Deuteronomy 19

Talks for Growing Christians

Cities of Refuge; The Importance of Multiple Witnesses

Deuteronomy 19

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Lesson Number 19

Background Notes

Doctrinal Point(s)

  1. The Cities of Refuge were given for manslaughter – not for murder.
  2. The Law of Retribution was given as a limit – not as a license.

Practical Application

  1. Watch out for stealing little by little!


  1. Deuteronomy 19:1 emphasizes that the Lord gave the land of Canaan and its cities to Israel. What is the implication?
  2. Did the Children of Israel destroy the cities of Canaan during the Conquest?
  3. What is the difference between manslaughter and murder?
  4. What was an “avenger of blood”? What was a “City of Refuge”?
  5. What was the consequence if a witness was proven to be false?


  1. If God Himself gave the land of Canaan to the descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Jewish people do have a biblical claim to that land. God never took away His promise of this land to the Jewish people.
  2. No, most of the cities and farms they dispossessed and took over. Archaeologists should not expect to find a lot of destruction in the tels at the time of the Conquest. Only Jericho, Ai, and Hazor were burned in conquest according to the record in the book of Joshua.
  3. The premeditated taking of life is murder. Accidental death where there is no intent to kill is manslaughter.
  4. The avenger of blood (verse 6) was the next of kin who had the responsibility to avenge the blood of his dead relative as a matter of justice. Cities of Refuge were set up for manslayers as a safe place to flee until the case was decided.
  5. Whatever penalty that was intended for the innocent person was done to the false witness (verse 19).


  1. The Law of Retribution was given as a limit for social justice. However for many Jewish people though the years it was used as a basis wrongly to retaliate in interpersonal relationships. Discuss the difference in these two mentalities. Why is it so important to distinguish?
  2. In the ancient world property boundaries were generally marked with stones. These stones could be easily moved in most cases, and if they were moved little by little over time you could gain some of your neighbor’s property without him being aware of it. Discuss other ways you might be tempted to steal little by little.


  1. The safety of the City of Refuge pictures the refuge that a believer has in Christ. Read Hebrews 6:18.

Key Verses

  • “When the Lord your God has cut off the nations whose land the Lord your God is giving you, and you dispossess them and dwell in their cities and in their houses.” Deuteronomy 19:1
  • “You shall not remove your neighbor’s landmark, which the men of old have set.” Deuteronomy 19:14

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