What are the cities of refuge in the Bible?

The cities of refuge were Kadesh, Shechem, Kirjath Arba (which is Hebron), Bezer, Ramoth, and Golan. The purpose of a city of refuge was to protect an individual—a manslayer, who had caused an accidental death—from being harmed or killed before a fair trial. The manslayer could flee to one of these cities, take refuge there from avengers seeking retribution, and be protected until he or she received a trial.

Once found innocent of intent, the manslayer would stay in the city of refuge, and not return home, until the death of the present high priest. If the manslayer went outside of the city before the death of the high priest and was killed by the avenger of blood, the avenger would be in his right to do so without facing charges because the manslayer left the protection that was given to him. However, after the death of the high priest, the manslayer could return home with no fear of retribution. In the case that the manslayer was found guilty of intent, the murderer would face the consequences of his actions immediately according to the law.

These cities of refuge were not for the protection of the guilty but for the protection of the innocent. They were also places of refuge for the non-Jew, the stranger or sojourner who lived among God’s people. Just as these cities were a refuge for all, so is Christ a refuge for all. Jesus turns no one away; He receives all who come to Him.