When you look at Church history, you will see that Christians have fought over whether you should “dunk or sprinkle.” But as we go through the Scripture, you will see that both were used extensively. In the Parah Adumah ceremony, you did not immerse, you sprinkled. With a leper, you sprinkled and so on. There were no immersion baths found dating back to before 200 BC. People did not immerse in a mikvah but sprinkled. In some parts water was not as available as other places. In that case they “washed” (rachatz) by pouring water over themselves. Karaite Jews do this today.
Bathsheba was doing this when David saw her. She was not using a mikvah. For more information on this, see our teaching called “Tevilah (immersion) and Rachatz (sprinkling)” on this website. Certain types of sprinkling conveyed some interesting concepts relating to the Messiah.
First of all, when you sprinkled, you did it like you were “wielding a whip ” and you can find this in the Mishnah, Yoma 5.4. The hyssop plant is called “the striking plant” and these two examples are clearly alluding to the scourging of Yeshua and the fact that “by his stripes we are healed.”
The Hebrew word for “slaughter” is “zevach” and it means to slaughter for sacrifice, not just “kill.” It is used when talking about the Passover lambs and the blood of the animal is “tossed” against the altar, not poured gently. The word for “altar is “mizbeach” and you can see “zevach” is related.
The concept of the blood in this ceremony is being conveyed in the cedar wood, the tola, the shanni and the Red Heifer itself. Remember, the word “adumah” is related to the word “Adam” which means “blood of God.” It also conveys the concept that no matter what you do you cannot make yourself clean. You need a mediator, an agent, and it doesn’t matter whether the blood is tossed, poured or sprinkled.
But, God repeats these things over and over again, but why does he do that? If the actual ceremony cannot make someone clean as a whole, how important is it. Well, they illustrate something God is communicating about the redemption. An obedient heart is what God wants, a mended heart. If you don’t do it as God commanded, you will miss what he is trying to say.
For example, the Lord said we are not to add to or detract from his word but there are many biblical movies in theatres and on TV about Yeshua, but they are done by people who do not know the Scriptures. They leave out important biblical passages and make up scenarios that never happened. In doing this, they are leaving out things that the Lord was trying to convey. People watching these films think that what they are seeing is how it happened, and it isn’t. Several made for TV movies have come out over the years that are absolutely terrible and we don’t recommend them at all, but the ratings have been good. The point is, if you don’t portray the events the way God wanted them conveyed, you will miss out on what he is trying to say.
The problem is, you have people who think they are Bible scholars behind these movies, but they are really novices at best. The same thing goes for the ceremonies that the Lord commanded in the Scriptures. Nobody can say why the Parah Adumah is needed with authority, so why is it important?
Because God made a set of laws concerning ritual purity (concerned with entering the Temple, interacting with the priesthood and touching consecrated things). He stressed how important it was and how detailed it had to be done. So, you do it because he said to do it that way because there were things that he was trying to teach us. A holy God can only be served by a holy people.
Many commentaries on the Torah portion “Chukat” which deals with the Parah Adumah says that it is the most mysterious of all the rituals in Scripture. The main aim of this ceremony was to purity the defiled and yet it defiled all those that were connected with the preparation of the ashes and the water of purification. It purifies the impure, but at the same time it makes those impure that which was pure. But here is the concept.
In Isa 52.13-15 we see the Messiah coming forth to “sprinkle many nations” and therefore he will become unclean in his coming forth. Anyone familiar with the Kidron Valley knows that there are gravesites all over the place. There are Jewish gravesites on the eastern bank of the valley, and Moslem gravesites on the western bank. The Moslems buried people there because they think that the Jewish Messiah will not defile himself with corpse uncleanliness, thus requiring the ashes of the Red Heifer. So, they think that this will keep him off the Temple Mount.
However, he will be sprinkling everyone else who is unclean according to Isaiah and he’ll be unclean anyway, so that won’t stop him. Now, do not associate being “impure ritually” with sin. It has nothing to do with it. Many Jews have moved away from the laws of purity, and in Christianity they are non-existent. However, since there is no Temple, functioning priesthood or the holy things, ritual purity has been suspended. On p. 459 of “The Pentateuch and Haftorahs” by Rabbi Hertz, it says, “It is to be noted that most laws of purity and impurity apply only in reference to the Sanctuary and the holy objects connected with it. They did not apply in ordinary life, or to persons who did not intend to enter the Sanctuary.”
The Temple was where God wanted to communicate “sanctity” so those that worship there must be “set apart.” Why God did the ashes of the Red Heifer the way he did is because it wasn’t easy to figure out without knowing the true work of the Messiah. Also, you couldn’t put your finger on what exactly made a person unclean. You couldn’t say “by this” or “by that” made a person unclean because in another ceremony it was different.
For example, if you had leprosy, or tzara’at, you were unclean. But, if the leprosy covered your whole body, you were declared clean (Lev 13.9-13).There is a teaching being communicated here, but the point is, God is communicating holiness, and death causes one to be unclean. This ceremony was a way to “change your status” but you had to do God’s way. You may not understand it, or be able to put it all together, but this is the way it had to be done.
In the end, it all will come down to this. Death comes by sin, you are unclean. There is a way God has given by which you can become clean, and that comes through Yeshua and the blood of the lamb. At the Egyptian Passover, it was probably very confusing to the people. How could killing a lamb and placing the blood on the doorposts and lintel save them from death. But after Yeshua came, it was clear.
Someday we will understand the ceremony of the Red Heifer in its fullness, too. We know some things already. We know about the significance of the blood, the animal being without defect and unblemished, the significance of the Mount of Olives, we know about death and redemption. They sprinkled a person with the ashes of the Red Heifer on the third and the seventh day. During the Birthpains, redemption is coming in the third and seventh years.
In Num 19.2, it says that “this is the statute of the law” and the word statute is “chukat.” The people reading that from the time of Moses to the first century thought, “Ok, we won’t understand all this” but God said “Just do it” so they did. That was what was understood by the word “chukat.” There is a divine reason for doing this even though the people may not have understood it.
According to tradition, Moses was the only person to understand the ceremony of the Red Heifer, and the next person who will understand it will be the Messiah. In 1 Cor 13.9-12 it says that “we know in part” but in verse 12 it says “but then face to face.” There is a teaching on Num 12.6-8 that says that God revealed the Torah to Moses and he saw God “face to face” through “clear glass” and this is what Paul is alluding to in 1 Cor 13.9-12. We will understand all things in the fullness of time because the Lord will speak to us clearly, face to face.
Let’s go over some of the laws of the Red Heifer again before we move on to other concepts. The Red Heifer was purchased with funds from the Temple. The Rabbis said that the heifer had to be completely red and three years old, but the Torah does not explicitly say that. It could never have been yoked or harnessed.
A priest slaughtered it “outside of the camp” and when they were in Jerusalem that meant on the Mount of Olives, which was outside of the camp. Blood was collected in the left hand, and with the right hand he dips his fingers into the blood and sprinkles toward the Temple. A fire is lit and the heifer is burned under priestly supervision. With the tola string, he ties a bundle of hyssop and cedar together asking “Is this hyssop” and “Is this cedar?” three times. While burning, he tosses the bundle into the carcass.
When it is done burning, the ashes are divided into three parts. There were gravesites between this site and entering the Temple, so this carried the idea that one had to “watch where he was walking and be mindful of the path you are taking.” In other words, don’t hang out with “dead” people.
Whoever was involved with this ritual became unclean. This means that when one helps others become clean, he can become unclean himself. For an example of this concept, we know that work is forbidden on the Sabbath, but a doctor, nurse or a priest in the Temple must continue on because there is a “work” that must go on in the middle of holiness for the benefit of others.
In Part 5, we are going to continue on with this point and carry on with the idea that there are certain things that would make a person unclean that must go on in order to make another clean, or even save a life. These are concepts that we can glean from understanding the ceremony of the Red Heifer and it is the basis for many of Yeshua’s teachings. We will begin with the story of the Good Samaritan to illustrate this point further.