Life-Study of Numbers, by Witness Lee


Chapter nineteen of Numbers is a very peculiar chapter in the Bible. It is not easy to understand why this chapter is here. In this chapter a heifer is burned with other items, and the ashes are used to make a water for impurity. By reading the whole chapter we can understand that the impurity, the uncleanness, refers mainly to the filthiness of death. This water is a provision to get rid of the effect and impurity of death.

Immediately after the rebellion in chapter sixteen, death was everywhere. In one day fourteen thousand seven hundred people died, and their carcasses lay everywhere. In many of the tents in the camp, there were dead bodies. A man became contaminated by touching a dead body (19:11), by being present when a person died (v. 18), or by entering the tent where a dead body had been (v. 14). The entire population of two million Israelites was under the effect of death. They were all in a situation of impurity. Thus, there was the need for the water for impurity to annul the effect and impurity of death.

Probably, in Exodus and Leviticus God did not have the thought concerning the water for impurity, because in those times there was not such a popular, universal death as in Numbers. In Numbers 19 death overshadowed the entire people of God. After the death of the fourteen thousand seven hundred, virtually all the tents and every vessel in the tents became contaminated. Wherever anyone went or whatever he touched, he became unclean.

In chapter seventeen, the budding rod was a vindication of the priesthood. Then, in chapter eighteen, the regulations were restated as a reconfirmation of the compensation to the priests and the Levites so that the problem would be settled forever. Finally, in chapter nineteen, the water for impurity was invented to deal with the universal effect of death among God’s people.

A. Its Composition

Let us first consider the composition of the water for impurity and see how this water was composed.

1. A Heifer

"This is the statute of the law which Jehovah has commanded, saying, Tell the sons of Israel to bring you a red heifer without blemish, in which there is no defect, and upon which a yoke has never come" (19:2). This heifer, the principal component of the water for purification, signifies Christ for our redemption.

a. Red

The color red signifies the likeness of the flesh of sin, for the bearing of man’s sin outwardly. When Christ was incarnated, He became in the likeness of the flesh of sin (Rom. 8:3).

b. Without Blemish

The heifer was without blemish. This signifies that Christ was without sin. Although Christ was in the likeness of the flesh of sin, within Him there was no sin. He did not have the sinful nature.

(Life-Study of Numbers, Chapter 28, by Witness Lee)