Numbers 19:2
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:
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Numbers 19:2. This is the law which the Lord hath commanded — Or rather, had commanded. For it is probable that the water of purification had been made before, although the manner of making it is here first described. That they bring thee a red heifer — Provided at the expense of the congregation, because they were all to have a joint interest in it; as all believers, the spiritual Israel, have in Christ, typified by it. Here a question arises, why this sacrifice (if it may be so called) must be a heifer, when in other cases bullocks are appointed, and, in general, the male is preferred to the female. According to St. Austin and Theodoret, the weaker sex was to signify that infirmity of the flesh wherewith Christ was clothed. But the reason which Dr. Spencer assigns seems to be more plausible, which is, that it was in opposition to the Egyptian superstition. For though the Egyptians offered bullocks in sacrifice, they had cows in great veneration; as Herodotus, Diodorus Siculus, Ælian, Porphyry, and others, unanimously declare. Porphyry says they would rather have eaten human flesh than that of cows. In order, therefore, to expose this folly of Egypt in the eyes of the Israelites, God directs Moses to appoint one solemn institution wherein a heifer was to be the victim. A red heifer — A fit colour to shadow forth the nature of sin, and the blood of Christ, from which this water and all other rites had their purifying virtue. The Jews say, that it was necessary the heifer should be entirely red, without the least mixture of any other colour, and that if but two hairs were black or white it was unfit for this sacrifice. Without spot — Hebrew, תמימה, temima, perfect; wherein is no blemish — Thus typifying the spotless purity and sinless perfection of the Lord Jesus. Upon which never came yoke — This was not necessary in other sacrifices; but may here be considered as signifying the perfect freedom of the Lord Jesus from every obligation to undertake our cause and die in our stead, save that which love laid him under. For when he said, Lo, I come, he was bound by no other cords than those of his great love to us.

19:1-10 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.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.

2. This is the ordinance of the law—an institution of a peculiar nature ordained by law for the purification of sin, and provided at the public expense because it was for the good of the whole community.

Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring thee a red heifer without spot, &c.—This is the only case in which the color of the victim is specified. It has been supposed the ordinance was designed in opposition to the superstitious notions of the Egyptians. That people never offered a vow but they sacrificed a red bull, the greatest care being taken by their priests in examining whether it possessed the requisite characteristics, and it was an annual offering to Typhon, their evil being. By the choice, both of the sex and the color, provision was made for eradicating from the minds of the Israelites a favorite Egyptian superstition regarding two objects of their animal worship.

The ordinance of the law, or, the constitution of the law, i.e. that which God hath ordained or established by law.

That they bring thee, at their common charge, because it was for the common good. Red; a fit colour to shadow forth both the bloody nature and complexion of sin, Isaiah 1:8, and the human nature, and especially the blood, of Christ, from which this water and all other rites had their purifying virtue.

Wherein is no blemish; a fit type of Christ, who was such, Hebrews 7:26 1 Peter 1:19.

Upon which never came yoke; whereby may be signified, either that Christ in himself was free from all the yoke or obligation of God’s command, till for our sakes he took up our yoke, and put himself under the law; or that Christ was not drawn or forced to undertake our burden and cross, but that lie did voluntarily choose it. See John 10:17,18.

This is the ordinance of the law which the Lord hath commanded,.... 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 (q) 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 (r), 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 (s); 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 (t), 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 (u) and Diodorus Siculus (w), 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 (x); 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 (y); 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,

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 (z). 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.

(q) Seder Olam Rabba, c. 7. p. 22. (r) Misn. Shekalim, c. 7. sect. 7. & Maimon, in ib. (s) Misn. Parah, c. 1. sect. 1.((t) Euterpe, sive, l. 2. c. 41. (u) De lside. (w) Bibliothec. l. 1. p. 79. (x) Parah, c. 2. sect. 5. (y) Ut supra. (Bibliothec. l. 1. p. 79.) (z) Hierozoic. par. 1. l. 2. c. 33. vol. 322.

{a} 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) According to this law and ceremony you shall sacrifice the red cow.

2. a red heifer] a red cow. The Heb. word is that ordinarily used for the full-grown animal (e.g. Genesis 41:2-4; 1 Samuel 6:7). The reason for the particular colour is not known. The red animal and the scarlet thread may both, perhaps, have had reference to blood as an instrument of purification.

without spot] perfect. Any blemish, such as lameness, blindness, or the malformation of a limb, would disqualify it.

Verse 2. - This is the ordinance of the law. חֻקַּת הַתּורָה. Law-statute: an unusual combination only found elsewhere in Numbers 31:21, which also concerns legal purifications. A red heifer. This offering was obviously intended, apart from its symbolic significance, to be studiedly simple and cheap. In contradiction to the many and costly and ever-repeated sacrifices of the Sinaitic legislation, this was a single individual, a female, and of the most common description: red is the most ordinary colour of cattle, and a young heifer is of less value than any other beast of its kind. The ingenuity indeed of the Jews heaped around the choice of this animal a multitude of precise requirements, and supplemented the prescribed ritual with many ceremonies, some of which are incorporated by the Targums with the sacred text; but even so they could not destroy the remarkable contrast between the simplicity of this offering and the elaborate complexity of those ordained at Sinai. Only six red heifers are said to have been needed during the whole of Jewish history, so far-reaching and so long-enduring were the uses and advantages of a single immolation. It is evident that this ordinance had for its distinguishing character oneness as opposed to multiplicity, simplicity contrasted with elaborateness. Without spot, wherein is no blemish. See on Leviticus 4:8. However little, comparatively speaking, the victim might cost them, it must yet be perfect of its kind. The later Jews held that three white hairs together on any part of the body made it unfit for the purpose. On the sex and color of the offering see below. Upon which never came yoke. Cf. Deuteronomy 21:3; 1 Samuel 6:7. The imposition of the yoke, according to the common sentiment of all nations, was a species of degradation, and therefore inconsistent with the ideal of what was fit to be offered in rids ease. That the matter was wholly one of sentiment is nothing to the point: God doth not care for oxen of any kind, but he doth care that man should give him what is, whether in fact or in fancy, the best of its sort. Numbers 19:2Preparation of the Purifying Water. - As water is the ordinary means by which all kinds of uncleanness are removed, it was also to be employed in the removal of the uncleanness of death. But as this uncleanness was the strongest of all religious defilements, fresh water alone was not sufficient to remove it; and consequently a certain kind of sprinkling-water was appointed, which was strengthened by the ashes of a sin-offering, and thus formed into a holy alkali. The main point in the law which follows, therefore, was the preparation of the ashes, and these had to be obtained by the sacrifice of a red heifer.

(Note: On this sacrifice, which is so rich in symbolical allusions, but the details of which are so difficult to explain, compare the rabbinical statutes in the talmudical tractate Para (Mishnah, v. Surenh. vi. pp. 269ff.); Maimonides de vacca rufa; and Lundius jd. Heiligth. pp. 680ff. Among modern treatises on this subject, are Bhr's Symbolik, ii. pp. 493ff.; Hengstenberg, Egypt and the Books of Moses, pp. 173ff.; Leyrer in Herzog's Cycl.; Kurtz in the Theol. Studien und Kritiken, 1846, pp. 629ff. (also Sacrificial Worship of the Old Testament, pp. 422ff., Eng. transl., Tr.); and my Archologie, i. p. 58.)

Numbers 19:2

The sons of Israel were to bring to Moses a red heifer, entirely without blemish, and to give it to Eleazar the priest, that he might have it slaughtered in his presence outside the camp. פּרה is not a cow generally, but a young cow, a heifer, הב́לבכיע (lxx), juvenca, between the calf and the full-grown cow. אדמּה, of a red colour, is not to be connected with תמימה in the sense of "quite red," as the Rabbins interpret it; but תמימה, integra, is to be taken by itself, and the words which follow, "wherein is no blemish," to be regarded as defining it still more precisely (see Leviticus 22:19-20). The slaying of this heifer is called חטּאת, a sin-offering, in Numbers 19:9 and Numbers 19:17. To remind the congregation that death was the wages of sin, the antidote to the defilement of death was to be taken from a sin-offering. But as the object was not to remove and wipe away sin as such, but simply to cleanse the congregation from the uncleanness which proceeded from death, the curse of sin, it was necessary that the sin-offering should be modified in a peculiar manner to accord with this special design. The sacrificial animal was not to be a bullock, as in the case of the ordinary sin-offerings of the congregation (Leviticus 4:14), but a female, because the female sex is the bearer of life (Genesis 3:20), a פּרה, i.e., lit., the fruit-bringing; and of a red colour, not because the blood-red colour points to sin (as Hengstenberg follows the Rabbins and earlier theologians in supposing), but as the colour of the most "intensive life," which has its seat in the blood, and shows itself in the red colour of the face (the cheeks and lips); and one "upon which no yoke had ever come," i.e., whose vital energy had not yet been crippled by labour under the yoke. Lastly, like all the sacrificial animals, it was to be uninjured, and free from faults, inasmuch as the idea of representation, which lay at the foundation of all the sacrifices, but more especially of the sin-offerings, demanded natural sinlessness and original purity, quite as much as imputed sin and transferred uncleanness. Whilst the last-mentioned prerequisite showed that the victim was well fitted for bearing sin, the other attributes indicated the fulness of life and power in their highest forms, and qualified it to form a powerful antidote to death. As thus appointed to furnish a reagent against death and mortal corruption, the sacrificial animal was to possess throughout, viz., in colour, in sex, and in the character of its body, the fulness of life in its greatest freshness and vigour.

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