Full bible text
‘Then the Lord said to Joshua, 2 “Say to the people of Israel, ‘Appoint the cities of refuge, of which I spoke to you through Moses, 3 that the manslayer who strikes any person without intent or unknowingly may flee there. They shall be for you a refuge from the avenger of blood. 4 He shall flee to one of these cities and shall stand at the entrance of the gate of the city and explain his case to the elders of that city. Then they shall take him into the city and give him a place, and he shall remain with them. 5 And if the avenger of blood pursues him, they shall not give up the manslayer into his hand, because he struck his neighbor unknowingly, and did not hate him in the past. 6 And he shall remain in that city until he has stood before the congregation for judgment, until the death of him who is high priest at the time. Then the manslayer may return to his own town and his own home, to the town from which he fled. 7 So they set apart Kedesh in Galilee in the hill country of Naphtali, and Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim, and Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron) in the hill country of Judah. 8 And beyond the Jordan east of Jericho, they appointed Bezer in the wilderness on the tableland, from the tribe of Reuben, and Ramoth in Gilead, from the tribe of Gad, and Golan in Bashan, from the tribe of Manasseh. 9 These were the cities designated for all the people of Israel and for the stranger sojourning among them, that anyone who killed a person without intent could flee there, so that he might not die by the hand of the avenger of blood, till he stood before the congregation’.
About this painting
In Exodus 21, during the exodus from Egypt, it is already stipulated that if someone has killed his neighbor without intent, he/she may flee to the altar (near the tabernacle) to be safe from the avenger of blood. The altar is the place where the death sentence on guilty sinners is carried out by vicarious sacrifices.
After the entry into Canaan, this refuge is expanded with 6 cities of refuge, so that there are a total of 7 'asylum places' for people who - without intent - are guilty of someone's death.
The city of refuge is a type or prefiguration of Christ, to whom every sinner may flee. Christ is the Refuge to which every sinner, guilty of unintentional as well as willful sin, may flee, with repentance.
Every believer in Christ is "in Him." Romans 6. Philippians 3 verse 9.
Each city of refuge is, clearly visible, on a mountain. Jesus also calls His followers - the Christian congregation - "a city on a mountain"; the light of the world.
In this city, as in the Levitical cities of refuge, there is knowledge of God's will; Divine light.
This "city" is the seat of God's government, His Kingship, and it is a prefiguration of the heavenly Jerusalem.
Christ, by offering His blood, has opened the entrance to the heavenly sanctuary for those who believe in Him.
The names of the 6 cities of refuge have rich meanings. They refer to Christ:
“Kedes means ‘holy,’ and our refuge is holy Jesus. Shechem, "a shoulder," and the government is upon His shoulder. Hebron, "fellowship," and believers are called to fellowship with Christ Jesus our Lord. Bezer, "a strength," for he is a strength to all that build upon him. Ramoth, "high or exalted," for God has exalted Him at His right hand. Golan, "joy, or exultation," for in him all the saints are justified, and in him shall they glory." (Matthew Henry: Exposition of the Old and New Testaments)
See also: Exodus 21 verse 13. Numeri 35 verse 6. Deuteronomy 4 verses 41 to 43. Deuteronomy 19 verses 1,2.
The Israelites have entered the promised land of Canaan, and are resting after the battle. The tribes settle in the piece of land they are allotted. The inheritance of the tribe of Levi is not a piece of land, but God Himself; the priesthood for Him. The Levites are assigned a total of 48 cities, of which 6 cities of refuge. These cities of refuge are evenly distributed across the country, so that everyone can reach them within a short time.