Reflections on the Cities of Refuge

November 11, 2013

Our previous three posts have featured the three cities of refuge on the western side of Jordan: Kedesh, Shechem and Hebron. There were also three on the Transjordan, making a total of six. These were to serve as sanctuary to one who was guilty of accidental manslaughter, such as when an ax head flew off the handle, etc.

I was recently reading Warren Wiersbe’s commentary on Deut. 19, pertaining to the cities of refuge and related matters. Wiersbe was tying in the OT city of refuge with the New Testament application made in Hebrews:

In the same way God, desiring even more to show to the heirs of the promise the unchangeableness of His purpose, interposed with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us. 19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, 20 where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek (Heb. 6:17-20)..

Really, the comparison is one of contrasts:

1. The OT resident of a city of refuge was not guilty of murder, though he had accidentally shed man’s blood. But all those who have fled to Christ for refuge ARE guilty of sin (Rom. 3:23).

2. The accidental man-slayer had to dwell in the city of refuge until the death of the High Priest. But now there is a High Priest who never dies, “Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb. 7:25).

Jacob’s well, referenced in John 4, is very near the ruins of ancient Shechem. It is housed inside a Greek Orthodox Church, the interior of which was completed in 2007. We were able to visit the church and the well while at Shechem last month.

Shechem Jacob's Well Greek Orthodox church interior. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Shechem Jacob’s Well Greek Orthodox church interior. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

A very cordial Greek Orthodox Priest was on duty during our visit there. Here is a view of the church from the outside:

Jacobs Well Greek Orthodox Church Outside. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Jacobs Well Greek Orthodox Church Outside. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Click on images for larger view.

Shechem, a City of Refuge

November 6, 2013

See our yesterday’s post for a map showing all 6 cities of Refuge.

Another city of refuge was Shechem, a West Bank site known as Tel Balata.

This Old Testament city had an important history. It was here that Abraham (Abram) stood as a childless man (age 75), when God told him he would give to him (his descendants) the land of Canaan (Gen. 12:6-7).

It was here that Joshua assembled Israel with his farewell speech and uttered the famous works, “As for me and my house we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:15).

It was very near here that Jesus sat down weary by Jacob’s well, and skillfully led a Samaritan from a point where her only interest was drawing up the water, to a point of faith in Him as Messiah (John 4).

Shechem, a City of Refuge. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Shechem, a City of Refuge. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

You can see the excavated ruins of the city. At center was the Temple of Baal-berith. At right you see a portion of Mt. Ebal, and at left is Mt. Gerizim. I took our group here Oct. 22, not only for them to see Shechem but also to have a good vantage point to take photos of the mount of cursing (Ebal) and Gerizim (blessing). See further on this in Josh. 8. Again, when cities of refuge were appointed in the days of the conquest, Shechem was the one for the central residents of the land west of the Jordan River.

For a previous post on Shechem see here and several other entries. Use search box and it will bring them all up.

Click on image for larger view.


You can see the excavated ruins of Shechem. At

View of Mt. Ebal and Mt. Gerizim

August 15, 2013

In our last post we referenced some biblical texts regarding Mt. Ebal, the “mount of cursing.” Our photo today shows the view from the east of Mt. Ebal (right) and Mt. Gerizim (left). Shechem is located between the two.

Mt. Ebal (right) and Mt. Gerizim (left). Shechem is at center. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Mt. Ebal (right) and Mt. Gerizim (left). Shechem is at center. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

When Joshua led Israel to Shechem (Josh. 8) they would have seen this view. Likewise this would have been the scene when Jesus went through Samaria en route to Galilee when he stopped here at Jacob’s well, and had that fascinating conversation with the woman who came to draw water. She left there knowing the Source of the Water of Life (John 4).

We have previously posted on Shechem here, here and here.

Click image for larger view.


Jesus and the Woman at the Well

October 4, 2012

I never tire of reading John 4, which narrates Jesus’ stop at Jacob’s well as He left Judea and was en route to Galilee. This was early in Jesus’ ministry, prior to the Galilean ministry. On this occasion He skillfully led an unnamed woman from the mundane task of coming to draw water, to a point of faith in Him as the Messiah. Additionally, it turned out that there were many in the area that became believers in him.

At nearby Mt. Gerizim, the mountain referenced by the woman as the place where the Samaritans worshiped (v.20), there is today the Samaritan Museum. There one can see a painting that points back to that day recorded in John’s Gospel.

Painting depicting Jesus and the Samaritan Woman of John 4. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

We are currently in Canada, speaking in a 6-day meeting at Jordan, Ontario.

Shechem, Tel Balata, East Gate

November 17, 2011

In September we had the opportunity to revisit Shechem, Tel Balata. The site had seen further excavation and cleanup since our last visit there (Dec. 2009).

Shechem is located on the West Bank, situated 2.5 km SE of city center of Nablus. The Park brochure states,

In the past urban development and lack of appropriate management threatened the archaeological site of Tell Balata and the main goal of the Tell Balata Archaeological Park project is to safeguard it. It is a potential World Heritage Site as a part of ‘Old Town Nablus and its environs’ and is listed ont he Inventory of Cultural and Natural Sites of Potential outstanding Universal Value in Palestine.

The project aims to make a sustainable heritage management plan for the site and to make it accessible to visitors.

We previously posted on Shechem here. Review this to see somewhat of the biblical significance of this site.

There is a helpful sign as you enter Shechem.

Shechem, Sign at Entrance. Photo by Leon Mauldin. Click for larger view.

Ferrell Jenkins and I wanted to see the old Canaanite gate at the east side of the site.

Shechem, Canaanite Gate on East Side of city. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Dr. Rasmussen observes, “The gate, like the associated Cyclopean Wall, dates to the end of the Middle Bronze Age (ca. 1650-1550 BC) and continued in use during the Late Bronze Age.”


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