Biblical Q&A: A Question On Numbers 35:25&32. Why Couldn’t The Offender Leave Until The Death Of The High Priest?


Anonymous asks:

Re Numbers 35:25,32, why can’t the offender leave the city of refuge until the high priest dies?

‘Would very much appreciate your view on this. Many thanks and God bless.

Thank you for your question, I hope my answer(s) help.


Numbers 35:25,32

25 The assembly must protect the one accused of murder from the avenger of blood and send the accused back to the city of refuge to which they fled. The accused must stay there until the death of the high priest, who was anointed with the holy oil.
32 “‘Do not accept a ransom for anyone who has fled to a city of refuge and so allow them to go back and live on their own land before the death of the high priest.

In verses 26-27 in the same chapter, the avenger of blood still had the right to kill the one who killed his family member. The city of refuge was his protection and leaving that protection would cost him his life. That is a picture of Jesus Christ who is our wall of protection from the enemy. The reason he had to stay there until the death of the high priest is best explained in Genesis 27:41-45 which says, 41 Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. He said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”
42 When Rebekah was told what her older son Esau had said, she sent for her younger son Jacob and said to him, “Your brother Esau is planning to avenge himself by killing you. 43 Now then, my son, do what I say: Flee at once to my brother Laban in Harran. 44 Stay with him for a while until your brother’s fury subsides. 45 When your brother is no longer angry with you and forgets what you did to him, I’ll send word for you to come back from there. Why should I lose both of you in one day?”

Esau held such hatred towards his brother that in his heart he already had killed him but was waiting for an opportune time to actually do it. Jacob’s mother knew this so what did she do to save her son Jacob? She sends him away to a place of refuge where Esau couldn’t get to him knowing that time would soften Esau’s heart towards his brother.  

Let’s see what happened after spending some time apart do when they met. 

Genesis 33:1,4

1 Jacob looked up and there was Esau, coming with his four hundred men; so he divided the children among Leah, Rachel and the two female servants.
4 But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept.

Now we see why the man who had killed a person without any malice intentions must stay until the death of the high priest. To give sufficient time to the avenger of blood to calm down and realize the man’s innocence. After the death of the high priest he can know that he will be safe when he goes back home but if he goes out of the city of refuge too early, the avenger of blood will still be hot with anger and if he sees him outside will surely put him to death. 


8 thoughts on “Biblical Q&A: A Question On Numbers 35:25&32. Why Couldn’t The Offender Leave Until The Death Of The High Priest?

  1. ‘Wondering what if the high priest dies too soon (e.g., he’s already very old when the manslaughter occured)? Was there a provision for the offender to still stay in the city of refuge?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That’s an excellent question. If the man who killed another by accident stays in the city of refuge for less than a year let say because the high priest has died sooner than expected than the avenger of blood would be committing murder if he kills him. It seems that the high priest and the city of refuge plays two roles.

    1. It protects the individual from being killed from the avenger of blood which is giving him plenty of time to cool off.
    2. After the death of the high priest, the man in the city of refuge is considered innocent and if anyone kills him that person will be committing murder.

    Liked by 1 person

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