This [is] the ordinance of the law which the Lord hath
By which it appears, that this law was not of the moral, but of the ceremonial kind, being called an ordinance, a statute, a decree of God, the King of kings; and which was founded not on any clear plain reason in the thing itself, but in the will of God, who intended it as a type and shadow of the blood and sacrifice of Christ, and of the efficacy of that to cleanse from sin; and it also appears by this, that it was not a new law now made, but which had been made already: "which the Lord hath commanded": as is plain from what has been observed, (See Gill on Numbers 19:1); and the Jews F17 say, that the red heifer was slain by Eleazar the day after the tabernacle was erected, even on the second day of the first month of Israel's coming out of Egypt; and it was now repeated both on account of the priests and people, because of the priest to whom it belonged, as Aben Ezra observes, Aaron being now established in the priesthood; and because of the people, who were afraid they should die if they came near the tabernacle; now hereby they are put in mind of a provision made for the purification of them, when under any uncleanness, which made them unfit for coming to it:
saying, speak unto the children of Israel;
whom this law concerned, and for whose purification it was designed; and it was at the expense not of a private person, but of the whole congregation, that the water of purifying was made; and that, as the Jews say F18, that the priests might have no personal profit from it:
that they bring thee a red heifer;
or "young cow", for so the word properly signifies; one of two years old, as the Targum of Jonathan, and so says the Misnah F19; though some of the Rabbins say one of three years, or of four years, or even one of five years old, would do. This instance, with others, where females are ordered to be slain, see ( Leviticus 3:1 ) ; confutes the notion of such, who think the laws of Moses were made in conformity to the customs of the Egyptians, this being directly contrary to them; if they were the same in the times of Moses, they were in the times of Herodotus, who expressly says F20, male oxen the Egyptians sacrifice; but it is not lawful for them to sacrifice females, for they are sacred to Isis. Indeed, according to Plutarch F21 and Diodorus Siculus F23, the Egyptians in their times sacrificed red bullocks to Typhon, who they supposed was of the same colour, and to whom they had an aversion, accounting him the god of evil; and because red oxen were odious to them, they offered them to him; as red-haired men also were slain by them for the same reason, at the tomb of Osiris, who they say was murdered by the red-haired Typhon; but these were superstitions that obtained among them after the times of Moses, and could not be retorted to by him; a better reason is to be given why this heifer or cow was to be of a red colour:
without spot, wherein [is] no blemish;
the first of these, without spot, the Jews understand of colour, that it should have no spots in it of any other colour, black or white, nor indeed so much as an hair, at least not two of another colour; and so the Targum of Jonathan, in which there is no spot or mark of a white hair; and Jarchi more particularly,
``which is perfect in redness; for if there were in it (he says) two black hairs, it was unfit;''and so Ben Gersom, with which agrees the Misnah F24; if there were in it two hairs, black or white, in one part, it was rejected; if there was one in the head, and another in the tail, it was rejected; if there were two hairs in it, the root or bottom of which were black, and the head or top red, and so on the contrary; all depended on the sight: and it must be owned, the same exactness was observed in the red oxen sacrificed by the Egyptians, as Plutarch relates F25; for if the ox had but one hair black or white, they reckoned it was not fit to be sacrificed; in which perhaps they imitated the Jews: it being without blemish was what was common to all sacrifices, such as are described in ( Leviticus 22:22-24 ) ;
[and] upon which never came yoke;
and so among the Heathens in later times, very probably in imitation of this, they used to offer to their deities oxen that never had bore any yoke; as appears from Homer, Horace, Virgil, Ovid, and Seneca, out of whom instances are produced by Bochart F26. Now, though this red cow was not properly a sacrifice for sin, yet it was analogous to one, and was a type of our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom all these characters meet, and are significant. It being a female may denote the infirmities of Christ's human nature, to which it was subject, though sinless ones; he was encompassed with, and took on him, our infirmities; and may have some respect to the woman, by whom the transgression came, which brought impurity on all human nature, which made a purification for sin necessary; and the red colour of it may point at the flesh and blood of Christ he partook of, and the sins of his people, which were laid upon him, and were as crimson and as scarlet, and the bloody sufferings he endured to make satisfaction for them; and its being without spot and blemish may denote the perfection of Christ in his person, obedience, and sufferings, and the purity and holiness of his nature; and having never had any yoke upon it may signify, that though he was made under the law, and had commands enjoined him by his father as man, yet was free from the yoke of human traditions, and from the servitude of sin, and most willingly engaged, and not by force and compulsion, in the business of our redemption and salvation.
F17 Seder Olam Rabba, c. 7. p. 22.
F18 Misn. Shekalim, c. 7. sect. 7. & Maimon, in ib.
F19 Misn. Parah, c. 1. sect. 1.
F20 Euterpe, sive, l. 2. c. 41.
F21 De lside.
F23 Bibliothec. l. 1. p. 79.
F24 Parah, c. 2. sect. 5.
F25 Ut supra. (Bibliothec. l. 1. p. 79.)
F26 Hierozoic. par. 1. l. 2. c. 33. vol. 322.