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Numbers 19:2

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

Speak unto the children of Israel that they bring thee, etc. - The ordinance of the red heifer was a sacrifice of general application. All the people were to have an interest in it, and therefore the people at large are to provide the sacrifice. This Jewish rite certainly had a reference to things done under the Gospel, as the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews has remarked: "For if," says he, "the blood of bulls and of goats," alluding, probably, to the sin-offerings and the scape-goat, "and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh; how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God!" Hebrews 9:13, Hebrews 9:14. As the principal stress of the allusion here is to the ordinance of the red heifer, we may certainly conclude that it was designed to typify the sacrifice of our blessed Lord.

We may remark several curious particulars in this ordinance.

  1. A heifer was appointed for a sacrifice, probably, in opposition to the Egyptian superstition which held these sacred, and actually worshipped their great goddess Isis under this form; and this appears the more likely because males in general were preferred for sacrifice, yet here the female is chosen.
  • It was to be a red heifer, because red bulls were sacrificed to appease the evil demon Typhon, worshipped among the Egyptians. See Spencer.
  • The heifer was to be without spot - having no mixture of any other color. Plutarch remarks, De Iside et de Osiride, that if there was a single hair in the animal either white or black, it marred the sacrifice. See Calmet, and see the note on Numbers 8:7.
  • Without blemish - having no kind of imperfection in her body; the other, probably, applying to the hair or color.
  • On which never came yoke, because any animal which had been used for any common purpose was deemed improper to be offered in sacrifice to God. The heathens, who appear to have borrowed much from the Hebrews, were very scrupulous in this particular. Neither the Greeks nor Romans, nor indeed the Egyptians, would offer an animal in sacrifice that had been employed for agricultural purposes. Of this we have the most positive evidence from Homer, Porphyry, Virgil, and Macrobius.
  • Just such a sacrifice as that prescribed here, does Diomede vow to offer to Pallas - Iliad, lib. x., ver. 291.

    Ὡς νυν μοι εθελουσα παριστασο, και με φυλασσε·π

    Σοι δ ' αυ εγω ῥεξω βουν ηνιν ευρυμετωπον,

    Αδμητην, ἡν ουπω ὑπο ζυγον ηγαγεν ανηρ·π

    Την τοι εγω ῥεξω, χρυσον κερασιν περιχευας .

    "So now be present, O celestial maid;

    So still continue to the race thine aid;

    A yearling heifer falls beneath the stroke,

    Untamed, unconscious of the galling yoke,

    With ample forehead and with spreading horns,

    Whose tapering tops refulgent gold adorns."

    Altered from Pope.

    In the very same words Nestor, Odyss., lib. iii., ver. 382, promises a similar sacrifice to Pallas.

    The Romans had the same religion with the Greeks, and consequently the same kind of sacrifices; so Virgil, Georg. iv., ver. 550.

    Quatuor eximios praestanti corpore tauros

    Ducit, et intacta totidem cervice juveneas.

    " - From his herd he culls

    For slaughter four the fairest of his bulls;

    Four heifers from his female stock he took,

    All fair, and all unknowing of the yoke."

    Dryden.

    It is very likely that the Gentiles learnt their first sacrificial rites from the patriarchs; and on this account we need not wonder to find so many coincidences in the sacrificial system of the patriarchs and Jews, and all the neighboring nations.

    Albert Barnes
    Notes on the Whole Bible

    A red heifer - Red, in order to shadow forth man‘s earthly body, even as the name Adam bears allusion to the red earth of which man‘s body was fashioned.

    Without spot, wherein is no blemish - As with sin-offerings generally Leviticus 4:3.

    Upon which never came yoke - So here and elsewhere (see the marginal references), in the case of female victims.

    Matthew Henry
    Concise Bible Commentary
    The heifer was to be wholly burned. This typified the painful sufferings of our Lord Jesus, both in soul and body, as a sacrifice made by fire, to satisfy God's justice for man's sin. These ashes are said to be laid up as a purification for sin, because, though they were only to purify from ceremonial uncleanness, yet they were a type of that purification for sin which our Lord Jesus made by his death. The blood of Christ is laid up for us in the word and sacraments, as a fountain of merit, to which by faith we may have constant recourse, for cleansing our consciences.
    Ellen G. White
    Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, 120-23

    When selfishness is striving for the victory over you, bear in mind One who left the glorious courts of heaven and laid aside the robes of royalty for your sakes, becoming poor that through His poverty you might be made rich. Will you, then, disregard this great love and boundless mercy by refusing to be inconvenienced and to deny yourselves for His dear sake? Will you cling to the treasures of this life and neglect to aid in carrying forward the great work of truth? 4T 120.1

    The children of Israel were anciently commanded to make an offering for the entire congregation to purify them from ceremonial defilement. This sacrifice was a red heifer and represented the more perfect offering that should redeem from the pollution of sin. This was an occasional sacrifice for the purification of all those who had necessarily or accidentally touched the dead. All who came in contact with death in any way were considered ceremonially unclean. This was to forcibly impress the minds of the Hebrews with the fact that death came in consequence of sin and therefore is a representative of sin. The one heifer, the one ark, the one brazen serpent, impressively point to the one great offering, the sacrifice of Christ. 4T 120.2

    This heifer was to be red, which was a symbol of blood. It must be without spot or blemish, and one that had never borne a yoke. Here, again, Christ was typified. The Son of God came voluntarily to accomplish the work of atonement. There was no obligatory yoke upon Him, for He was independent and above all law. The angels, as God's intelligent messengers, were under the yoke of obligation; no personal sacrifice of theirs could atone for the guilt of fallen man. Christ alone was free from the claims of the law to undertake the redemption of the sinful race. He had power to lay down His life and to take it up again. “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.” 4T 120.3

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