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Balancing Justice and Mercy (Numbers 35)

TEXT: Numbers 35:10-15

“Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ”When you cross the Jordan into Canaan, 11 select some towns to be your cities of refuge, to which a person who has killed someone accidentally may flee. 12 They will be places of refuge from the avenger, so that a person accused of murder may not die before he stands trial before the assembly. 13 These six towns you give will be your cities of refuge. 14 Give three on this side of the Jordan and three in Canaan as cities of refuge. 15 These six towns will be a place of refuge for Israelites, aliens and any other people living among them, so that anyone who has killed another accidentally can flee there.

  1. How should we understand today the role of the avenger of blood?
  2. What was the purpose of the cities of refuge?
  3. Can principles drawn from this passage be applied today?

TEXT: Numbers 35:29-33

29 “These are to be legal requirements for you throughout the generations to come, wherever you live. 30 Anyone who kills a person is to be put to death as a murderer only on the testimony of witnesses. But no one is to be put to death on the testimony of only one witness. 31 Do not accept a ransom for the life of a murderer, who deserves to die. He must surely be put to death. 32 Do not accept a ransom for anyone who has fled to a city of refuge and so allow him to go back and live on his own land before the death of the high priest. 33 Do not pollute the land where you are. Bloodshed pollutes the land, and atonement cannot be made for the land on which blood has been shed, except by the blood of the one who shed it.”

  1. What does the death of the high priest have to do with an involuntary act of homicide?
  2. What procedures were used in deciding whether a homicide was involuntary or deliberate?
  3. How to understand the statement “Bloodshed pollutes the land?”

Lesson: Mercy is especially appreciated in the context of justice.

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