The Need for Security
“You yourself alone, O Jehovah, make me dwell in security.—Ps. 4:8.
1. What has made the life of man uncertain during almost all the time he has been on earth?
THE life of mankind has been marked by insecurity nearly all the time that men have lived on earth. History reveals the many dangers to which they have been exposed. Illness in all its forms has carried men off. Disasters and famines have taken their toll of unnumbered human lives. Wars, small and big, have devastated many countries and brought millions of men to an early grave. Crime also has been ever present, and multitudinous are the ones who have fallen victim to it.
2. How have the developments of science affected man’s security?
2 Although the progress due to science has provided men with many commodities not previously available—for example, medicines to treat some of his ailments—yet the life of man has not become safer in our scientific age. To the contrary. The scientific development in the field of armament is so colossal—just think of the atomic, biological and chemical weapons produced—that the life of men, not only in a few countries, but around the globe, is threatened to a degree never before known in the whole history of mankind. Truly, life has become more modern, but at the same time very uncertain and perilous. No wonder, then, that the speeches of statesmen and other prominent personalities, headlined in the world press, time and again revolve around the terms “peace” and “security.” They reflect clearly the prevailing uncertainty in the world.
3. How did the Bible foretell our days, which are marked by uncertainty?
3 In spite of all the efforts undertaken by worldly men, no real security is being reached. Hardly has one conflict been settled when another breaks out. Many people looking into the future see nothing but a big question mark. Insecurity and uncertainty are increasing. Here is how the Bible accurately foretold just these conditions in our day: “Also, there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth anguish of nations, not knowing the way out because of the roaring of the sea and its agitation, while men become faint out of fear and expectation of the things coming upon the inhabited earth.”—Luke 21:25, 26.
4. (a) Why will this present world never find real peace and security? (b) Who is the source of true security?
4 According to the Bible we may never expect that the present agitated world will find peace and security. Why is this so? Because it is seeking security in the wrong direction and in the wrong manner. Men in general have not learned that humans and human organizations can never provide true security. They ignore the clear advice of the Bible: “Do not put your trust in nobles, nor in the son of earthling man, to whom no salvation belongs.” (Ps. 146:3) No man, regardless of how prominent he may be and with what power he may be invested, religious or political, no nation of this world and no international organization can provide true security and salvation for mankind. These precious, sought-after goals can derive only from one source, namely, God the Almighty, whose name is Jehovah, and only in harmony with the provisions he has made.—Isa. 43:11.
SECURITY IN ANCIENT ISRAEL
5. (a) What does Israel’s history show as to security? (b) Describe the blessed reign of King Solomon.
5 As is generally known, the Israelites, that is, the descendants of the Hebrew Abraham through his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob, were at one time the chosen people of Jehovah. In Jehovah’s dealings with Israel there are revealing foregleams of how security can be gained and how it can be lost. As the history of Israel shows, national security and individual security were very likely at their zenith during the reign of the wise, peaceful and famous king Solomon, one of the human kings who ruled representatively for the invisible King Jehovah. In impressive words a chronicler reports about that blessed time: “And peace itself became his in every region of his, all around. And Judah and Israel continued to dwell in security, everyone under his own vine and under his own fig tree, from Dan to Beer-sheba, all the days of Solomon.”—1 Ki. 4:24, 25.
6. (a) What were the factors contributing to Israel’s welfare and security? (b) But what does Israel’s later history show?
6 This peace, security and welfare during the reign of King Solomon were not the result of human wisdom. Rather, they resulted from heavenly wisdom. The people of Israel had received a fine code of laws. Centuries before, it had been made known by Jehovah to Moses and through him to the nation of Israel. This uniform legislation was to be applied throughout the whole territory of that nation, and it applied generally to Israelites and foreigners alike. It governed the relations of this people to its God and also the relations between individuals. It was a good law. To this the Christian apostle Paul testifies, when he wrote: “Wherefore, on its part, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.” (Rom. 7:12) The more strictly the people observed this law, both rulers and subjects, the more they enjoyed the favor of their God, Jehovah, and the more they enjoyed peace and security. But the more they departed from the law, usually led on by a ruling class that had turned wicked, the greater their insecurity became. This is very tragically illustrated in what happened to Israel after the majority had rejected the Messiah, the one whom God had sent to them as their Redeemer. In 70 C.E., when the Romans destroyed Israel’s famous capital, Jerusalem, this highly favored people lost its national existence. The history of the Jews during the nineteen centuries that followed is unparalleled as far as insecurity and adversity are concerned. It all goes to show that true security can never be found outside of a proper relationship with man’s Creator.—Ps. 91:2.
THE CITY OF REFUGE—A PROTECTIVE PROVISION
7. Why is the law of Moses still of interest for us?
7 Let us now consider one of the provisions of the Mosaic law more closely. It is true that the Mosaic law with its many decrees and penal sanctions is no longer in force. When the Messiah, Jesus Christ, came, nineteen centuries ago, the time of this law was up. It had served its purpose. By its being fulfilled it was taken out of the way. The Bible so informs us in these words: “He kindly forgave us all our trespasses and blotted out the handwritten document [the Mosaic law] against us, which consisted of decrees and which was in opposition to us; and He has taken it out of the way by nailing it to the torture stake [of Jesus Christ].” (Col. 2:13, 14) But this old body of law, although no more being in force after Jesus Christ was used to bring it to an end on Nisan 14, 33 C.E., contains many instructive types or “shadows,” as well as principles, from which Christians may draw enlightenment and benefit. The weekly sabbath or day of rest, for example, which was stipulated in the Mosaic law, was such a shadow of good things to come, pointing forward to something in the future, namely, the thousand years of peace and tranquillity under the reign of Christ, the Messiah.—Col. 2:16, 17; Heb. 10:1.
8. How many cities of refuge were there, and what were their names?
8 A very interesting provision in the Mosaic law was that of the cities of refuge. Where were they located and what purpose did they serve? The Law provided for a total of six of these cities, three of them on the east side of the Jordan River and three on the west side. Concerning the names and geographical locations of these cities we are informed by Joshua, Moses’ successor as visible leader of Israel: “Accordingly they gave a sacred status to Kedesh in Galilee in the mountainous region of Naphtali, and Shechem in the mountainous region of Ephraim, and Kiriath-arba, that is to say, Hebron, in the mountainous region of Judah. And in the region of the Jordan, at Jericho, toward the east they gave Bezer in the wilderness on the tableland out of the tribe of Reuben, and Ramoth in Gilead out of the tribe of Gad, and Golan in Bashan out of the tribe of Manasseh.”—Josh. 20:7, 8.
9. (a) How were these cities distributed over the land? (b) What purpose did they actually serve?
9 A look at the map of the Promised Land shows that these cities were rather equally distributed throughout the land. Why was this so? These cities were to be within reach of any inhabitant—the Israelites as well as the alien residents and settler—who might need the city’s protection. These cities were havens of refuge, places of protection, open to persons whose lives were in danger, and therefore they were so located that the ones seeking protection might reasonably have the necessary strength and time to flee there. The national law ruled on who was eligible for protection. Anybody could flee to one of these cities who, due to accident, without any evil intent, had caused the death of another person or persons, be it while working or in any other situation.
10. Under what circumstances, for example, could a man flee there?
10 To illustrate, here is an example of such a situation, one that would make flight to the city of refuge necessary. “Now this is the case of the manslayer who may flee there and has to live: When he strikes his fellow man without knowing it and he was no hater of him formerly; or when he goes with his fellow man into the woods to gather wood, and his hand has been raised to strike with the ax to cut the tree, and the iron has slipped off from the wooden handle, and it has hit his fellow man and he has died, he himself should flee to one of these cities and must live.”—Deut. 19:4, 5.
THE SANCTITY OF HUMAN LIFE
11. (a) Why should a person have to flee to the city of refuge? (b) What do Jehovah’s words to Noah show?
11 But we might ask, Why should such a man have to flee to a place of protection? Because, after having caused the death of a fellowman, he was now himself in danger of losing his life. The nearest relative had the right to act as avenger of the blood of the person killed; he was entitled to act as executioner and in this capacity he could act swiftly, without delay. At that time this right of the avenger of blood was fully recognized. Undoubtedly it had its origin in the ordinance we find in the first book of the Bible, in Genesis 9, verses 4 to 6. There we find the words spoken by Jehovah to Noah and his sons, survivors of the global flood, and these words underscore the great value the Creator attaches to human life. “Only flesh with its soul—its blood—you must not eat. And, besides that, your blood of your souls shall I ask back. From the hand of every living creature shall I ask it back; and from the hand of man, from the hand of each one who is his brother, shall I ask back the soul of man. Anyone shedding man’s blood, by man will his own blood be shed, for in God’s image he made man.” From this old ordinance was derived the right to inflict the death penalty upon those who shed human blood illegally.
12. Was bloodguilt attached only to the willful murderer?
12 This old ordinance was recognized in the Mosaic law. Anyone who willfully and illegally shed human blood had to pay with his own life, after the murder had been proved and established by witnesses. (Deut. 17:6) Even a person who caused the death of a fellowman involuntarily, without evil intent, made himself bloodguilty. But then the Law provided that such an unfortunate person could escape death by fleeing into the nearest city of refuge. The relevant passage in the Law reads: “And Jehovah continued to speak to Moses, saying: ‘Speak to the sons of Israel, and you must say to them, “You are crossing the Jordan to the land of Canaan. And you must choose cities convenient for yourselves. As cities of refuge they will serve for you, and the manslayer must flee there who fatally strikes a soul unintentionally. And the cities must serve you as a refuge from the blood avenger, that the manslayer may not die until he stands before the assembly for judgment. And the cities that you will give, the six cities of refuge, will be at your service. For the sons of Israel and for the alien resident and for the settler in the midst of them these six cities will serve as a refuge, for anyone to flee there that fatally strikes a soul unintentionally.”’”—Num. 35:9-15; Josh. 20:1-6.
13, 14. (a) Was a willful murderer permitted to gain protection in the city of refuge? (b) How was the fugitive’s worthiness or willfulness determined?
13 It can thus be seen that, for everyone meeting its terms, this was a legal provision to save precious human life. These six cities were at the same time cities of the Levites, and one of them, Hebron, pertained to the Aaronic priests. But what about a person who made use of the legal protection in one of the six cities and who was actually not entitled to it, for example, a wicked murderer? The Law ruled out any protection for a murderer, such a person being considered unworthy to come within the protective shield of these cities. To ensure that no unworthy person would gain refuge, the law demanded that a hearing be held and the circumstances be examined, before a person was taken up definitely into the protective city. It was the elders of the slayer’s dwelling place who had to examine the case and render the final decision. If the decision turned out to be favorable for the refugee, then henceforth he was shielded by the sacred status of the city of refuge. Thus we read:
14 “But if it was unexpectedly without enmity that he has pushed him or has thrown any article toward him without lying in wait, or any stone by which he could die without seeing him or he should cause it to fall upon him, so that he died, while he was not at enmity with him and was not seeking his injury, the assembly must then judge between the striker and the avenger of blood according to these judgments. And the assembly must deliver the manslayer out of the hand of the avenger of blood, and the assembly must return him to his city of refuge to which he had fled, and he must dwell in it until the death of the high priest who was anointed with the holy oil.”—Num. 35:22-25.
15. How long must the unintentional manslayer stay in the city of refuge?
15 The last part of the scripture just quoted explains just how long the unintentional slayer had to remain in this legally provided asylum. He did not necessarily have to stay there for all his life, but only until the death of the high priest occurred, whichever high priest was in office at the time the refugee fled to one of these havens. When the high priest died, then at once all who had fled there were fully entitled to leave the city and return to their former dwelling places. Were they not in danger of being overtaken by the avenger of blood? No, not anymore. The avenger of blood now had no right to do harm to the released refugees. The case was closed. There was no longer any bloodguilt for which to account, “For he ought to dwell in his city of refuge until the high priest’s death, and after the high priest’s death the manslayer may return to the land of his possession.”—Num. 35:28.
16. What does the provision of the city of refuge teach us as to the value of human life?
16 The provision of the city of refuge teaches us more than one thing. It shows us clearly that the Creator of man, Jehovah, values human life as something precious. There is no question that He has the full and indisputable right to destroy human life, if men oppose his sovereign will and ignore his purpose. Man, however, certainly is not in the same position as his Creator and therefore has no right to snuff out human life just as he pleases. Life is so precious. In a way it is holy. The Mosaic law ruled that even the unintentional manslayer became bloodguilty, showing thereby the severity of God in matters of bloodshed. No doubt this rigor was to impress the Israelites and convey to their minds the proper appreciation for the sanctity of human life. It also taught them in all their dealings to give careful consideration to this most precious possession of their fellowmen—life. Pointing to the great Source, the psalmist wrote: “For with you is the source of life.”—Ps. 36:9.
17. Which two great qualities of Jehovah are reflected in this special legal provision?
17 On the other hand, the provision of the city of refuge shows that Jehovah is a God of mercy and that He, as the Supreme Judge, knows the hearts of men and makes a distinction between one who commits a wrong unintentionally and one who is wicked in heart and who willfully and presumptuously breaks the divine law. So the provision of the protective city as it existed in ancient Israel reveals two great attributes of Jehovah: his justice and his mercy. The psalmist wrote: “Righteousness and judgment are the established place of your throne; loving-kindness and trueness themselves come in before your face.”—Ps. 89:14.
18. Since that provision was a prophetic type, what questions now arise?
18 Since the provision of the city of refuge was of prophetic significance, pointing forward to greater things to come, the following questions arise: What does this city picture? Who is typified by the unintentional manslayer who was permitted to flee there and who by the avenger of blood who pursued the unintentional manslayer? What is meant by the road leading up to these cities? Who is the high priest? And what is shown by the fact that the refugees could leave the city after the high priest died? All these questions can be answered satisfactorily as we let God’s holy spirit ‘lead us into all the truth.’ (John 16:13) For further discussion of these questions we refer the reader to the following article.
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Cities of Refuge