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Numbers 19

Listen to Numbers 19

Laws for Purification

1 Now the LORD spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying,
2 "This is the statute of the law that the LORD has commanded: Tell the people of Israel to bring you a red heifer without defect, in which there is no blemish, 1and on which a yoke has never come.
3 And you shall give it to Eleazar the priest, and 2it shall be taken outside the camp and slaughtered before him.
4 And Eleazar the priest shall take some of its blood with his finger, and 3sprinkle some of its blood toward the front of the tent of meeting seven times.
5 And the heifer shall be burned in his sight. 4Its skin, its flesh, and its blood, with its dung, shall be burned.
6 And the priest shall take 5cedarwood and hyssop and scarlet yarn, and throw them into the fire burning the heifer.
7 Then the priest 6shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and afterward he may come into the camp. But the priest shall be unclean until evening.
8 7The one who burns the heifer 8shall wash his clothes in water and bathe his body in water and shall be unclean until evening.
9 And a man who is clean shall gather up 9the ashes of the heifer and deposit them outside the camp in a 10clean place. And they shall be kept for the water for 11impurity for the congregation of the people of Israel; it is a sin offering.
10 And the one who gathers the ashes of the heifer 12shall wash his clothes and be unclean until evening. And this shall be a perpetual statute for the people of Israel, and for the stranger who sojourns among them.
11 13"Whoever touches the dead body of any person shall be unclean seven days.
12 He 14shall cleanse himself with the water on the third day and on the seventh day, and so be clean. But if he does not cleanse himself on the third day and on the seventh day, he will not become clean.
13 Whoever touches a dead person, the body of anyone who has died, and does not cleanse himself, 15defiles the tabernacle of the LORD, 16and that person shall be cut off from Israel; because the water for impurity was not thrown on him, he shall be unclean. His uncleanness is still on him.
14 "This is the law when someone dies in a tent: everyone who comes into the tent and everyone who is in the tent shall be unclean seven days.
15 And every 17open vessel that has no cover fastened on it is unclean.
16 18Whoever in the open field touches someone who was killed with a sword or who died naturally, or touches a human bone or a 19grave, shall be unclean seven days.
17 For the unclean they shall take 20some ashes of the burnt sin offering, and fresh[a] water shall be added in a vessel.
18 Then a clean person shall take 21hyssop and dip it in the water and sprinkle it on the tent and on all the furnishings and on the persons who were there and on whoever touched the bone, or the slain or the dead or the grave.
19 And the clean person shall sprinkle it on the unclean 22on the third day and on the seventh day. 23Thus on the seventh day he shall cleanse him, and he shall 24wash his clothes and bathe himself in water, and at evening he shall be clean.
20 "If the man who is unclean does not cleanse himself, 25that person shall be cut off from the midst of the assembly, since he has defiled the sanctuary of the LORD. Because the water for impurity has not been thrown on him, he is unclean.
21 And it shall be a statute forever for them. The one who sprinkles the water for impurity shall wash his clothes, and the one who touches the water for impurity shall be unclean until evening.
22 And 26whatever the unclean person touches shall be unclean, and anyone who touches it shall be unclean until evening."

Numbers 19 Commentary

Chapter 19

The ashes of a heifer. (1-10) Used to purify the unclean. (11-22)

Verses 1-10 The heifer was to be wholly burned. This typified the painful sufferings of our Lord Jesus, both in soul and body, as a sacrifice made by fire, to satisfy God's justice for man's sin. These ashes are said to be laid up as a purification for sin, because, though they were only to purify from ceremonial uncleanness, yet they were a type of that purification for sin which our Lord Jesus made by his death. The blood of Christ is laid up for us in the word and sacraments, as a fountain of merit, to which by faith we may have constant recourse, for cleansing our consciences.

Verses 11-22 Why did the law make a corpse a defiling thing? Because death is the wages of sin, which entered into the world by it, and reigns by the power of it. The law could not conquer death, nor abolish it, as the gospel does, by bringing life and immortality to light, and so introducing a better hope. As the ashes of the heifer signified the merit of Christ, so the running water signified the power and grace of the blessed Spirit, who is compared to rivers of living water; and it is by his work that the righteousness of Christ is applied to us for our cleansing. Those who promise themselves benefit by the righteousness of Christ, while they submit not to the grace and influence of the Holy Spirit, do but deceive themselves; we cannot be purified by the ashes, otherwise than in the running water. What use could there be in these appointments, if they do not refer to the doctrines concerning the sacrifice of Christ? But comparing them with the New Testament, the knowledge to be got from them is evident. The true state of fallen man is shown in these institutions. Here we learn the defiling nature of sin, and are warned to avoid evil communications.

Cross References 26

  • 1. Deuteronomy 21:3; 1 Samuel 6:7
  • 2. Leviticus 4:12; [Hebrews 13:11]
  • 3. [Leviticus 4:6, 17; Leviticus 16:14, 19]; Hebrews 9:13
  • 4. Exodus 29:14; Leviticus 4:11, 12
  • 5. See Lev. 14:4, 6, 49
  • 6. See Leviticus 11:25
  • 7. ver. 5
  • 8. [See ver. 7 above]
  • 9. Hebrews 9:13
  • 10. Leviticus 4:12; Leviticus 6:11; Leviticus 10:14
  • 11. ver. 13, 20, 21; Numbers 31:23
  • 12. [See ver. 7 above]
  • 13. ver. 16; See Numbers 5:2; Numbers 9:6, 10; Numbers 31:19
  • 14. Numbers 31:19
  • 15. ver. 20; Leviticus 15:31
  • 16. See Exodus 30:33
  • 17. Numbers 31:20; Leviticus 11:32
  • 18. ver. 11
  • 19. [Matthew 23:27; Luke 11:44]
  • 20. Hebrews 9:13
  • 21. See Exodus 12:22
  • 22. ver. 12
  • 23. [Leviticus 14:9]
  • 24. See Leviticus 11:25
  • 25. See Exodus 30:33
  • 26. [ver. 11; Haggai 2:13]

Footnotes 1

Chapter Summary


This chapter contains a law for making a water for purification for sin, the ingredients of which are the ashes of a red heifer burnt, about which many things are observed, Nu 19:1-10; the use of the water made of them, to purify such as were unclean by the touch of a dead body, Nu 19:11-13; some rules are given, by which it might be known who were unclean on account of a dead body, Nu 19:14-16; the manner of purifying such persons, Nu 19:17-19; and the punishment of those that should neglect purification, Nu 19:20-22.

Numbers 19 Commentaries

The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.