Goshen – a place of safety when not in the land of Israel

by Nathan Barnard

For many years I have met people who feel they have been led by the LORD to prepare for times of persecution in the UK and other western countries. Many of them quote the passage in Numbers regarding cities of refuge, in support of what they are doing. However, while I strongly advocate preparing for times of persecution, because I personally feel it wise and prudent, is the application of what these people are doing and is their understanding of the city/place of refuge correct?

When we examine the passage in Numbers 35:6-33 regarding cities of refuge, we notice certain specific criteria:

  1. The six cities of refuge belong to the Levites, as it is the charge of the Levites to oversee these (Numb. 35:6).
  2. The cities of refuge are only to be established when in the land of Israel and not when they are in exile (Numb. 35:6-9; Deut. 19).
  3. They exist to protect a person who has unintentionally killed someone  — it is sanctuary.(Numb. 35:11).
  4. They are for both native-born Israelites and for foreigners residing among them (Numb. 35:15).
  5. The person is safe only if they remain in the boundaries of the city of refuge. If they leave the boundaries, they have no protection (Numb. 35).
  6. The person, who unintentionally  killed someone, can leave the city of refuge when the high priest dies, for the death of the high priest atones for them (Numb. 35:25).
  7. This is a statute for all generations (Numb. 35:29).

We see in the passage in Numbers 35 and in Deuteronomy 19  that the cities of refuge are for when Israel is in the land. The primary purpose is to protect someone when they have accidentally killed someone, and the victim’s family seek retribution.  Therefore, how do we understand the places of safety people are being led to prepare? Are they essential?

To answer these fundamental questions, we need to look at the Exodus, at how God judged Egypt and how He protected the Israelites. However, is it essential? Yes, because if people see them as a city of refuge, as outlined in Numbers 35 and Deuteronomy 19, then people will seek to remain in them permanently. This is not the purpose of the places of safety the LORD is leading people to prepare.

When Israel was in captivity in Egypt, they resided in Goshen, even during the ten plagues. When the first three plagues came upon Egypt, the Israelites also went through the plagues. However, during the subsequent plagues, four through ten, the LORD protected the Israelites, as He made a distinction between His people and the Egyptians at the fourth plague – the flies.

“‘But on that day I will deal differently with the land of Goshen, where my people live; no swarms of flies will be there, so that you will know that I, the Lord, am in this land. 23 I will make a distinction[b] between my people and your people. This sign will occur tomorrow.'” (Exodus 8:22-23).

Then after the tenth plague, the death of the firstborn, the Israelites were set free and left Egypt, as they commenced their exodus journey in the wilderness to the promised land.

Thus, what we see in the account of God judging Egypt is that Goshen was the place of safety while they were in captivity in Egypt. We know that they went through the first three plagues, and that God protected them and kept them safe in Goshen.

What we must understand is that at present, we are in exile – out of the land of Israel and thus in Egypt/Babylon. Therefore, we cannot have cities of refuge, but rather God prepares places of safety, places best described as Goshen. The reason I stress the difference is because I have known many people who believe that they can stay in these places of safety as Goshen was, throughout the time of Jacob’s Trouble. However, what they have failed to see is that we MUST still leave Babylon/Egypt and go into the wilderness of the people when the LORD directs us to do so. Therefore, it is dangerous to presume that we can stay where we are as scripture states that God will lead us into the wilderness of the people.

 “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I will reign over you with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with outpoured wrath. 34 I will bring you from the nations and gather you from the countries where you have been scattered—with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm and with outpoured wrath. 35 I will bring you into the wilderness of the nations and there, face to face, I will execute judgment upon you. 36 As I judged your ancestors in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so I will judge you, declares the Sovereign Lord. 37 I will take note of you as you pass under my rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant. 38 I will purge you of those who revolt and rebel against me. Although I will bring them out of the land where they are living, yet they will not enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Lord.” (Ezekiel 20:33-38) [1]

God will gather His people and bring them into the land just as He did with Israel during the first Exodus.

“However, the days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when it will no longer be said, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, who brought the Israelites up out of Egypt,’ 15 but it will be said, ‘As surely as the Lord lives, who brought the Israelites up out of the land of the north and out of all the countries where he had banished them.’ For I will restore them to the land I gave their ancestors.” (Jeremiah 16:14-15) [2]

 Similarly preparing food is only a short term arrangement, while we are in Egypt/Babylon. When we leave and go into the wilderness of the people, the LORD will provide for us, protect and guide us. A further reason for leaving Babylon and God providing for us is that there will come a point when we cannot consume the food of Egypt/Babylon. Food will have become corrupted by GMO’s/nanotechnology, and those who do not take the Mark of the Beast will no longer be able to buy or sell.

I know and believe that the LORD has prepared places of safety for people around the world, for believers to use before going into the wilderness of the people. The point I am seeking to stress is that we should not refer to places of safety as cities of refuge, nor intimate to others that they are such. To do so infers something different from the place of safety in Goshen, which is what the LORD is seeking.

I urge people to prepare for days ahead, both spiritually and physically. We do not need to fear the Tribulation – Jacob’s Trouble but rather fear the living God. For the LORD is in control during this period. He is the one who is pouring out His judgments upon the earth, as He judges sin and protects those who are listening to His Holy Spirit, and have made Him their habitation.

Thus, it is crucial at this time that we draw near to the LORD, that we audit our lives and rid ourselves of any idols. We must ensure that while we follow Messiah’s example, we are working out our salvation in fear and trepidation of the LORD. The Lord’s people are preparing to go on a journey, first to Goshen, a place of safety and then into the wilderness of the people, where God will protect, provide and guide His people.

I urge that while you prepare spiritual that you also look at making physical preparations, that you have a store of foods. We need only  look at the present world economy world to understand that we will, in the next 6-18 months, face severe food shortages. If you have food, you can give to your neighbours and your family while also practically sharing the love of Messiah. Yes, I believe God will provide for people, but we must do our part. If Joseph had not stored up during the time of plenty, Egypt and the surrounding nations would not have had food during the seven years of famine. Remember biblical faith is practical  — we must hear and do, trust and obey. God is speaking to you now as you read this article.

For those of you who do not know God, I urge you to seek Him and make Him your refuge during this time. Surrender your life to Him and follow Messiah’s example. Make physical preparations. However, if you just make physical preparation without spiritual, then your efforts are in vain. For when you die, your soul will be lost. What does it profit a man to gain his life but lose his soul? Matthew 8:36) Therefore, choose life, through surrendering your life to God and accepting Messiah Yeshua as your Lord and Saviour.


[1] Bible, NIV, Ezekiel 20:33-38.

[2] Bible, NIV, Jeremiah 16:14-15.

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