Laws of Murder and Manslaughter Part 3
Jan 15, 2008
God established cities of refuge in ancient Israel in order to establish the mercy factor built into the law. All bloodshed defiles the land itself, the Bible says, unless, of course, it is done to expiate previous blood according to the law and by the established court procedure.
There are two important principles of law to recognize here: (1) ALL blood defiles the land, even accidental killing (Num. 35:33); and (2) it is not the people or the nation, but the land or ground itself that is defiled by spilled blood. As such, the goel is an agent for the land, as much as the guardian of the deceased, for it is the ground itself that cries out for redemption, as God told Cain (Gen. 4:10).
This is very important to understand, because this law cannot properly be used to start family feuds, such as are so common in many places. The Bible nowhere gives the goel the right to take his own vengeance, but must act in strict accordance with the purpose of the law, which is to provide redemption for the land. It is only when family loyalties take priority over the law that problems arise. This was the problem with the tribe of Benjamin in Judges 20:13. And, of course, the other tribes should have come to Benjamin with more humility and fewer threats, but that is a different topic.
We might ask, then, why it is that the land itself demands redemption or vengeance when blood is shed? To understand this, one must go back to the beginning in the book of Genesis. When Adam and Eve sinned, incurring a debt (by sin) which they could not pay, God mercifully sold them to the ground by the law of Exodus 22:3. This transferred the liability for Adam's sin to the ground itself, and for this reason the ground came under the curse of God (Gen. 3:17).
The ground was acting as Adam's redeemer in a court of law. When a redeemer purchases a debt note, two things happen: (1) he is given authority over the debtor; and (2) he becomes responsible for all of his debts as well. In this case, the ground purchased Adam (and by extension, all of humanity), but also then incurred Adam's liability for sin.
The ground then became liable to pay the debt, which was to bring forth the Sons of God and the Kingdom of God, for that had been Adam's responsibility before he was sold as a slave to the earth. Secondly, Adam became the slave to the ground, and this is pictured in the command for him to work for the ground by the sweat of his brow until he returned to the ground in death (Gen. 3:19).
The ground, then, was given the right to have Adam and his children work for it for a life time. That was the court order. But this court order is broken when one of those slaves kills another slave. Such killing, whether accidental or deliberate, deprives the ground of the labor to which it is due. The ground (or land), then, is the primary victim when blood is shed. The family is the secondary (subordinate) victim, because they are slaves to the land and not free men.
These are foundational truths of biblical law. The ground has fundamental rights by the law of Ex. 22:3, but the ground also has a fundamental responsibility to bring forth the Sons of God and the Kingdom of God. The story of the Bible shows how God is working out this great Plan. The law in Exodus 21:2 tells us that the slave was to be set free after six years of labor. This is the fundamental law by which the ground must release mankind after 6,000 years of labor, for we read in Psalm 90:4 that a day is as a thousand years.
This sabbath year is a temporary respite from one's slavery to the earth. After the sabbath "year" (or thousand-year period), the work would resume for another "six years" until the year of Jubilee, when all remaining debt is cancelled, and all slaves return to their lost inheritance. This speaks of the time after this sabbath millennium, when all appear before the Great White Throne judgment.
However, there is another law that God has put into place as part of the mercy factor. It is the provision that a man has the right to redeem a near kinsman from the slavery brought on by his debt (Lev. 25:47-49). We know that this speaks of Jesus Christ, who came to earth first of the seed of Abraham and secondly as flesh and blood in order to be a near kinsman to both Israel and Adam. As such, He had the right of redemption, and the slave-master (the earth) cannot deny a kinsman his right to redeem the slave, provided that the kinsman had the means to buy the remainder of the slave's debt. The redeemed slave is then required to serve his redeemer (Lev. 25:53).
So here we find a very interesting situation. The ground was created by God and is therefore God's servant. When Adam sins, God sells Adam to the ground, and the ground becomes Adam's redeemer and slave-master. The ground is then required to bring forth the Son of God as the Kinsman Redeemer of Adam and all of his possessions. Because Adam was given authority over the whole earth (Gen. 1:26-28), this meant that Jesus Christ would redeem everything that Adam lost--including Adam's former slave-master, THE EARTH.
The earth is thus fulfilling the will and plan of God as a good servant. The earth has redeemed mankind and took upon itself the liability for Adam's sin in order to provide mercy for Adam and to give mankind time for the near Kinsman to redeem them in turn. Scripture and history are the unfolding of this great plan for Adam and his estate (the earth).
The earth did bring forth Jesus Christ in the town of Bethlehem just over 2,000 years ago. The earth fulfilled its God-given responsibility, and this Kinsman Redeemer paid the full price of the debt, not only for Adam's sin but for ALL sin--the sin of the world (1 John 2:2).
That was the biggest task that Jesus had to do. But there were other things that He did which involved a smaller group of people--the believers. In His capacity as High Priest, Jesus died to expiate the blood shed upon the earth for those who have fled to the city of refuge. In the old song, How Firm a Foundation, people sing,
How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
You, who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?
The author understood the law regarding the cities of refuge and knew that it spoke of Jesus Christ as that "city" as well as that faithful High Priest who was prophesied to die in order to expiate bloodshed.
The law covers many topics, and in this case, the law speaks specifically of those who admit that they have shed blood and have fled to the city of refuge. That admission in itself indicates repentance and an appeal to the Divine Court for mercy. Thus, it speaks of believers and shows us that such repentance and belief (i.e., "faith") is the necessary prerequisite to qualify for mercy.
Yes, all men have been redeemed in the overall sense, but the TIMING and MANNER of their salvation must be accomplished by the rules. No one can get in over the wall (John 10:1). They must go through the Door that has been provided, who is Jesus Christ (John 10:7). It will take some longer to find that Door than for others. Some find it in this present 6,000-year labor time; huge numbers will find it during the 7th millennium (Isaiah 2:3); but all will be believers at the Great White Throne Judgment, where every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Phil. 10, 11).
Thus, in progressive stages of development, the Kingdom of God emerges in the earth to fulfill the original responsibility first given to Adam and then to the Last Adam, Jesus Christ. The overcomers are first, then the rest of the believers, and finally the rest of creation is restored.
This is the final part of a series titled "Laws of Murder and Manslaughter." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones