How does a sprinkling of water cleanse someone in Ezekiel 36:25? By Jack Kettler
In this study, the meaning of the Ezekiel text regarding sprinkling will be considered. Are the sprinkling and cleansing symbolic or literal? The following citation includes, for a fuller context, verses 26-27.
“For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.” (Ezekiel 36:24-27)
Delving into the original Hebrew will be helpful in the understanding of sprinkling.
Original word: זָרַק
Part of Speech: Verb
Phonetic Spelling: (zaw-rak')
Definition: be here and there, scatter, sprinkle, strew.”
The Hebrew word in the above passage mentioning sprinkling is zaraq. The word is a verb and denotes action.
Ezekiel 36:24-25 is looking forward into history by way of a prophecy. The three following commentators use the reality of the New Covenant in Christ to understand Ezekiel’s prophecy.
Regarding verse 24 from Ezekiel, it is learned from the Pulpit Commentary:
“Verse 24. - I will take you from among the heathen; or, nations. The first step in the sanctification of Jehovah's Name. A promise already given (Ezekiel 11:17; Ezekiel 20:41, 42), and afterwards repeated (Ezekiel 37:21). The mention of “all countries” shows the prophet's gaze to have been directed beyond the present or immediate future. The Israel of Ezekiel's time had not been scattered among and could not be gathered from all, countries; yet in the years that have passed since then Ezekiel's language as to Israel's dispersion has been literally fulfilled. Wherefore the inference is reasonable that the reassembling to which Ezekiel refers is an event that has not yet occurred, at least in its fullest measure and degree, but will only then be realized completely and finally when the scattered members of the house of Israel shall have been received into the Christian Church (Romans 11:25, 26). Ezekiel 36:24” (1)
Continuing to verse 25 from Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers:
“(25) Sprinkle clean water. — Comp. Hebrews 9:13; Hebrews 10:22. Ezekiel, the priest, here refers to those manifold purifications of the Law (e.g., Numbers 8:7; Numbers 19:9; Numbers 19:17; Leviticus 14:5-7; Leviticus 14:9, &c.) which were performed by means of water; yet he refers to these as a whole, in their symbolical signification, rather than to any one of them in particular. He speaks primarily of the cleansing from idolatry and such gross outward sins, and he treats of the people collectively; yet this purification, as the following verses show, must necessarily extend much farther, and be applied to them individually. It was the same symbolism which led in later ages to the use of baptism in the admission of proselytes to the Jewish Church, a practice adopted by the forerunner of our Lord in the preparation of the people for His coming. Baptism is also alluded to by our Lord Himself in His conversation with Nicodemus (John 3:5.) and afterwards established by Him as the initiatory sacrament of the Christian Church. (Comp. Ephesians 5:26; Titus 3:5; Hebrews 10:22.)” (2)
In addition, verse 25 is learned from Matthew Poole's Commentary:
“He alludes to the sprinklings under the law, perhaps to that Numbers 19:9, which was for purification of sin; and Ezekiel 36:19-20. So God will purify them from their guilt. Clean water: some think it may refer to baptismal water; if so, it is to the blood of Christ, signified by it, and this, say the best expositors, is here intended, and this is.”
“the blood of sprinkling, Hebrews 12:24.”
“Ye shall be clean; when sin is remitted, the person is indeed clean, both in the account of God and Christ.”
“From all your filthiness; though they have been many of all sorts, and among all ranks of men, yet multitude of sins shall not hinder me from pardoning.”
“From all your idols; that notorious great abomination, your multiplied idolatry, I will pardon that also, that ye may be clean. Thus, remission of sin is promised.” (3)
Two New Testament passages involving sprinkling:
“For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people.” (Hebrews 9:19)
“rhantizó: to sprinkle
Original word: ῥαντίζω
Part of Speech: Verb
Phonetic Spelling: (hran-tid'-zo)
Definition: to sprinkle
Usage: I sprinkle, cleanse ceremonially by sprinkling.”
“And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.” (Hebrews 12:24)
Original Word: ῥαντισμός, οῦ, ὁ
Part of Speech: Noun, Masculine
Phonetic Spelling: (hran-tis-mos')
Usage: sprinkling, purification.”
The two New Testament passages above use a verb and noun form of the same word, which means ceremonial or purification by sprinkling. Whereas the Old Testament word for sprinkle denoted action, the New Testament sheds further understanding involving ceremonial purification. In this respect, sprinkling and baptism are symbolic of cleansing sin.
In regards to Hebrews 12:24, Vincent's Word Studies says:
“The mediator of the new covenant (διαθήκης νέας μεσίτῃ)”
“See Hebrews 7:22; Hebrews 8:6, Hebrews 8:8, Hebrews 8:9, Hebrews 8:10; Hebrews 9:15. For covenant, see on Hebrews 9:6 ff. For the new covenant, rend. a new covenant. Νέα new, only here applied to the covenant in N.T. The word elsewhere is καινή. For the distinction, see on Matthew 26:29. It is better not to press the distinction, since νεός, in certain cases, clearly has the sense of quality rather than of time, as 1 Corinthians 5:7; Colossians 3:10, and probably here, where to confine the sense to recent would seem to limit it unduly. In the light of all that the writer has said respecting the better quality of the Christian covenant, superseding the old, outworn, insufficient covenant, he may naturally be supposed to have had in mind something besides its mere recentness. Moreover, all through the contrast from Hebrews 12:18, the thought of earlier and later is not once touched, but only that of inferior and better; repellency and invitation; terrors and delights; fear and confidence. Note that the privilege of approaching the Mediator in person is emphasized.”
“Blood of sprinkling (αἵματι ῥαντισμοῦ)”
“Ῥαντισμός sprinkling only here and 1 Peter 1:2, see note. The phrase blood of sprinkling N.T.o. olxx, where we find ὕδωρ ῥαντισμοῦ water of sprinkling, Numbers 19:9, Numbers 19:13, Numbers 19:20, Numbers 19:21. For the verb ῥαντίζειν to sprinkle, see on Hebrews 9:13. The mention of blood naturally follows that of a covenant, since no covenant is ratified without blood (Hebrews 9:16). The phrase is sufficiently explained by Hebrews 9:16-22.”
“Speaketh better things (κρεῖττον λαλοῦντι)”
“For “better things” rend. “better.” The blood is personified, and its voice is contrasted with that of Abel, whose blood cried from the ground for vengeance upon his murderer (Genesis 4:10). The voice of Christ's blood calls for mercy and forgiveness.”
“Than that of Abel (παρὰ τὸν Ἄβελ).”
“Rend. “than Abel.” Comp. Hebrews 11:4, where Abel himself speaks.” (4)
Ezekiel 36:26 says, “a new heart, also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.” Verse 27 says, “I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.”
Therefore, sprinkling in verse 25 prophetically pictures a New Testament conversion which is proved by verse 26 when it says, “a new heart,” taking away the heart of stone and “I will give you a heart of flesh.” In addition, verse 27 says, “put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes.” The Strong’s Concordance says, regarding the word “cause” to “do, make.” Moreover, this caused by God pictures a regenerated changed heart which is not fully released until the “born again” conversion of the New Testament times.
Regarding baptism and its relationship to Ezekiel:
Baptism is the sacrament of initiation into the visible church. Baptism also signifies regeneration and remission of sin. Sprinkling, as seen in Ezekiel’s pictures or symbolizes regeneration that literally would happen in the New Covenant.
In the Ezekiel passage, sprinkling is symbolic. However, in Numbers 19:9, 18-19, the sprinkling is literal. The cleansing or purification as a result of sprinkling was symbolic, looking forward to New Covenant in Christ where the cleansing by the blood Christ cleanses. Said another way, the sprinkling in the Old Testament did not cleanse sin any more than baptism in the New Testament cleanses sin. However, both actions symbolize the blood of Christ that cleanses sin.
Scripture is the best interpreter of Scripture:
The Greek βαπτίζω is rendered “dip, plunge, dyed, bathed or immersed” in the Septuagint. Therefore, the parallel between sprinkling and baptism (βαπτίζω) does not depend either upon the Old Testament Septuagint or the New Testament translation of the word. Furthermore, just because βαπτίζω does not in translation mean sprinkling does not invalidate the intended parallel of sprinkling and baptism. The Scriptures in Hebrews 9:19, 12:24, Leviticus 14:7, and Numbers 19:18 make the connection between sprinkling and baptism as functional parallels.
Likewise, “In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead” Colossians 2:11–12. The Colossians passage is analogous or the functional equivalent between circumcision in the Older Covenant and water baptism in the New Covenant.
For more study:
See BAPTISM by Rev. John Scott Johnson, Ph.D. at, https://www.all-of-grace.org/pub/others/baptism.html
SPRINKLING IS SCRIPTURAL
by Rev. Prof. Dr. Francis Nigel Lee
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
1. H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, The Pulpit Commentary, Ezekiel, Vol. 12., (Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans Publishing Company reprint 1978), p. 245.
2. Charles John Ellicott, Bible Commentary for English Readers, Ezekiel, Vol. 5, (London, England, Cassell and Company), p. 305.
3. Matthew Poole's Commentary on the Holy Bible, Ezekiel, Vol. 2, (Peabody, Massachusetts, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985) p. 772.
4. Marvin R. Vincent, Word Studies In The New Testament, Hebrews, Vol. 4, (Mclean, Virginia, Macdonald Publishing Company), p. 555-556.
Mr. Kettler has previously published articles in the Chalcedon Report and Contra Mundum. He and his wife Marea attend the Westminster, CO, RPCNA Church. Mr. Kettler is the author of books defending the Reformed Faith. Books can be ordered online at www. Jack Kettler .com