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Series Theme: FRAMEWORKS: Numbers

(Return to Old Testament Contents)

 

CONTEXT:

PART 4: Rebellion & Corrections

In the fourth part it is difficult to know quite where the jump of forty years takes place but in it we find a rebellion and judgment but then a re-establishing of Aaron and the Priesthood, a clarification of the role of the Levites, and an additional set of rules that can be applied outside the priesthood.

Ch.16: [Action] Rebellion

- the rebellion and judgment of Korah etc.

Ch.17: [Action] The Lord Elevates Aaron

- the budding of Aaron's staff

Ch.18: [Law] Priests versus Levites

- roles of both

Ch.19: [Law] Water for Cleansing ‘Uncleanness'

- cleansing with ashes of a red heifer

    

 

FRAMEWORKS: Numbers 19: Water for Cleansing ‘Uncleanness'

 

v.1-10 The Red Heifer Ashes prepared

v.11-13 Unclean by touching a corpse

v.14-15 Unclean by a Tent Death

v.16 Unclean by touching any dead body

v.17-22 Cleansing such an Unclean Person

 

 

v.1-10 The Red Heifer Ashes prepared

 

v.1 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron:

v.2 A Red heifer chosen

v.2 “This is a requirement of the law that the Lord has commanded: Tell the Israelites to bring you a red heifer without defect or blemish and that has never been under a yoke.

v.3 Killed outside the camp

v.3 Give it to Eleazar the priest; it is to be taken outside the camp and slaughtered in his presence.

v.4 Blood taken and sprinkled before the tent

v.4 Then Eleazar the priest is to take some of its blood on his finger and sprinkle it seven times toward the front of the tent of meeting.

v.5,6 Heifer then burned

v.5 While he watches, the heifer is to be burned—its hide, flesh, blood and intestines.

v.6 The priest is to take some cedar wood, hyssop and scarlet wool and throw them onto the burning heifer.

v.7 Priest to be washed

v.7 After that, the priest must wash his clothes and bathe himself with water. He may then come into the camp, but he will be ceremonially unclean till evening.

v.8 The helper to be washed

v.8 The man who burns it must also wash his clothes and bathe with water, and he too will be unclean till evening.

v.9 The ashes to be kept safe outside the camp

v.9 “A man who is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer and put them in a ceremonially clean place outside the camp. They are to be kept by the Israelite community for use in the water of cleansing; it is for purification from sin.

v.10 The helper to be washed

v.10 The man who gathers up the ashes of the heifer must also wash his clothes, and he too will be unclean till evening. This will be a lasting ordinance both for the Israelites and for the foreigners residing among them.

 

[Notes: In the previous two chapters after the rebellion in chapter 16, Aaron had been exalted [ch.17] and then the Levites differentiated from the Priesthood [ch.18]. Now in this chapter there is this alternative method of ‘cleansing people' that did not require the priesthood and the first stage is simply creating ashes from burning a red heifer (cow).]

 

 

v.11-13 Unclean by touching a corpse

 

v.11 “Whoever touches a human corpse will be unclean for seven days.

v.12 They must purify themselves with the water on the third day and on the seventh day; then they will be clean. But if they do not purify themselves on the third and seventh days, they will not be clean.

v.13 If they fail to purify themselves after touching a human corpse, they defile the Lord 's tabernacle. They must be cut off from Israel. Because the water of cleansing has not been sprinkled on them, they are unclean; their uncleanness remains on them.

 

[Notes: The first general cause of uncleanness is touching a corpse. This person will need cleansing. This is the basic requirement that will be clarified in the following verses.]

 

 

v.14-15 Unclean by a Tent Death

 

v.14 “This is the law that applies when a person dies in a tent: Anyone who enters the tent and anyone who is in it will be unclean for seven days,

v.15 and every open container without a lid fastened on it will be unclean.

 

[Notes: The first cause of uncleanness is now narrowed down to needing cleansing by touching a body that specifically has died in a tent and making the tent unclean.]

 

 

v.16 Unclean by touching any dead body

 

v.16 “Anyone out in the open who touches someone who has been killed with a sword or someone who has died a natural death, or anyone who touches a human bone or a grave, will be unclean for seven days.

 

[Notes: The next clarification is a touching a dead body out in the open.]

 

 

v.17-22 Cleansing such an Unclean Person

 

v.17 “For the unclean person, put some ashes from the burned purification offering into a jar and pour fresh water over them.

v.18 Then a man who is ceremonially clean is to take some hyssop, dip it in the water and sprinkle the tent and all the furnishings and the people who were there. He must also sprinkle anyone who has touched a human bone or a grave or anyone who has been killed or anyone who has died a natural death.

v.19 The man who is clean is to sprinkle those who are unclean on the third and seventh days, and on the seventh day he is to purify them. Those who are being cleansed must wash their clothes and bathe with water, and that evening they will be clean.

v.20 But if those who are unclean do not purify themselves, they must be cut off from the community, because they have defiled the sanctuary of the Lord. The water of cleansing has not been sprinkled on them, and they are unclean.

v.21 This is a lasting ordinance for them. “The man who sprinkles the water of cleansing must also wash his clothes, and anyone who touches the water of cleansing will be unclean till evening.

v.22 Anything that an unclean person touches becomes unclean, and anyone who touches it becomes unclean till evening.”

 

[Notes: The way the unclean person is cleansed is with the help of another person who is not unclean who will pour water over the ashes provided before and then sprinkle the unclean person with that water. While this action may not have any power to cleanse in any forensic manner, the exercise does create a ritual that emphasises the necessity to take health precautions after having had to touch a dead body that may possibly be infected in some manner. It is a simple ritual not requiring the priesthood to carry it out.]

 

CONTINUE TO CHAPTER 20