In the 1930’s, much of Europe had become a hostile and life-threatening place for any Jewish person. Therefore, an increasing amount of Jewish people were fleeing Europe to escape the brutal Nazi regime. In 1938, a conference was held in France to find a haven for the fleeing Jews. Of the 32 nations present at the conference, only one country- the Dominican Republic- offered to become a place of refuge for the Jews. A small beachfront town known as Sosua became known as “Tropical Zion” when about 500 Jews took up residence at the place of refuge.
In Numbers 35, God told Moses that, out of the forty-eight cities given to the Levites, six of them were to be “cities for refuge.” These six cities were to be at a convenient distance from one another with three on each side of the Jordan river. They were to be at an accessible distance for any person who had caused the death of another person in order that the circumstances might be investigated, and it could be concluded whether the person was innocent or guilty. The law of God had made it clear that life was sacred and that the punishment for taking a life was the murderer’s own life. God made it clear to the people of Israel that premeditated murder was to be punished by death. The purpose of these cities was not so a murderer could evade justice, but rather that justice might be made certain. The cities of refuge were a place for a man to flee when he killed someone accidentally. They were a place where a person could flee from an avenger of blood and present their case before the congregation to ensure innocence. In these cities, the slayer could find safety from the avenger. Outside of these cities, the avenger of blood could kill the slayer and not be guilty.
The cities of refuge were a blessing and safe-haven to many Israelites. Many found freedom from the wrath of an avenger. These cities act as a type of the refuge that a believer finds in Christ. What these cities were to the Israelites in providing them shelter from judgment, Jesus Christ is to every believer. Just as these cities gave shelter to those who were guilty, so Christ offers shelter from the wrath of God for those who stand “guilty before God” (Rom. 3:19). Just as these cities were the only means of safety for the guilty, so Christ is the only name “under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Just as the cities were available to all, so Christ has “taste[d] death for every man” (Heb. 2:9) and calls “all men every where to repent” (Acts 17:30). Just as the slayer had to enter the city without delay, so those who are guilty before God are called to repent and believe on Christ because “now is the day of salvation.” (2 Cor. 6:2).