“Appoint the cities of refuge, of which I spoke to you through Moses, that the manslayer who strikes any person without intent or unknowingly may flee there” (v2-3). God gave Israel laws and procedures to protect them from their own human sinfulness. In the ancient world, if someone accidentally killed someone else, a typical response was “vigilante justice,” in which a relative would immediately avenge the death. Instead, God told Israel to set aside cities where the “manslayer” could find refuge and be given a fair hearing (v4).
“They shall be for you a refuge” (v3). Israel had external enemies, but like us, they also faced internal struggles. God is our refuge even from the darkness of our own hearts.