The Sacrifice Of A Red Heifer
The imagery of the red heifer is yet another foreshadowing of the sacrifice of Christ for believers’ sin. The Lord Jesus was “without blemish,” just as the red heifer was to be. He knew no sin. No guile was found in His mouth. He was the Spotless Lamb of God. Are you ready to meet the Lord?
Much of this material was taken from various Jewish websites.
1 Now the Lord said to Moses and to Aaron, 2 “This is the statute of the law which the Lord has commanded: Tell the people of Israel to bring you a red heifer without defect, in which there is no blemish, and upon which a yoke has never come. 3 And you shall give her to Eleazar the priest, and she shall be taken outside the camp and slaughtered before him; 4 and Eleazar the priest shall take some of her blood with his finger, and sprinkle some of her blood toward the front of the tent of meeting seven times. 5 And the heifer shall be burned in his sight; her skin, her flesh, and her blood, with her dung, shall be burned; 6 and the priest shall take cedarwood and hyssop and scarlet stuff, and cast them into the midst of the burning of the heifer. 7 Then the priest shall wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and afterwards he shall come into the camp; and the priest shall be unclean until evening. 8 He who burns the heifer shall wash his clothes in water and bathe his body in water, and shall be unclean until evening. 9 And a man who is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer, and deposit them outside the camp in a clean place; and they shall be kept for the congregation of the people of Israel for the water for impurity, for the removal of sin. 10 And he who gathers the ashes of the heifer shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until evening. And this shall be to the people of Israel, and to the stranger who sojourns among them, a perpetual statute.
In Judaism, the OT covenant based upon the TALMUD, or Mosaic Law, contained a prohibition against touching the body grave of a dead person. Why so much concern about dead things? You must remember that the “wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23) and “the soul that sinneth shall surely die.” (Ez. 18:20), and, “sin when it is finished bringeth forth death.” (James 1:15)
Death and Hell are the arch enemies of the fallen race. That’s why the Resurrection is so important to the salvific purpose of our Redemption through the blood.
The Red Heifer (parah adumah in Hebrew), became the propitiation for sin in the OT Tabernacle. An Israel born Red Heifer was the cow whose ashes mixed with water, cedar oil, and scarlet, were used in ceremonial cleansing and the acceptable purification rites for one who had been determined “unclean” through having come into contact with a corpse.
The Red Heifer is discussed in Numbers 19:1-22, which is in the Torah portion Chukat. These verses are also read as the final Torah reading on Shabbat Parah, the Sabbath of the Red Heifer which occurs on the last Shabbat of the month of Adar, shortly before Passover.
Only people who were clean and pure could eat from the Passover sacrifice. According to Jewish tradition, in ancient times there was a public notice posted to remind anyone who had become impure, to purify themselves before making the Passover pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
The Haftarah, Ezekiel 36:16-38, also deals with the fact that uncleanness can be overcome, and notifies the hearer that he can be cleansed from contamination not only from touching the dead, but also the impurity caused by human sinfulness. But, like physical impurity, sins can be overcome. As God says in
25. “1 will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean:I will cleanse you from all your uncleanness and from all your fetishes [idolatrous practices].
26. And I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit into you.”
This restorative activity by God into the human spirit, points the way toward the Passover’s theme of His Redemptive Provision in us. Old Testament law required a sacrifice, and a shedding of blood. Why a Red Heifer? Because in God’s view the color was red for sin and iniquities.
Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
A Red Heifer was a rare birth among the stock of Israel. In fact there has not been a red heifer born in Israel for over 2000 years. For Judaism to succeed the birth of a RH must occur in order for them to go back to offering sacrifices and build the Third Temple. That’s where Judaism and Christianity take a different course. We are not looking for a cow to purify our hearts, Our High Priest is not Eleazar, but we have a High Priest Who has ascended into the heavens, Who ever lives to make intercession for us. He has once offered Himself for the sins of the whole world forever. He is not needed to rebuild a Temple in Israel. NO!
We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.
Paul told those Athenians at Mars Hill:
24. God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that He is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands;
25 Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;
26 And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;
27 That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us
28 For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.
29 For as much then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device
30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:
31 Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.
The red heifer was probably at least two years old. It was to be “without defect or blemish” and to have never borne a yoke. The sacrifice of the red heifer was unique in the law in that it used a female animal, and it was sacrificed away from the entrance to the tabernacle, and it was the only sacrifice in which the color of the animal was specified.
The slaughtering of a red heifer is described in Numbers 19:1-10. Eleazar the priest was to take the entire ritual outside the camp of the Israelites. After the animal was slaughtered, the Priest, Eleazar was to sprinkle some of its blood on the front of the tabernacle door seven times (verse 4). Then he left camp again and oversaw the burning of the carcass of the red heifer (verse 5). As the red heifer burned, the priest was Commanded to add “some cedar wood, hyssop and scarlet wool” to the fire (verse 6).
Those ashes of the red RF were collected and stored “in a ceremonially clean place outside the camp.” The ashes were used “in the water of cleansing; it is for purification from sin” (Numbers 19:9). The law goes on to detail when and how the ashes of the red heifer were used in purifying those who me into contact with a dead body: “Whoever touches a human corpse will be unclean for seven days. They must purify themselves with the water on the third day and on the seventh day; then they will be clean” (verses 11-12).
The cleansing process involved the ashes of the red heifer in this way: “Put some ashes from the burned purification offering into a jar and pour fresh water over them. Then a man who is ceremonially clean is to take some hyssop, dip it in the water and sprinkle anyone who has touched a human bone, or a grave, or anyone who has been killed, or anyone who has died a natural death” (verses 17-18).
The Lord Jesus Christ
Hebrews 13:11, 12
11 For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp.
12 So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood.
The imagery of the red heifer is yet another foreshadowing of the sacrifice of Christ for believers’ sin.
1. The Lord Jesus was “without blemish,” just as the red heifer was to be. He knew no sin. No guile was found in His mouth. He was the Spotless Lamb of God.
2. As the heifer was sacrificed “outside the camp” (Numbers 19:3), Jesus was crucified outside of Jerusalem
Hebrews 13:11, 12
11 For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp. 12 Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate.
3. And just as the ashes of the red heifer cleansed people from the contamination of death, so the sacrifice of Christ saves us from the penalty and corruption of death.
Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.
For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh:
How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
The red heifer ritual was established in the Mosaic Law; in the interval since that time, Judaism has added many standards to what was originally a straightforward, rather simple set of instructions. Talmudic tradition speaks of the type of rope the red heifer was to be bound with, the direction it was to face when being slaughtered, the words spoken by the priest, the wearing of sandals during the ritual, etc. The rabbinical rules listed many things that would disqualify a red heifer from being sacrificed: if she had been ridden or leaned on, if she had a garment placed over her, if a bird had rested on her, and if she had two black or white hairs, among many other conditions.
But the blood of our eternal sacrifice is a perfect offering for sin and transgression. Nothing can be added to or taken away. He hath once offered himself! His Grace is sufficient!
According to rabbinical tradition, there have been nine red heifers sacrificed since Moses’ time. Since the destruction of the d temple, no red heifers have been slaughtered. The rabbi Maimonides (1135-1204) taught that the tenth red heifer would be sacrificed by the Messiah Himself. Those who eagerly anticipate the construction of a third temple are eager to find a red heifer that meets all the conditions, because the red heifer ashes will be necessary to purify the new temple. Many consider that the appearance of a red heifer will herald the construction of the temple and the return of Christ. According to the Temple Institute, a group advocating the construction of a third temple, a flawless red heifer was born in August 2018 in Israel.
According to the futurist timeline of eschatology, there will indeed be a third temple of God in Jerusalem. Jesus prophesied a desecration of the temple during the tribulation (Matthew 24:15; cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:4); for that to occur, there obviously will have to be a temple in Jerusalem to desecrate.
Assuming that those who dedicate the end-times temple follow Jewish law, they will need the ashes of a red heifer, mixed with water, for the ceremonial cleansing. If a blemish-free red heifer has truly been born, it could be seen as one more piece falling into place leading up to the fulfillment of biblical prophecy