Numbers 19

Ordinance of the Red Heifer

1 Then the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying,
2 "This is the statute of the law which the LORD has commanded, saying, 'Speak to the sons of Israel that they bring you an 1unblemished red heifer in which is no defect and 2on which a yoke has never been placed.
3 'You shall give it to 3Eleazar the priest, and it shall 4be brought outside * * the camp and be slaughtered in his presence.
4 'Next Eleazar the priest shall take some of its blood with his finger and 5sprinkle some of its blood toward the front of the tent of meeting seven times.
5 'Then the heifer shall be burned in his sight; 6its hide and its flesh and its blood, with its refuse, shall be burned.
6 'The priest shall take 7cedar wood and hyssop and scarlet material and cast it into the midst of the burning heifer.
7 'The priest 8shall then wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and afterward come into the camp, but the priest shall be unclean until evening.
8 'The one who burns it shall also wash his clothes in water and bathe his body in water, and shall be unclean until evening.
9 'Now a man who is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer and deposit them outside * the camp in a clean place, and the congregation of the sons of Israel shall keep it as 9water to remove impurity; it is purification from sin.
10 'The one who gathers the ashes of the heifer 10shall wash his clothes and be unclean until evening; and it shall be a perpetual statute to the sons of Israel and to the alien who sojourns among them.
11 '11The one who touches the corpse of any person * shall be unclean for seven days.
12 'That one shall 12purify himself from uncleanness with the water on the third day and on the seventh day, and then he will be clean; but if he does not purify himself on the third day and on the seventh day, he will not be clean.
13 '13Anyone who touches a corpse, the body of a man who has died, and does not purify himself, 14defiles the tabernacle of the LORD; and that person shall be cut off from Israel. Because the water for impurity was not 15sprinkled on him, he shall be unclean; his uncleanness is still on him.
14 'This is the law when a man dies in a tent: everyone who comes into the tent and everyone who is in the tent shall be unclean for seven days.
15 'Every open vessel, which has no covering tied down on it, shall be unclean.
16 '16Also, anyone who in the open field touches one who has been slain with a sword or who has died naturally, or a human bone or a grave, shall be unclean for seven days.
17 'Then for the unclean person they shall take some of the ashes of the burnt 17purification from sin and flowing water shall be added to them in a vessel.
18 'A clean person shall take hyssop 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 the one who touched the bone or the one slain or the one dying naturally or the grave.
19 'Then the clean person 18shall sprinkle on the unclean on the third day and on the seventh day; and on the seventh day he shall purify him from uncleanness, and he shall wash his clothes and bathe himself in water and shall be clean by evening.
20 'But the man who is unclean and does not purify himself from uncleanness, that person shall be cut off from the midst of the assembly, because he has 19defiled the sanctuary of the LORD; the water for impurity has not been sprinkled on him, he is unclean.
21 'So it shall be a perpetual statute for them. And he 20who sprinkles the water for impurity shall wash his clothes, and he who touches the water for impurity shall be unclean until evening.
22 '21Furthermore, anything that the unclean person touches shall be unclean; and the person 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 21

  • 1. Leviticus 22:20-25
  • 2. Deuteronomy 21:3
  • 3. Numbers 3:4
  • 4. Lev 4:11, 12, 21; Numbers 19:9
  • 5. Leviticus 4:6, 17; Leviticus 16:14
  • 6. Exodus 29:14; Leviticus 4:11, 12
  • 7. Leviticus 14:4
  • 8. Leviticus 16:26, 28; Leviticus 22:6
  • 9. Numbers 8:7; Numbers 31:23
  • 10. Numbers 19:7
  • 11. Leviticus 21:1, 11; Numbers 5:2; Numbers 6:6; Acts 21:26, 27
  • 12. Numbers 19:19; Numbers 31:19
  • 13. Leviticus 7:21; Leviticus 22:3-7
  • 14. Leviticus 15:31; Leviticus 20:3; Numbers 19:20
  • 15. Numbers 19:19
  • 16. Numbers 31:19
  • 17. Numbers 19:9
  • 18. Ezekiel 36:25; Hebrews 10:22
  • 19. Numbers 19:13
  • 20. Numbers 19:7
  • 21. Leviticus 5:2, 3; Leviticus 7:21; Leviticus 22:5, 6

Footnotes 17

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

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