Joshua receives a direct order from God to establish the cities of refuge, as was commanded to the Israelites in the desert (see Numbers 35:11-24; Deuteronomy 19:2-3). These population centers are designated for unintentional killers who undergo a thorough evaluation by the elders at the gates. If accepted, they are taken in and protected from anyone seeking to avenge the blood of those killed. The Israelites allocate six population centers for this purpose: three to the west of the Jordan River (Kedesh, Shechem, and Hebron) and three to its east (Golan, Ramoth, and Bosor). The central value underlying this idea is compassion. We can improve our world by opening our hearts and moderating our judgment. God enables the forces of compassion to sweeten the forces of judgment.
“The LORD also spake unto Joshua, saying, Speak to the children of Israel, saying, Appoint out for you cities of refuge, whereof I spake unto you by the hand of Moses” (Joshua 20:1-2)
“That the slayer that killeth any person unawares and unwittingly” (Joshua 20:3)
When we restrict negative impulses, judgment becomes lovingkindness.