Cleanliness Is Next to Godliness
In this chapter we learn about the importance of hygiene. Especially when you have been handling dead bodies.
Seriously though, many of these types of passages which describe ritual cleansing remind one how important hygiene must have been in those times. We probably cannot undo our knowledge and understanding of germs. From infancy we have been bombarded with warnings about germs.
We have seen magnified images of germs and dust mites. We know the science behind our immune system and the potential threat of viruses and bacterial infections. They didn’t. It just makes me wonder if chapters like this, came about in order to keep the Israelites clean and more importantly alive.
What is a Heifer?
A heifer is a female cow that has not yet given birth. A virgin cow if you like. In this chapter a red one is burned so thoroughly that only ashes remain. These ashes are then used by the community as part of the purification process. I am not entirely sure if there is any science behind this one! Perhaps it is just for us to wonder at and be glad that we don’t have to go to the trouble of doing it!?
Lessons for Us in the Here and Now
There is a good deal of water used in this chapter. Holy water. It is used not only to wash in the traditional sense but also to bless or purify. It is bathed in, poured from vessels and sprinkled over things. In many parts of the Christian church, holy water is still used extensively. Sometimes the priest even has a kind of holy pastry brush which he or she dips into holy water and sloshes over a sometimes unsuspecting congregation! This is one of those chapters that is quoted in justifying such behaviour 🙂
But seriously, let us remember to wash regularly. Even more seriously, let us remember to regularly wash away any sense of guilt that we may harbour. We may get dirty again but then we can wash again. As human beings it is impossible to stay spotless all of the time. That does not mean that we should give up trying to be clean. God offers us forgiveness through His son Jesus. This forgiveness is on tap (good pun).
We can access it every day. Every hour. Every moment. Let’s get clean.