1659.) Deuteronomy 19

Refuge: a place of shelter. I used to live quite near the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, a 140,000-acre natural sanctuary surrounding the John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Roseate Spoonbills (nearly decimated in the mid 1800’s to early 1900’s by hunters after their beautiful plumes for ladies’ hats and fans) are one of the many species of birds which winter there.

Deuteronomy 19 (English Standard Version)

Laws Concerning Cities of Refuge

Deu19 Safe-Place

Refuge:  protection from trouble.  National Safe Place is specifically designed for youth encountering any number of crises, including but not limited to family conflict, drug or alcohol abuse, school conflict, homelessness, and immediate safety.  Started in 1983 as an outreach of the YMCA in Louisville, Kentucky, it is now in 38 states.

1“When the LORD your God cuts off the nations whose land the LORD your God is giving you, and you dispossess them and dwell in their cities and in their houses, 2 you shall set apart three cities for yourselves in the land that the LORD your God is giving you to possess. 3You shall measure the distances and divide into three parts the area of the land that the LORD your God gives you as a possession, so that any manslayer can flee to them.

Deu19 Paris
In 1993, following the shocking assassination of Algerian writer Tahar Djaout, the international literary community proposed a series of cities be established to protect writers facing persecution and death in their home countries. Now, some fifty cities around the globe (including Paris, France, above) sponsor writers through the International Cities of Refuge Network and Cities of Refuge North America. For two-year periods, the writers are given housing, health insurance, a stipend, and the freedom and safety to write.

4“This is the provision for the manslayer, who by fleeing there may save his life. If anyone kills his neighbor unintentionally without having hated him in the past— 5as when someone goes into the forest with his neighbor to cut wood, and his hand swings the axe to cut down a tree, and the head slips from the handle and strikes his neighbor so that he dies—he may flee to one of these cities and live, 6lest the avenger of blood in hot anger pursue the manslayer and overtake him, because the way is long, and strike him fatally, though the man did not deserve to die, since he had not hated his neighbor in the past. 7Therefore I command you, You shall set apart three cities. 8 And if the LORD your God enlarges your territory, as he has sworn to your fathers, and gives you all the land that he promised to give to your fathers— 9provided you are careful to keep all this commandment, which I command you today, by loving the LORD your God and by walking ever in his ways— then you shall add three other cities to these three, 10lest innocent blood be shed in your land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance, and so the guilt of bloodshed be upon you.

The Tower of Refuge was built in 1832 on a partially submerged reef near the Isle of Man as a shelter for people who had survived shipwrecks nearby.  The Tower was stocked with bread, fresh water, and a bell for summoning help. At low tide the island is visible.

11“But if anyone hates his neighbor and lies in wait for him and attacks him and strikes him fatally so that he dies, and he flees into one of these cities, 12then the elders of his city shall send and take him from there, and hand him over to the avenger of blood, so that he may die. 13 Your eye shall not pity him, but you shall purge the guilt of innocent blood from Israel, so that it may be well with you.

God was just as concerned that the guilty be punished as He was that the innocent be protected (lest innocent blood be shed in the midst of your land, Deuteronomy 19:10).

–David Guzik



“Lord, Thou Hast Been Our Refuge,” based on Psalm 90, was written by English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams.  HERE  it is sung by the Westminster Abbey Choir.

Lord, thou hast been our refuge from one generation to another.
Before the mountains were brought forth
or ever the earth and the world were made,
Thou art God from everlasting and world without end.
Thou turnest man to destruction; again Thou sayest:
Come again, ye children of men.
For a thousand years in Thy sight are
but as yesterday; seeing that is past as a watch in the night.

O God our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come.
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.

As soon as thou scatterest them, they are even as asleep,
and fade away suddenly like the grass.
In the morning it is green and groweth up,
but in the evening it is cut down and withered.
For we consume away in thy displeasure,
and are afraid at thy wrathful indignation.
For when thou art angry, all our days are gone,
we bring our years to an end, as a tale that is told.
The days of our age are threescore years and ten:
and though men be so strong that they come to fourscore years,
yet is their strength then but labour and sorrow.
So passeth it away, and we are gone.
Turn thee again, O Lord, at the last.
Be gracious unto thy servants.
O satisfy us with thy mercy, and that soon.
So shall we rejoice and be glad all the days of our life.

Lord, thou hast been our refuge from one generation to another.
Before the mountains were brought forth
or ever the earth and the world were made,
Thou art God from everlasting and world without end.

And the glorious Majesty of the Lord be upon us.
Prosper Thou, O prosper Thou the work of our hands upon us.
O prosper Thou our handy work.


Property Boundaries

A boundary marker on Greenhow Moor, North Yorkshire, England

14 “You shall not move your neighbor’s landmark, which the men of old have set, in the inheritance that you will hold in the land that the LORD your God is giving you to possess.

Laws Concerning Witnesses

Proverbs 14:25 (NIV)

A truthful witness saves lives,
but a false witness is deceitful.

15“A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established. 16If a malicious witness arises to accuse a person of wrongdoing, 17then both parties to the dispute shall appear before the LORD, before the priests and the judges who are in office in those days. 18The judges shall inquire diligently, and if the witness is a false witness and has accused his brother falsely, 19 then you shall do to him as he had meant to do to his brother. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. 20And the rest shall hear and fear, and shall never again commit any such evil among you. 21 Your eye shall not pity. It shall be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.”

Deu19 eye

Our tendency is to want to do more to the offending party than what they have done to us. But we cannot punish from a motive of revenge, only from a motive of justice.

“Far from encouraging vengeance it limits vengeance and stands as a guide for a judge as he fixes a penalty suited to the crime. The principle was thus not license or vengeance, but a guarantee of justice.” (Thompson)

–David Guzik


English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.

Images courtesy of:
Roseate Spoonbill (photo by Joe Kegley).    http://www.wildlifesouth.com/Locations/Florida/Images-MerrittIsland/Roseate-Spoonbill-Merritt-Island.jpg
National Safe Place sign.    http://nationalsafeplace.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Safe-Place-logo_new_20121.jpg
Paris.   http://s4.favim.com/orig/50/beautiful-cool-paris-photography-Favim.com-452424.jpg
Tower of Refuge.    http://www.gov.im/lib/images/iomfinance/landscapes/refuge.jpg
boundary marker.    http://www.nymcam.co.uk/021502p.jpg
Pinocchio.    http://www.prwatch.org/files/images/pinnochio.jpg
eye.   http://everyonequestion.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Picture-62.png

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