Numbers 19

by Jim Langford

In an effort to defend his doctrine of “total congregational action” (the teaching that in church discipline everyone must comply with and implement the judgments rendered by leadership or else incur like judgment) Jack Langford again appealed to an Old Testament passage. In Numbers 19 he discovered what he called “a very interesting and spiritual principle,” one that he was sure “is true on the subject of marking.”

Here is his rehash of Numbers 19, as recorded on tape August 13, 1990 (in the presence of Ray Sharpless, Jim Maurer, Art Werner and John Morey):

“I’ve given before publicly the spiritual principle given back in the Law of Moses once again: the water purification. If a man went outside the camp and touched a dead body and a dead bone, that man was unclean. The law was very clear. He was to have the water purification applied to him. If he did not, he would be censored and put outside the camp and everything he touched would be put outside and rendered unclean as well. Everything! If he touched the house, if he touched the wall, if he touched the couch, if he touched food, if he touched others, they all would have to have the water purification applied to them…

“Paul will rely on principles like that from the Hebrew Scriptures many, many times: such as giving to those who minister. He’ll go back to the Law of Moses and use the object lesson that you don’t muzzle the ox that treads out the corn. I’m sure the same principle is true on the subject of marking. Those who will not stand in a marking always come under the same censor of those who are marked. If they’re going to participate, fellowship, associate with those who are marked, they themselves are contaminated with his disease. They themselves are viewed as being in the same class. They themselves stand in violation of God’s clear-cut command.

“It’s a repudiation of God’s command; it’s a very serious one to disobey Paul’s command to mark those who thus sin. In fact, I don’t know which one is the worse. If a man is just a fornicator, that’s a terrible crime, no question about it. The Bible is very clear: he is to be censored. What about those who impudently refuse to execute that censor and will continue their loving association with that fellow? To me, that type of rebellion against God has deep-seated consequences as well. It shows a revolt, a contempt to God’s word and God’s order. And they themselves will always be censored along with the guilty party.”

We have before us another indication of the depths to which Jack descended to fortify a false and corrupt practice. And we have before us another example of the utter failure of his associates to “prove all things!” They not only failed to be diligent as “noble” Bereans, they failed Jack! Yes, “the law was very clear,” but the so-called “spiritual principle” that Jack concocted from it was his own invention and, consequently, about as clear as mud! He claimed to have given this “spiritual principle” from Numbers 19 before publicly (He gave it at the December 1985 Santa Maria Camp and I heard allusions to it on many occasions before that.), which serves to magnify the gross negligence of his listeners to check up! I am reminded of the fact, however, that although authoritative leaders may give lip-service to the nobility of the Bereans, they prefer we exercise that responsibility on others! I was once chastised by Robert Grove for a statement I made to the brethren in San Luis Obispo that “it concerns me that so few bother to check-up and ‘prove all things.’” In a letter he said, “Jim, a brother who views himself in such a position is in a very dangerous place even if his evaluation is true. Pride is a most subtle form of deception…” I suppose that’s why there are so few “Bereans” in that group today: it’s a “dangerous” occupation.

Jack’s clipped version of the Numbers 19 narrative needs clarification. First, in distinguishing between death that occurred in a tent or house (v.14) and one who dies in the open (v.16), the Bible does not use the special phrase “outside the camp.” Second, nothing is said about “everything he had touched” being “put outside.” Actually, verses 14 and 15 specify only that every one and every thing shall be considered ceremonially unclean. The Jewish Publication Society’s translation and the Septuagint render verse 14 slightly different than most other versions, substituting the inanimate “every thing that” for “all who are.” This coincides more with the instructions in verse 18.

And third, Numbers 19 does not specifically address Jack’s most critical supposition: “if he touched others.” He may have had verse 22 in mind, but arguably verse 22 is a continuation of the red-heifer ceremony rules (verses 17ff) and applies to “the man who sprinkles the water of cleansing.” That man becomes unclean (verse 21) by touching “the water of cleansing,” just like the priests who prepared the red-heifer and the man who gathered the ashes (verses 7-10). Again, there is difference over the rendering of pronouns in verse 22, the JPS substituting “him” instead of “it.” Nevertheless, Jewish scholars maintain that verse 22 pertains to those involved in the purification ceremony. Chapter 19 covers contamination resulting from contact with human death!

But the rules of ceremonial uncleanness are many and involved, and it is true that unclean persons under the law did impart uncleanness to other people. For this Jack should have looked to Leviticus, Chapter 15, for his “very interesting and spiritual principle.” There are found the regulations governing human discharges, hardly a suitable subject to discuss here. Jack probably considered that also. But only there do touches between human beings impart ceremonial uncleanness. Next we will see if Jack’s “principle is true on the subject of marking” and if Paul the Apostle would have relied “on principles like that.”

Numbers 19 (Continued)

The higher and nobler truths prefigured by the ritual acts of water purification in Numbers 19 provided the keynotes in David’s prayer for spiritual cleansing (Psalm 51) and for Israel’s future national cleansing prophesied by Ezekiel (36:24-36). Later, as John recorded (3:3-10), “a man of the Pharisees came to Jesus,” to whom Jesus said, “no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the spirit.” Nicodemus asked, “How can this be?” And the Lord chided him, saying, “You are a teacher of Israel and you do not understand these things?” Nicodemus was ignorant of the significance of Numbers 19. He was blind to the prophecy of Ezekiel, a prominent part of the New Covenant promise to Israel, where the Lord said, “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities…I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you.”

And Paul, reiterating the Lord’s words, said, “He saved us through the washing of rebirth [regeneration] and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us…” The word “regeneration” occurs only once again in the New Testament (Matthew 19:28), where the Lord uses it with reference to the fulfillment of the very prophecy of Ezekiel 36 and 37. Then Paul, in writing to the Hebrews (9:9-14; 10:22), makes reference to “the various ceremonial washings—external regulations applying until the time of the new order,” specifying in particular the cleansing of Numbers 19, wherein “the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean.” The heavenly truths, the supreme principles, the spiritual fulfillment of those types he proceeds to expound on throughout the remainder of chapters 9 and 10, summing it up with these words: “let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water…” (10:22)

I have taken the time to review these Scriptures for the benefit of those who may not be familiar with the truths portrayed in them, and also to accentuate the triteness, the sheer inventiveness and the utter perversion of Jack’s attempted analogy with the “subject of marking.”

We have seen the “spiritual principle” that David, Ezekiel, the Lord Jesus Christ and finally Paul gleaned from the “water purification” type in Numbers 19. Jack, referring to the same passage, says, “Paul will rely on principles like that from the Hebrew Scriptures many, many times.” He then offers as an example Paul’s teaching concerning support of those who minister. “He’ll go back to the Law of Moses,” Jack says, “and use the object lesson that you don’t muzzle the ox that treads out the corn.” Paul quotes Deuteronomy 25:4 twice in applying that passage to the right of God’s workers to have their food and other physical needs supplied by the church. In 1Timothy 5:18 he couples it with a reference to Luke 10:7: “The worker deserves his wages.” In 1 Corinthians 9:3-14 he gives an extended argument on the subject, quoting the Law of Moses and adding: “Is it about oxen that God is concerned? Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he?” Even “those who work in the temple” and “those who serve at the altar” get their food from the temple and the altar he concludes. Now this example is clear and leaves no doubt in our minds how Paul applied the Old Testament Scripture in this case. It remains to be seen how clear Jack's "spiritual principle" will be.

Turning our attention to Jack’s use of Numbers 19, he asserts, “I’m sure the same principle is true on the subject of marking. Those who will not stand in a marking always come under the same censor of those who are marked…They themselves stand in violation of God’s clear-cut command.” Only a cursory reading (something Jack’s hearers obviously failed to do!) of Numbers 19 reveals to an honest mind that this type had nothing to do with discipline or punishment for doing wrong. A ceremonially unclean person was just that—ceremonially unclean! He or she was not guilty of wrong-doing. It was virtually impossible to avoid contact with death. Caring for the dead was lawful and right. Touching a dead person or a bone might happen by accident or during combat. A person might unknowingly pass over a grave site, of which the Lord, speaking to the Pharisees, remarks, “Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which men walk over without knowing it.” (Luke 11:44) Entering a tent or house where a dead person lies contaminated one. All these things defiled one, rendering them ceremonially unclean for seven days.

Posted on Thursday, May 12, 2005 - 7:03 pm:


In quoting Jack on the subject of Numbers 19, I was intrigued by his use of a term that had apparently been recently (1990) added to his vocabulary. In that brief quote alone he used the words censor and censored five times, three times in one paragraph. In the recording (from which that quote was lifted) Jack used those words at least 16 or 17 times in lieu of commonly translated biblical words or phrases. The word censor is rarely –if ever—used in English translations of the Bible. Nor is it readily found in Greek dictionaries or lexicons of New Testament words. The Encyclopedia Britannica says that “censorship itself is today generally regarded as a relic of an unenlightened and much more oppressive age.”

But Jack adopted it. Perhaps the word “mark” had been overworked and he wished to avoid possible stigmatization. But it was not without significance that he chose a Latin term that originated with the office and duties of ancient Roman magistrates who were appointed to regulate the morals of Roman citizens who were counted in the census. Their powers were great indeed! Once elected, they were responsible to no superior, being held accountable only to Roman traditions and their own conscience. “It is the function of the Roman censors as arbiters of public morality which has given the word ‘censorship’ its modern meaning,” says Collier’s Encyclopedia.

The function of these Roman censors later served as the pattern for the duties and responsibilities of the men appointed by the ecclesiastical Roman Pontiffs to carry out the Inquisition and punish as “heretics” all those who refused to conform to the dictates of the “Vicars” of Christ! Listen, dear brothers and sisters, censorship represents mostly the downside of power: proscriptive, rather than prescriptive; it condemns, suppresses, denounces, forbids and banishes instead of providing order, direction and rule! All censorship, whether political, cultural, religious or by individuals who feel their personal beliefs are threatened, can be seen to come generally from a single source—fear! Even Nave’s Topical Bible, where the word censoriousness is found listed, presents it in the negative sense as a synonym for un-charitableness, speaking evil, false accusation and slander. Now, I ask, what spirit prompted Jack to displace biblical language with that term?

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