Purification-waters (מֵיאּנַדָּה, mney - nid'dca', properly waters of uncleanness. i.e. of purification; Sept. ὕδωρ ῥαντισμοῦ , water of sprinkling, after the Chaldee usage; comp. nedach'. נדָה: to sprinkle [see Rosenmuller, on oNmb. 19:9]). This was a holy water of cleansing, which was mixed with the ashes of a red or reddish-brown heifer — one which had never been under the yoke (comp. De 21:3; Bochart, Hieroz. i, 328: on the age of this heifer the interpreters of the law were not agreed; see Para, i, 1; Jonathan, on Numbers l.c., speaks of a two-year-old). With this water those who had contracted impurity by contact with a corpse or otherwise were sprinkled by means of a sprig or branch of hyssop, and were thus cleansed (Nu 19:2 sq.; 31:19 sq.; Heb 9:13; Josephus, Ant. 4:4, 6; comp. the Talmudical tract Para, in the 6th part of the Mishna), The ceremony of burning the heifer, which was accounted a sin- offering (Nu 19:9,17), was as follows according to the law (comp. Mishna, Para, 6:4): A priest, who had set himself apart and purified himself for this work for seven days previous (ibid. iii, 1; Josephus ascribes the duty to the high-priest, which mav have been the custom in his time, although the Mishna usually speaks only of a priest, iii, 1, 9, 10;
comp. Philo, opp. ii, 252; Para (, iii, 8), led it out of the Temple (through the east door, Mishna, Middoth, i, 3) before the city (on the Mount of Olives, Para, iii, 6), slew it, and burned it entire, with its flesh, skin. blood, and dung (Nu 19:5), on a fire fed with cedar-wood, scarlet wool, and hyssop (comp. Le 14:6). The ashes were then gathered, and kept in a clean place outside the city (according to the Para, iii, 2, they were divided into three parts, one of which was kept in a court outside the Temple, the second on the Mount of Olives, and the third was given to the priests). A heifer was burned thus anew whenever the supply of ashes was exhausted. The Para (iii, 5) tells us that only nine in all were ever burned, and only one of them before the captivity (Jerome, Ep. 108 cad Eustachl., says that one was burned yearly). A part of these ashes was mixed with fresh water (comp. Para, 8:8), and a clean person sprinkled with it the unclean on the third and on the seventh day after the contraction of uncleanness. With it, too, the house of the dead and the vessels rendered unclean by a corpse were sprinkled. He who burned the heifer, the priest who slew her, and the man who collected the ashes were unclean until evening (Nu 19:7-8,10). The same took place in the use of the water; he who sprinkled it on the unclean, and all that touched it, were unclean until evening (19, 21 sq.). This is analogous to Le 16:24,26,28; although in that case the uncleanness contracted by contact with the goats was considered as removed immediately after the required washings. Clericus properly remarks on this passage in Numbers, "The victim was considered as unclean through the sins which the prayer of the priest placed on his head. The ashes of this victim cleansed the unclean by taking his pollution; but they also defiled the clean, because no pollution could seem to pass from them to the water." The last clause, however, is not clear.
The whole ceremony is peculiar, and suggests many questions which have never been fully solved. In particular, the symbolic meaning of the details is still unsettled, as the disagreement of recent expositors shows (Bahr, Symbol. ii, 493 sq.; Hengstenberg, Moses und Egypten, p. 181 sq.; Anonymous, Evangel. K.-Z. 1843, No. 19; Baumgarten, Comment. zum Pentat. ii, 333 sq.; Philippson, Pentat. p. 768 sq.; Kurtz, in the Stud. u. Krit. , 3:629 sq.). We cannot here dwell upon this unfruitftul investigation, but will refer singly to the principal points.
1. The purification of those made unclean by a corpse was effected, not by the usual means of cleansing — pure water — but by this sharp fluid, because this kind of uncleanness was considered very deep and sad. The reason of this is obvious. Hence the means of cleansing is a kind of lye, which is strong in its action. We find ashes and lye among the means of purification used not merely by the Romans (Virgil, Eclog. 8:101; Ovid, Faust. 4:639, 725, 733; Arnob. Gent. v, 32), but by the old Persians, who made their most powerful cleansing stuff out of water and ashes by means of fire (Zend avesta, iii, 216; another kind of sacred water used by Egyptian priests is mentioned in AElian. Anim. 7:45). Besides, this lye among the Israelites was made, not out of ashes in general, but from the ashes of a sin offering, and from that which alone remained of this sin- offering.
2. A heifer, not a bull (Le 4:14), is used, perhaps (Bahr, p. 498) because the female sex is that which brings forth life (comp. Ge 3:20; otherwise Hengstenberg and Baumngarten — the former interpreting too outwardly, op. cit. p. 182; the latter too artificially). But the object may have been simply to distinguish this particular sin-offering, when the animal was made a means to a hallowing purpose, from that in which it was presented to Jehovah in his sanctuary as a sacrifice of reconciliation. Yet physical uncleannless is always less burdensome than sin against the moral law (comp. Philippson, p. 769). Why a red heifer? The explanation of Spencer (Leg. Rit. ii, 15, 2, 6), that a red heifer was chosen in token of opposition to the Egyptian custom of sacrificing red cattle to Typhon, who was fancied to be of a red color (Plut. Isidor. 22), is worthless. The recent expositors of the symbols waver between red as the color of life (Bahr, Kurtz) and of sin and death (Hengstenberg). According to the rabbins, Solomon did not know the reason, and no ancient tradition respecting it has reached us. The secret will never be discovered. If it be said that red heifers were chosen for their scarcity, which rendered them prized in the East (Reland, Antiq. Sacr. ii, 5, 23; Amralkeis [ed. Lette], p. 74), the answer is only rendered more difficult. Rarity is not made an object in the directions given. Perhaps the dark color is simply selected as according with the serious nature of the work in hand, and aiding to keep the removal of sin steadily before the eye. White heifers were unfitted for this purpose; black ones are very rare in the East. As the accompaniments — cedar- wood, hyssop, and scarlet wool, which Maimonides in his time already felt the difficulty of explaining — have never yet been fully accounted for, Bahr's explanation is the most intelligent (p. 502 sq.), while Baumgarten's is absurd. SEE HYSSOP.
3. The twofold sprinkling on the third and seventh days has an analogy in two other places (Le 12:2 sq.; 14:8 sq.). That terrible impurity was not to be removed in a moment; its serious nature demanded two periods of effort. Three and seven, too, are significant numbers in themselves. The seven, or week, is also a liturgically complete period, and with it the ceremony of purification ends.
4. The reason why the heifer was burned without the holy city, and the persons occupied in this work were accounted unclean, is not the impurity of the sacrifice in itself (as Bahr has well remarked), but in the fact of its relation with the most unclean things — death and the corpse.
See, in general, Moses Maimon. Tr. de Vacca Rufa, Hebr. et Lat. (ed. Zeller, Amsterd. 1711); Marck, Dissert. ad Vet. Test. Fascic. p. 114 sq.; Deyling, Observat. iii, 89 sq.; Th. Dassov. De Vacca Rufa, Observat. Instrux. (J. G. W. Dunkel. Lips. 1758); Bashuysen, De Aspersione Sacra ex Mente Gemaristar. (Serv. 1717); Reland, Anti. Sacr. ii, 5, 23.