Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Yehoshua 20 - Arei Miklat

In the chapter 19, Yehoshua concluded dividing the land amongst the tribes. In chapter 20, the Cities of Refuge for negligent murderers are designated. Yehoshua designated the three cities in Israel proper - Kedesh in the north, Shechem in the heartland, and Chevron in the south - and activated the three cities that Moshe had designated in Transjordan - Betzer in the south, Ramos in the central region, and Golan in the north.

The commentators discuss why the two disparate sides of the Jordan river were allocated an equal number of Cities of Refuge. Rashi (Bamidbar 35:14), quoting Makkos 10a, learns out from pesukim in Hoshei'a that Gil'ad - here apparently used to refer to Transjordan as a unit - was a land in which murder was more prevalent. Ramban (ibid.) suggests that this could either be a form of prophetic foreknowledge of the future or an acknowledgement that something about the land - perhaps its status as something of a frontier-country - made murders more likely.

Ramban deals with the objection that Cities of Refuge only worked for accidental murders, not willful ones, by suggesting that the murderers of Gil'ad tried to make their murders look accidental. Da'as Z'keinim notes the ma'amar on Makkos 10b describing a form of Divine justice in which one who accidentally kills without witnesses and one who purposefully kills without witnesses would happen to come to the same place where it would be brought about that the accidentally murderer would accidentally kill the purposeful murderer with witnesses, so that both parties would get what they deserved. Chizkuni points out that according to Makkos 9b, both accidental and purposeful murderers were exiled to the Cities of Refuge, from whence they would be retrieved and judged with the proper punishment.

Ramban alternatively suggests that the reason why Transjordan was alloted more cities was because of its greater land area.

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