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Numbers - Chapter 19

Bible Study Notes

Numbers 19:1-10 Laws of Purification – The Lord instructed Moses and Aaron to offer a red heifer without blemish to be slaughter by Eleazar outside the camp with detailed instructions. Afterward, the priest must wash his clothes and bathe in water before returning to the camp, but be unclean until evening. A man that is clean shall take the ashes of the heifer and deposit it outside the camp in a clean place to be used for the water for impurity for the people. It is a sin offering. That person shall then also wash their clothes and bathe in water and be unclean until evening.

Notes: Over a period of 38.5 years, over 1.2 million people died in the wilderness because of God’s judgment. The Israelites were continually coming into contact with dead bodies, which led to ceremonial uncleanness. Therefore, the Lord provided a means of purification so that those who came into contact with dead bodies might be cleansed. The red cow was killed outside the camp of Israel, and its ashes were stored there as well (see v. 9). Hebrews 13:11–13 picks up the image of “outside the camp” as it relates to Christ’s death outside of Jerusalem. The ashes of all these and the cow were mixed to make the agent by which cleansing could take place.

Numbers 19:11-22 A person who touches a dead body is unclean and must cleanse himself or else defiles the tabernacle and will be cut off from Israel. This uncleanliness extends to a person who dies in a tent or killed in battle. Any open vessel that was not covered will be considered unclean. The ashes from red heifer mixed with water in a vessel will be sprinkled on the unclean to be made clean.

Notes: Any clean person, not just priests, could sprinkle the unclean with the water for impurity. Hebrews 9:13–14 notes that the blood of Christ is even more effective in its cleansing power: it will purify the conscience from dead works to serve the living God. These regulations were intended for Israel; now that Christ has come, Christians do not need purification rites such as these.

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