The ceremony of the Parah Adumah (Red Heifer) is one of the most mysterious rituals in the Scriptures and can be found in Num 19.1-22. It is said on Page 652 of “The Pentateuch and Haftorahs” by Rabbi J. H. Hertz that “King Solomon in his wisdom despaired of learning the secret meaning of the Parah Adumah regulations.” It goes on to say that Yochanon Ben Zakkai, a first century sage, explained to his students that “By your lives the dead man does not make impure, neither do the ashes dissolved in water make pure: but the law concerning the Red Heifer is a decree of the All-Holy, whose reasons for issuing that decree it behooves not mortals to question.” The term Red Heifer is Parah Adumah in Hebrew and it is called a “statute” (19.2) or “chukat” in Hebrew. A “chukat” is an ordinance that you do not understand or can explain, but you do it anyway because the Lord said to do it and the understanding will come later. In 19.1 the Lord speaks to Aaron the High Priest, but then in 19.3 it says “you shall give it to Eleazar the Kohen and it shall be brought outside the camp and be slaughtered in his presence.” Based on that, the High Priest can kill the heifer, but has the option to delegate it to another kohen. It has always been done this way.
The ceremony of the Parah Adumah is not a korban. It is slaughtered, but it is not a “sacrifice” (korban). It is called the “sin-offering cow” and it is associated with sin, but why? It is because this ceremony and the ashes of the Parah Adumah deal with death and corpse impurity. Death came about through sin. There is a concept in the Scriptures called “overshadowing” which says that even if your shadow comes across a corpse or a grave, you will contract corpse impurity. Now, corpse impurity only deals with being ritually clean in order to enter the Temple and have contact with the items that have the kedusha of the Temple. The first Parah Adumah was offered in the last year of the wilderness. We learn that Miriam dies in Num 20.1, and Josephus ties Chapter 19 and the Parah Adumah with her death and when this was instituted. The ashes of this heifer was used during the entire First Temple period. As the children of Israel move into the land, they are going north. Aaron dies and is buried on Mount Hor and Moses dies and is buried on Mount Nebo. Joshua, a type of Yeshua) takes over and leads the into the promised land. The spiritual application is this. The Torah (Moses) can only show you the promises, only Yeshua (Joshua) can take you into them.
In Num 19.4 we learn about the “tent of meeting.” This is called the “Ohel Moed” in Hebrew. The Heichal of the Temple went by two names, the Ha Kodesh (Holy Place) and the Ohel Moed (Tent of Meeting). In Hebrew, “Par” means a “bull” and “Parah” means a “heifer (feminine). In Num 19.2, we see the term used in the Scriptures for the Red Heifer, which is “Parah (heifer) Adumah (red).” Now, when you look at the word “Adumah” you see the feminine ending (“ah”) on “adum” which has the same root as “Adam” and “Edom.” The word “Adam” means “blood (dam) of God (the aleph in Hebrew stands for God). It also means “first (the letter aleph) blood (dam).” So, as you can see, the very name of this ceremony alludes back to Adam and the first sin, which brought death into the world.
Contact with a corpse resulted in corpse impurity, and that meant that you had to be sprinkled with the ashes of the Parah Adumah in this ceremony in order to enter the Temple and resume normal worship before God. It says that this heifer must be “unblemished.” There are many opinions out there on what this exactly means. There are those who say this means that the heifer cannot have two different colors of hair. But it really doesn’t say that, it means whole and complete. It goes on to say that it must be “without defect” which means it cannot be injured, blind, lame and so on. The heifer cannot have had a yoke placed on it for work, and this alludes to the fact that we are not saved by “works.” The Torah is truth and it sets us free (James 1.25; Psa 119.45). The Mishnah and the Targum Yonaton state that this heifer must be one to two years old (Parah 1.4), and the rabbi’s say that the heifer must be three years old, but there is no age mentioned specifically in Num 19 for the age of this heifer in order to be used in this ceremony.
We are going to be working out of a tractate in the Mishnah that deals with this ceremony called “Parah” but here is a major concept. When studying the Temple ceremonies, you can pick up many things about the Scriptures. We are going to pick up several major keys and concepts about the birth of Yeshua when studying the Parah Adumah ceremony.
As we go through this ceremony, you can go to several sites that will have illustrations on what and how this ceremony was done. You can go to the Temple Institute on-line and go the section called “Red Heifer” or you can go the Jerusalem Temple Study on-line and go to “teachings” and go to page 8 where you will find some wonderful photos of the actual site on the Mount of Olives where this was done. It will also have a view from where the Temple stood of the actual site and it gives you a sense of distance and just how big the bridge was that was constructed from the Temple to the Mount of Olives to the site where the heifer was slain. With that said, let’s move into Part 52 of this series on the ceremonies of the Temple and the ritual of the Parah Adumah from the Danby Mishnah, and begin to bring out the ceremony of the Red Heifer as it was done in the time of Yeshua.