The Cities of Refuge

Strong Tower is the Lord’s name.



Exodus 21: 12-13

Numbers 35: 6-28

Deuteronomy 4: 41-43, 19: 1-13

Joshua 20: 1-9

The first biblical mention to the cities of refuge is related to Moses, hebrews leader called by God to get them free of the Egyptian captivity. The city’s existence (at the time, characterized by the communities surrounded by walls) hoghlighted the second great cultural revolution, a decisive step forward civilization. The first revolution was related to the plants and animals’ domestication (Neolithic Era).

The Lord had given him laws that regulated the penalties for committed crimes, among others, the one that justified the equitable retribution for such crimes. For example, if one man killed accidentally another, a relative of this man was protected by the Mosaic law if he killed the guilty one for the first crime. (Ex.21: 23-25, But if serious injury happened, then thou shalt give life for life, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a hand for a hand, a foot for a foot, a burn for a burn, a wound for a wound, a biff for a biff.) The Moses’ law was a justice code, and mercy was not a clear concept as the ones we see nowadays.

The cities’ great important existence is clear when they are quoted in four of the Old Testament books. The Cities of refuge are one of God’s order and not some simple human invention (Num. 35: 9).

God himself was who took care of the location details for each one of the six Cities of Refuge (we indicate their names below). The geographical location was strategic: three on the Jordan River’s east side and three on the Canaan’s land (Num. 35:13). When Lord gave Canaan to the Hebrews, He commanded that the earth was divided into three parts, and each party should choose a City of Refuge (Deut 19: 2-3).  The first three were instituted: BEZER, RAMOTH and GOLÃ.

From the moment that other Canaan’s Land were given to Hebrews, three more Refuge Cities must be added (Deut 19: 8-9).

The names given to the other three REFUGE CITIES that emerged later on were: QUEDES, SIQUÉM and QUIRIATE-ARBA. In short: Moses appointed three Jordan’s east  and after the Canaan’s conquest, Joshua and the tribes’ chiefs appointed the other three cities from river’s west.

The Cities of refuge could not be far from where The Twelve Tribes were established, so that it would be accessible to any person who had to flee into it, in order to not be reached by a blood avenger (the closest victim’s relative of the murder that is longing for revenge sought to kill what by mistake or unintentionally had committed the murder).

The easy access to City of Refuge required roads were well maintained with clear signs of: REFUGE! REFUGE! In addition, there were trained races athletes to help the innocents to escape.

The person who arrived to any of the Cities of refuge must declare at the entrance  why he was there. Thus, the elders responsible for that CITY would take care that the refugee had protection and shelter. The blood avenger who violated the city’s precincts would be executed.


Such CITIES served as auxiliary judicial measures to assist the involuntary killers to escape, when the victim’s avengers slaughtered the guilty without mercy no fearing the action by the Law.

There were specific qualifications for those who sought the Cities of Refuge, and the Cities’ elders would have made decisions in each case.

The trial of someone who killed a man unintentionally began with the jury in favor of the murder and not with the man responsible for avenging the death of his/her relative. The people had the duty to defend the defendant, not allowing him/her to be killed by the avenger. After the trial the defendant should be taken to the CITY OF REFUGE and stay there until the High Priest’s death. If it were proved in the trial that the murder was voluntary, him/her was sentenced to death. If, however, it was proved that he/she killed in self-defense, or by accident, then the city offered him/her asylum. If he/she left the city before the high priest’s death, his/her life would be in danger entirely by their own responsibility. After the high priest’s death, he/she was allowed to return home under the authorities’ protection. The condition to be received in the CITIES OF REFUGE was decided by their own leaders. When the fugitive went to the judgment’s place at the city’s entrance, he explained to the leaders what had happened and so they let him stay in the CITY giving him a place to live.

In any of the CITIES the person would be safe and no one could kill him/her (Deut 4:42).

The refuge places extended to TEMPLES, SANCTUARIES and all varieties of HOLY PLACES.

One of the most inclusive characteristics for the CITIES OF REFUGE was the fact that all who were in need could reach MERCY there, for any necessary time or even forever.

Martin Luther, in 1529, while he was hiding in the castle in Coburg, he wrote the Fort Castle’s hymn alluding the refuge that Christ was giving him at that moment. In this hymn, Luther expresses how much we can trust Jesus, our Strong Castle, our Shield and Good Sword. It also shows that who defends us is the highest heavens Lord, God Himself, and that our great accuser will fall with only ONE WORD! THIS CITY SHALL BE REFUGEOUS TO both ISRAELITE AND FOREIGNERS (Num. 35:15).

CITIES OF REFUGE were places of great activity before serving for this purpose were Israel’s sanctuaries.


Rom 5: 7-9 There is hardly anyone who dies for a righteous man; for the good man maybe someone dares to die. But God demonstrates his love for us: Christ died on our behalf when we were still sinners. As we are now justified by his blood, much more we will be saved from the God’s wrath because of Him!

Jo 1:16: Porque todos nós temos recebido da sua plenitude e graça sobre graça.

John 1:16: And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.

Mt 11:28-30: Vinde a mim, todos os que estais cansados e sobrecarregados, e eu vos aliviarei. Tomai sobre vós o meu jugo e aprendei de mim, porque sou manso e humilde de coração; e achareis descanso para a vossa alma. Porque o meu jugo é suave, e o meu fardo é leve.

Mt 11:28-30: Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart:^and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

Jo 6:37: Todo aquele que o Pai me dá, esse virá a mim; e o que vem a mim, de modo nenhum o lançarei fora.

Jo 6:37: All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

Jo 10:27-28: As minhas ovelhas ouvem a minha voz; eu as conheço, e elas me seguem. Eu lhes dou a vida eterna; jamais perecerão, e ninguém as arrebatará da minha mão.

Jo 10:27-28: My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.

2 Tm 2:13: Se somos infiéis, ele permanece fiel, pois de maneira nenhuma pode negar-se a si mesmo.

2 Tm 2:13: If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.

2 Co 5:18-21: Ora, tudo provém de Deus, que nos reconciliou consigo mesmo por meio de Cristo e nos deu o ministério da reconciliação, a saber, que Deus estava em Cristo reconciliando consigo o mundo, não imputando aos homens as suas transgressões, e nos confiou a palavra da reconciliação. De sorte que somos embaixadores em nome de Cristo, como se Deus exortasse por nosso intermédio. Em nome de Cristo, pois, rogamos que vos reconcilieis com Deus. Aquele que não conheceu pecado, ele o fez pecado por nós; para que, nele, fôssemos feitos justiça de Deus.

2 Co 5:18-21: And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation. To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath comitted unto us the word of reconciliation. Now them we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For the hath made him to be sin for us, who knew sin; that we might bem ade the righteousness of God in him.

Ef 2:18-19: Porque, por ele, ambos temos acesso ao Pai em um Espírito. Assim, já não sois estrangeiros e peregrinos, mas concidadãos dos santos, e sois da família de Deus.

Ef 2:18-19: For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more stranges and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, ando f the household of God.

Jo 1:12: Mas, a todos quantos o receberam, deu-lhes o poder de serem feitos filhos de Deus, a saber, aos que creem no seu nome.

Jo 1:12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.

As CIDADES DE REFÚGIO estabelecidas pelo Senhor através de Moisés e confirmadas a Josué eram a proteção daqueles que eram culpados involuntariamente; assim CRISTO se tornou através da sua morte na cruz nossa eterna CIDADE DE REFÚGIO, NELE encontramos misericórdia, segurança e salvação.

The CITIES OF REFUGE established by the Lord through Moses and confirmed to Joshua were the protection for those who were involuntarily guilty; so CHRIST through his death on the cross became our eternal CITY OF REFUGE, IN HIM we find mercy, safety and salvation.

Em CRISTO há aceitação para o rejeitado, há REFÚGIO para o excluído!

In Christ there is acceptance for the rejected, there is REFUGE for the excluded!


Cities of Refuge’s locations

As CIDADES DE REFÚGIO aparecem de forma gradativa, sendo seus nomes citados primeiramente no livro de Deuteronômio 4:43 e as outras então surgem no livro de Josué, no capítulo 20, quando são citadas juntamente.

The CITIES OF REFUGE appear in a gradual way, their names is quoted firstly in the Deuteronomy book 4:43 and the others appear in the Joshua’s book, chapter 20, when they are all quoted together.

Na disposição de como foram separadas umas das outras, as CIDADES serviam ao CENTRO, NORTE E AO SUL da Terra Prometida, em ambos os lados do Rio Jordão. Cada CIDADE tem um significado extremamente importante aos que desejam aprender sobre o assunto, por isso é de extrema importância analisar separadamente cada uma delas.

The cities were separated from each other, there were CITIES which served the CENTER, NORTH, and SOUTH of the Promised Land on both sides of the Jordan River. Each CITY has an extremely importance meaning to who wish to learn about it, so it is extremely important to analyze one by one.


Situada no deserto, na terra plana, território de Rubén (Sudeste) — Dt 4:43; Js 10:8.

Significa “fortaleza”, e aparece apenas cinco vezes na Bíblia.

Jesus Cristo é a fortaleza de todos os que nele confiam — Sl 43:2, Is 52:1, 2 Tm 1:7.


Located in the desert, on the flat land, Reuben’s territory – Deut 4:43; JOS 10: 8.

It means “fortress,” and appears only five times in the Bible.

Jesus Christ is the fortress for all who trust in him – Ps 43: 2, Is 52: 1, 2 Tim. 1: 7.


Situada em Gileade, território de Gade (Leste) — Dt 4:43.

Significa “lugar de refúgio para os humilhados”.

Jesus Cristo é a principal autoridade universal, superior a todos os nomes que possam ser mencionados agora e por toda a eternidade — Fl. 2:9.


Located in Gilead, Gad’s territory (East) – Deuteronomy 4:43.

It means “humble people’s place of refuge.”

Jesus Christ is the principal universal authority, superior to all names that can be mentioned now and for all eternity – Fl. 2: 9.


Situada em Basã, território de Manasses (Nordeste) — Js 20:8.

Significa “lugar de refúgio para os tristes”.

Jesus foi rejeitado pelo mundo — Jo 1:10; por sua própria nação — Jo 1:21; pelo seu próprio país — Mc 6:4; por sua própria cidade — Lc 4:29; por seus próprios familiares — Jo 7:5; pelos escribas, sumo-sacerdotes e anciãos — Lc 9:12; e pelos seus próprios seguidores — Mc 14:71.


Located in Bashan, Manasses’s territory (Northeast) – Josh 20: 8.

It means “sad people’s place of refuge.”

Jesus was rejected by the world – John 1:10; by his own nation – John 1:21; by his own country – Mark 6: 4; by his own city – Luke 4:29; by his own relatives – John 7: 5; by the scribes, high priests, and the elders – Luke 9:12; and by his own followers – Mark 14:71.


Situada na região da Galileia, território de Naftali (Norte) — Js 20:7.

Significa “santificação para o impuro”, ou “REFÚGIO para os impuros” — Ap 3:7.

Jesus possuía natureza santa — Jo 8:46. Ele é a santidade requerida aos fiéis — 1 Pe 1:16.

Kedesh  – HOLY PLACE

Located in the region of Galilee, Naphtali’s territory (North) – Josh 20: 7.

It means “impure people’s place of sanctification,” or “REFUGE to impure people” – Rev 3: 7.

Jesus had a holy nature – John 8:46. He is holiness required for faithful people – 1 Peter 1:16.


Situada na montanha, território de Efraim (Centro-oeste, cerca de 70 km ao Norte de Jerusalém) — Js 20:7.

Significa “lugar para o cansado”, ou “REFÚGIO para o cansado” — Mt 11:28.

Jesus é o descanso para todo o que está cansado. Seu julgo é suave e seu fardo é leve — Mt 11:30.


Located on the mountain, Ephraim’s territory (Midwest, about 70 km north of Jerusalem) – Josh 20: 7.

It means “weary people’s place,” or “REFUGE for the weary one” – Mt 11:28.

Jesus is the rest for all who are weary. His judgment is gentle, and his burden is light – Mt 11:30.


Situada na montanha, território de Judá (Sul-sudeste) — Js 20:7.

Significa “união”, “companhia”, “camaradagem”, ou seja, “lugar de comunhão”.

Esta cidade de REFÚGIO é um tipo de Jesus Cristo como o nosso melhor amigo e companheiro — Lc 7:34; Jo 11:1; Jo 15:13,15; Sl 27:10.



Situated on the mountain, Judah’s territory of Judah (south-southeast) – Josh 20: 7. It means “union”, “company”, “camaraderie”, or “communion’s place”. This city of REFUGE it’s like Jesus Christ is our best friend and companion – Luke 7:34; John 11: 1; Jn 15: 13,15; Ps 27:10.

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