Numbers 19Ė20

Sunday Evening Bible Study

March 1, 1998


The book of Numbers is the book about the History of Israel during their wanderings in the wilderness for forty years. They are in the "in-between-state" of having been delivered from the bondage of Egypt, but have yet to enter into the Promised Land that God has for them.

The people are in the process of being transformed from a band of delivered slaves, to an organized fighting army.

Numbers 19

:1-10 Ashes of the Red Heifer

:2 a red heifer without spot

There had to be no blemishes on this animal. Even today, the heifer they were considering using might have some "blemishes" on it.

:4 sprinkle of her blood directly before the tabernacle of the congregation seven times

Why? Possibly to indicate that though the slaughter took place outside the camp (removing of sins), the offering was being made to the Lord.

Seven times probably refers to the "completeness" of the cleansing.

:5 burn the heifer

Notice, everything about the animal is burned. This is just like the burnt offering, but there's more...

:6 cedar wood, and hyssop, and scarlet

Why were these things added to the burning animal?

Somehow, these things are tied to the idea of cleansing.

When a leper was cleansed from his disease, these things were present in the ritual.

LEV 14:2-4 "This shall be the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing. Now he shall be brought to the priest, 3 and the priest shall go out to the outside of the camp. Thus the priest shall look, and if the infection of leprosy has been healed in the leper, 4 then the priest shall give orders to take two live clean birds and cedar wood and a scarlet string and hyssop for the one who is to be cleansed.

Hyssop was a plant, whose branches were often used to sprinkle blood in the different sacrifices.

It was used on the first Passover to sprinkle the blood on the door posts.

David writes:

PSA 51:7 Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Scarlet reminds us of blood, the vehicle for cleansing.

ISA 1:18 "Come now, and let us reason together," Says the \Lord\, "Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool.

Cedar - ?Because of it's aromatic properties?

:9 a water of separation: it is a purification for sin

NAS Ė "water to remove impurity; it is purification from sin."

This water was to be used as a kind of "sin offering" for certain kinds of purification rites.

"Only six red heifers are said to have been needed during the whole of Jewish history, so far-reaching and so long enduring were the uses and advantages of a single sacrifice." (Pulpit Commentary)

The next red heifer will be the seventh. Hmmmmm.

The same words used here ("water" and "purification") were also used in describing part of the ritual done in preparing the Levites for their service:

Num 8:6-7 Take the Levites from among the children of Israel, and cleanse them. 7 And thus shalt thou do unto them, to cleanse them: Sprinkle water of purifying upon them, and let them shave all their flesh, and let them wash their clothes, and [so] make themselves clean.

This was the setting aside of the Levites to be helpers for the priests. It couldnít be done unless there was this "water of purifying" (same Hebrew words as is used in Num.19:9,17), describing the "living water" mixed with the ashes of the red heifer.

:11-22 Using the ashes

:11 toucheth the dead body Ö unclean seven days

Death was a pretty pervasive evil. Look how it contaminated things!

Weíre now going to see one of the uses of these ashes.

:12 with it

NAS says "with the water"

This is referring to the ashes, which will be mixed with water.

:12 on the third day Ö the seventh day he shall be clean

We're going to find out in verse 19 how this purification was to take place.

Interesting days picked! Third day? Seventh day?

I can't help but think of the third day as tied to the Resurrection, when our own cleansing was paid for.

The seventh day was when God was finished with His work, His work was completed, the cleansing was completed. I think the seventh day is also a picture of the millenium, the seventh millenium, when we shall all rest.

If you donít wash on the third day, you arenít cleansed when the seventh comes around.

Is this too farfetched? "If you donít wash in the resurrection, you wonít rest in the millenium" What do you think?

:13 Whosoever toucheth the dead body Ö defileth the tabernacle of the LORD

Though this law was probably applicable to all the Israelites, it was mostly applicable to the Priests and Levites, because as things have progressed, and God has made it clear that the Priests and Levites were to do all the tabernacle work.

NUM 18:22 "And the sons of Israel shall not come near the tent of meeting again, lest they bear sin and die.

This is a warning aimed at the priests, that they had better be properly cleansed before they do their ministry.

:17 take of the ashes Ö running water

running water - flowing water - "living water"

Generally this referred to water gathered at a spring or river as opposed to "stale" well water or water collected in a cistern.

It takes "living water" to apply the cleansing of the red heiferís ashes.

The New Testament refers to the Holy Spirit as being like rivers of living water.

JOH 7:38-39 "He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.'" 39 But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet {given,} because Jesus was not yet glorified.

Importance of the Ashes of the Red Heifer

Prophetic significance

For the Jews, since this was part of God's provision in keeping the priests fit for duty.

When you look carefully at this chapter, God is saying that if a priest would touch a dead person, and if he didn't cleanse himself with these ashes of the red heifer, then he would be cut off from fellowship, he would be cut off from his ministry.

Weíve also seen how this was used in the ceremony used to prepare the Levites for their ministry. (Num.8:6-7)

The Bible speaks very clearly that there will be another temple in the last days.

If the Jews are going to take their Scriptures seriously, then they are going to also have to provide the priests and their helpers the Levites with the ashes of the red heifer.

The problem was that there havenít been any qualified "red heifers" since the temple was destroyed in Jerusalem in AD 70.

Until recently, when through the miracle of modern science, a man from Texas and some people in Israel have gotten together and have begun to breed what might be the next red heifer.

Last year there was big news when "Melody" was introduced to the world, a red heifer living in a kibbutz in northern Israel. Some have said she might not be qualified since she seems to have some patches of white hairs. But itís only a matter of time now. The heifer has to be three years old when itís sacrificed, according to Jewish tradition.


Cleansing for the Ministry

The priest had to be "clean" in performing his duties, and God didn't want "dirty" priests hanging around the tabernacle.

You and I are priests. (Rev. 1:6)

God has called us to bring the needs of people to Him in prayer, as well as represent Him to others.

God wants us clean too.

He doesn't want our lives surrounded with dirty things, our minds filled with dirty thoughts.

Have you ever been so weighed down with the guilt over your own sins, then someone walks up to you and is begging you to talk to them about God's love and forgiveness?

Have you ever been in a situation where you've had your mind filled with all kinds of dirty thoughts, and suddenly someone comes up to you and wants you to pray with them?

You sure don't feel like coming before the throne of God in that condition, do you?

How does God cleanse us?

1. The Blood of Jesus

HEB 9:13-14 For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled, sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

It cleanses our conscience! The blood of Jesus has the ability to take that inner voice that experiences the guilt inside us, and to wash it clean.

The way we receive the cleansing is through confession.

1JO 1:6-9 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and {yet} walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; 7 but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

To experience forgiveness, we must learn to come out completely and admit our own guilt.

Many people are cheated from forgiveness because they don't want to admit that they are actually responsible for what they have done. We make up excuses, blame our parents, blame our teachers, blame anybody and anything but ourselves.


In disciplining our boys, my goal is to get them to tell me what they've done wrong, and why it's wrong. I don't want to just be satisfied with whacking their little bottoms. I want them to confess their sin. They're learning that the quicker they admit that they did something bad, the quicker and easier the discipline goes. When they don't want to admit it, the discipline can last a long time.

But when we finally own up to the fact that "I have sinned", then God removes the burden of guilt from our lives.

2. The Word of God

The Blood of Jesus cleanses our consciences, but we can still run around with dirty little minds.

(John 15:1-3 KJV) I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. {2} Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. {3} Now ye are clean (pruned, purged)through the word which I have spoken unto you.

There are certain kinds of plants, like grape vines or roses, that grow best when you take good care of them. In particular, you need to prune them.

One of the things you do when you prune is take out all the dead junk, clear out the dead wood.

Sometimes you even have to prune off a branch or two that has some nice flowers, but because in the long run, it's better for the plant.

Jesus does much of His pruning on us with His Word.

It's His way of cleansing us.

You may be struggling with dirty lust thoughts. The best soap for the brain is God's Word!

May we be so immersed in God's Word, and His pure thoughts, that all the dirty innuendoes go right over our heads!

TIT 1:15 To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled.

Numbers 20

:1 Miriam dies

:1 in the first month

We believe it has now been forty years since they left Egypt. Aaron is going to die in chapter 33, in the fifth month, this is four months previous. (Num.33:38-39)

:1 the people abode in Kadesh

What happened the last time they were at Kadesh? (Num.13)

It was forty years ago when they had just come out of Egypt, they came up to the border of the Promised Land at Kadesh.

Moses had sent out twelve spies, ten of which came back with such a bad report, that the people got discouraged and didn't want to go into God's Promised Land.

God promised them forty years of wandering, a time of getting them ready to take the Promised Land.


Learn it now, or learn it later.

Sometimes we don't always learn the lessons we're supposed to the first time.

Sometimes we just run away from our problems.

But God usually brings us around some time or later to deal with the problem again.


Somebody may have hurt or abused you in some way. God wants you to learn how to forgive them. You refuse. Sooner or later, you'll be faced again with the problem, will you learn to forgive?

You get a nice job, doing all the things you like to do, but there are some people you work with who have lots of problems. God wants you to learn how to get along with them and even maybe love and minister to them. But instead you quit work and look for another job. But amazingly enough, at the new job, you find the same people, different faces maybe, but the same people. Itís amazing how this works!

You get married. But as you find out in a few years, you can't get along with your spouse. There's just things they do that you can't stand. God wants you to learn how to love unconditionally, but you get a divorce instead. You marry again, and again, and again, yet every time you get married, you find that all these people have problems.

And so, the people find themselves in a familiar place once again.

:1 Miriam died there

Moses' older sister. Kind of the head of the "Women's Ministry".

:2-13 The waters of Meribah

:2 there was no water for the congregation

Keep in mind that there are close to two million people here. That requires a lot of water to keep alive in a desert!

Kadesh is normally a well-watered oasis, but when they arrive this time, it's all dried up.

Sounds like a familiar problem for the people!

:3 the people chided with Moses

You would think that the people would have learned by now not to mess around with Moses.

We can kind of get down on these people, with all there grumbling and complaining. It seems like they're always complaining.

But keep in mind that we're covering a span of forty years in the book of Numbers.

How many times have you complained in the last week? Let alone in the last forty years?

:5 it is no place of seed, or of figs, or of vines,...

Of course it's not, you're still in the wilderness dummy!

When you're in a wilderness time, don't spend your time complaining about how bad it is, start looking for the lessons you're supposed to be learning, and start learning them!

The faster you learn your lessons, the quicker you'll get out of the wilderness.

Sometimes the lesson is patience, and be ready, you'll never learn that one overnight!

JAM 1:2-4 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have {its} perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

:6 unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation,

Moses and Aaron respond to the people's complaining by going to God

(Psa 61:1-4 KJV) To the chief Musician upon Neginah, A Psalm of David. Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer. {2} From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I. {3} For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy. {4} I will abide in thy tabernacle for ever: I will trust in the covert of thy wings. Selah.

When your heart is overwhelmed with everyone elseís complaints, go to the Rock that is higher than you are.

:6 they fell upon their faces

Why don't we do that more?

:8 the rock before their eyes

What or who was this Rock?

(1 Cor 10:1-6 KJV) Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; {2} And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; {3} And did all eat the same spiritual meat; {4} And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. {5} But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. {6} Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.

It's important here that we realize that God wasn't just talking about any ordinary old rock that just happened to be around.

Apparently, from 1Cor.10:4, the Rock was following them.

There are even certain Jewish Rabbinical teachings that say that the rock followed them through the desert, giving them water.

The Rock was Jesus

So, God is going to get very specific as to just how to treat this Rock, as to just how to solve this problem.


Jesus is our Rock that follows us.

Jesus is following us through our wilderness times too, ready to give us refreshing water any time, just for the asking.

He carries us through our trials.

:8 Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together

This was supposed to be a lesson to the people. It wasn't supposed to be something done secretly. They were supposed to see what happened.

:8 speak ye unto the rock

The last time they had complained about a lack of water, Moses was to do something differently.

Ex 17:6 Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel.

Last time, they were to strike the Rock. Now they are to speak to it.

Remember who/what the Rock is.

:10 ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock?

Moses' emphasis is all wrong here.

He's certainly fed up with the people, calling them "rebels".

He's drawing attention to himself, not to God.

He's not asking them if they want God to help them, he feels as if itís all up to him to help them out.

:12 Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel,

Why is God being so harsh on Moses?

After all, the water did come out of the rock, the people were satisfied, isn't that enough?

1. Moses disobeyed God

God doesn't always do things the same way twice.

I wonder if he was just doing it because that was what worked last time.

That's our tendency: If God works during a special time or place in our lives, we often want to go back and try to duplicate that event so we can see God work again.

The problem is that we misunderstand God.

He works because He's God, not because we said some magic words or something.

Obeying God doesn't always mean doing the same thing you did before.

God desires that we learn to be sensitive to His Spirit and the new things He wants to do and places to take us.

For those in leadership, leadership means having a much tougher standard to follow.

If you are in an influential position, then whatever example you set will probably influence those who look up to you.

JAM 3:1-2 Let not many {of you} become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment. 2 For we all stumble in many {ways.} If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well.

2. Moses misrepresented God

Moses seems to be acting in anger.

He calls the people "rebels"

He strikes the rock, not even once, but twice.

Even though at other times, God made it clear that He was angry with the people, it wasn't so here.

to treat me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel

God is concerned that we don't just think about Him as being holy whenever we're in worship, but also throughout all of our lives, as we are in front of others.

We are always setting an example, either a good one or a bad one.

People are watching you to see what this Jesus stuff is all about. Are they going to look at your life and decide, "Hmmm, I guess this Jesus stuff isn't such a big deal anyway".

God wanted the people to see that all Moses had to do was speak, and God would graciously supply water. But Moses made it look as if he had to beat someone up to get some water.

  1. Moses blew the picture

We know that the Rock was Jesus, it represented Him (1Cor.10), and so we know that there's significance in relation to Jesus with these events.

The picture, as God intended it, was supposed to be that Jesus being struck on the cross, and then all who would simply call on Him would be saved.

But instead, Moses struck the rock again, blowing the whole imagery.

Moses made it look as if by human strength he could make the water come out, as if by your own actions you could be saved.

God says we are saved by believing, by calling out to Him.

:13 the waters of Meribah

Meribah = "place of strife", or "contention"

Because the sons of Israel contended (Hebrew - rib) with the Lord.

Psalm 95 - lesson from Meribah

God is great and awesome

We should worship Him

We shouldn't let our hearts get hard.

These were people who had been acquainted with some of God's great wonders. They knew what God was able to do.

But rather than ask God to help them, they decided to just be tired of what was happening to them and start complaining.

:14-21 Edom refuses passage through their land

:14 Edom

The Edomites were related to the Israelites. The Israelites descended from Jacob, the Edomites descended from Esau, the twin sons of Isaac and Rebekah.

As brothers, they weren't exactly close (putting it mildly)

The Edomites had settled to the southeast of Canaan, while the Israelites had gone down to Egypt during the famine.

:17 by the king's high way

Kind of like our own "El Camino Real", this was a well known highway that passed from the Red Sea north to Damascus by way of the Edomite city of Sela (Petra).

:20 Thou shalt not go through

Pretty tough words to say to a mass of two million people. Yet the road through Edom included some very narrow, easily defended places (remember Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, riding horses to Petra?).

:22-29 Aaron dies

:22 mount Hor

Probably "Jebel Harun", a short distance northwest of Petra. Moses is taking the people around Edom to the east.

:23 Aaron

Moses' older brother, who was also the high priest for the nation.

:26 Aaron shall be gathered unto his people...

Imagine being told that this was the day you were going to die!

gathered to his people Ė Another term for death, being gathered with the saints in paradise

:28 Moses stripped Aaron of his garments...

There was the passing of the high priesthood from Aaron to his son Eleazar, and as soon as it was accomplished, Aaron dies.

When our job is finished, we change clothes and go home.