Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, June 15th, 2024
the Week of Proper 5 / Ordinary 10
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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 19

Gaebelein's Annotated BibleGaebelein's Annotated

Verses 1-22

9. The Red Heifer and the Water of Purification


1. The provision appointed: The red heifer and the ashes (Numbers 19:1-10 )

2. The use of the water of purification (Numbers 19:11-22 )

This is a most interesting chapter. The ordinance of the red heifer and the water of purification is nowhere mentioned in Leviticus. The day of atonement, so prominent in Leviticus, is not referred to in Numbers at all. The provision of the water of purification is characteristic of the wilderness book. The people were dying by the thousands, and means had to be provided for the cleansing of those who became defiled by contact with the dead. The ashes of the red heifer used in the way as described in this chapter were for the cleansing of the defiled. Without following the details of this new ordinance in the wilderness we point out briefly its typical meaning. That the red heifer is a type of Christ no one can fail to see. “For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:13-14 ) This fully warrants the typical application. The red heifer was to be without spot, wherein is no blemish is the type of Christ, without spot and blemish. It had to be an heifer upon which never came a yoke. A yoke is put on an animal to restrain the wild nature, to bring it to subjection. Our blessed Lord needed no yoke, for He came willingly. “Lo, I come to do Thy will.” Nowhere is the color of a sacrificial animal mentioned but here. Red is the color of blood. It is the type of His obedience unto death. The heifer was slain without the camp. So Christ suffered without the camp (Hebrews 13:12 ). The sprinkling of the blood seven times toward the tabernacle is the type of the blood of atonement. Everything of the red heifer was consumed by fire and into the fire was cast cedar wood, hyssop and scarlet. These things typify the world. (See cleansing of the leper in Leviticus 14:0 ). The world and all its glory is judged in the judgment of the cross.

Here is the essential difference between this and all other offerings: it is an offering once offered which (ideally, at least) never needs to be renewed. In all other cases, if any man sinned, fresh blood had to be shed, a fresh sacrifice to be made; but in this, the virtue remained of what had already been offered: the ashes were the memorial of an already accepted work. (F.W Grant)

The ashes of the red heifer were gathered up by a clean man and put outside of the camp in a clean place. Water was used with the ashes and was sprinkled upon the defiled persons, upon the tent and all the vessels. This was the mode of their purification. It is all so full and rich that it would take many pages to explain all the blessed lessons connected with it. We need constant cleansing because we pass through the wilderness, the world, and death is stamped upon everything. The death of Christ has made provision for our cleansing, as it has provided for the removal of our guilt. The living water is the type of the Holy Spirit. Defilement with the world interrupts communion with God. The death of Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit through the Word cleanse us from that defilement. See 1 John 1:0 .

“If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:0 ). But if we fail to walk in the light--if we forget, and, in our forgetfulness touch the unclean thing, how is our communion to be restored? Only by the removal of the defilement. And how is this to be effected? By the application to our hearts and consciences of the precious truth of the death of Christ. The Holy Ghost produces self-judgment, and brings to our remembrance the truth that Christ suffered death for that defilement which we so lightly and indifferently contract. It is not a fresh sprinkling of the blood of Christ--a thing unknown in Scripture--but the remembrance of His death brought home, in fresh power, to the contrite heart, by the ministry of the Holy Ghost.

Bibliographical Information
Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. "Commentary on Numbers 19". "Gaebelein's Annotated Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/gab/numbers-19.html. 1913-1922.
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