The cities chosen as Cities of Refuge were Kedesh of Galilee in the hill country of Naphtali; Shechem, in the hill country of Ephraim; and Kiriath-arba (also known as Hebron) in the hill country of Judah. The Lord also instructed that three cities be set aside for this purpose on the east side of the Jordan River, across from Jericho. They were Bezer, in the wilderness of the land of the tribe of Reuben; Ramoth of Gilead, in the territory of the tribe of Gad; and Golan of Bashan, in the land of the tribe of Manasseh. These Cities of Refuge were for foreigners living in Israel as well as for the Israelis themselves, so that anyone who accidentally killed another man could run to that place for a trial and not be killed in revenge.
–Joshua 20:7-9 Living Bible (TLB)
HEBRON: The Third “City of Refuge”
Hebron is the most ancient of all the cities of Canaan. It was as old, if not older, than Damascus, and was built seven years before Zoar in Egypt. After wandering about from place to place in the land of promise, pitching their tents and altars, it was here the patriarchs had, for the first time, a settled home.
We need not wonder at their selection of the old Canaanite city, on the peaceful slope of the southern hills, nestling amid olive-groves and terebinths, and looking down on one of the most fertile valleys in Palestine, with its orchards and cornfields. On its eastern height is the spot which gives it to this day perhaps its most sacred interest –the “Cave of Machpelah, where the dust of the patriarchs has reposed for four thousand years.
It must have been outside its walls that the angels appeared to Abraham, when he was seated at his tent door. The adjoining height is pointed out as the place from which the patriarch saw the smote of burning Sodom rising from its own deep valley. It was in Hebron that David was anointed king over Israel. It was amid its vineyards and mountain-slopes that John the Baptist grew up as a little boy, before he appeared in the wilderness of Judea, to tell of One mightier than he, “whose shoe-latchet” he was “not worthy to unloose.”
What does the name Hebron tell of Christ?
In Hebrew it means “fellowship,” “society,” “friendship.” Jesus has brought guilty man into fellowship with God. On account of sin we had forfeited this fellowship. We had made God not our friend, but our enemy. We were cut off from communion with all that is holy and happy. Angels, in their errands of mercy through the universe, passed by our world; they could hold no intercourse with those who had rebelled against their Creator. Can none bridge this wide gulf which separates between earth and heaven? Can no ladder be let down by which happy angels can descend once more on their visits of love, and fallen man once more be raised up to hold “fellowship” with God and holy creatures?
Jesus is the true Hebron
…The true ladder of Jacob let down from heaven and reaching to earth, Jesus has “reconciled things on earth and things in heaven,” He hath “raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places.” We who were once “afar off” have been “brought nigh by the blood of Christ.”
I trust many who read this will love often to visit in thought the old city of the patriarchs, and to dwell on its name and meaning, “fellowship.” Think of what you “would have been without Jesus, your “Hebron-City of Refuge,” a poor outcast in creation, an alien from all that is holy and happy. But by Jesus all is changed. God is your Father “Christ is your elder Brother. In Him, God loves you, “angels visit you,” the Holy Spirit teaches you, “heaven is open for you. You are enrolled as a citizen of the great Hebron above– “the city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” Christ has made you to be members of the great heavenly family; so that anyone, even the little child who loves Jesus, is brother or sister to the Son of God.
You may be deprived of human friendship and fellowship. The brother or sister, the father or mother, or friend you once dearly loved, may be laid in some earthly Machpelah –some silent grave. But think about this; nothing can separate you from a better friend and more lasting fellowship.
Though all earthly joys were to perish, you can always rush within the gates of that mighty “Hebron of refuge,” and say, “Truly our ‘fellowship’ is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.”
Written by John Ross Macduff.
Published in 1865.
Edited for thought and sense.
Meet the author and part of your Christian heritage: John Ross Macduff (23 May 1818 – 30 April 1895) was a Scottish divine and a prolific author of religious essays. Born in Bonhard, Scone, Perthshire, Macduff was educated at the University of Edinburgh, and was ordained as minister of Kettins, a parish in Forfarshire in 1843. He returned to St Madoes, a parish in Perthshire in 1849, which he left to take charge of Sandyford, a new church in Glasgow. He preached there for fifteen years (until 1870), and then went to live in Chislehurst, Kent, in order to focus entirely on writing. His best known books were: “The Prophet of Fire”; “Memories of Bethany”: “Memories of Gennesaret”; “The Shepherd and His Flock “: “Sunset on the Hebrew Mountains “; “Comfort Ye”; “The Golden Gospel”; “Morning and Night Watches”; “The Bow in the Cloud”; “The Story of a Dewdrop”; and “The Story of a Shell.” Macduff died in Chislehurst.