The Land (10). Cities of Refuge

We sung Psalm 27:1-5 (note where David ran for refuge)

This morning we covered Joshua 20 which outlines the six cities of refuge, three to west of River Jordan (Kadesh, Shechem and Hebron) and three to the east namely Golan, Ramoth Gilead and Bezer (KASH and GRAB mnemonic!). The laws of Exodus 21:12-14, Numbers 35,  Deut. 4:41-43 (first three cities) and Deut. 19:1-13 (examples of manslaughter and the just cause of capital punishment) are re-iterated. Note the conjunction of Levitical cities and cities of refuge in the Numbers chapter. The need for them was to differentiate the two major causes of homicide whether deliberate murder or accidental manslaughter. The first mandated the death penalty but the second did not.

The need for these places was an ingrained fallen “tribal” idea of revenge prevalent then and still today in many Islamic or backward nations in which a near relative would seek to kill the person who had killed their relative. The second three cities are named in Joshua 20:7-9 and note the foreign sojourner is included fairly in the legislation. The one fleeing had to stay in the city of refuge till the case was heard or the high priest died (v4) which could be years!

Related instances are seen in the cases of Adonijah and Joab (I Kings 1:50-53 and I Kings 2:29) who both fled to the horns of the altar in the tabernacle, the first allowed to live and the second put to death as he had murdered two men namely Abner and Amasa (I Kings 2:31-33) and II Samuel 3:27 and 14. In the middle ages churches were often used as sanctuary by those being pursued.

Today these laws are abrogated because there is no high priest, the church is universal and the Old Testament ceremonial and societal ordinances are nailed to the cross of Christ.

King David very often speaks of God and his dwelling place as his refuge or the refuge of others in need see II Sam.22:3, Ps.14:6, 46:1, 57:1, 59:16, 62:7-8, 71:7,91:2, 94:22, 142:5. Often this was literal as God providentially shielded him from his earthly enemies like Saul, but also true of him and us, as we seek help against our spiritual enemies namely the hostile world, our own flesh and Satan.

Contrast our hiding in God and the wicked reprobate who cannot stand in God’s presence (Ps.5:5).

The cities of refuge point to the great refuge of all God’s people namely Christ (Heb. 6:18) to whom we flee, having been guilty of murder (hatred) and many more sins besides, for refuge from the wrath of God where we hide in the cleft of the rock who is Jesus Christ.

The Land (9)

Click to enlarge

Sung Psalm 37:3-9 (note multiple references in the psalm to our inheritance)

Reading Joshua 14

To recap Joshua 14-19 are about the division of the land among the 9 ½ tribes west of the Jordan. It is noteworthy that the division starts with an individual (Caleb) and ends in another (Joshua).

In Gilgal the allotment is made to Judah, Ephraim and half Manasseh. Gilgal was the place the campaign started and where the people were circumcised. Gilgal means rolled and the offence of uncircumcision was rolled away (as the skins were). The rest of the allotment took place in Shiloh. How long was the campaign? It was seven years and can be worked out from events in Caleb’s life. It took two years to get to Kadesh where the spies were sent out when he was 40 and then they were all condemned to wander 38 further years in the wilderness. So campaign started when he was 78 and finished when he was 85 with strength unabated (like Moses too Deut.34:7). God keeps his promises and men must remain fit for their tasks. His was a reward of grace. He was given the cities of Anak (Num.13:28 which were renamed Hebron (14:12, 15:13-14) c.f. I Samuel 30:14. In 19:49-50 we come to the conclusion of the division with Joshua’s allotment of Timnathserah in Ephraim. The common factors with these two men were they were the two good, fearless and faithful spies who wholly followed the Lord. In similar fashion there will be degrees of reward for Christians in our heavenly inheritance.


The Land (8)

Sung Psalm 80:1-6 (note refs to Ephraim and Manasseh).

Reading Joshua 17:1-18

Observations about half tribe of Manasseh (west of the Jordan)

There was some fluidity about the apportioning of towns to these tribes-Ephraim was given towns in Manasseh and Manasseh towns in Asher and Issachar.

Ephraim and Manasseh complain about room and are told to deforest some areas and defeat and drive out the Canaanites.

The sons of Manasseh were six including Hepher but he through Zelophehad only had five daughters (v3-4). So ten portions were given-five to the other five sons and five to the daughters of Zelophehad as God instructed Moses (Num.26:33, 27:1-11,36:2-4). God ruled they should inherit as the other sons but they were told to marry within their tribe to keep the integrity of each tribe’s inheritance which they duly did (Num.36:6,10-12).

Compare with Galatians 3:28 and I Peter 3:7 where we see equality in salvation between nations and sexes and equal inheritance in glory. After all we all inherit the Lord as our portion!




In today’s reading * I Chronicles 28 and 29 describe David’s great legacy as he prepares all that’s needed for his son Solomon to build the temple.

We have the PROPHECY and PROMISE (28:6,9) of God.


PROVISION (28:14ff)


PEOPLE (28:21)





PEACE (29:25) and of course Solomon means peace!

A wonderful couple of chapters.

Typology of Christ building his church through all of time.

Here’s the reading plan*.


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The Land (7)

Sung Psalm 60:6-12 (note this is a Davidic Psalm and delineates the Israelite empire at its height and mentions the exploits of Joab in subduing the Jebusites and the Edomites)

Reading Joshua 15:1-12 (but references from chapters 15-19)

Note Paul’s witness to the division of the land in Acts 13:19!

The borders of Judah’s allotment is the largest description of any of the tribes (63 verses). It is noteworthy in the precision of the boundaries, useful in any future dispute. The land is described by geographical features as they had no maps—hills, rivers, valleys, seas and towns. The list of towns (Bethlehem notably absent as it was then unimportant) give us a long list of places important in Biblical history (from Genesis to Revelation). Here is a sample with their significance:

15:9    Kireath-Jearim where Uzzah died steadying the ark.

16:2    Archi home of Hushai the Archite, one of David’s advisors

15:51   Gilo-home of Ahithophel the Gilonite the advisor to David and Absalom who hung himself

18:21  Gibeon-home of the Gibeonites who deceived Joshua

Ramah-Samuel’s burying place

Beeroth-home to the men who killed Ishbosheth

15:31  Ziklag-which was given to David and his men by King Achish the Philistine

19:26  Carmel-the mount where Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal cf. the other Carmel in Judah where Abigail and Nabal lived.

19:27  Cabul-meaning worthless which was a town given by Solomon but despised by Hiram

19:41  Zorah and Eshtaol-home of Manoah (Samson’s father)

and MANY more e.g. Adullam, Gibeah, Jezreel, Hebron and Rabbah.

Regions are delineated within Judah’s inheritance viz.

15:21-32 the Negev

33-47 Coastal region

48-60 the hill country of Judah (home of Zachariah/Elizabeth)

61-62 wilderness of Judah by Dead Sea where Christ was tempted.

Interesting slide (click to enlarge)

Can you guess which tribe each picture represents?

The Land (6)

Sung Psalm 47:1-8 (note v4)

Read Joshua 16

The principles of the Israelite tribal allotments

  • Apportioned by lot (9 ½ tribes to east of Jordan) (cf. 14:2 and Numb.34:13). The lot acknowledges God’s sovereignty (Prov.16:33).
  • Apportioned secondarily by size of tribe (v9, Deut. 26:54-56, Numb. 33:54)
  • Apportioned thirdly according to landuse required viz. pasture or arable.

By whom? High priest, Joshua and tribal leaders (14:1)

Where? Shiloh-holy place at that time where tabernacle was.

cf. Psalm 47:4 where Christ, the ascended king gives eternal inheritance to all his people (Ps.16:5-6).


Order of allotments: Reuben first (oldest), the Judah (ch. 15, messianic ruling tribe, birthright given, led tribes marching), then Ephraim/1/2 Manasseh (Joseph tribes, ch. 16-17, cf.Gen.49), then Benjamin (18:11), then Simeon (19:1, subsumed within Judah) up to the last Dan.


Sin, a despising of God and folly.

Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife.” (II Samuel 12:10)

All sin is a despising of God!

Nathan confronts King David.

Despise means feel contempt or a deep repugnance for.
“And she answered him (Amnon), Nay, my brother, do not force me; for no such thing ought to be done in Israel: do not thou this folly.” (II Samuel 13:12)

The Land (5)


Sung Psalm 135:6-13 (NB v12)

Read Joshua 13:1-14

The book of Joshua links the holy war with the holy land. Joshua is often divided thus:

Chapters 1-4 entering the land, 5-12 conquering the land, 13-21 possessing the land and 22-24 retaining the land.

It is a foundational book as it is the first time the people of Israel are in the land of Israel and gives a geographical backdrop to references throughout the rest of Scripture.

First we have the land not yet conquered, that of the Philistines, and the Avites whom they dispossessed, who would become chief enemy from within in I and II Chronicles and Judges.

Second that of the Phoenicians (vv4-6) where Baal worship originated specially promoted by Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal.

Third that of the Geshurites and Maacathites who inhabited in SW and NE (vv2,11). Note that David sinfully married into them and Absalom was the result (II Sam.3:3).

The first tribes to actually inherit were Reuben, Gad and half Manasseh east of the Jordan in Gilead (Numbers 21:21ff and 32) defeating Og and Sihon.



The Land (4)

The Land (4)

Earth swallows Dathan, Abiram and company.

Sung Psalm 106:11-18 (The ones who did NOT enter the land!)

Read Deut. 11

The inheritance of Canaan was in the way of obedience (v8) although it was God’s ultimate purpose (vv29,31). Similarly there is no way a believer will not make it into the heavenly Canaan by faith, but faith that worketh by love (i.e. by keeping the commandments which is to love God).

God recalls his mighty, miraculous acts (vv2-7), he contrasts Egypt, where irrigation was vital, with Canaan which will be well watered by providential rain twice a year. He warns the people that prosperity may lead to the people forgetting God, being deceived and idolatry (vv15-16) c.f. Deut. 6:11-12 and 8:10-12. SADLY THIS MAY BE TRUE OF PROFESSING BELIEVERS AND THEIR CHILDREN. Disobedience will lead inevitably to drought (Elijah) and dispossession of the land.


Witch of Endor



The incident where Saul, in dire straits, calls on the woman with the familiar (evil) spirit to seek his fortune has been a source of controversy for  many for years. I think John Gill gives the most plausible explanation. He believes the apparition she calls up is an evil spirit. The apparition (not Samuel who was in heaven) says, “Moreover, the Lord will also deliver Israel with thee into the hands of the Philistines,”….no comfort, “it being the business of this foul spirit to drive him to despair by the permission of God.” Had it really been Samuel he would have called him to repent, especially regarding David, and advised him to send for him, who might have been of singular use unto him; had Saul complied God would have appeared for him, and worked deliverance, “and tomorrow [shalt] thou and thy sons be with me.” This was a lie of the devil; if he meant this of himself, as an evil spirit, it could not be true of Saul and all his sons, that they should be with him in hell, especially of Jonathan who appears throughout the whole of his life to have been a godly man; if he would have it understood of him as representing Samuel, and of their being with him in heaven, it must be a great stretch of charity to believe it true of Saul, so wicked a man, and who died in the act of suicide; if the spirit meant all the sons of Saul, as the expression seems to suggest, it was mistaken as Ishbosheth, and his two sons by Rizpah, survived. It is noteworthy that this sin is recorded as the one specifically among many for which Saul died (I Chron.10:13).