The Bible And Holy Water

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It is written:

Numbers 5:17-The priest shall take holy water in an earthen vessel, and take some of the dust that is on the floor of the tabernacle and put it into the water.

Many are surprised to learn that the Bible mentions “holy water,” yet it does.

What does the Bible teach us about this subject?

In the context of Numbers 5:12 and following, Moses discusses the “bitter water” test given to women who it was suspected had committed adultery against their husbands. The water was mixed with dirt from the floor of the Tabernacle. It was the Presence of God which made something holy.

Furthermore, dirt from the land of Israel was considered sacred as we see in other passages of Scripture.

For example, 2 Kings 5 gives us an example of how Naaman went to the Prophet Elisha in order to be healed of his leprosy. He is healed when he obeys God’s command through the Prophet to dip in the Jordan River seven times, and decides that he wants to serve God. Yet when he returns to his homeland, he will be unable to do so because the people in his land are devoted to false gods! So we read this:

2 Kings 5:15-19-And he returned to the man of God, he and all his aides, and came and stood before him; and he said, “Indeed, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, except in Israel; now therefore, please take a gift from your servant.” 16  But he said, “As the LORD lives, before whom I stand, I will receive nothing.” And he urged him to take it, but he refused. 17  So Naaman said, “Then, if not, please let your servant be given two mule-loads of earth; for your servant will no longer offer either burnt offering or sacrifice to other gods, but to the LORD. 18  Yet in this thing may the LORD pardon your servant: when my master goes into the temple of Rimmon to worship there, and he leans on my hand, and I bow down in the temple of Rimmon—when I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the LORD please pardon your servant in this thing.” 19  Then he said to him, “Go in peace.” So he departed from him a short distance.

Heiser points out about this text:

“The brief trip into Israel and the encounter with Yahweh’s prophet have taught Naaman some good theology. He affirms that “there is no God in all of the world except in Israel” (v. 15 ). From henceforth he will sacrifice only to Yahweh. But how can he keep that vow after returning to Syria? Simple—he pleads for dirt to take home . Naaman views the land of Israel as holy ground—it is Yahweh’s territory. Naaman takes as much dirt as his mules can carry so he can worship Yahweh on Yahweh’s own territory, even though Naaman lives in the domain of the god Rimmon. We aren’t told if Naaman went home and spread dirt on the floor of a room in his home. We don’t know how he handled his duty to accompany his aged king into Rimmon’s temple. Perhaps he carried dirt with him as a pledge of his believing loyalty to Yahweh. What we do know is that the dirt was a theological statement. Dirt from Israel was the means by which Naaman showed his faith and kept his vow to the true God, Yahweh.” (Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible, 2229-2233 (Kindle Edition); Bellingham, WA; Lexham Press)

So, the “holy water” in Numbers 5:17 was not some magical potion. Instead, it was holy because it had been blessed by God and served as a carrier of His Presence (cf. Numbers 7:1).

We see another example of water being purified by God with salt:

2 Kings 2:19-22-Then the men of the city said to Elisha, “Please notice, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord sees; but the water is bad, and the ground barren.” 20  And he said, “Bring me a new bowl, and put salt in it.” So they brought it to him. 21  Then he went out to the source of the water, and cast in the salt there, and said, “Thus says the LORD: ‘I have healed this water; from it there shall be no more death or barrenness.’ ” 22  So the water remains healed to this day, according to the word of Elisha which he spoke.

When we turn to the New Testament, the references to God using water for cleansing and purifying are seen in numerous texts dealing with baptism:

Ephesians 5;25-27-Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26  that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27  that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.

Hebrews 10:22-let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

As with the Old Testament, it isn’t that the water itself was some kind of magical potion. Instead, the water was used by God to cleanse the sinner as he became a member of the church of Christ. The water was the instrument through which God worked. It was further believed by the early Christians that the prayers of the saints had a sanctifying effect on water (cf. 1 Timothy 4;1-5; Revelation 8:1-7).

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.

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