Numbers 34-36

Today’s reading begins with a description of the boundaries of the Promised Land of Israel and concludes with the laws regarding the inheritance of women.

God had long promised a land for the people of Israel to possess as their own. After hundreds of years in Egypt and 40 years in the wilderness the time was almost at hand for the promise to be fulfilled. There’s an extensive description of the boundaries of the Promised Land in today’s passage, but I think it would be more instructive to provide a map:

This is an image taken from Wikipedia which can be accessed here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Map_Land_of_Israel.jpg

In addition to the land described by God, God made provision for cities of refuge for the people Israel. These cities were to be used by people who had been convicted of manslaughter. Manslaughter in the Bible was defined as the accidental killing of one man at the hands of another. The killing was to be completely by accident and not compelled by malice or anger. The manslayer was to reside in one of these cities of refuge until the death of the high priest of Israel. If the manslayer was found outside of the city of refuge, the avenger of blood was commanded to kill the manslayer.

I think all too often, here in America, we give only passing ascent to the tragedy of murder. God in this passage puts the gravity of the act of killing another person in its proper perspective in Numbers 35:31-34:

Moreover, you shall accept no ransom for the life of a murderer, who is guilty of death, but he shall be put to death. And you shall accept no ransom for him who has fled to his city of refuge, that he may return to dwell in the land before the death of the high priest. You shall not pollute the land in which you live, for blood pollutes the land, and no atonement can be made for the land for the blood that is shed in it, except by the blood of the one who shed it. You shall not defile the land in which you live, in the midst of which I dwell, for I the LORD dwell in the midst of the people of Israel.

I think if we could get this right, maybe our country could be different. This doesn’t just cover the taking of life because of a dispute, this covers the different kinds of careless, thoughtless acts of taking of life, including that of abortion. Taking of life curses a land and the absence of justice for those who’s lives have been taken must certainly be a part of the problems we face here and around the world. Unfortunately, some believe that this passage justifies taking matters of justice into their own hands which the Bible never condones. Laws need to change, and justice meted out, but not through acts of vengeance from men of discontent.

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