In Num 19.9-13 we come across the word “impurity” which is “niddah” in Hebrew. What you are dealing with in these verses is “corpse uncleanliness” which is the most severe type. The corpse equals death and the one who is in this state of uncleanliness is the one who cannot come before the Lord to worship because the corpse is linked to death.
Death is the enemy of God and the result of sin, that’s why anyone defiled by a corpse could not enter the Temple. God gave them something hard to achieve in the ceremony of the Red Heifer because it was hard to find a Red Heifer at all, and it had to be done exactly right. Right now, as far anyone on the outside knows, there is not a qualified Red Heifer in Israel. This will be needed before any Temple or priesthood gets started. The hard truth about this ceremony is that nobody could worship in the Temple, including Yeshua, without this ceremony.
The Temple, the priesthood, the Levites, the holy things and the people that entered had to be cleansed before anything could be done. Was Yeshua ever sprinkled with the ashes of a Red Heifer? Yes, because he touched the dead and dealt with death constantly, so he had to be sprinkled before he could enter into the Temple. Did Yeshua offer sin offerings, or the Korban Chat’at? Yes, but does that mean he sinned? No, it was part of the ceremonies he did.
If a woman gave birth to a child, she offered a sin offering. Did she sin? The answer is “No” because these offerings were part of a ceremony (Lev 12.6).
In Ezek 45.22, many think that the “prince” mentioned there may be Yeshua offering the korbanot. Even if it isn’t, we see that these offerings, or ceremonies, will be done again when Yeshua returns and builds Ezekiel’s Temple. So much for the false doctrine that the death of Yeshua put an end to the sacrifices! Read Ezekiel 40-48 for a real eye opener. In the future there are two Temples coming, and everyone and everything will need to be sprinkled with the ashes of the Red Heifer.
Anciently, six weeks before Passover, some people would start their journey to Jerusalem. Why? Because you cannot keep a festival outside of the place where God put his name (Deut 12.11; 2 Chr 6.6). Because people were traveling to Jerusalem, graves had to be whitewashed for ritual purity (Mishanh, Shekalim 1.1). Offerings were brought (like Paul said he did in Acts 24.17) including the “hatzi shekel” or half shekel (Exo 30). Robbers and bandits were a problem so the pilgrims were armed when possible.
Jerusalem begins to prepare for all these visitors. Roads are improved, mikva’ot (immersion baths) are repaired and so on. City squares and public areas are cleared so that the pilgrims can stay there and buy supplies. Mikva’ot are set up along the way so that the people could arrive in Jerusalem in a ritual state of purity, which means they can enter the Temple. Passover could be postponed one month if these things could not be done. Right now, except for a few people in selected neighborhoods in Jerusalem, every person on earth is ritually unclean and could not worship in the Temple. When Paul came back from his missionary journeys to Jerusalem, he needed to be sprinkled with the ashes of a Red Heifer seven days before he entered the Temple.
In order to have the ceremony of the Red Heifer, you will need a qualified Red Heifer and someone who is ritually clean. In the wilderness, Moses was a type of the Messiah and he was in a category by himself. Aaron and his sons will serve as priests. The Levites would serve the priesthood. The Mishkan (Tabernacle) needed to be cleansed, so the priesthood had to be purified, then they purified the Levites and then everything used in worship (the holy things) had to be purified. After that, everyone in the nation.
From there, we begin to go through the centuries and centuries of worship. We know that Zedekiah was carried away to Babylon, and later Zerubbabel comes back, followed by Ezra who rebuilds the Temple. They must go through all of this ritual purification again with ashes from a Red Heifer to reinstitute worship. Then they go through the land and the nation. Every article used in Temple worship was sprinkled. Hezekiah had to do this in 2 Chr 29-30.
When we come down to the Roman period we know that in 70 A.D. the Temple was destroyed. By 135 A.D. and the Bar Kochba revolt, the people are totally driven out of the land and that is where we find ourselves today. When the Temple is rebuilt, all of this has to begin again. But, we are at a standstill right now.
The Red Heifer is the key to much of Bible prophecy concerning the coming Tribulation Temple. Nothing can start until one is found and at least one clean priest can be involved in this ceremony.
As mentioned before, in 2 Chr 29 and 30, Hezekiah cleansed the entire nation because his father Ahaz had built an altar to idolatry in the Temple. As a result, the priesthood, the Levites and the people were defiled. So he cleansed the people and prepared them to stand in ritual purity in the Temple for the Passover. He did this with the ashes of the Red Heifer.
If the entire nation is impure, who could participate in the preparations needed for the ceremony of the Red Heifer? The priests had to have at least one person who could do it. A clean priest was needed, so in the days of the Second Temple, it is said that children were raised from birth who had never been exposed to death. Special courtyards were made over places with a raised, hollow spaces to insure that there were no unknown grave sites. This would shield those inside from corpse impurity. The Torah says that stone is impervious to the “penetration” of impurity, and the open spaces beneath these courtyards added extra assurance. Women would give birth there and raise these children and keep them away from defilement.
When a priest needed to burn a Red Heifer, oxen were brought with boards across their back to prevent impurity. The children were brought out of the courtyards and would sit on the oxen with stone jars to hold the water and they would proceed to the Pool of Shiloach (meaning “sent”), the same pool used in the ceremony of the Beit Ha Shoevah at Sukkot, and get water, then ride to the Temple Mount. The Kelal, a stone vessel with the mixture of the ashes of all the previous Red Heifers, would be there.
These children would dismount as they approached the Beautiful Gate (this is the gate that leads from the Court of the Gentiles to the Court of the Women). They would take the ashes, mix them with the water from Shiloach and sprinkle the priests. These children were at least 8 years old, from a priestly family and separated for this purpose from birth. If the priesthood was non-functioning due to uncleanliness, everybody is unclean and the boy handles the water, just like Moses, Hezekiah and Ezra. In a functioning priesthood, not everybody was unclean.
If that is the case, then seven days before a Red Heifer was slain, a priest was separated in what was called the “house of stones.” He is sprinkled everyday with ashes from an a previously sacrificed Red Heifer mixed with water. When he brings the heifer, he wears white vestments called a “kittel.” He goes across a specially constructed bridge over the Kidron Valley. This is not a permanent bridge and will be taken down when the ceremony is completed. You can go on the Internet and search for the “Red Heifer bridge” to see what this looked like. Only when they needed to slay a heifer was this bridge built, and they used Temple funds to do it.
The priest with the elders of Israel crossed this bridge with the heifer. This bridge went across the Kidron Valley to the Mount of Olives, which is also called the “Mount of Anointment.” They would proceed to a high place on the mountain because the officiating priest must be able to look over the walls of Jerusalem into the Mikdash (sanctuary) and the Kodesh Ha Kodeshim (the Holy of Holies).
There will be three priests involved here. A pile of wood has been made into a pyramid shape, with cedar, pine and fir. The heifer and the priest go inside this structure and the heifer is positioned pointing south, with the head turned west towards the Holy of Holies. At this point she is tied. The priest stands east of the heifer and slays her with his right hand. He collects the blood with the left hand. He dips his right hand finger into his left palm and sprinkles seven times toward the Holy of Holies. He then comes out of the “pit” (what it is literally called) and comes to the base of the pyramid to start the fire.
Another priest will throw in the tola (scarlet) material, the hyssop and the cedar which is bound together in a bundle with the tola cloth. He asks three times, “Is this cedar wood?”; “Is this the hyssop?”; “Is this the tola (scarlet)?”
Why do they do that? It is done to put emphasis on the Lord’s commandment after an incident that occurred at a previous Sukkot concerning the “mayim chayim” or living water. The priests were almost always Sadducean. They did not believe that living water should be poured out over the altar at Sukkot during the Beit Ha Shoevah ceremony because it is not explicitly mentioned in Num 29. The reason water was used in the first place is because in the Torah, the ceremony and offerings are given in Num 29.1-40 the offerings are listed. However, extra letters in Hebrew were seen in verses 17, 19 and 32 and these letters spelled “mayim” or “water.” So the Pharisees believed water should be used.
So, one year a priest poured out the water rather than put it on the altar. The Pharisees made them go through everything again and they made them do it before the people to make sure it was done correctly and witnessed. So, that is why they say these things three times before the people.
They will wait until the heifer “splits” and then they throw in the tola, hyssop and cedar inside and the bundle burns, giving off a pleasant fragrance. Once burned, you have the ashes of the heifer, the ceremonial bundle and bone. These are gathered up and “pounded” until the ashes are left.
The ashes are then divided into three parts. Some are brought into the Temple in a small pot near the Beautiful Gate. Some are kept on the Mount of Olives and some are distributed in 24 sections among the priesthood throughout the land. Once the ashes are brought to the Temple, the cleansing of the priesthood, the utensils and everything there can begin. The 8 year old children (from a priestly family) have been sent to Shiloach for water. When that is done, they go to the Beautiful Gate.
The young boy will take the right amount of the ashes and mix it with the water and the courtyards of the Temple are sprinkled and sanctified. Then they sanctify the priests, then the Levites and finally the people.
In Part 3, we will pick up here and begin to talk about the cleansing of the Levites and look at the words used for “sprinkling” in Hebrew and how this relates to the Messiah in his ministry of “sprinkling” when he returns (Zech 13.10 through 14.1; Isa 52.13-15).