Numbers 35 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of Numbers 35)

Verse 3

[3] And the cities shall they have to dwell in; and the suburbs of them shall be for their cattle, and for their goods, and for all their beasts.

For the cattle — For pasturage for their cattle: where they might not build houses, nor plant gardens, orchards or vineyards, no nor sow corn, for which they were abundantly provided out of the first-fruits. And these suburbs did not belong to the Levites in common, but were distributed to them in convenient proportions.

Verse 4

[4] And the suburbs of the cities, which ye shall give unto the Levites, shall reach from the wall of the city and outward a thousand cubits round about.

A thousand cubits — In the next verse it is two thousand. But this verse and the next do not speak to the same thing; this speaks of the space from whence the suburbs shall be measured, the next speaks of the space unto which that measure shall be extended; and the words may very well be read thus.

And the suburbs — Shall be from the wall of the city and from without it, or, from the outward parts of it, even from a thousand cubits round about. Which are mentioned not as the thing measured, but as the space from which the measuring line should begin. And then it follows, Numbers 35:5. And ye shall measure from without the city, (not from the wall of the city, as said before Numbers 35:4, but from without it, that is, from the said outward space of a thousand cubits without the wall of the city round about) on the east side two thousand cubits. So in truth there were three thousand cubits from the wall of the city, whereof one thousand probably were for out-houses, stalls for cattle, gardens, vineyards and olive-yards, and the other two thousand for pasture, which are therefore called the field of the suburbs, Leviticus 25:34, by way of distinction from the suburbs themselves, which consist of the first thousand cubits from the wall of the city.

Verse 6

[6] And among the cities which ye shall give unto the Levites there shall be six cities for refuge, which ye shall appoint for the manslayer, that he may flee thither: and to them ye shall add forty and two cities.

Cities for refuge — Or, of escape for manslayers: And these cities are assigned among the Levites, partly because they might be presumed to be the most proper and impartial judges between man-slayers, and wilful murderers; partly because their presence and authority would more effectually bridle the passions of the avenger of blood who might pursue him thither; and perhaps to signify, that it is only in Christ (whom the Levitical priests represented) that sinners find refuge and safety from the destroyer.

Verse 11

[11] Then ye shall appoint you cities to be cities of refuge for you; that the slayer may flee thither, which killeth any person at unawares.

Unawares — Not wilfully, designedly or maliciously, but through mistake or indiscretion.

Verse 12

[12] And they shall be unto you cities for refuge from the avenger; that the manslayer die not, until he stand before the congregation in judgment.

From the avenger — Heb. from the redeemer, or, from the next kinsman, to whom by the law belonged the right of redemption of the lands of; and vindication of the injury done to, the person deceased.

Die not — Be not killed by the avenger meeting him in some other place.

Before the congregation — Before the judges or elders who were appointed in every city for the decision of criminal causes, who were to examine, and that publickly before the people, whether the murder was wilful or casual.

Verse 14

[14] Ye shall give three cities on this side Jordan, and three cities shall ye give in the land of Canaan, which shall be cities of refuge.

On this side Jordan — Because that land was as long as Canaan, though not so broad, and besides these might be convenient for many of them that lived in Canaan.

Verse 16

[16] And if he smite him with an instrument of iron, so that he die, he is a murderer: the murderer shall surely be put to death.

If he smite him — Wittingly and wilfully, though not with premeditated malice.

He shall be put to death — Yea though he were fled into the city of refuge.

Verse 19

[19] The revenger of blood himself shall slay the murderer: when he meeteth him, he shall slay him.

He shall slay him — Either by himself, as the following words shew; so it is a permission, that he may do it without offence to God or danger to himself: or by the magistrate, from whom he shall demand justice: so it is a command.

Verse 24

[24] Then the congregation shall judge between the slayer and the revenger of blood according to these judgments:

Then — If the man-slayer flee to to the city of refuge.

Verse 26

[26] But if the slayer shall at any time come without the border of the city of his refuge, whither he was fled;

He shall abide in it — Be confined to it, partly to shew the hatefulness of murder in God's account by so severe a punishment, inflicted upon the very appearance of it, and partly for the security of the man-slayer, lest the presence of such a person, and his conversation among the kindred of the deceased, might occasion reproach and blood-shed.

The death of the high-priest — Perhaps to shew that the death of Christ (the true High-priest, whom the others represented) is the only means whereby sins are pardoned and sinners set at liberty.

Verse 27

[27] And the revenger of blood find him without the borders of the city of his refuge, and the revenger of blood kill the slayer; he shall not be guilty of blood:

Not guilty — Not liable to punishment from men, though not free of guilt before God. This God ordained to oblige the man-slayer to abide in his city of refuge.