For he must remain

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in the fortified place of refuge until the death of the high priest. But after the death of the high priest, the one who dashed [someone] to pieces

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may return to the land of his possession.


For the accused man must remain inside the walled city designated as a place of refuge until the end of one age and the beginning of a new age, marked by a change in high priest. But when one age has ended and another has begun, the one who [accidently] took the life of another can safely return to his own property.



This word’s main idea is “to sit.” It also means “to dwell, to abide, to remain.”


The basic idea of this word is to “dash or break to pieces” and it is often applied to taking another person’s life, especially of murder. However, in the case described here, the accused claims it was not intentional, and the elders of the town did not find sufficient proof of intentional killing to call it murder and assign the death penalty. Therefore, words like “murder or homicide” don’t seem to fit as well here. Thus I decided to go back to the original meaning of “dash to pieces,” without defining clearly whether it was intentional or unintentional.

What Does the Death of the High Priest Have to Do With it?

What does the death of the high priest have to do with a man who claims that the killing he is accused of was an accident? God determined that, among the people of Israel, the most important role was that of the high priest who was in office until the end of his life. The span of time when a priest served as high priest was considered by God as a distinct age or era. When a high priest died, and another one took his place, it marked the end of one age and the beginning of another age. There were other types of ages, such as the age of the Former Covenant and the New Covenant, or the age of the first temple and that of the second temple, etc. This was a shorter age than most, only lasting a few decades, and that was a good thing.

The most important part of this passage is that there is mercy and grace available to all. Each one could expect a fresh start about every few decades. At the beginning of each high priestly age, everyone started over with a clean slate.