In Numbers 33-35 God lays out, through Moses, the land that the Israelites are supposed to conquer. He also explains His plan for the people who are there. God explains how the land is to be divided and in that division the Israelites are to set aside 6 cities of refuge. A city of refuge is where someone who has killed someone is supposed to go. When they get there, it is to be decided if they intentionally killed the person or if it was an accident. If it was an accident then they are to continue living in the city of refuge until the current high priest dies. After his death, the person may return to their home and life. However if it is decided that it was not an accident, the murderer is to be turned over to the avenger of blood, who is the close relative of the person who died that is responsible for avenging the death. The Bible also provided examples for the people to help determine what was an accident and what was not.
Now you may be thinking that you understand why the one who killed on purposed has to be punished, but isn’t the accidental killer being punished too? After all, he can’t return home until the current high priest dies. That could be years! What we must realize is that all our actions have consequences. They may not have meant to kill someone, but someone did die. The person who died had a family and friends that are now very sad. We need to understand that we should think about our actions and try to avoid doing things that cause harm. We are responsible for all our actions, even the accidents.
Discuss with your child the differences in what the consequences should be for something intentional versus accidental. Be sure to let your children give their input.
For example: What should happen to a boy who intentionally knocks over his sister’s milk because he is mad at her versus one who is playing too roughly and accidentally does it? Does it change the situation if both kids are somewhat responsible, like she surprises him and he knocks it over?