Numbers 19 Commentary
The chapter opens with some very strange instructions. Moses is commanded to arrange a red cow which Eleazer has to burn completely outside the camp. The instruction is a unique procedure for producing water and ash for purifying one who comes in contact with a dead body.
The picture we get here is that death is to be feared. Rather than a peaceful transition into eternity, death represents a darkness that Israel should be afraid of. Throughout the Torah death presents a consequence of sin. It is a separation from one’s God and not exactly a return to one’s maker, as we understand it today.
So having formulated the cleansing material, now the holy script turns its attention to details of application. Again we see that you still needed to purify yourself even if a contact with death was purely accidental. Here is the point: electricity will shock you even when you unintentionally touch it. The holiness of the LORD is something like that. It is part of the LORD’S nature. The worshiper should be aware of this holiness at all times.
An emphasis to stay pure underlines the need to seek life. It’s a reflection of a search for life which Adam lost in the garden. We can see it as an attempt to awaken man to the realities of death that the LORD pronounced on sinful Adam. So man is encouraged to seek life and that is only made possible by the life-giver Himself. It’s the work that the LORD models here but completed by the same LORD at Calvary.
Again we see the detailed rituals as pointing to the cross. The color of the cow and the quality of the animal all point to the need for a perfect process. The details are too much and truly difficult to keep. But that gives us a picture of what it takes to draw closer to the LORD. It never came on the cheap. How grateful the saint should be for the work at the cross!
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