And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying,The principle that death and all pertaining to it, as being the manifestation and result of sin Genesis 2:17, are defiling, and so lead to interruption of the living relationship between God and His people, is not now introduced for the first time, nor is it at all peculiar to the Mosaic law. It was, on the contrary, traditional among the Israelites from the earliest times, it is assumed in various enactments made already (compare Numbers 5:2; Numbers 9:6 ff; Leviticus 10:1, Leviticus 10:7; Leviticus 11:8, Leviticus 11:11, Leviticus 11:24; Leviticus 21:1 ff), and it is traceable in various forms among many nations, both ancient and modern. Moses adopted, here as elsewhere, existing and ancient customs, with significant additions, as helps in the spiritual education of his people.
The ordinance was probably given at this time because the plague which happened Numbers 16:46-50 about the matter of Korah had spread the defilement of death so widely through the camp as to seem to require some special measures of purification, more particularly as the deaths through it were in an extraordinary manner the penalty of sin.
This is the ordinance of the law which the LORD hath commanded, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring thee a red heifer without spot, wherein is no blemish, and upon which never came yoke:A red heifer - Red, in order to shadow forth man's earthly body, even as the name Adam bears allusion to the red earth of which man's body was fashioned.
Without spot, wherein is no blemish - As with sin-offerings generally Leviticus 4:3.
Upon which never came yoke - So here and elsewhere (see the marginal references), in the case of female victims.
And ye shall give her unto Eleazar the priest, that he may bring her forth without the camp, and one shall slay her before his face:The work would necessarily require a priest; yet as it rendered him unclean for the day Numbers 19:22, the high priest was relieved from performing it.
Without the camp - The defilement was viewed as transferred to the victim that was to be offered for its removal. Under these circumstances the victim, like the defiled persons themselves, would be removed outside the camp. The particular pollution to be remedied by this ordinance was the indirect one resulting from contact with tokens and manifestations of sin, not the direct and personal one arising from actual commission of sin. So too the sinless antitype had to bear the reproach of associating with sinners Luke 5:30; Luke 15:2. And as the red heifer was expelled from the precincts of the camp, so was the Saviour cut off in no small measure during His Life from the fellowship of the chief representatives of the theocracy, and put to death outside Jerusalem between two thieves. Compare Hebrews 13:11-12.
And Eleazar the priest shall take of her blood with his finger, and sprinkle of her blood directly before the tabernacle of the congregation seven times:
And one shall burn the heifer in his sight; her skin, and her flesh, and her blood, with her dung, shall he burn:
And the priest shall take cedar wood, and hyssop, and scarlet, and cast it into the midst of the burning of the heifer.Compare Leviticus 14:4 note.
Then the priest shall wash his clothes, and he shall bathe his flesh in water, and afterward he shall come into the camp, and the priest shall be unclean until the even.
And he that burneth her shall wash his clothes in water, and bathe his flesh in water, and shall be unclean until the even.
And a man that is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer, and lay them up without the camp in a clean place, and it shall be kept for the congregation of the children of Israel for a water of separation: it is a purification for sin.Water of separation - In Numbers 8:7, the water of purification from sin is the "water of purifying." So that which was to remedy a state of legal separation is here called "water of separation."
And he that gathereth the ashes of the heifer shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until the even: and it shall be unto the children of Israel, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among them, for a statute for ever.He that gathered the ashes became equally unclean with the others. For the defilement of the people, previously transferred to the heifer, was regarded as concentrated in the ashes.
He that toucheth the dead body of any man shall be unclean seven days.One practical effect of attaching defilement to a dead body, and to all that touched it, etc., would be to insure early burial, and to correct a practice not uncommon in the East, of leaving the deal to be devoured by the wild beasts.
He shall purify himself with it on the third day, and on the seventh day he shall be clean: but if he purify not himself the third day, then the seventh day he shall not be clean.
Whosoever toucheth the dead body of any man that is dead, and purifieth not himself, defileth the tabernacle of the LORD; and that soul shall be cut off from Israel: because the water of separation was not sprinkled upon him, he shall be unclean; his uncleanness is yet upon him.
This is the law, when a man dieth in a tent: all that come into the tent, and all that is in the tent, shall be unclean seven days.
And every open vessel, which hath no covering bound upon it, is unclean.
And whosoever toucheth one that is slain with a sword in the open fields, or a dead body, or a bone of a man, or a grave, shall be unclean seven days.
And for an unclean person they shall take of the ashes of the burnt heifer of purification for sin, and running water shall be put thereto in a vessel:
And a clean person shall take hyssop, and dip it in the water, and sprinkle it upon the tent, and upon all the vessels, and upon the persons that were there, and upon him that touched a bone, or one slain, or one dead, or a grave:
And the clean person shall sprinkle upon the unclean on the third day, and on the seventh day: and on the seventh day he shall purify himself, and wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and shall be clean at even.
But the man that shall be unclean, and shall not purify himself, that soul shall be cut off from among the congregation, because he hath defiled the sanctuary of the LORD: the water of separation hath not been sprinkled upon him; he is unclean.
And it shall be a perpetual statute unto them, that he that sprinkleth the water of separation shall wash his clothes; and he that toucheth the water of separation shall be unclean until even.
And whatsoever the unclean person toucheth shall be unclean; and the soul that toucheth it shall be unclean until even.