Joshua 20 deals with sanctuary cities for those who have unintentionally kills someone. However, I'm trying to get a better understanding of what Joshua 20:6 is stating.

NASB Joshua 20:4-6

4 He shall flee to one of these cities, and shall stand at the entrance of the gate of the city and state his case in the hearing of the elders of that city; and they shall [d]take him into the city to them and give him a place, so that he may dwell among them. 5 Now if the avenger of blood pursues him, then they shall not deliver the manslayer into his hand, because he struck his neighbor without premeditation and did not hate him beforehand. 6 He shall dwell in that city until he stands before the congregation for judgment, until the death of the one who is high priest in those days. Then the manslayer shall [e]return to his own city and to his own house, to the city from which he fled.’”

A) Is Joshua 20:6 stating that the following 2 conditions have to be met in order for the guilty manslayer to return to his own home town?

  • until he stands before the congregation for judgment

  • until the death of the one who is high priest in those days

B) Also, I can understand that the manslayer needs to dwell in the sanctuary city until the congregation judges him, but I do Not understand why he would be free to return to his home town when the high priest at that particular point in time dies. Why is that?


I found some information on wikipedia. Reference is made to the Mishnah and Talmud, and that the High Priest's death was considered an atonement to that person who accidentally killed someone and was in the city of refuge. See article here.

It is wikipedia, so I'm not sure on the accuracy.


This is a direct reference to the law established in Num 35:24, 25 about the length of stay and the two conditions under which such a person could be released. The pulpit commentary observes (for Josh 20:6):

Certainly the fact that the high priest died the common death of all men, and the inauguration of his successor to fill his place could in no way be regarded as an atonement for sin. There is more force in Bahr's suggestion in his 'Symbolik' (2:52). The high priest, on this view, is the head of the theocracy, the representative of the covenant. He concentrates in his person (so Bahr puts it in another place - see vol. 2:13) the whole people of Israel in their religious aspect. His death, therefore, stands in a connection with the life of Israel which that of no other man could do. "It is," says Maimonides ('Moreh Nevochim,' 3.40), "the death of the most honoured and beloved man in all Israel. His death plunges the whole community into such distress that private sorrow is lost in the general affliction." Thus the covenant in a way recommences with the inauguration of the new high priest.

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