Deuteronomy 4:42 (HCSB)
42 Someone could flee there who committed manslaughter, killing his neighbor accidentally without previously hating him. He could flee to one of these cities and stay alive:
This is a short passage, only three verses, and somewhat out of place following the previous pericope. The text is pretty straightforward: Moses sets apart three cities that are safe havens, cities of refuge, for someone to flee to in order to remain alive after killing someone accidentally.
Notice that there is nothing here that addresses what this looks like long term. Nor does it address any sort of “check” of someone’s claim to need this sort of sanctuary… in other words, what is to stop someone who did kill with “previous hate” from taking advantage of these cities? This passage is apparently not meant to be the full resolution of what to do in circumstances of accidental death. Instead, I think, it simply shows that God is merciful and is fully aware of the world broken by sin that man lives in. It shows that, even as His promise of Canaan is coming to fruition, God knows that man will continue to be entwined in sin, and need mercy and compassion, patience and thoughtful consideration, when dealing with the junk that is bound to happen: God was wise enough to put in place these cities to help man protect himself from himself!
And just as there were three tribes settling in the lands east of the Jordan, there were three cities of refuge. No tribe, no people group, should be exempt from the reminder of God’s grace and mercy.
Lord, thank You for the example of Your mercy. Please forgive me for my, at times, short temper, and quick-to-judge attitude. Help us to not be so anxious to dole out punishment, but to extend grace, especially when it means exposing the world to You. Amen.