Numbers 8:7
And thus shall you do to them, to cleanse them: Sprinkle water of purifying on them, and let them shave all their flesh, and let them wash their clothes, and so make themselves clean.
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(7) Water of purifying.—Literally, water of sin, or, of sin-offering (Hebrew, hattath). As in the case of the holy water, to which reference is made in Numbers 6:17, so here also there is no explanation given of the particular water which was to be used in cleansing the Levites. The bullock which was appointed to be offered as a sin-offering at the consecration of Aaron and his sons (Exodus 29:14; Leviticus 8:14) is described by the same word which is here employed (in the Authorised Version, sin-offering); and in Leviticus 4:14, the sacrifice which was appointed to be offered for the expiation of sin (in the Authorised Version, the sin) is also spoken of under the same name; so also is the sin-offering of the Levites in Numbers 8:8 of this chapter. The sin-water evidently denotes the water appointed to be used in the purification of sin; and the reference is probably (as in Numbers 6:17) to the water which was kept in the brazen laver in front of the Tabernacle. It is possible, however, that some direction which is not here recorded may have been given respecting putting the ashes of the sin-offering into water. (Comp. Numbers 19:9, where the water of purification is described under the same name: “it is a purification for sin.” Literally, it is hattath.) In this case, however, the sin-offering, which is not mentioned until Numbers 8:8, must have been sacrificed previously to the sprinkling.

Let them shave all their flesh.—Literally, cause the razor to pass over all their flesh. A different word is used in Leviticus 14:8-9 to denote the more complete removal of the hair which was enjoined at the cleansing of the leper.

And let them wash their clothes.—The bodies of the priests were washed at their consecration (Leviticus 14:8-9), and those of the lepers at their cleansing (Leviticus 8:6); but the Levites, who were not brought into such immediate contact with the holy things as the priests, were only required to wash their clothes, which was an ordinary preparation for Divine worship (Exodus 19:10; comp. Genesis 35:2).

Numbers 8:7. Sprinkle water of purifying — Hebrew, water of sin, or sin-water; that is, water of purification from sin. Thus the sacrifice of atonement from sin is termed the sin-offering. This water was prepared with the ashes of a red heifer which had been offered for a burnt-offering, Numbers 19:17. Shave all their flesh — This external rite signified the cutting off their inordinate desire of earthly things, and that singular purity of heart and life which is required in the ministers of God. And wash their clothes — Another rite expressive of moral purity.8:5-26 Here we have directions for the solemn ordination of the Levites. All Israel must know that they took not this honour to themselves, but were called of God to it; nor was it enough that they were distinguished from others. All who are employed for God, must be dedicated to him, according to the employment. Christians must be baptized, ministers must be ordained; we must first give ourselves unto the Lord, and then our services. The Levites must be cleansed. They must be clean that bear the vessels of the Lord. Moses must sprinkle the water of purifying upon them. This signifies the application of the blood of Christ to our souls by faith, that we may be fit to serve the living God. God declares his acceptance of them. All who expect to share in the privileges of the tabernacle, must resolve to do the service of the tabernacle. As, on the one hand, none of God's creatures are his necessary servants, he needs not the service of any of them; so none are merely honorary servants, to do nothing. All whom God owns, he employs; angels themselves have their services.Water of purifying - literally, "sin water:" i. e. water to cleanse from sin; no doubt taken from the laver of the sanctuary, which was used by the priests for purification before they went into the tabernacle to minister (compare Numbers 5:17; Exodus 30:18 ff).

The "sprinkling" of so large a body of men could have been only general, but tokens of individual purification are specified (compare also Leviticus 14:8).

6, 7. Take the Levites … and cleanse them—This passage describes the consecration of the Levites. Although the tribe was to be devoted to the divine service, their hereditary descent alone was not a sufficient qualification for entering on the duties of the sacred office. They were to be set apart by a special ceremony, which, however, was much simpler than that appointed for the priests; neither washing nor anointing, nor investiture with official robes, was necessary. Their purification consisted, along with the offering of the requisite sacrifices (Le 1:4; 3:2; 4:4), in being sprinkled by water mixed with the ashes of a red heifer (Nu 19:9), and shaved all over, and their clothes washed—a combination of symbolical acts which was intended to remind them of the mortification of carnal and worldly desires, and the maintenance of that purity in heart and life which became the servants of God. Of purifying, Heb. of sin, i.e. for the expiation of sin. This water was mixed with the ashes of a red heifer, Numbers 19:9, which therefore may seem to have been prescribed before, though it be mentioned after; such kind of transplacings of passages being frequent in Scripture.

Shave all their flesh; which external rite signified the cutting off their inordinate concupiscences of earthly things, and that singular purity of heart and life which is required in the ministers of God. See Isaiah 52:11 2 Timothy 2:21. And thus shall thou do unto them, to cleanse them,.... Or order Aaron to do unto them; the cleansing of the Levites was the work of Aaron, either by himself or by his order; in which he was a type of Christ, who is the refiner and purifier of the sons of Levi, Malachi 3:3,

sprinkle water of purifying upon them; or "water of sin" (n); water which purifies from sin, in a ceremonial sense; and this was water mixed with the ashes of the red heifer, which was the purification of persons deified by the dead, as Jarchi observes; and though the law concerning the red heifer, and of making the water of purification, is not made mention of till afterwards, Numbers 19:1, yet it was very probably given before; and the Jews say (o), it was on the second of Nisan, or the first month, which was the day after the tabernacle was erected, that Eleazar the priest burnt the red heifer and sprinkled all Israel; this only "sanctified to the purifying of the flesh", Hebrews 9:13, in a ceremonial sense, but was typical of the blood of Christ, which "purges the conscience from dead works"; that so men may be fitted and qualified, as the Levites were, "to serve the living God", Hebrews 9:14,

and let them shave all their flesh; the hair of their bodies, in all parts thereof; even the beard, as Aben Ezra notes, some say; yet not the corners of it; but the whole hair of the body, everywhere, was to be shaved off; to denote the most perfect purity, and a removal of all superfluity of haughtiness and excrescences of the flesh from them: so the Egyptian priests used to shave their whole body every third day, lest there should be anything filthy in those that served the gods (p): this cleansing of the Levites was after the same manner as lepers were cleansed: and Jarchi observes, from one of their writers, that because the Levites gave an atonement for the firstborn, who committed idolatry, which is called the sacrifices of the dead, and the leper is called a dead man, they were obliged to shaving as the lepers; but Ben Gersom gives a better reason for the shaving of them; that it was to put them in mind that they should forsake material (or corporeal) things, and employ themselves in the service of God; see Acts 6:2 2 Timothy 2:4,

and let them wash their clothes; and much more their bodies, as Chaskuni, after the manner of those who were polluted by touching a dead body; typical of the saints having their bodies washed with pure water, and their garments washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb, Hebrews 10:22,

and so make themselves clean; the Targum of Jonathan adds, in forty seahs of water; and according to the sense of that paraphrase, both the bodies and clothes of the Levites were dipped in water.

(n) "aquas peccati", Montanus; "aquam peccati", Piscator, Drusius; "the sin water", Ainsworth. (o) Seder Olam Rabba, c. 7. p. 22. (p) Herodot. Enterpe, sive, l. 2. c. 37.

And thus shalt thou do unto them, to cleanse them: Sprinkle {c} water of purifying upon them, and let them shave all their flesh, and let them wash their clothes, and so make themselves clean.

(c) In Hebrew it is called the water of sin, because it is made to purge sin, as in Nu 19:9.

7. water of expiation] lit. water of sin, a unique expression denoting ‘water that washes away sin.’ Cf. the ‘waters of bitterness’ (Numbers 5:17 f.), ‘water of impurity’ (Numbers 19:9). Notice that the Levites are only sprinkled, while the priests (Exodus 29:4, Leviticus 8:6) are completely bathed. This comparison suggests that the water here, as there, is intended to be simple pure water.

cause a razor &c.] for the purpose of cleanliness. In Herod. ii. 37 the Egyptian priests are said to ‘shave themselves all over their body every other day.’

wash their clothes] as ordinary laymen would do (Exodus 19:14) for ceremonial cleansing. The priests, on the other hand, were vested in entirely new robes of office (Exodus 29:8 f., Leviticus 8:13).Verse 7. - Sprinkle water of purifying upon them. Rather, "water of sin," so called because it had to do with the removal of sin, just as "water of separation" (Numbers 19:9, 13) was that which delivered from the legal state of separation. It is not likely to have been prepared in the same manner as this latter (Numbers 19:9), both because of the great difference between the two cases, and because the ordinance of the red heifer belonged to a later period. Nor is it likely to have resembled that used for cleansing the leper, or the water of jealousy. But it is rash to conclude that, because we do not read any special directions for its preparation, it must, therefore, have been nothing trot water from the laver which stood in the outer court. That water appears, indeed, to be called "holy water" in Numbers 5:17, which is intelligible enough; but no probable reason can be shown why it should be called "sin water;" it would seem as reasonable to call the water which our Lord turned into wine "sill water," because it stood there "for the purifying of the Jews." It is better to say that we do not know, because it is not recorded, how this water was prepared, or how it corresponded to its name. The Levites who were to be sprinkled would seem to have included all the males, some twenty thousand in number; because it was all the males, and not only those between thirty and fifty, who were to be dedicated in place of the first-born. In any case it was, of course, impossible that Moses could have sprinkled them individually (see below on verse 11). Let them shave all their flesh. Literally, "let them cause the razor to pass over their whole body." Some distinguish between עָבַר תּעַר here and גִלַּה in Leviticus 14:8, 9, as though the latter meant a much more complete shaving off of the hair than the former; but this difference is doubtful; the fact that the whole body as well as the head was to be shaved implies that it was more than a mere cutting short of the hair. Let them wash their clothes. This was constantly enjoined on all the faithful as a preparation for any special religious service (see on Exodus 19:10). And so make themselves clean. The shaving and washing had, no doubt, a symbolic significance, but their primary object was simply and obviously personal cleanliness; it is the hair and the clothes that chiefly harbour impurities, especially in a hot climate. Consecration of the Levites. - The command of God to consecrate the Levites for their service, is introduced in Numbers 8:1-4 by directions issued to Aaron with regard to the lighting of the candlestick in the dwelling of the tabernacle. Aaron was to place the seven lamps upon the candlestick in such a manner that they would shine פּניו אל־מוּל. These directions are not a mere repetition, but also a more precise definition, of the general instructions given in Exodus 25:37, when the candlestick was made, to place the seven lamps upon the candlestick in such a manner that each should give light over against its front, i.e., should throw its light upon the side opposite to the front of the candlestick. In itself, therefore, there is nothing at all striking in the renewal and explanation of those directions, which committed the task of lighting the lamps to Aaron; for this had not been done before, as Exodus 27:21 merely assigns the daily preparation of the candlestick to Aaron and his sons; and their being placed in the connection in which we find them may be explained from the signification of the seven lamps in relation to the dwelling of God, viz., as indicating that Israel was thereby to be represented perpetually before the Lord as a people causing its light to shine in the darkness of this world. And when Aaron is commanded to attend to the lighting of the candlestick, so that it may light up the dwelling, in these special instructions the entire fulfilment of his service in the dwelling is enforced upon him as a duty. In this respect the instructions themselves, coupled with the statement of the fact that Aaron had fulfilled them, stand quite appropriately between the account of what the tribe-princes had done for the consecration of the altar service as representatives of the congregation, and the account of the solemn inauguration of the Levites in their service in the sanctuary. The repetition on this occasion (Exodus 27:4) of an allusion to the artistic character of the candlestick, which had been made according to the pattern seen by Moses in the mount (Exodus 25:31.), is quite in keeping with the antiquated style of narrative adopted in these books.
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