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the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 19

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy BiblePoole's Annotations



The manner of making the water of separation, and of what, Numbers 19:1-10.

The use of it, wherewith the unclean are to be purged, Numbers 19:11-13.

Laws concerning despisers of cleansing, Numbers 19:14-22.

Verse 2

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,John 10:18.

Verse 3

Unto Eleazar, who was the second priest, and, in some cases, the vicegerent or deputy of the high priest. To him, not to Aaron, because this service made him unclean for a season, Numbers 19:7, and consequently unfit for holy ministrations; whereas the high priest was, as far as possibly he could, to be preserved from all sorts of defilement, and constantly fit for his high and holy work. Without the camp; partly because it was reputed an unclean and accursed thing, being ceremoniously laden with the sins of all the people; and partly to signify that Christ should suffer without the camp, as he did, Hebrews 13:12, in the place where malefactors suffered, Leviticus 24:14.

One; a person appointed by Eleazar for this work.

Verse 4

Directly before the tabernacle, or, towards or over against the tabernacle; either,

1. Near to it; and so we must suppose that he took some of the blood in a basin, and carried it from without the camp to the tabernacle, and then returned to this place again; which might be done, though it be not here expressed. And this seems to agree best with other places, where this sprinkling seven times was performed in or near the tabernacle, as Leviticus 4:17. Or,

2. Standing at a good distance from it, even without the camp, yet turning and looking towards it. For here is no intimation that he went into the camp before this work was done, but rather the contrary is implied, Numbers 19:7. And because being defiled by this work he could not come near to the tabernacle, it was sufficient for him to turn and took towards it. Either way this posture signified his presenting of this blood before the Lord by way of atonement and satisfaction for his and the people’s sins, and his expectation of acceptance and pardon only from God, and from his mercy-seat in the tabernacle.

Verse 5

To signify the sharp and grievous sufferings of Christ for our sins.

Her blood; all of it but what was spent in sprinkling.

Verse 6

All which are here burnt, and as it were offered to God, that they might be sanctified to this holy use for the future; for of these kinds of things was the sprinkle made wherewith the unclean were sprinkled, Leviticus 14:4.

Verse 7

Partly to teach us the imperfection of the Levitical priesthood, in which the priest himself was defiled by some parts of his work, and the absolute necessity of a better and holier priesthood; and partly to show that Christ himself, though he had no sin of his own, yet was reputed by men, and judged by God, as an unclean and sinful person, by reason of our sins which were laid upon him, Isaiah 53:12; 2 Corinthians 5:21.

Verse 9

For the congregation of the children of Israel, i.e. for their use, and therefore in a fit place or places, whence any of them might easily procure it.

For a water, or, to the water, i.e. to be put to the water, or mixed with it.

Of separation, i.e. appointed for the cleansing of them that are in a state of separation, who for their uncleanness separated from the congregation. Either the heifer thus managed, or the water thus made and sprinkled,

is a purification for sin, Heb. a sin, i.e. a kind of an offering for sin, or rather a mean for the expiation or cleansing of sin. The name of sin is sometimes given to the punishment of sin, and sometimes to the sacrifice or offering for sin.

Verse 10

The stranger that sojourneth, to wit, a proselyte, not any stranger, as some understand it. For since it is confessed all the other ceremonial laws do not oblige them, and that where the name of stranger is put, as here it is, it generally speaks of a proselyte, it is more reasonable to take it so here, than without any reason or evidence to make this a particular exception from the general rule.

Verse 11

Whereas the touch of a dead beast made a man unclean only till even, Leviticus 11:24.

Verse 12

With it, i.e. with the water of separation.

On the third day, to typify Christ’s resurrection on that day, by which we are cleansed or sanctified.

On the seventh day he shall be clean, to teach us that our purification in this life is gradual, and not perfect till we come to that eternal sabbath, which the seventh day respected.

He shall not be clean; but was first to purify himself, and four days after that to be clean.

Verse 13

Whosoever toucheth, to wit, if this transgression be done presumptuously; for if it was done ignorantly, he was only to offer sacrifice, Leviticus 5:3,Leviticus 5:6,Leviticus 5:17.

Defileth the tabernacle of the Lord, by approaching to it in his uncleanness; for holy things or places were ceremonially defiled with the touch of any unclean person or thing. See Leviticus 15:31; Leviticus 16:16; Haggai 2:13.

His uncleanness is yet upon him; he continues in his guilt and filth, not now to be washed away by this water, but to be punished by cutting off.

Verse 15

Every open vessel, because it receives the air of the tent, by which it is ceremonially polluted. Compare Leviticus 11:32,Leviticus 11:33.

Verse 16

With a sword, or by any other violent way.

Verse 17

Running water, i.e, waters flowing from a spring or river which are the purest. These manifestly signify God’s Spirit, which is oft compared to water, John 7:38,John 7:39, and by which alone true purification is obtained.

In a vessel, where they were to be mixed, and then the water was to be strained out and kept for this use.

Verse 18

A clean person, to wit, a priest; for to such the work of cleansing was appropriated. See Leviticus 13:0.

Upon all the vessels; even those which were in part purified by the fire. See Numbers 31:23.

Verse 20

Shall not purify himself, i.e, shall contemptuously refuse to submit to this way of purification.

Verse 21

Shall wash his clothes, because he is unclean, as it here follows. It is strange that the same water should cleanse one person, and defile another; but God would have it so, partly, to teach us that it did not cleanse by any virtue in itself, or in the work done, but only by virtue of God’s appointment; partly, to mind the Jews of the imperfection of their priesthood, and their ritual purifications and expiations, and consequently of the necessity of a better priest and sacrifice and way of purifying, which these outward rites did point at; and partly, to show that the efficacy of God’s ordinances doth not depend upon the person or quality of his ministers, because the same person who was polluted himself could and did cleanse others.

He that toucheth the water of separation; either by sprinkling of it, or by being sprinkled with it; for even he that was cleansed by it, was not fully cleansed as soon as he was sprinkled, but only at the even of that day, as is said here and above, Numbers 19:19.

Verse 22

The unclean person; not he who is so only by touching the water of separation, Numbers 19:21, but he who is so by the greater sort of uncleanness, which lasted seven days, of which Numbers 19:11,Numbers 19:16, and which was not removed without the use of this water of purification, as is manifest from the context and other places of Scripture, and from the nature of the thing; for the lesser sort of uncleanness, mentioned in the foregoing verse, lasted only till even, and was cleansed by the sole washing of his clothes and flesh in water, Numbers 19:7, without any use of this water of purification, which, if it had been necessary, must have been used on the third and on the seventh day, according to the rule, Numbers 19:12,Numbers 19:19, and so the uncleanness of one day had been made an uncleanness of seven days, which is a contradiction. Besides it is unreasonable, that he who immediately touched the defiling thing, should be no more and longer unclean than he who touched that person only; and it was contrary to other rules in like cases, as Leviticus 15:0, where the man or woman having an issue, are thereby made unclean for seven days, Leviticus 15:13,Leviticus 15:28, but he who toucheth them is made unclean only till even, Leviticus 15:7,Leviticus 15:27. And therefore this cannot be meant of him who was unclean by touching this water, who himself was unclean only till even, Numbers 19:21, as also he who toucheth him is in this place.

Shall be unclean, to signify to us the very infectious nature of sin and of sinful company.

Until even, because as his defilement was less, so it was fit the duration of it should be shorter.

Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Numbers 19". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mpc/numbers-19.html. 1685.
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