Don’t Be A Hothead - The One Year Through the Bible Devotional

Don’t Be A Hothead

10“Give the following instructions to the people of Israel. When you cross the Jordan into the land of Canaan, 11designate cities of refuge to which people can flee if they have killed someone accidentally. 12These cities will be places of protection from a dead person’s relatives who want to avenge the death. The slayer must not be put to death before being tried by the community. 13Designate six cities of refuge for yourselves, 14three on the east side of the Jordan River and three on the west in the land of Canaan. 15These cities are for the protection of Israelites, foreigners living among you, and traveling merchants. Anyone who accidentally kills someone may flee there for safety. 16But if someone strikes and kills another person with a piece of iron, it is murder, and the murderer must be executed.”

Numbers 35:10-16

* * *

Suppose you were accused of murder. Wouldn’t you want an impartial jury and a fair trial?

This reading concludes the story of Israel’s campaign to take the land east of the Jordan River. Having defeated the Midianites and divided the land, all that remains is to give some towns to the Levites. Six of these are designated cities of refuge to serve as important safeguards on personal revenge and hotheaded lynch mobs. Doing justice isn’t easy, as the anecdote about discrimination shows at the very end.

Also in this passage, look for lessons on the value of human life; a humane system of justice; and the importance of family.

Read Numbers 35:1–36:13

Of the forty-eight cities given to the Levites, six were cities of refuge (Numbers 35:6). Such cities were needed because the ancient customs of justice called for revenge in the event of any death, accidental or otherwise, by the hand of another person (see, for example, 2 Samuel 14:7). The Levites would hold a preliminary hearing outside the gates while the accused person was kept in the city until the time of his or her trial. If the killing was judged to be accidental, the person would stay in the city until the death of the high priest. At that time, he or she would be allowed to go free and could start a new life without worrying about revenge. If it was not accidental, the person would be handed over to the slain person’s avengers for execution.

This shows how important God considers both justice and mercy. God wanted the people to be intolerant of the sin, yet impartial so the accused could have a fair trial.

It is unjust both to overlook wrongdoing and to jump to conclusions about guilt. When someone is accused of wrongdoing, stand up for justice, protect those not yet proven guilty, and listen carefully to all sides of the story.

From the Book: