residing among them, that anyone who killed a person without intent could flee there, so as not to die by the hand of the avenger of blood, until there was a trial before the congregation (Joshua 20:9 NRSV).
Ancient Israel did not have prisons or a system of bonding but they did have a sophisticated system for justice, judges, trials, and a society desire for justice for all. One of the key components that was set out during the time of land allotment was cities of refuge. What is a city of refuge?
A city of refuge is a place where someone who killed someone without proven intent could flee until a trial before the congregation. One of the very interesting things about the Old Testament is that we rarely see incarceration, even for killers. The first killer, Cain, was not incarcerated but given a mark so that people would not kill him.
So cities of refuge are a gracious, merciful way to protect someone who may have accidentally killed someone, and to preserve justice if someone is guilty, to be a place where the guilty might be held without further damage to the town or clan while investigations and trials are prepared.
How much have you thought about our justice system? Do you just assume it is good as it is? We have a lot of justice in our world and specifically in the United States, but there is also a lot of injustice. I took a next step in 2018 and joined a group in Tulsa that is holding public office holders accountable for their actions or inactions on incarceration in Oklahoma. Are you interested in taking more action on things that matter to you? Contact me through the comments below or by emailing me at email@example.com.
Dear LORD, give us grace to accept the things we see in society that we know are unchangeable but the courage to step up and change the things that should not be this way. And give us the wisdom to know the difference. Amen.
Greg Taylor preaches for The Journey: A New Generation Church of Christ. Greg’s wife, Jill, teaches math at Broken Arrow High School and Tulsa Community College. Greg and Jill have three adult children, Ashley, Anna, and Jacob. Greg is the author of many books, including his latest co-authored with Randy Harris, Daring Faith: Meeting Jesus in the Book of John.