We are going to take a long look at the ceremony of the Red Heifer. We have referred to it on other posts but we are going to take a specific look at this, define the ceremony and then apply its significance to the “acharit yamim” or the last days.
From ancient times, this ceremony was associated with the sin of the Golden Calf in the mind of the Jewish people. So, we are going to find out in this study the answer to the following questions:
1) What is it?
2) Why was it necessary?
3) What is the history of the Red Heifer?
4) What are the special neighborhoods and the children who will draw the water for the ceremony?
5) When were they slain?
6) When will the next one be slain?
7) What is the bridge that was built across the Kidron Valley to the Mount of Olives and the fire pit?
8) What about the slaughtering and burning of the Red Heifer?
9) How was the ceremony of cleansing the Temple done?
10) Who cleansed the priests and what was that ceremony about?
11) How were the worshippers cleansed?
12) How does the ceremony of the Red Heifer fit into Bible prophecy?
In Numbers 19.1-22, the ceremony of the Red Heifer is given. In verses 1-2 the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron and said that the people were to bring them an unblemished Red Heifer. Red Heifer in Hebrew is “Parah Adumah.” In “adumah” you can see the root “adum” or “Adam” there. Adam means “blood of God” and you can immediately see that it is alluding to the “second Adam” Yeshua and his blood.
The Red Heifer was necessary because it was part of the purity laws and information on it can be found in the Mishnah, division Tohorot (cleanliness), tractate “Parah.” The Rabbinical qualifications for a Red heifer are that it cannot even have any off-colored hairs, warts, moles, scratches, scars, chafing, cuts, blotches, baldness, discoloration, cracked horns or hoofs or “discolored eyes.” It also must have red horns and hoofs, or in other words, totally red. They also say that the cow must be three years old or less. The cow will be counted as one year old at birth, the same as children.
However, this is not all biblical. In Num 19.2 we see the word “unblemished” and it simply means “no effect, whole, entire.” Also in 19.2 we have the word “defect” and it simply means “not injured.” There is no biblical requirement that the Red Heifer has to be three years old either. So, according to the Torah, we could see a qualified Red Heifer as long as it had no limbs missing, cuts, scars, deformities and had not carried a yoke. It also does not have to be free from any “discolored” hairs.
It is doubtful that the Rabbinical Jews involved in building the next Temple will follow only the Torah on this issue (they haven’t done that for 2000 years!) but will also include the Oral Laws associated with the Red Heifer, but they don’t have to.
In the Talmud, in Kohelet Rabbah 7.23 #4, it says that this was the only ceremony that King Solomon did not understand. This ceremony is hard to understand, but it is also fascinating. In Num 19.2 it says that this heifer should not have ever carried a yoke, and a yoke is defined as a rope, blanket, saddle or halter. No man-made thing could ever be on it.
In Num 19.3 we read that the heifer was to be given to Eleazar, the son of Aaron. He was deputy High Priest, or the “sagan”, a delegate and highest ranking priest under the High Priest. This was because of Aaron’s role with the Golden calf, but also the High Priest was not to be defiled ritually. The heifer was to be taken “outside the camp” and in the wilderness, that meant east of the camp. Once Jerusalem was established as the place for the Temple, it was taken east of the city.
Now, the ceremony is related to two other ceremonies used in the original Passover ceremony in Egypt. The two ceremonies are the Yom Kippur ceremony and the cleansing of a leper. In Num 19.5-6 we see the hyssop, cedar wood and the scarlet material being called for. Hyssop is called the “striking plant” and it is used ten times in the Scripture. It was referred to in John 19.29 with Yeshua on the cross and on Yom Kippur when it was used to sprinkle the blood on the Ark. In Psa 51.7 David prays for the Lord to cleanse him with hyssop, alluding to theses ceremonies. In Lev 14.6 hyssop was used in the cleansing of a leper.
So, hyssop became the agent used to bring a change of status and to reinstate ritual purity (tahor). The cedar wood was used in the Temple and it was considered the tree of the righteous. The “meat” of the wood is red and it was used to illustrate greatness (Ezek 17.3; 17.22; Psa 92.12). It also had a pleasant fragrance. The scarlet material is the word “tola” and it is related to the word “shanni” which means red, like blood. This color comes from a worm. In Psa 22.6 the word “worm” there is the word “tola” and this worm attaches itself to a tree (cross). It never leaves the larvae and as she dies, it leaves a crimson fluid on its body and the tree, like blood. It is from her dead body that a red dye is made.
Spiritually, this worm is used to convey the idea of a weak and despised person (Job 25.6; Isa 1.18). Both “tola” (red) and “shanni” (scarlet) are used in Isa 1.18 so these words are synonymous. The scarlet is used in the Azazel ceremony on Yom Kippur is “shanni” but the scarlet used in the cleansing of the leper and the Red Heifer is “tola.” Next, cedar wood is used for the Red Heifer and the leper. The tola worm was what destroyed Jonah’s gourd plant (Jonah 4.7).
The second meaning is the scarlet color or “tolat shanni” (Lam 4.5; Isa 1.18) and it means a blood color, used in exchange for purity (white). As a side note, the eldest son of Isaachar was named Tola and he was Job’s brother. The idea that is being conveyed here is the idea that a blood stain can turn something to white, and that is hard to do in the natural, but nothing is impossible with the Lord. He can take the impure and bring him back to a ritual state of purity, allowing him to enter the Temple and have contact with the priests and the holy things. It is symbolic of what happens in salvation, where the blood can turn our sins to white.
In Part 2 we will pick up in Num 19.6-13 and bring out more of the biblical concepts that the Lord was trying to convey in this ceremony. We will be moving toward how all of this applies in our day and in the last days before the coming of Yeshua.