one shedding it. (Gen. 9:5, 6; Num. 35:33, 34) So, in the case of a murderer, the blood of his victim was avenged and the law of ‘life for life’ was satisfied when the murderer was put to death “without fail” by the avenger of blood. (Ex. 21:23; Num. 35:21) But what about the unintentional manslayer, the one, for example, who killed his brother when the axhead accidentally flew off while chopping wood? (Deut. 19:4, 5) For such unfortunate ones Jehovah lovingly provided cities of refuge, six in number, where the accidental shedder of blood could find protection and asylum from the avenger of blood.—Num. 35:6-32; Josh. 20:2-9.
Before his death Moses appointed three of these cities E of the Jordan. The first, Bezer, in the S on the tableland of the territory that belonged to the tribe of Reuben, was E of the northern end of the Dead Sea; the second, Ramoth, in Gilead, belonged to the tribe of Gad and was about in the middle of the eastern section of Palestine; the third, Golan, in Bashan, was to the N in the territory of Manasseh. (Deut. 4:43; Josh. 21:27, 36, 38) After the Israelites crossed over to the W side of the Jordan, Joshua designated three more cities of refuge: Hebron, to the S in Judah’s territory; Shechem, in the central mountainous regions of Ephraim; and, to the N, Kedesh, in the territory of Naphtali, which was later known as the region of Galilee. (Josh. 21:13, 21, 32) All these cities were Levite cities and one, Hebron, was a priestly city. Additionally, because of being set aside as cities of refuge, they received a sacred status.—Josh. 20:7.
Upon reaching a city of refuge the fugitive was to state his case to the older men at the city gate, to be received hospitably. To prevent willful murderers from taking cover under this provision, the fleeing one, after entering the city, had to stand trial at the city gates in the city having jurisdiction where the killing occurred, in order to prove his innocence. If found innocent, he was returned to the city of refuge. However, his safety could be guaranteed only if he remained in the city the rest of his life or until the death of the high priest. No ransom could be accepted to alter these terms. (Num. 35:22-29, 32; Josh. 20:4-6) Even Jehovah’s sacred altar provided no protection for murderers, as was illustrated in the case of Joab.—Ex. 21:14; 1 Ki. 1:50; 2:28-34; see AVENGER OF BLOOD.
How different, then, Jehovah’s arrangement for the protection of unintentional manslayers was from the so-called cities of refuge and other sanctuaries set up by ancient pagan nations and by Christendom’s churches down through the ages! Whereas the latter sanctuaries offered shelter for criminals of every sort along with the innocent, and thus encouraged wanton killing, Israel’s cities of refuge gave protection to only the innocent and then only under restrictions, and thus promoted respect for the sanctity of life.
A citizen is a native-born or naturalized inhabitant of a city or state who is entitled to certain rights and privileges denied others, and who, in turn, assumes the responsibilities attached to such rights by the authorities granting the citizenship. In the Bible the terms “citizen” and “citizenship” occur only in the Christian Greek Scriptures.
In the Hebrew Scriptures, though the terms “citizen” and “citizenship” are not found, nevertheless, the concept of citizen and noncitizen is there in terms such as “native” and “alien resident.” (Lev. 24:22) Under the Mosaic Law arrangement the congregation was in reality the commonwealth into which aliens could, with certain restrictions, be admitted, there to enjoy many benefits common to the natural-born Israelites. Naturalization, it might be said, came when a male alien resident became circumcised, thus granting him the opportunity of fully entering into the greater privileges in Jehovah’s worship, even to the extent of participating in the annual Passover festival.—Ex. 12:43-49; Num. 9:14; see ALIEN RESIDENT; FOREIGNER.
Roman citizenship secured for a person special rights and immunities recognized and honored throughout the empire. For example, it was illegal to torture or scourge a Roman citizen for the purpose of extracting a confession from him, these forms of punishment being considered very servile and fit only for slaves. At Jerusalem, Roman soldiers rescued Paul from a Jewish mob. Paul did not at first identify himself as a Roman citizen, but when he was about to be scourged, he said to an army officer standing by: “Is it lawful for you men to scourge a man that is a Roman and uncondemned?” “Well,” the account continues, “when the army officer heard this, he went to the military commander and made report, saying: ‘What are you intending to do? Why, this man is a Roman.’” When the truth of the matter was learned, immediately “the men that were about to examine him with torture withdrew from him; and the military commander became afraid on ascertaining that he was a Roman and that he had bound him.”—Acts 21:27-39; 22:25-29; see also Acts 16:37-40.
Another advantage and privilege enjoyed under Roman citizenship was the right to appeal the decision of a provincial governor to the emperor of Rome in cases of capital offense. So it was, when arguing his case before Festus, that Paul declared: “I am standing before the judgment seat of Caesar, where I ought to be judged. . . . no man can hand me over to [the Jews] as a favor. I appeal to Caesar!” (Acts 25:10-12) Once the right of appeal to Rome was claimed and requested, it could not be withdrawn. So after reviewing Paul’s case, King Agrippa II said to Festus: “This man could have been released if he had not appealed to Caesar.”—Acts 26:32.
Roman citizenship could be obtained in a number of ways. Sometimes the emperors extended this special favor to whole cities or districts, or to individuals, for services rendered. It was also possible at times to purchase citizenship outright for a sum of money, this being the case with the military commander, Claudius Lysias, who told Paul: “I purchased these rights as a citizen for a large sum of money.” Many Jews possibly were granted Roman citizenship by Julius Caesar for their services rendered to the state during the Egyptian war. This may have been the way the Jewish father of ‘Saul of Tarsus’ (Paul) became a Roman citizen, an honor and distinction he passed on as a hereditary privilege to his son. For this reason Paul countered Claudius Lysias’ response of having purchased citizenship rights, saying, “But I was even born in them.”—Acts 13:7; 22:28; 23:26.