253 – Numbers 35 – City

The thirty-fifth chapter of the book of Numbers could be divided into two parts. Numbers 35:1 begins with the words, “Yahweh spoke to Moses on the desert plains of Moab…”, and 35:9 begins with, “Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying…”.

In verses 1-8, our first section, Yahweh commands the children of Israel to give the Levites cities since they have no land inheritance of their own. They were given both cities to live in, and cities of refuge for the accidental murderer to flee to, which are explained in subsequent verses. 

I consider verses 2 & 8 taken together as a summary for this first section.

Numbers 35:2 (LEB)

“Command the ⌊Israelites⌋ that they give to the Levites from the inheritance of their property cities to live in; and you will give to the Levites pastureland all around the cities.

Numbers 35:8 (LEB)

And the cities that you will give from the property of the ⌊Israelites⌋, you will take more from the larger group and less from the smaller group; each of them will give according to the portion of their inheritance according to the portion that he inherits.”

In verses 9-34, our second section, Yahweh gives commandment concerning the accidental murderer and the cities of refuge. 

Verse 11 is a nice summary of our second section. 

Numbers 35:11 (LEB)

you will select for yourselves cities for your cities of refuge, that a killer who has killed a person unintentionally can flee there.

The remaining verses in the chapter give details about who qualifies to flee to the cities of refuge and why. It would be helpful if you would read the whole chapter. I would like us to consider the last two verses of the chapter.

Numbers 35:33-34 (LEB)

33 So you will not pollute the land in which you are; because blood pollutes the land, and no atonement can be made for the land for the blood that is poured out on it except with the blood of the one who poured it out. 

34 You will not defile the land on which you are living because I am living in the midst of it; I am Yahweh; I am living in the midst of the ⌊Israelites⌋.’ ”

Ransom is a concept we see throughout both the Old and New Testaments. Here’s an example from the book of Exodus.

Exodus 21:29-30 (LEB)

But if it was a goring ox ⌊before⌋ and its owner was warned and did not restrain it and it kills a man or a woman, the ox will be stoned, and the owner also will be put to death. 30 If a ransom is set on him, he will pay the redemption money for his life according to all that is set on him.

According to Numbers 35, if the person who has fled to one of the cities of refuge is found guilty of murder, there can be no ransom money paid for his life – he must be put to death. Verses 33 and 34 inform us “blood pollutes the land” and You [nation of Israel] will not defile the land on which you are living because I [Yahweh] am living in the midst of it.

Simply put, when blood is shed, blood is required. Consider a New Testament verse on the matter.

Matthew 21:20

just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

You may ask, “given the Numbers 35 passage are murderers then excluded from the ransom Jesus provided?” The answer to that is no, no one is excluded. According to Numbers 35:33, Blood defiles the land, but look at that verse again. Do you see the word atonement (covering)? Blood is required for atonement. Jesus paid the price of our ransom. He became sin on the cross and died in our place. He and He alone has purchased our freedom from sin, death, hell, and the grave. Why? So like verse 34 Yahweh God could dwell among us.

It’s not hard for me to comprehend that God is good. What is hard for me to wrap my mind around is why He extends His goodness to sinful man. I think the fact that He does only compounds His goodness exponentially!

Yahweh is good! Won’t you praise Him?

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