Bible Commentaries

Numbers 19

Verses 1-22

A most interesting arrangement is here described. It was a provision for the sacrifice of a red heifer. Instructions were given for the ceremonial cleansing of the people during the period of their wilderness wanderings. It was at once provision for defilement and a protection for the priesthood.

With solemn ceremony and most minute carefulness, a red heifer was to be sacrificed according to instructions already given in Leviticus concerning other offerings. Then its ashes were to be carefully gathered and kept, in order that they might be mixed in water and used in certain cases of uncleanness.

This provision was followed by instructions on how to deal with those contaminated by contact with, or in the presence of, the dead.

In movements from place to place while the camp was not pitched and the ordinary methods of the ceremonial law could not be observed, cleansing was provided by the use of water in which these ashes were to be intermixed. Thus a gracious provision was made and at the same time the rights and prerogatives of the priesthood were safeguarded. Wherever the people might be, these ashes of the red heifer which had been sacrificed by priestly hands were available for use.