The Red Heifer
This is a strange passage. The Talmud records that this sacrifice was the only one of God's commands that King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, claimed he did not understand.
It is odd; take a pure red female cow, kill her in the ritual fashion before the priests and the Tabernacle, and instead of draining all the blood beside the altar of burnt sacrifice the way all other sacrifices were to be done, this sacrifice was to be burned with its blood, and the ashes then gathered and kept, rather than gathered and discarded in a clean place outside the camp, like all other sacrifices.
And then the ashes would be used to purify the unclean and ungodly – and eventually be used to purify the very Temple in Jerusalem…and ultimately the rebuilt Temple that will be raised up in time for Antichrist to enter it and desecrate it in the middle of the Tribulation Period.
A little over ten years ago, in 1997, a red heifer was discovered in Israel that caused a lot of excitement – if it turned out that this very young female cow was “without blemish” – in other words, had pure red hair, and no cuts or bruises by the time she was ready for the sacrifice, then for the first time in two thousand years the Jews would have the ingredients to make the Water of Purification that would then pave the way for them to be able to finally rebuild their Temple.
I remember that excitement!
It turned out that the poor cow had some strands of non-red hair and thus was proven to be unfit for the sacrifice, so the search goes on…
…this is the chapter than explains that.
…the priest shall take cedar wood and hyssop and scarlet…
· According to Leviticus 14, these are the same elements used in the cleansing of a leper
o Each of these items has very special significance, and point to Jesus Christ:
o Cedar is extremely resistant to disease and rot, and is well known for its quality and preciousness. It is a hardy desert tree that produces a sturdy wood, and as such is a symbolic reference to the wood of the cross.
§ Some scholars even think the cross Jesus was crucified on was made of cedar.
o When David said purge me with hyssop in Psalm 51:7, he was admitted he was a bad as a leper.
§ Also, a hyssop branch was used to offer Jesus a drink of gall mixed with vinegar as He hung from the cross.
o Scarlet, the color of blood, pictures the cleansing blood of Jesus on the cross.
§ Scarlet was used in the veil and curtains of the tabernacle (Exodus 26:31),
§ in the garments of the high priest (Exodus 28:5-6),
§ the covering for the table of showbread (Numbers 4:8),
§ the sign of Rahab’s salvation (Joshua 2:21),
§ and the color of the mocking “king’s robe” put on Jesus at His torture by the soldiers (Matthew 27:28).
the red heifer
· The red heifer, as well as all the other specifications in the Torah, was an allusion which ultimately pointed to Jesus Christ, as Paul points out in Hebrews 9:13, 14:
· Solomon apparently did not understand why Numbers 19 declared that the priest would be "unclean until evening."
o This unusual sacrifice symbolically pointed to Jesus Christ and His sacrifice because our Lord, who was perfectly sinless, judicially took upon Himself the sins of the world so that we who are sinful could become righteous before God.
· Just as the red heifer was sacrificed "outside the camp," in contrast to all other sacrifices that took place in the Tabernacle or Temple, Jesus was sacrificed outside the city of Jerusalem, on the very spot on which Abraham offered Isaac two thousand years earlier.
· One more thing: it is likely that it was the Water of Purification, which you would get from the ashes of the red heifer and reserved for ritual cleansing, that was the water used by Jesus when He turned the water into wine at the wedding at Cana.
o You can’t fully appreciate the significance of this event unless you understand this chapter in Numbers. Jesus was, to His disciples only, declaring Himself the Lord of the Torah.
· It is this water, the Water of Purification, which is only available through the sacrifice of the Red Heifer, which is being actively sought for by the Jews.
o It’s needed to “purify” a new priesthood (which is right now being trained in OT Temple worship), and to “purify” the Temple Mount (which is currently being occupied by the Gentiles – specifically the Muslim Gentiles who want to kill the Jews and prevent Temple worship) in preparation for the building of the Third Temple.
§ (We know there will be a Third Temple because both Jesus and Paul make reference to it in the NT.)
o The Second Temple (Herod’s) was destroyed by the Roman army in 70
A.D., and ever since the Jews have been unable to rebuild it, at least partly because there have not been any suitable sacrifices – no pure red heifer to get the Water of Purification from.
· This all winds up being very prophetically significant
o The Book of Revelation assumes there is a Jewish temple – the Third Temple – in Jerusalem at least by the midpoint of the Trib.
§ We know this because, according to II Thes., Antichrist will enter the Holy of Holies and declare himself to be god and demand to be worshipped