Numbers Chapter 19 revolves around the topic of cleansing water and following along with several other rituals common to the people of the Old Testament.
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Water Cleansing Rituals
The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron. The Lord told them to tell the Israelites to bring forth a red heifer and to take it to Eleazar to have it slaughtered. The heifer is to be killed outside of the camp and blood from it is to be sprinkled in front of the tent. The heifer is then to be completely burned.
Afterwards, the priest at the temple will be required to bathe himself and wash his clothes. He may return to the camp, but he will be deemed ceremonially unclean.
The ashes of the heifer are to be collected by a man who is clean. There will be a purpose for collecting the ashes. Namely, the ashes will be mixed with water and then used as part of future ceremonial cleaning.
The Rituals of the Unclean
God said in Numbers chapter 19 that a person who touches a corpse will be considered unclean. The same is said of a person who dies inside of a tent. Also, anyone that touches a person killed or wounded by a sword will be deemed unclean.
However, there is hope for those who are now considered to be unclean. The ashes and water that was previously mentioned will be sprinkled on them and used to wash them over the course of a seven-day period. This process will aid in restoring the person who is unclean back to an acceptable condition.
Ironically, anyone that touches the cleaning water will be considered unclean until the evening. The same is said of any person who is touched by someone who is unclean.
Numbers 19 (King James Version)
1 And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying,
2 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:
3 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:
4 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:
5 And one shall burn the heifer in his sight; her skin, and her flesh, and her blood, with her dung, shall he burn:
6 And the priest shall take cedar wood, and hyssop, and scarlet, and cast it into the midst of the burning of the heifer.
7 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.
8 And he that burneth her shall wash his clothes in water, and bathe his flesh in water, and shall be unclean until the even.
9 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.
10 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.
11 He that toucheth the dead body of any man shall be unclean seven days.
12 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.
13 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.
14 This is the law, when a man dieth in a tent: all that come into the tent, and all that is in the tent, shall be unclean seven days.
15 And every open vessel, which hath no covering bound upon it, is unclean.
16 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.
17 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:
18 And a clean person shall take hyssop, and dip it in the water, and sprinkle it upon the tent, and upon all the vessels, and upon the persons that were there, and upon him that touched a bone, or one slain, or one dead, or a grave:
19 And the clean person shall sprinkle upon the unclean on the third day, and on the seventh day: and on the seventh day he shall purify himself, and wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and shall be clean at even.
20 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.
21 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.
22 And whatsoever the unclean person toucheth shall be unclean; and the soul that toucheth it shall be unclean until even.