Pastoral Commentary for Numbers 19:1-20:21
Author: Pastor Bob Nordlie
The death of so many Israelites as a result of Korah's rebellion prompted special measures for purification of the assembly. The killing of the red heifer commanded by God was distinct from any other sacrifice He had commanded. The ashes of the animal that was burned were to be deposited outside the camp in a clean place and were to be kept for use in the water for cleansing the people of Israel from impurity. None of this ritual cleansing would mean a thing if it did not point to the One Sacrifice who was truly without defect and in whom there was no blemish, Jesus Christ. Rituals were also established by God for the cleansing of those who came in contact with the dead long after the rebellion. A clean person was to purify the tent in which a person had died by taking water for purification and using a hyssop branch to sprinkle it on the tent and all its furnishings and on any people who were in the tent of the person who died. Chapter 20 begins with a record of the death of Miriam in the first month of the 40th year after the Exodus. Once again the people found themselves short of water, and like their fathers before them, a new generation quarreled with Moses about their misery in the wilderness. Moses and Aaron went before the Lord and He commanded Moses to take his staff and command the rock to yield its water. Instead, Moses struck the rock twice with the staff and water poured out. As a result of Moses' unbelief, God told him "you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them."