Numbers 19: The Importance of Cleanliness

“20 But if those who are unclean do not purify themselves, they must be cut off from the community, because they have defiled the sanctuary of the Lord. The water of cleansing has not been sprinkled on them, and they are unclean. 21 This is a lasting ordinance for them.” -Numbers 19:20-21

Remember the verse, “Cleanliness is next to godliness”? I hope not, because it’s not really in the Bible. However, the importance of “being clean” is emphasized on numerous occasions, especially in Numbers 19. In this chapter, rules are given for a wide variety of situations upon which a person must be cleansed. If not, the person was to be cut off from the community.

Why was cleanliness important? Many views have been suggested. For some, there are physical or health reasons that explain the emphasis on being clean. While true, God could have just told his people to wash their hands or take a bath. Why such elaborate cleansing rituals? There was certainly a spiritual aspect to it. What was it?

Many of the cleansing rituals were related to one’s proximity to the tabernacle, the place were God’s presence manifested itself. To approach God, a person must be clean. While the laws gave instructions for external cleaning, God’s focus was on a clean heart. Those who approached him were required to do so with reverence.

As followers of the Messiah Jesus under the new covenant, it is easy to forget the importance of living clean before a holy God. Jesus has made a way to the Father, yet it is not a way we are to take for granted. Still today, we are called to live holy lives before the Lord (Romans 12:1-2). This is his command and his desire.

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Dillon Burroughs is the author and coauthor of numerous books and is handwriting a copy of all 31,173 verses of the Bible at Find out more about Dillon at or

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