Numbers 19:15
And every open vessel, which has no covering bound on it, is unclean.
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19:11-22 Why did the law make a corpse a defiling thing? Because death is the wages of sin, which entered into the world by it, and reigns by the power of it. The law could not conquer death, nor abolish it, as the gospel does, by bringing life and immortality to light, and so introducing a better hope. As the ashes of the heifer signified the merit of Christ, so the running water signified the power and grace of the blessed Spirit, who is compared to rivers of living water; and it is by his work that the righteousness of Christ is applied to us for our cleansing. Those who promise themselves benefit by the righteousness of Christ, while they submit not to the grace and influence of the Holy Spirit, do but deceive themselves; we cannot be purified by the ashes, otherwise than in the running water. What use could there be in these appointments, if they do not refer to the doctrines concerning the sacrifice of Christ? But comparing them with the New Testament, the knowledge to be got from them is evident. The true state of fallen man is shown in these institutions. Here we learn the defiling nature of sin, and are warned to avoid evil communications.One practical effect of attaching defilement to a dead body, and to all that touched it, etc., would be to insure early burial, and to correct a practice not uncommon in the East, of leaving the deal to be devoured by the wild beasts. 14. when a man dieth in a tent, &c.—The instances adduced appear very minute and trivial; but important ends, both of a religious and of a sanitary nature, were promoted by carrying the idea of pollution from contact with dead bodies to so great an extent. While it would effectually prevent that Egyptianized race of Israelites imitating the superstitious custom of the Egyptians, who kept in their houses the mummied remains of their ancestors, it ensured a speedy interment to all, thus not only keeping burial places at a distance, but removing from the habitations of the living the corpses of persons who died from infectious disorders, and from the open field the unburied remains of strangers and foreigners who fell in battle. Every open vessel, because it receives the air of the tent, by which it is ceremonially polluted. Compare Leviticus 11:32,33. And every open vessel,.... An earthen one, as the Targum of Jonathan; and so Jarchi interprets it; and Maimonides (r) observes, that this is only to be understood of an earthen vessel:

which hath no covering bound upon it; a linen or a woollen cloth wrapped and tied about it:

is unclean; the air of the house getting into it by its being uncovered.

(r) In Misn. Cholin, c. 1. sect. 6.

And every open vessel, which hath no covering bound upon it, is unclean.
Verse 15. - Which hath no covering bound upon it. So the Septuagint (ὅσα οὐχὶ δεσμὸν καταδέδεται ἐπ αὐτῷ), and this is the sense. In the Hebrew פָּתִיל, a string, stands in apposition to צָּמִיד, a covering. If the vessel was open, its contents were polluted by the odour of death. The persons who took part in this - viz., the priest, the man who attended to the burning, and the clean man who gathered the ashes together, and deposited them in a clean place for subsequent use - became unclean till the evening in consequence; not from the fact that they had officiated for unclean persons, and, in a certain sense, had participated in their uncleanness (Knobel), but through the uncleanness of sin and death, which had passed over to the sin-offering; just as the man who led into the wilderness the goat which had been rendered unclean through the imposition of sin, became himself unclean in consequence (Leviticus 16:26). Even the sprinkling water prepared from the ashes defiled every one who touched it (Numbers 19:21). But when the ashes were regarded in relation to their appointment as the means of purification, they were to be treated as clean. Not only were they to be collected together by a clean man; but they were to be kept for use in a clean place, just as the ashes of the sacrifices that were taken away from the altar were to be carried to a clean place outside the camp (Leviticus 6:4). These defilements, like every other which only lasted till the evening, were to be removed by washing. The ashes thus collected were to serve the congregation נדּה למי, i.e., literally as water of uncleanness; in other words, as water by which uncleanness was to be removed. "Water of uncleanness" is analogous to "water of sin" in Numbers 8:7.
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