(2) This is the ordinance of the law . . . —This combination of the two words denoting “law” and “statute or ordinance” is peculiar. It occurs once more in Numbers 31:21, and seems to imply the importance of the law which was about to be given. The extraordinary mortality which the Israelites had sustained (Numbers 16:49) may have called for some special rites of purification from the defilement caused by contact with the dead. There is no distinct intimation, however, of the time at which this law was first promulgated, which Ibn Ezra and others suppose to have been previously to the departure from Sinai. The words “which the Lord hath (or had) commanded” are consistent with the fact of the previous existence of the ordinance, though not necessarily suggestive of it. This institution was one which admitted of observance in the wilderness under circumstances in which other requirements of the Levitical law could not be observed.
Without spot.—The word so translated may be taken in connection with that which precedes it, and may denote that the heifer was to be entirely red; or it may, more probably, be taken in connection with the words which follow, and may be understood as defining more precisely the freedom of the animal from every defect. (Comp. Leviticus 22:19-20.)
Before the tabernacle of the congregation . . . —i.e., opposite to the entrance of the Tabernacle, but, as stated in the preceding verse, outside the camp, because the act had reference to the uncleanness of death.
Numbers 19:20But the man that shall be unclean, and shall not purify himself, that soul shall be cut off from among the congregation, because he hath defiled the sanctuary of the LORD: the water of separation hath not been sprinkled upon him; he is unclean.
Numbers 19:21And it shall be a perpetual statute unto them, that he that sprinkleth the water of separation shall wash his clothes; and he that toucheth the water of separation shall be unclean until even.
Numbers 19:22And whatsoever the unclean person toucheth shall be unclean; and the soul that toucheth it shall be unclean until even.