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Numbers 31:19-24

Context
Purification After Battle

31:19 “Any of you who has killed anyone or touched any of the dead, remain outside the camp for seven days; purify yourselves and your captives on the third day, and on the seventh day. 31:20 You must purify each garment and everything that is made of skin, everything made of goat’s hair, and everything made of wood.” 1 

31:21 Then Eleazar the priest said to the men of war who had gone into the battle, “This is the ordinance of the law that the Lord commanded Moses: 31:22 ‘Only the gold, the silver, the bronze, the iron, the tin, and the lead, 31:23 everything that may stand the fire, you are to pass through the fire, 2  and it will be ceremonially clean, but it must still be purified with the water of purification. Anything that cannot withstand the fire you must pass through the water. 31:24 You must wash your clothes on the seventh day, and you will be ceremonially clean, and afterward you may enter the camp.’”

1 sn These verses are a reminder that taking a life, even if justified through holy war, still separates one from the holiness of God. It is part of the violation of the fallen world, and only through the ritual of purification can one be once again made fit for the presence of the Lord.

2 sn Purification by fire is unique to this event. Making these metallic objects “pass through the fire” was not only a way of purifying (burning off impurities), but it seems to be a dedicatory rite as well to the Lord and his people. The aspect of passing through the fire is one used by these pagans for child sacrifice.



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