Numbers 35:29 (MEV): So these things will be for a statute of judgment to you throughout your generations in all your dwelling places.
Moses by direction from God had just given established the idea of sanctuary cities. These are places to where someone who accidentally kills another person can flee and escape vengeance.
When reading through this portion, it is quick to realize that the cities of refuge become a typification of our refuge in Jesus. It is a fascinating concept to study. Let’s leave that for another time.
After Moses declares the statute to the Israelites, there are other important concepts that must be understood.
The Bondage of Blood Vengeance
Numbers 35:30 (MEV): Whoever kills another person, the murderer will be put to death by the testimony of witnesses, but one witness will not testify against a person for death.
This establishes the idea of capital punishment. It would be easy to read past this and think nothing further. One who willfully murders must be killed. A closer examination also reveals how that is to happen. Multiple witnesses are required. Think about that.
The Bible tells us that the wages of sin is death. We know from the Gospel of John that by the time people can understand right and wrong, and the standard needed to be righteous… Each of us have already failed. We stand condemned to capital punishment.
We also know that there is a purpose for it. Every person has the same Redeemer.
Romans 11:32 (MEV): For God has imprisoned them all in disobedience, so that He might be merciful to all.
As that is established and to avoid digression, let’s move forward.
There is a tension just underneath the surface of the idea that multiple witnesses are necessary for a sentence of capital punishment to be imposed. If this is true for the murderer, it must be true for other instances of capital punishment. Deuteronomy 19:15 clearly establishes precedent. When we think of the judgment of God and the penalty of death for sins, who are the witnesses against us?
What I am thinking, is that this is a hint to the nature of God. Specifically, the idea of personhood in the Godhead. Informally, we use the word triune (or Trinity) to convey this idea.
Nevertheless, the requirement is for more than one witness to establish a matter. While that is an interesting bit of enlightenment, let’s move on and see if we can find any more information on the nature of God.
Numbers 35:31–32 (MEV): And you will not take a ransom for the life of a murderer who is guilty of death, but he will surely be put to death.
You will not take a ransom for him who fled to the city of his refuge, that he should come out again to dwell in the land, until the death of the priest.
The Hebrew word translated into English ransom specifically infers the use of money. There would be no way to fix this with money. A cash payment cannot fix bloodshed.
As we will soon encounter, bloodshed has a much broader impact. It defiles the land. The murderer cannot be freed by act of ransom, nor can the one who has caused another to die by accident escape by ransom.
That presents a unique conundrum, as we often speak of what Jesus did at Calvary as ransom, or better redemption. The Bible uses those terms to describe it. Jesus even declared He would do just that, ransom many.
Matthew 20:26–28 (MEV): It shall not be so among you. Whoever would be great among you, let him serve you, and whoever would be first among you, let him be your slave, even as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many.”
In the midst of the text that speaks of vengeance for homicide and capital punishment for murder, we clearly see Jesus. In fact, He is woven intricately into this entire chapter in typologies. The Bible says the law is a schoolmaster to lead us to Jesus. Here, He is a sure Refuge for the person. He is the place (or city of) refuge from vengeance. He is the place to flee to escape the sword. We have respite until the death of the high priest. We know Jesus is the ultimate High Priest. We also know that He doesn’t die.
But what if one purposefully sins?
In this context, it’s the murderer. The murderer is cut-off by the testimony of more than one witness. In other words, the murderer has his blood shed in vengeance on the testimony of multiple witnesses. There is no ransom by money.
Numbers 35:33–34 (MEV): So you will not defile the land which you are in, because blood defiles the land, and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed in it, except by the blood of him that shed it. So do not defile the land which you are dwelling in, where I am residing, because I the Lord am residing among the children of Israel.
Since the very first murder, God declared the truth about death… Blood on the land cries out.
Genesis 4:10 (MEV): And then He said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying out to Me from the ground.
The very creation itself demands justice!
Bloodshed defiles the land. The land cannot be cleansed except by the blood of the person who shed it. This stands true for both the willful and accidental shedding of blood.
This idea of redemption has to be much greater than just an application to an individual. It has to be much greater than applying it to the entire human race. The creation itself yearns to be redeemed.
Romans 8:20–21 (MEV): For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but by the will of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the glorious freedom of the children of God.
The Redemption of Creation.
Hebrews 2:14–15 (MEV): So then, as the children share in flesh and blood, He likewise took part in these, so that through death He might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver those who through fear of death were throughout their lives subject to bondage.
Death was introduced into creation by one man. It came through insurrection, really. Nevertheless, it was introduced as something foreign.
This isn’t the idea of original sin or even spiritual death. Those ideas are over-simplifications that lead to gross error.
We also know that the bondage of death is something God placed all men under. And He came as a Kinsman… As a human… To shed His own blood to satisfy all of this at once. You and I are redeemed… Purchased… Ransomed not with money. We are rescued from bondage by His blood. This is true for the entirety of Adam’s race, also. (It doesn’t mean that everyone goes to heaven, though.)
But it was through this foreign enemy introduced into His perfect creation by insurrection. God would seize death and use it to deliver the entire creation from bonds. Though the enemy had the power of death and used the fear of it to enslave humanity. It is ultimately God Who placed all under that bondage of futility.
In essence, when a man dies the blood on the ground cries out!
Death is something forbidden in creation. It’s not permitted. Yet, it is here nevertheless. As the enemy uses it to place us in the bondage of fear, God uses it to vanquish the enemy. He has shed His own blood to free us (and the creation) from that nasty intrusion.
It was God who prescribed the penalty for sin… Death. It’s not that death is a good thing. It is not. It is the very enemy. It is the sharpest tool in the enemy’s arsenal to subdue humanity. Yet, in all his craftiness, the nefarious one cannot out-maneuver God. God wrenched that tool from the grip of Satan. He used it to defeat the enemy.
I don’t think I can adequately explain all of the details to come to this conclusion, but I hope I have supplied enough to pique interest.
God alone has the power of life and death. The blood of humanity cries out for redemption. It pollutes creation. The only way to cleanse it is by vengeance on the one who shed the blood.
God steps in as the One Who ultimately is responsible for shedding the blood (placing all under bondage of futility.) Not that He murders, as it is a just recompense. Nevertheless, the blood is shed. And it defiles the land. So God also steps in to shed His own blood to cleanse the land.