Like the scapegoat on the Day of Atonement, these two birds represent one sacrifice, but since they couldn’t kill a bird and bring it back to life again, two birds had to be used. One died as a result of sin; the other was set free, representing the liberty we have when our sins have been washed away.
Staying clean can be a dirty business. When Israelites became unclean through sin, disease, or simple contact with unclean things, they would have to be cleansed before they could once again worship with the covenant community. Sometimes this meant a simple washing. But most often it meant sacrifice and blood for “almost all things are by the law purged with blood.” And then, there was the most curious cleansing agent of all—the ashes of a heifer.