Numbers 19:7 (KJV)

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.

Does this phrase refer to the priest remaining outside the camp until evening after purification or that he does not carry out his duties until evening?

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    Dont know why this is down-voted as a question. It asks for the meaning of the text. Gave it a vote.
    – Bob Jones
    Dec 25, 2017 at 17:26

3 Answers 3


Unclean has the meaning of being dirty, or contaminated, having come in contact with the blood of an animal or man. The animal sacrifice was a substitute sacrifice for those sins of the people until Christ's sacrifice eliminated it.

The sin offering was necessary, but required cleansing of the "blood", the death of the animal, and the sin of the people. Ultimately sin is death. The priest could come into the camp after being purified (washed), but could not enter into the temple, into the presence of God before the time required to be completely clean of that contact with sin.

So, being unclean until the evening meant that the priest could enter into the temple at evening, but could not perform his duties in the temple until then.

Notice the proscribed time necessary for being completely cleansed of contact with a dead man in verse 11. Num. 19:11-12,

" 11 He that toucheth the dead body of any man shall be unclean seven days. 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."

Purifying required the washing of water, and was looking forward to the purification of water baptism under the new covenant of the gospel of Christ.

  • +1 for Gina. Patterns are there for a purpose: 3+3+1 is in creation, the menorah, the revelation to earth, etc. but two things are two aspects of one thing. Jesus was in the grave 3 days in the flesh and 3 days in the spirit. 3+3. As the high priest he was defiled when he offered himself. On day 3 he was washed in the word (water) and cleansed so he could ascend to the Father in the Holy of Holies. We miss the pattern because the three days were served concurrently. Mary was also unclean and so could not touch him until he had ascended.
    – Bob Jones
    Dec 25, 2017 at 17:42
  • @Gina Clean animals does not make one unclean when slaughter them, touching their carcass or as you state "having come in contact with the blood of an animal" It's only the red heifer that make all in the slaughter process even the one "that gathereth the ashes of the heifer shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until the even" Apr 16, 2023 at 6:53
  • @Gina you answer can be understood to be saying that the priest was required to make a sin offering here. This was not the case. Also see my answer for clarification that these offerings usually did not involve "sin" as Christians usually understand the word. Mar 1 at 22:32

This answer is meant to correct/clarify the sentence of the accepted answer: "Unclean has the meaning of being dirty, or contaminated, having come in contact with the blood of an animal or man." In fact most ritual impurity did not result from contact with the blood of an animal or man. The most important example is sexual relations.

Leviticus 15:8

If a man has sexual relations with a woman, they shall both bathe in water and be unclean until evening.

Just as in the case of a couple having marital relations, no sin offering was required for the priest in this case. He had done something holy, commanded by God; and so did the couple. He simply had to bathe himself and would remain ritually unclean until evening.

I also need to correct this statement: "The animal sacrifice was a substitute sacrifice for those sins of the people until Christ's sacrifice eliminated it." That may be true from a Christian viewpoint, but in the case of the OP's example and Lev. 15:8 no animal sacrifice was required. Moreover Jewish Christians participated in Temple life as other Jews did (Acts 21) until the Temple was destroyed, so it is not certain that the doctrine of Christ's sacrificial atonement applies to the specific case of offerings made for ritual impurity.

Conclusion: the idea of a "sin offering" is often misunderstood. It did not in a violation of a moral commandment but was offered when someone "missed the mark" in terms of ritual purity laws, which was often unavoidable. In the OP's case there was no sin, because the priest had necessarily become unclean in the course of his priestly duties. He merely had to wash himself and was considered unclean until evening.


Even has a few meanings in the Bible. "In the even", "Even as", "This Even" and many other meanings. but this one that has caught the attention of so many lest clear that up. The Phrase "until the even" EVEN is the same as END. So saying "Until the even" is until your end. Stating the importance of being cleaned before going on with your days.

For those that would use any version of the bible not the KJV. I would warn you that the translators did not fully understand what they were reading. you did not become clean just because it was evening and you had washed in water. No it is the soul that is unclean until the even (END). Unless you repent you sins to God at this time it was in the way of burnt offerings.

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