The possessions being now divided among you, do you reserve some of them for the use which I have commanded.
Unawares and unwittingly, Heb. through ignorance, or error, or mistake, and without knowledge; the same thing twice repeated, to cut off all the claims and expectations that wilful murderers might have of protection here; and God having declared that such should be taken even from his altar, that they might be killed, Exodus 21:14; and accordingly Joab was by Solomon’s order killed even at the altar, 1 Kings 2:28-31,34. It is the more strange and impudent that any Christians should make their sanctuaries give protection to such persons whom God hath so expressly excepted from it, which the papists do; and their doctors are not ashamed to defend it upon frivolous reasons.
The avenger of blood; the kinsman, who had right or power to demand or take vengeance of the slaughter.
The judges used to sit
at the entering of the gate. His cause, or, his matters or business, what he hath done, and why, and how; he shall give them a true relation of the fact, and all its circumstances.
They shall take him into the city; understand, if they are satisfied in the relation he makes concerning the fact, otherwise it had been a vain thing to examine his cause.
Give him a place; which they might well allow him, because God gave them the city with a reservation for such persons.
Standing was the posture of the accused and accusers, Exodus 18:13 Isaiah 1:8 Zechariah 3:1.
Before the congregation, or, company, or assembly, to wit, the council appointed to judge of these matters: not the council of the city of refuge, for they had examined him before, Joshua 20:4; but of the city to which he belonged, or in or nigh which the fact was committed, as appears from Numbers 35:25.
Until the death of the high priest; of which see Poole "Numbers 35:25".
Concerning these cities, note,
1. That they were all upon mountains, that they might be seen at a great distance, and so direct those who fled thither.
2. That they were seated at convenient distance one from another, for the benefit of the several tribes; for Kedesh was in the north, Hebron in the south, and Shechem between them.
3. That they all belonged to the Levites; partly that these causes might be more impartially examined and justly determined by them, who are presumed best able to understand the law of God, and most obliged and likely to follow it in their judgment, and not to be biassed by any affection or corrupt interest; and partly that their just reputation with the people, and their good counsels, might lay some restraint upon revengeful persons, who might be inclined or tempted to follow the man-slayer thither, and endeavour to kill him there.
They assigned, or gave, or had assigned, or
given; for they were given by Moses, Deuteronomy 4:41, &c.; or they confirmed Moses’s grant, and applied them to that use to which Moses designed and separated them.
For the stranger; not only proselytes, but others also; because this was a matter of common right, that a distinction might be made between casual man-slayers and wilful murderers.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Joshua 20". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://pro.studylight.org/
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34