Numbers 19

The Water of Cleansing

1 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron:
2 “This is a requirement of the law that the LORD has commanded: Tell the Israelites to bring you a red heifer without defect or blemish and that has never been under a yoke.
3 Give it to Eleazar the priest; it is to be taken outside the camp and slaughtered in his presence.
4 Then Eleazar the priest is to take some of its blood on his finger and sprinkle it seven times toward the front of the tent of meeting.
5 While he watches, the heifer is to be burned—its hide, flesh, blood and intestines.
6 The priest is to take some cedar wood, hyssop and scarlet wool and throw them onto the burning heifer.
7 After that, the priest must wash his clothes and bathe himself with water. He may then come into the camp, but he will be ceremonially unclean till evening.
8 The man who burns it must also wash his clothes and bathe with water, and he too will be unclean till evening.
9 “A man who is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer and put them in a ceremonially clean place outside the camp. They are to be kept by the Israelite community for use in the water of cleansing; it is for purification from sin.
10 The man who gathers up the ashes of the heifer must also wash his clothes, and he too will be unclean till evening. This will be a lasting ordinance both for the Israelites and for the foreigners residing among them.
11 “Whoever touches a human corpse will be unclean for seven days.
12 They must purify themselves with the water on the third day and on the seventh day; then they will be clean. But if they do not purify themselves on the third and seventh days, they will not be clean.
13 If they fail to purify themselves after touching a human corpse, they defile the LORD’s tabernacle. They must be cut off from Israel. Because the water of cleansing has not been sprinkled on them, they are unclean; their uncleanness remains on them.
14 “This is the law that applies when a person dies in a tent: Anyone who enters the tent and anyone who is in it will be unclean for seven days,
15 and every open container without a lid fastened on it will be unclean.
16 “Anyone out in the open who touches someone who has been killed with a sword or someone who has died a natural death, or anyone who touches a human bone or a grave, will be unclean for seven days.
17 “For the unclean person, put some ashes from the burned purification offering into a jar and pour fresh water over them.
18 Then a man who is ceremonially clean is to take some hyssop, dip it in the water and sprinkle the tent and all the furnishings and the people who were there. He must also sprinkle anyone who has touched a human bone or a grave or anyone who has been killed or anyone who has died a natural death.
19 The man who is clean is to sprinkle those who are unclean on the third and seventh days, and on the seventh day he is to purify them. Those who are being cleansed must wash their clothes and bathe with water, and that evening they will be clean.
20 But if those who are unclean do not purify themselves, they must be cut off from the community, because they have defiled the sanctuary of the LORD. The water of cleansing has not been sprinkled on them, and they are unclean.
21 This is a lasting ordinance for them. “The man who sprinkles the water of cleansing must also wash his clothes, and anyone who touches the water of cleansing will be unclean till evening.
22 Anything that an unclean person touches becomes unclean, and anyone who touches it becomes unclean till 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 44

  • 1. S Genesis 15:9; Hebrews 9:13
  • 2. S Leviticus 22:19-25
  • 3. Deuteronomy 21:3; 1 Samuel 6:7
  • 4. Numbers 3:4
  • 5. S Exodus 29:14; Leviticus 4:12,21; Hebrews 13:11
  • 6. S Leviticus 4:17
  • 7. S Exodus 29:14
  • 8. ver 18; Psalms 51:7
  • 9. S Leviticus 14:4
  • 10. S Leviticus 11:25; S Leviticus 14:8; Leviticus 16:26,28; Leviticus 22:6
  • 11. Hebrews 9:13
  • 12. S Exodus 29:31; S Leviticus 4:12
  • 13. ver 13; Numbers 8:7
  • 14. S Genesis 35:2
  • 15. Leviticus 15:10
  • 16. Leviticus 14:46
  • 17. Leviticus 3:17
  • 18. S Leviticus 22:18
  • 19. S Leviticus 21:1; Numbers 5:2
  • 20. S Leviticus 8:33; Numbers 31:19
  • 21. ver 19; Numbers 31:19
  • 22. ver 20; 2 Chronicles 26:21
  • 23. S Leviticus 21:11; Leviticus 20:3
  • 24. S Leviticus 15:31; 2 Chronicles 36:14; Psalms 79:1
  • 25. Leviticus 7:20; Leviticus 22:3
  • 26. ver 22; Haggai 2:13
  • 27. S Leviticus 6:28
  • 28. Numbers 31:19
  • 29. 1 Kings 13:2; 2 Kings 23:14; Ezekiel 6:5
  • 30. 2 Kings 23:6; Matthew 23:27
  • 31. S Leviticus 5:3
  • 32. ver 9
  • 33. S Numbers 8:7
  • 34. S ver 6; S Exodus 12:22
  • 35. S Leviticus 4:17
  • 36. ver 16
  • 37. S Leviticus 16:14-15
  • 38. Numbers 31:19; Ezekiel 36:25; Hebrews 10:22
  • 39. S Genesis 35:2
  • 40. Psalms 74:7
  • 41. S Leviticus 15:31
  • 42. S ver 12; S Leviticus 14:8
  • 43. S Exodus 27:21
  • 44. S Leviticus 5:2; Leviticus 15:4-12; Haggai 2:13,14

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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