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This is the ordinance of the law which the LORD hath commanded, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring thee a red heifer without spot, wherein is no blemish, and upon which never came yoke:
Red — A fit colour to shadow forth the bloody nature of sin, and the blood of Christ, from which this water and all other rites had their purifying virtue.
No blemish — A fit type of Christ.
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 put himself under the law; or that Christ was not forced to undertake our burden and cross, but did voluntarily chuse it. He was bound and held with no other cords but those of his own love.
And ye shall give her unto Eleazar the priest, that he may bring her forth without the camp, and one shall slay her before his face:
Eleazar — Who was the second priest, and in some cases, the deputy of the high-priest. To him, not to Aaron, because this service made him unclean for a season, 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, fit for his high and holy work.
Without the camp — Partly because it was reputed an unclean and accursed thing, being laden with the sins of all the people; and partly to signify that Christ should suffer without the camp, in the place where malefactors suffered.
And Eleazar the priest shall take of her blood with his finger, and sprinkle of her blood directly before the tabernacle of the congregation seven times:
Before the tabernacle — Or, towards the tabernacle, 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 the tabernacle, it was sufficient for him to turn and look towards it. This signified his presenting this blood before the Lord by way of atonement 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. And this typified the satisfaction that was made to God, by the death of Christ, who by the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, and did as it were sprinkle his own blood before the sanctuary, when he said, Into thy hands I commend my spirit!
And one shall burn the heifer in his sight; her skin, and her flesh, and her blood, with her dung, shall he burn:
Burn the heifer — To signify the sharp and grievous sufferings of Christ for our sins.
Her blood — All of it, but what was spent in sprinkling.
And the priest shall take cedar wood, and hyssop, and scarlet, and cast it into the midst of the burning of the heifer.
Cedar-wood, hyssop, scarlet — 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.
Then the priest shall wash his clothes, and he shall bathe his flesh in water, and afterward he shall come into the camp, and the priest shall be unclean until the even.
Shall be unclean — Partly to teach us the imperfection of the Levitical priesthood, in which the priest himself was defiled by some parts of his work, and partly to shew that Christ himself, though he had no sin of his own, yet was reputed by men, and judged by God, as a sinful person, by reason of our sins which were laid upon him.
And a man that is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer, and lay them up without the camp in a clean place, and it shall be kept for the congregation of the children of Israel for a water of separation: it is a purification for sin.
For a water — Or, to the water, that is, to be put to the water, or mixed with it.
Of separation — Appointed for the cleansing of them that are in a state of separation, who for their uncleanness are separated from the congregation.
It is a purification for sin — Heb. a sin, that is, an offering for sin, or rather a mean for expiation or cleansing of sin. And this was a type of that purification for sin, which our Lord Jesus made by his death.
And he that gathereth the ashes of the heifer shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until the even: and it shall be unto the children of Israel, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among them, for a statute for ever.
The stranger — A proselyte.
He shall purify himself with it on the third day, and on the seventh day he shall be clean: but if he purify not himself the third day, then the seventh day he shall not be clean.
With it — With the water of separation.
On the third day — To typify Christ's resurrection on that day by which we are cleansed or sanctified.
Whosoever toucheth the dead body of any man that is dead, and purifieth not himself, defileth the tabernacle of the LORD; and that soul shall be cut off from Israel: because the water of separation was not sprinkled upon him, he shall be unclean; his uncleanness is yet upon him.
Whosoever toucheth — If this transgression be done presumptuously; for if it was done ignorantly, he was only to offer sacrifice.
Defiled — By approaching to it in his uncleanness: for holy things or places were ceremonially defiled with the touch of any unclean person or thing.
Is upon him — He continues in his guilt, not now to be washed away by this water, but to be punished by cutting off.
And whosoever toucheth one that is slain with a sword in the open fields, or a dead body, or a bone of a man, or a grave, shall be unclean seven days.
With a sword — Or by any other violent way.
And for an unclean person they shall take of the ashes of the burnt heifer of purification for sin, and running water shall be put thereto in a vessel:
Running water — Waters flowing from a spring or river, which are the purest. These manifestly signify God's spirit, which is oft compared to water, and by which alone true purification is obtained. Those who promise themselves benefit by the righteousness of Christ, while they submit not to the influence of his spirit, do but deceive themselves; for they cannot be purified by the ashes, otherwise than in the running water.
But the man that shall be unclean, and shall not purify himself, that soul shall be cut off from among the congregation, because he hath defiled the sanctuary of the LORD: the water of separation hath not been sprinkled upon him; he is unclean.
That shall not purify himself — Shall contemptuously refuse to submit to this way of purification.
And it shall be a perpetual statute unto them, that he that sprinkleth the water of separation shall wash his clothes; and he that toucheth the water of separation shall be unclean until even.
Shall wash his clothes — Because he is unclean. It is strange, that the same water should cleanse one person, and defile another. But God would have it so, 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: to mind the laws 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; and to shew 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 — 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.
And whatsoever the unclean person toucheth shall be unclean; and the soul that toucheth it shall be unclean until even.
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, and which was not removed without the use of this water of purification.
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Wesley, John. "Commentary on Numbers 19". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent