Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 4: Harmony of the Law, Part II, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
1. And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying,
1. Loquutus est insuper Jehova as Mosen et Aharon, dicendo:
2. This is the ordinance of the law which the LORD hath commanded, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring thee a red heifer without spot, wherein is no blemish, and upon which never came yoke:
2. Hoc est statutum Legis quod praecepit Jehova, dicendo, Alloquere filios Israel, ut afferant ad te vaccam rufam perfectam, in qua non sit macula, super quam non ascenderit jugum.
3. And ye shall give her unto Eleazar the priest, that he may bring her forth without the camp, and one shall slay her before his face:
3. Et dabitis eam Eleazar sacerdoti, qui educet eam extra castra, et mactandam curabit ante se.
4. And Eleazar the priest shall take of her blood with his finger, and sprinkle of her blood directly before the tabernacle of the congregation seven times:
4. Capietque Eleazar sacerdos de sanguine ejus digito suo, et sparget e regione faciei tabernaculi conventionis de sanguine ejus septera vicibus.
5. And one shall burn the heifer in his sight; her skin, and her flesh, and her blood, with her dung, shall he burn:
5. Postea comburendam curabit vaccam in oculis suis: pellem ejus, ct carnem ejus, et sanguinem ejus una cum fimo ejus comburet.
6. And the priest shall take cedar wood, and hyssop, and scarlet, and cast it into the midst of the burning of the heifer.
6. Tunc accipiet sacerdos lignum cedrinum, et hyssopum, et coccum vermiculi, projicietque in medium combustionis vaccae.
7. Then the priest shall wash his clothes, and he shall bathe his flesh in water, and afterward he shall come into the camp, and the priest shall be unclean until the even.
7. Et lavabit vestes suas sacerdos, lavabit quoque carnem suam aqua, et postea ingredietur castra, immundusque erit sacerdos usque ad vesperam.
8. And he that burneth her shall wash his clothes in water, and bathe his flesh in water, and shall be unclean until the even.
8. Ille quoque qui combusserit eam, lavabit vestimenta sua aqua, lavabit et carnem suam aqua, immundusque erit usque ad vesperam.
9. And a man that is clean shall gather up the ashes of’ the heifer, and lay them up without the camp in a clean place, and it shall be kept for the congregation of the children of Israel for a water of separation: it is a purification for sin.
9. Colliget autem vir mundus cinerem illius vaccae, et ponet illum extra castra in loco mundo: eritque congregationi filiorum Israel in custodiam in aquam separationis: nam expiatio est.
10. And he that gathereth the ashes of the heifer shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until the even: and it shall be unto the children of Israel, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among them, for a statute for ever.
10. Et lavabit qui collegerit cinerem vaccae vestimenta sua, immundusque erit usqu,e ad vesperam: et erit filiis Israel et peregrino qui pere-grinatur in medio eorum, in statutum perpetuum.
11. He that toucheth the dead body of any man shall be unclean seven days.
11. Qui tetigerit cadaver omnis animae hominis, immundus erit septem diebus.
12. He shall purify himself with it on the third day, and on the seventh day he shall be clean: but if he purify not himself the third day, then the seventh day he shall not be clean.
12. Ipse purificabitur eo die tertia, et die septima mundus erit: quod si non purificatus fuerit die tertia, die septima non erit mundus.
13. Whosoever toucheth the dead body of any man that is dead, and purifieth not himself, defileth the tabernacle of the LORD; and that soul shall be cut off from Israel: because the water of separation was not sprinkled upon him, he shall be unclean; his uncleanness is yet upon him.
13. Quicunque tetigerit mortuum, animam hominis qui mortuus fuerit, et non fuerit purificatus, tabernaculum Jehovae polluit: et excidetur anima illa ex Israel: quia aqua separationis non fuit aspersa super eum, immundus erit, adhuc immunditia ejus erit in ipso
14. This is the law, when a man dieth in a tent: All that come into the tent, and all that is in the tent, shall be unclean seven days.
14. Haec est lex, Quum quis mortuus fuerit in tabernaculo, quicunque ingressus fuerit tabernaculum, et quicquid fuerit tabernaculo, immundum erit septem diebus.
15. And every open vessel, which hath no covering bound upon it, is unclean.
15. Omne item vas apertum super quo non fuerit operculum adjectum, immundum est.
16. And whosoever toucheth one that is slain with a sword in the open fields, or a dead body, or a bone of a man, or a grave, shall be unclean seven days.
16. Quicunque praeterea tetigerit in superficie agri occisum gladio, aut mortuum, aut os hominis, aut sepul-chrum, immundus erit septem diebus.
17. And for an unclean person they shall take of the ashes of the burnt heifer of purification for sin, and running water shall be put thereto in a vessel:
17. Tollentque pro immundo de pulvere combustionis oblationis pro peccato, et ponent super eum aquam vlvam in vase.
18. And a clean person shall take hyssop, and dip it in the water, and sprinkle it upon the tent, and upon all the vessels, and upon the persons that were there, and upon him that touched a bone, or one slain, or one dead, or a grave:
18. Capiet item hyssopum, et intinget in aquam vir mundus, et sparget super tabernaculum, et super omnem supellectilem, et super animas quae fuerint ibi, ac super eum qui tetigit os illud, vel occisum, vel mortuum, vel sepulchrum.
19. And the clean person shall sprinkle upon the unclean on the third day, and on the seventh day: and on the seventh day he shall purify himself, and wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and shall be clean at even.
19. Asperget, inquam, mundus super immundum die tertia, et die septima, et mundabit eum die septima: postea lavabit vestimenta sua: lavabit quoque sese aqua, et mundus erit in vespera.
20. But 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.
20. Vir autem qui immundus fuerit, et non purificaverit se, excidetur anima illa medio congregationis, quia sanctuarium Jehovae polluit: aqua separationis non est aspersa super eum immundus est.
21. And 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.
21. Et erit els in statutum perpetuum: et qui sparserit aquam separationis, lavabit vestimenta sua: quique tetigerit aquam separationis, immundus erit usque ad vesperam.
22. And whatsoever the unclean person toucheth shall be unclean; and the soul that toucheth it shall be unclean until even.
22. Et quicquid tetigerit immundus, immundum erit: et anima quae tetigerit ipsum, immunda erit usque ad vesperam.
2 This is the ordinance of the law. Because it could not but occur that, whilst the faithful were engaged in the world, they should often contract some pollution by their contact with its many impurities, the composition of the water is here described, by the sprinkling of which they might wash away, and expiate their uncleanness: and then certain kinds of pollution are specified, whereof the purification is required. God commands that a red heifer should be slain, which had never been subjected to the yoke; and that it should be burnt without the camp, together with its skin and dung; that the ashes should be gathered by a man that was clean, and laid up without the camp for the common use of the people. But, in order that the water, which was mixed with these ashes, should have the power of reconciliation, God at the same time commands that the blood should be sprinkled seven times before the altar by the finger of the priest. The object of this ceremony was twofold: for God would awaken the attention of the people to reflect more closely upon their impurity; and, although they might be pure within, still would have them carefully look around them, lest they should be polluted from without; and also taught them that, as often as they were infected by any pollution, expiation was to be sought for from elsewhere, viz., from sacrifice and sprinkling; and thus admonish them that men inquire in vain in themselves for the remedies demanded for their purification, because purity can only proceed from the sanctuary. Those, who speculate subtilty on the details, advance some questionable matters. I leave them, therefore, to the enjoyment of their conceits; let it suffice for us to consider generally what God referred to in this ceremony, and what advantage accrued from it to the people. By the red color, they suppose that sin is signified. Meanwhile, lest they should run into a manifest contradiction, they are obliged absurdly to interpret what follows, that He required a heifer perfect and without blemish, as if it were said that there should be no difference of color in her hair; whereas God demands the same thing as in the other sacrifices, which were rejected as faulty if any mark of deformity existed in them. And in this sense it is added that she should never have borne a yoke. Therefore I make no doubt but that God enjoined that a pure heifer, neither mutilated nor lame, should be chosen; and, that her perfectness might be more apparent, as yet unbroken to the yoke. What, then, is the meaning of the red color? First of all, I prefer confessing my ignorance to advancing anything doubtful; but it may be conjectured that a common and ordinary color was rather chosen, lest it should be too conspicuous, as it would have been, if either white or black. But this should be deemed sure, that a perfect heifer, and one free from every blemish, was to be offered, and one too, which had not been broken to bear the yoke by the hands of men, that the purification might have nothing of humanity about it.: But the command to offer her was given to the whole people; because, in order that we may be partakers of ablution, it is necessary that each of us should offer Christ to the Father. For, although He only, and that but once, has offered Himself, still a daily offering of Him, which is effected by faith and prayers, is enjoined to us, not such as 22 the Papists have invented, by whom in their impiety and perverseness, the Lord’s Supper has been mistakenly turned into a sacrifice, because they imagined that Christ must be daily slain, in order that His death might profit us. The offering, however, of faith and prayers, of which I speak, is very different, and by it alone we apply to ourselves the virtue and fruit of Christ’s death.
3 And ye shall give her unto Eleazar. A clear distinction is here made between two offerings; for the people are not permitted to kill the heifer, but this is the peculiar office of the priest. Thus the people offered vicariously by the hand of the priest; and in this way also at present, although we set Christ before God’s face in order to propitiate Him, still it is necessary that Christ Himself should interpose, and exercise the office of a priest. Again, the heifer was to be taken outside the camp, as a sign that it was accursed, since it was an atonement. On which account, too, the atoning victims, whose blood was carried into the Holy of Holies, were burnt without the camp; the truth of which figure was accomplished in Christ, who therefore suffered outside the gates of the city, as the Apostle testifies. (Heb 13:11-12.) But, because this was a species of rejection, lest the heifer should be less accounted of, or lest the Israelites should think her polluted by the curse, God shews that her blood was sacred and of a sweet savor, by commanding that it should be sprinkled seven times upon the altar, which might not be profaned by anything unclean. The same thing is most clearly seen in Christ; for although He was made a curse for us, and is called “sin,” because by bearing our accursed sins upon the cross, He was our atoning victim, yet nothing was thereby taken from His purity, so as to prevent His holiness from being the sanctification of the whole world. For He offered Himself through the Spirit, and by His own blood entered into the holy place, and His death is elsewhere called by Paul, “a sacrifice for a sweet-smelling savor.” (Heb 9:11-12; Eph 5:2; Php 4:18).
6 And the priest shall take cedar-wood. That the sprinkling of the blood might be conjoined with that of the water, the cedar-wood, and hyssop, and scarlet, thread, with which the sprinkling was wont to be made, were cast into the fire; for, unless the Israelites had been admonished by this visible sign, they would not have so clearly known that they were not only washed with the water, but that by the offering of the sacrifice also their uncleanness was removed. But it was not enough that the blood should be poured forth, unless, as has been already seen, they were purified by its aspersion. But, for as much as the scent of cedar-wood is precious, and in hyssop there is a cleansing property, we gather from hence also that the victim was pure, although it bore their sins together with the curse and expiation. Peter teaches us how we are sprinkled with the blood of Christ, viz., through the Spirit, (1Pe 1:2;) nay, John shews us in his Canonical Epistle, that we find all the parts of this ceremony in Christ, where he writes that Christ “came by water and blood,” and “it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth.” (1Jo 5:6.)
7 Then the priest shall wash his clothes. At first sight there seems to be a discrepancy in the facts, that the heifer was sacred to God, and pure, and still that the priest was polluted by touching it; yet they accord very well with each other. But that both the priest as well as the minister who made the burning, were unclean until the evening, ought to have forcibly struck the people, and taught them the more to abominate sin. And, since it was not permitted to any but a man that was clean to gather the ashes, not that they should be laid anywhere but in a clean place, it was manifested by this sign that there was no impurity in the sacrifice itself, but that from an extraneous and adventitious pollution; because it was destined to purge away uncleanness, it was accounted in a certain sense unclean. Whence too the water, into which the ashes were thrown, was called the water of separation, as well as the expiation 23 For this translation which I have given is the right one; and others improperly render it “for waters of separation, and for expiation.” The old interpreter has not given the sense amiss, as far as regards this word, “because the heifer is burnt for sin.” But since in Hebrew the word,חטאה chateah 24 means not only wickedness or sin, but also the sacrifice on which the curse is imposed; what Moses intended to convey is better expressed by the word “expiation.” But the expression “separation” has reference to the men, whose personal uncleanness excluded them from the holy congregation. But the question arises, why this ordinance is pronounced to be common to the strangers who sojourned in the land of Israel, as well as to the natives; because it was by no means reasonable that the uncircumcised should be purified. The reply is easy, that such strangers are not adverted to as were altogether aliens from the people, but those who, although born of heathen parentage, had embraced the Law. These God equalizes with the children of Abraham in the sacrifices and other religious services; for if their condition were different, the-church, into the body of which they were ingrafted, would be rent asunder.
11. He that toucheth the dead body. He now recites certain forms of pollution in which the washing was necessary; all of them, however, come to the point, that men are defiled by the touch of a corpse or, bones, or a grave. Nor is there here any distinction between the body of a person who is slain, or of one who has died in bed; whence it follows that death is here set forth as a mirror of God’s curse: And assuredly, if we consider its origin and cause, the corruption of nature, whereby the image of God is defaced, presents itself in every, dead man; for, unless we were altogether corrupt, we should not be born to perish But God also taught His people by another mode of signifying it, that uncleanness is contracted by our communication with the unfruitful works of darkness. For the Apostle (Heb 6:1) calls them “dead works,” either from their consequences, or because, as faith is the life of the soul, so unbelief keeps it in death. Since, then, the corpse the bones, the grave, designate whatever we bring from the womb, because, until we are born again, and God quickens us by His Spirit and faith, we are dead while we live; there is no question but that the children of Israel were reminded, that in order to keep themselves pure before God, they must abstain from all corruption; inasmuch as, if they were rendered unclean by their contact with a dead man, they must immediately have recourse to ablution. In fine, the ceremony had no other object than that they should serve God in pureness from the sins of the flesh; and exercise themselves in constant thoughts of repentance, whilst, if they fell from their purity, they should labor to obtain reconciliation with God, by means of sacrifice and ablution.
13. Whosoever toucheth the dead body. The severity of. the capital punishment shews how very pleasing to God is purity. If any one bad forgotten to sprinkle himself on the third or the seventh day, he might redeem his negligence by a prolongation of the term, because he only postponed his purification to another day; but it was a capital crime to enter the sanctuary in his uncleanness, since thus holy and profane things would be mixed together, nay, the altar would have been polluted as well as the whole service of God. But indeed the act of touching a dead body was of slight importance, nor was it to be deemed an atrocious crime; but here the external defilement is not regarded in itself, as if God were wroth on account of a stain contracted by the performance of a pious duty. 25 Rather must the object of the ceremony be considered, for God designed by these rudiments to teach the Israelites, like children, that if any one should pollute sacred things by his impurity, he would by no means be tolerated in this audacity. In this then consisted the religious import of the transaction, that the worship of God was too precious for the Israelites to be permitted to contaminate it with impunity. Whence we gather that the punishment was denounced as against sacrilege. In sum, it comes to this, that God is not duly worshipped except with a sincere heart and pure hands; and that if any pollution be contracted, there is need of expiation before a free access is re-opened to holy things. But it must be remarked as to the contact, that it was accounted the same thing, whether the corpse lay in a field or a house; whilst, if any one died in a tent, men were polluted by merely entering it, and likewise vessels without covers thus became unclean.
22. And whatsoever the unclean person toucheth. Others translate it, — “Whosoever toucheth an unclean thing shall be unclean.” for, since the Hebrew is without a neuter gender, 26 the relative אשר, asher, and the noun הטמא, hattame, may be either masculine or neuter; and either sense would not be unsuitable; except that we gather from the second clause, that reference is rather made here to the contagion with which unclean persons infect either men or garments, or other articles. For those who had touched a dead body, or bones, or a grave, were not only unclean until the evening, but for seven entire days. But it appears that this was added in conclusion, lest the Jews should murmur at the severity of the punishment, as if God would inflict the penalty of death for a trifling sin. In this way, then, Moses shews how great is the guilt incurred by those who, being unclean, intrude into the sanctuary; because, as far as in them lies, they pollute the holiness of God, and not without intolerable impertinence. Hence appears to be taken the reproof of the Prophet, when he reproaches the Jews with having done nothing but defile the worship of God with their sacrifices; for he proposes this question to the priests, — “If one bear holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, and with his skirt do touch bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any meat, shall it be holy?” After they have replied in the negative, he asks again, “If one that is unclean by a dead body touch any of these, shall it be unclean?” and they answer, “It shall be unclean.” Whence the Prophet infers:
"So is this people, and so is this nation before me, saith the Lord, and so is the work of their hands; and that which they offer there is unclean.” (Hag 2:12-14.)
This passage shews us the legitimate use of the ceremony, that corrupt and perverse worshippers 27 bring disgrace rather than honor on God, whilst they mix up His holy name with their profanations.
See the dogmatical statement of this notion in the Creed of Pius iv.
Art: V. — “I profess, likewise, that in the Mass there is offered to God a true, proper, and propitiatory sacrifice for the living and the dead; and that in the most holy Sacrament of the Eucharist there are truly, really, and substantially the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ,” etc.
“Nam expiatio est.” — Lat, v. 9. “It is a purification for sin.” — A.V.
למי נדה חטאת הוא ́̔Υδωρ ῥαντισμᾶ ἅγνισμά ἐστι· — LXX. In aqua aspersionis; quia pro peccato vacca combusta est. — V. This last is what C. means by “the old interpreter.” The translation which he condemns he had seen in S.M. — W.
“Pour ensevelir son pere;” by burying his father — Fr.
S.M. had used the words cited by C. “Quicunque tetigerit immundum;” but C. appears to have overlooked his note upon this clause, viz., “Hoc est, qui tetigerit hominem, qui super mortuo est immundus;” or else he would have seen that immundum was not meant for a neuter. — W.
“Ceux qui servent a Dieu sans droite affection, and par hypocrisie;” those who serve God without right affections, and in hypocrisy. — Fr.