Series: Thru the Bible
Message – The Red Heifer – Numbers 19-20
The Red Heifer – Thru the Bible
Numbers 19 LAWS OF PURIFICATION:
Provision for purification – the ashes from the sacrifice of a Red Heifer was to be kept for future purification by water to remove impurity – it was a sin offering.
I believe it was Pam who asked a question a few months ago about why the Jewish people do not offer sacrifices anymore. I explained that they had to rebuilt the temple, find a pure lineage of Levi from the family of Aaron AND breed cattle until they can establish a steady stock from which pure Red Heifers could be supplied.
The website article points to Daniel 12:6-13,
“(6) One said to the man dressed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, “How long until the end of these extraordinary things?” (7) Then I heard the man dressed in linen, who was above the waters of the river. He raised both his hands toward heaven and swore by Him who lives eternally that it would be for a time, times, and half a time. When the power of the holy people is shattered, all these things will be completed. (8) I heard but did not understand. So I asked, “My lord, what will be the outcome of these things?” (9) He said, “Go on your way, Daniel, for the words are secret and sealed until the time of the end. (10) Many will be purified, cleansed, and refined, but the wicked will act wickedly; none of the wicked will understand, but the wise will understand. (11) From the time the daily sacrifice is abolished and the abomination of desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days. (12) Blessed is the one who waits for and reaches 1,335 days. (13) But as for you, go on your way to the end; you will rest, then rise to your destiny at the end of the days.”
This Red Heifer was a very special depiction of Christ in several ways.
- It was the ONLY sacrifice which – like Christ – was killed OUTSIDE the camp of God’s people.
- It was a sacrifice for being polluted and corrupted by death itself.
- Both water and blood where mingled in the process.
- The sacrifice itself was both rare and unique.
Num. 19:1-2 The taking of a Red Heifer.
“(1) The LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, (2) “This is the legal statute that the LORD has commanded: Instruct the Israelites to bring you an unblemished red cow that has no defect and has never been yoked.”
The following are the requirements for the Red Heifer which made this particular animal extremely rare:
- A heifer is a cow which has never been pregnant
- One with a red hair – which, of course, would be rare.
- Without blemish, in which there is no defect
- Never yoked (free from sin AND the law – though Christ obeyed the law and was obligated to do so in order to be the Messiah, he was not “bound” or “yoked” to it as the rest of humanity was since His righteousness was in tact.
- There was nothing particularly cruel or oppressive about a yoke in and of itself, but because it was used on beasts of burden, it came to metaphorically represent oppression, bondage to hardship and servitude. With that in mind, let’s look at Romans 7:1-14, “(1) Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? (2) For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband. (3) So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man. (4) Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another–to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. (5) For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. (6) But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter. (7) What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “YOU SHALL NOT COVET.” (8) But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. (9) I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. (10) And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. (11) For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me. (12) Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good. (13) Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful. (14) For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin.”
- So you can see the law was not really a yoke of bondage in and of itself, but due to the fallen nature of man, it could serve as nothing else. Hear again the words of Paul, “And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death.”
- That phrase teaches us TWO VERY important in today’s world of twisted and man centered theology…they are things which are almost completely lost on this generation of Christian and that is…
- 1 – God ordained the law to give life. Are we to assume then that God failed in His task? Was the law somehow flawed…was God simply misguided or not powerful enough to accomplish His intended goal…Did the law in fact, not have the ability to give life? Of course it did! The problem was NOT and NEVER WAS the law – the problem was the fallen nature of man.
- 2 – is the words, “I FOUND” – these are VERY telling words. It is a statement of subjective experience and interpretation. It is NOT OBJECTIVE and Paul goes on to point that out – by concluding that the Law was and still is holy, spiritual and good but he was impure and sold under sin.
- So with that understanding, Christ was obligated to keep the law and fulfill all it foretold of the Messiah – because He was the Messiah – but He was never UNDER the law (which is why it was a curse), because He never had a fallen nature. – SO it is that the Red Heifer which pointed to and represented Christ could never have a yoke upon it. In the same way the the bones of a sin sacrifice could not be broken – because Christ’s were not to be broken on the cross. (Does anyone remember WHY it would have been wrong to break Jesus’ bones on the cross? Because bones are a physical representation of a person’s spirit and though Jesus was crushed in soul He was never broken in spirit.)
Num. 19:3-10 The sacrifice, burning, and gathering of ashes from the Red Heifer.
“(3) Give it to Eleazar the priest, and he will have it brought outside the camp and slaughtered in his presence. (4) Eleazar the priest is to take some of its blood with his finger and sprinkle it seven times toward the front of the tent of meeting. (5) The cow must be burned in his sight. Its hide, flesh, and blood, are to be burned along with its dung. (6) The priest is to take cedar wood, hyssop, and crimson yarn, and throw them onto the fire where the cow is burning. (7) Then the priest must wash his clothes and bathe his body in water; after that he may enter the camp, but he will remain ceremonially unclean until evening. (8) The one who burned the cow must also wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and he will remain unclean until evening. (9) “A man who is clean is to gather up the cow’s ashes and deposit them outside the camp in a ceremonially clean place. The ashes must be kept by the Israelite community for preparing the water to remove impurity; it is a sin offering. (10) Then the one who gathers up the cow’s ashes must wash his clothes, and he will remain unclean until evening. This is a perpetual statute for the Israelites and for the foreigner who resides among them.”
- The heifer had to be killed and burned in the sight of the priest.
- Some of it’s blood was to be sprinkled TOWARDS the FRONT of the Tabernacle of meeting.
- The hide, flesh, refuse AND IT’s BLOOD was to be burned (This was unique from ALL OTHER OFFERINGS)
- The priest was to take Cedar, Hyssop & scarlet and cast it onto the fire consuming the Heifer.
- All parties – the one who killed and burned the heifer, the priest and the one who gathered the ashes was to bath and wash their clothes and remain unclean until evening.
- The ashes were to be gathered by one observing the event and deposit them outside the camp in a ceremonially clean place. They were KEPT there for later use in removing impurity by being added to water to be used as needed.
it is a purification for sin: not so much an offering for sin, properly speaking;
The heifer, not being sacrificed in the tabernacle, nor on the altar – but burned outside the camp – the ashes answered the purposes of a sin offering. The ashes in water were a type of the blood of Christ, which purges the conscience from dead works, but it only purified to the sanctifying of the flesh, Heb. 9:13;
“(11) Now the Messiah has appeared, high priest of the good things that have come. In the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands (that is, not of this creation), (12) He entered the holy of holies once for all, not by the blood of goats and calves, but by His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. (13) For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who are defiled, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, (14) how much more will the blood of the Messiah, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to serve the living God?”
Ashes are known to be of a cleansing nature, and so a fit emblem of spiritual purification by Christ; and the duration of them of the continued nature of His cleansing blood since the ashes of the heifer was said to last for many years. It is believed that only 9 heifers were ever used in this way before Messiah.
The importance of the articles:
- Its blood is to be burned: Unlike every other sacrifice in the Old Testament, the blood of the Red Heifer is burnt along with the sacrifice, instead of being completely drained out at the jugular. Blood was to be part of the ashes that would come forth from the burning of the carcass of the Red Heifer.
- This was to be mixed in the water for cleansing impurities and was a type of sin offering – therefore it HAD to have blood in it, but the blood could not go bad and decay, so it was burned and therefore preserved.
The following three objects should seem familiar to you in that each of them were used in the cleansing ceremony for a leper (Lev. 14:4-6), and each item has a special significance.
- Cedar is extremely resistant to disease and rot, and is well known for its quality and preciousness. These properties may be the reason for including it here – as well as a symbolic reference to the wood of the cross. Some even think the cross Jesus was crucified on was made of cedar.
- Hyssop was used not only with the cleansing ceremony for lepers, but also Jesus was offered a sour vinegar made from a hyssop while on the cross (Mat. 27:48), and when David said, “…purge me with hyssop and I will be clean” in Psa. 51:7, he was either admitting that he was a bad as a leper and in need of cleaning.
- Scarlet, the color of blood, pictures the cleansing blood of Jesus on the cross. Scarlet as you no doubt remember, was used in the veil and curtains of the tabernacle (Exod. 26:31), in the garments of the high priest (Exod. 28:5-6), the covering for the table of showbread (Num. 4:8), but also in 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 (Mat. 27:28).
They shall be kept for the congregation of the children of Israel for the water of purification; it is for purifying from sin: The residue from the burning of the carcass and blood, the cedar, the hyssop, and the scarlet fabric together would produce a lot of ash, and the ash was to be gathered and sprinkled in water bit by bit to make water fit for purification.
“The person who touches any human corpse will be unclean for seven days. (12) He is to purify himself with the water on the third day and the seventh day; then he will be clean. But if he does not purify himself on the third and seventh days, he will not be clean. (13) Anyone who touches a body of a person who has died, and does not purify himself, defiles the tabernacle of the LORD. That person will be cut off from Israel. He remains unclean because the water for impurity has not been sprinkled on him, and his uncleanness is still on him.”
Notice the emphasis on the 3rd and the 7th day.
- The 3rd has significance in that it is the number which represents divine wholeness and perfection as well as spiritual growth.
- It is also significant in that it was on the 3rd day of creation which began seed, time and harvest – representing spiritual growth or bearing fruit.
- All of this adds to the significance of Christ’s resurrection on the 3rd day.
- Seven is important because it represents a finished work – on the seventh day of Creation God rested from all His work, every 7th day was the sabbath’s rest, every 7 years was the sabbath rest of the land, 70×7 was used by Christ to represent perfect forgiveness which has no end (a rest from keeping count).
So to fail to be sprinkled on these days would point to Christ’s blood and it’s efficacy as being insufficient, not fruitful, incomplete and therefore it’s been shed for man not truly sufficient to make the work of redemption a once for all – finished work.
Also, notice the DIRECT connection between the one to be purified and the tabernacle where God dwelt. To fail to be purified by sprinkling was to defile the tabernacle itself!
“(14) “This is the law when a person dies in a tent: everyone who enters the tent and everyone who is already in the tent will be unclean for seven days, (15) and any open container without a lid tied on it is unclean. (16) Anyone in the open field who touches a person who has been killed by the sword or has died, or a human bone, or a grave, will be unclean for seven days. (17) For the purification of the unclean person, they are to take some of the ashes of the burnt sin offering, put them in a jar, and add fresh water to them. (18) A person who is clean is to take hyssop, dip it in the water, and sprinkle the tent, all the furnishings, and the people who were there. He is also to sprinkle the one who touched a bone, a grave, a corpse, or a person who had been killed. (19) “The one who is clean is to sprinkle the unclean person on the third day and the seventh day. After he purifies the unclean person on the seventh day, the one being purified must wash his clothes and bathe in water, and he will be clean by evening. (20) But a person who is unclean and does not purify himself, that person will be cut off from the assembly because he has defiled the sanctuary of the LORD. The water for impurity has not been sprinkled on him; he is unclean. (21) This is a perpetual statute for them. The person who sprinkles the water for impurity is to wash his clothes, and whoever touches the water for impurity will be unclean until evening. (22) Anything the unclean person touches will become unclean, and anyone who touches it will be unclean until evening.”
Numbers 20 – The Death of Miriam
“(1) The entire Israelite community entered the Wilderness of Zin in the first month, and they settled in Kadesh. Miriam died and was buried there.”
Num. 20:2-29 – The Waters of Meribah
“(2) There was no water for the community, so they assembled against Moses and Aaron. (3) The people quarreled with Moses and said, “If only we had perished when our brothers perished before the LORD. (4) Why have you brought the LORD’s assembly into this wilderness for us and our livestock to die here? (5) Why have you led us up from Egypt to bring us to this evil place? It’s not a place of grain, figs, vines, and pomegranates, and there is no water to drink!” (6) Then Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the doorway of the tent of meeting. They fell down with their faces to the ground, and the glory of the LORD appeared to them. (7) The LORD spoke to Moses, (8) “Take the staff and assemble the community. You and your brother Aaron are to speak to the rock while they watch, and it will yield its water. You will bring out water for them from the rock and provide drink for the community and their livestock.” (9) So Moses took the staff from the LORD’s presence just as He had commanded him.”
- These people NEVER learn!
- Moses and Aaron’s immediate response was to go to the doorway of the tabernacle and fall on their faces before the Lord AGAIN!
- God tells them to take the staff (presumably Aarons which was before the Lord in the Tabernacle which represented Aaron’s delegated authority) and assemble all of the people together. Both Moses AND Aaron were to SPEAK to the rock while they watch and it would gush forth water for all those people AND their animals.
- So Moses took the staff as he was commanded
Num. 20:10-13 – Moses Strikes the Rock
“(10) Moses and Aaron summoned the assembly in front of the rock, and Moses said to them, “Listen, you rebels! Must we bring water out of this rock for you?” (11) Then Moses raised his hand and struck the rock twice with his staff, so that a great amount of water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank. (12) But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust Me to show My holiness in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this assembly into the land I have given them.” (13) These are the waters of Meribah, where the Israelites quarreled with the LORD, and He showed His holiness to them.”
- Moses was driven by anger.
- He speaks to the people NOT the rock. (wrong focus)
- Notice God saw this as an issue of trust and failing to set an example before Israel of consecrating and setting apart the Lord in honor in their hearts.
- God corrects Moses privately between he and Aaron alone.
- Moses and Aaron both do not enter the promised land.
God took this VERY seriously. We know how God loved Moses and called him His friend and spoke with him face to face, but Moses’ sin was an egregious one and required a quick and strong answer – only God tempered it through metaphor and not in reality.
The promised land represented the “finished work” of Christ in His people. The need for the establishment of the fruit of holiness unto the Lord – and Moses’ sin was SO GREAT that God was saying that it disqualified Moses for salvation – NOT in reality, but through simile.
- The ROCK – represented Christ. – 1 Cor. 10:1-4, “(1) Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, (2) all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, (3) all ate the same spiritual food, (4) and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.”
- Striking it – representing the crucifixion of Christ
- Zec. 13:7, “Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, Against the Man who is My Companion,” Says the LORD of hosts. “Strike the Shepherd, And the sheep will be scattered; Then I will turn My hand against the little ones.
- Matt. 26:31, “Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written: ‘I WILL STRIKE THE SHEPHERD, AND THE SHEEP OF THE FLOCK WILL BE SCATTERED.’”
- Which is repeated in Mark 14:27.
- So striking the Rock which represented Christ as crucified TWO TIMES was representing Christ as dying twice – therefore shaming Him rather than consecrating Him as set apart. – Heb. 6:1-6, “(1) Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, (2) of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. (3) And this we will do if God permits. (4) For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, (5) and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, (6) if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.”
You can see the strength of the passion God felt about this even many years later – for just before Israel was to enter the promised land Moses asked God again if he might be permitted to enter the land and God’s reply was quick and unwavering. (This is a picture of the perichoresis.)
Deut. 3:23-27, “(23) Then I pleaded with the LORD at that time, saying: (24) ‘O Lord GOD, You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness and Your mighty hand, for what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do anything like Your works and Your mighty deeds? (25) I pray, let me cross over and see the good land beyond the Jordan, those pleasant mountains, and Lebanon.’ (26) “But the LORD was angry with me on your account, and would not listen to me. So the LORD said to me: ‘Enough of that! Speak no more to Me of this matter! (27) Go up to the top of Pisgah, and lift your eyes toward the west, the north, the south, and the east; behold it with your eyes, for you shall not cross over this Jordan.”
Num. 20:14-21 – Edom refuses Passage
“(14) Moses sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of Edom, “This is what your brother Israel says, ‘You know all the hardships that have overtaken us. (15) Our fathers went down to Egypt, and we lived in Egypt many years, but the Egyptians treated us and our fathers badly. (16) When we cried out to the LORD, He heard our voice, sent an Angel, and brought us out of Egypt. Now look, we are in Kadesh, a city on the border of your territory. (17) Please let us travel through your land. We won’t travel through any field or vineyard, or drink any well water. We will travel the King’s Highway; we won’t turn to the right or the left until we have traveled through your territory.'” (18) But Edom answered him, “You must not travel through our land, or we will come out and confront you with the sword.” (19) “We will go on the main road,” the Israelites replied to them, “and if we or our herds drink your water, we will pay its price. There will be no problem; only let us travel through on foot.” (20) Yet Edom insisted, “You must not travel through.” And they came out to confront them with a large force of heavily-armed people. (21) Edom refused to allow Israel to travel through their territory, and Israel turned away from them.”
Now this is actually pretty interesting for several reasons…
- The Edomites were the descendants of Esau, Jacob’s brother, whom God hated.
- The Edomites did not treat them well and denied them passage which when God ultimately judged Edom VERY HARSHLY He brought up this as one of the first of their transgressions against their brother Jacob (Israel) – that Reference is found in Isaiah 34:8-10, where when God was pronouncing their demise He said, “(8) For it is the day of the LORD’s vengeance, The year of recompense for the cause of Zion. (9) Its streams shall be turned into pitch, And its dust into brimstone; Its land shall become burning pitch. (10) It shall not be quenched night or day; Its smoke shall ascend forever. From generation to generation it shall lie waste; No one shall pass through it forever and ever.”
- Also, this passage is pointed out by many of those who oppose the inerrancy of scripture due to what they believe is a contradiction. You see in this passage, we clearly see the Edomites do NOT let them pass through their land, however, in Deut. 2:26-29, when Moses is attempting to get the King of Heshbon to let them pass through their land in a similar way, Moses claims that Edom DID in fact let them pass. The reason for this is actually very easy…
- You see, the 1st time Israel asked to pass through their land (mentioned here in this passage) it was on the western border of Edom and they did in fact refuse Israel’s request with force because they were in a strategically strong position in this place and could easily make a stand against Israel.
- The 2nd time (mentioned in Deut. 2:3-6) it was on their eastern border which was Edom’s weakest border and therefore was NOT easily defended – PLUS, Israel had gained a reputation that God was with them and this made them afraid to attack Israel as is seen in Deut. 2, so this second time they DID let them pass through.
- This is ironic because God was known largely to Jacob as ‘the Fear’ and it was out of Fear that Esau’s descendants let them pass through unchallenged the second time.
Nevertheless, God remembered all their transgressions against Israel and clearly stated that His anger with them would last forever!
“(1) The oracle of the word of the LORD to Israel by Malachi. “I have loved you,” says the LORD. But you say, “How hast thou loved us?” “Is not Esau Jacob’s brother?” says the LORD. “Yet I have loved Jacob but I have hated Esau; I have laid waste his hill country and left his heritage to jackals of the desert.” If Edom says, “We are shattered but we will rebuild the ruins,” the LORD of hosts says, “They may build, but I will tear down, till they are called the wicked country, the people with whom the LORD is angry for ever.” (Malachi 1:1-4)
Num. 20:22-29 – The Death of Aaron
“(22) After they set out from Kadesh, the entire Israelite community came to Mount Hor. (23) The LORD said to Moses and Aaron at Mount Hor on the border of the land of Edom, (24) “Aaron will be gathered to his people; he will not enter the land I have given the Israelites, because you both rebelled against My command at the waters of Meribah. (25) Take Aaron and his son Eleazar and bring them up Mount Hor. (26) Remove Aaron’s garments and put them on his son Eleazar. Aaron will be gathered to his people and die there.” (27) So Moses did as the LORD commanded, and they climbed Mount Hor in the sight of the whole community. (28) After Moses removed Aaron’s garments and put them on his son Eleazar, Aaron died there on top of the mountain. Then Moses and Eleazar came down from the mountain. (29) When the whole community saw that Aaron had passed away, the entire house of Israel mourned for him 30 days.”
I hope this teaching will challenge you and encourage you to place your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
You have a special place in God’s family & kingdom. If you do not know Him, please use our ‘Contact Us‘ page and reach out so we may have the privilege of introducing you to the Lord. Neither money nor attendance at our church will be mentioned.
If you have been spiritually fed by this ministry and wish to give, we truly appreciate that and you may do so here, but all outreaches of this ministry are FREE for you and anyone to enjoy at no cost.