The Red Heifer & Rebuilding the Jerusalem Temple (posted 11-11-02)

What is this we hear about the need for a special “red heifer” sacrifice in Jerusalem before the temple can be rebuilt? The Jewish Rabbis in Jerusalem have concluded that the Temple Mount is certainly unclean, and all Jews and temple materials are presently unclean. Provision for becoming clean is described in Numbers 19, in the sacrifice of a “red heifer.” The sacrifice was done outside the tabernacle or temple complex and the ashes were stored away from the tabernacle or temple mount and mixed with water for future use. This implies that this cleansing can be done without the temple; in fact, it must be done before the temple can be rebuilt. Today Jewish leaders are trying to find the ashes of a previous sacrifice of a “red heifer,” or produce a current one for the sacrificial ashes to mix with water to cleanse everyone and everything that has anything to do with the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem.
While Moses was on Mt. Sinai getting the Ten Commandments the children of Israel made a golden calf and worshiped it. This greatly grieved both God and Moses. Some think this is one reason for the sacrifice of the “red heifer” set out in Numbers 19. A heifer is defined as a young cow that has not had a calf. Numbers 19:2 says this “red heifer” must be without blemish, never having borne a yoke. The traditional interpretation is that it must not have more than two (2) hairs of any other color than red.

The Holman Bible Dictionary says, “The function of the red heifer ceremony was production of ash for the water used to remove ritual impurity contracted through contact with a corpse, bones, or a grave (Num. 19). The rite involved: slaughter of a sacrificially acceptable heifer outside the camp; sprinkling blood toward the tent of meeting seven times; burning the entire heifer, including its blood and dung, together with cedarwood, hyssop, and scarlet thread (compare Lev. 14:4); and storing the ash in a clean place outside the camp. The water for removing the impurity contracted through contact with the dead was prepared by mixing running water with the ash. Impure persons and objects were sprinkled on the third and seventh days after contamination to remove uncleanness. Hebrews 9:14 uses the image of the red heifer ceremony to picture Christ’s cleansing believers of the effect of ‘dead works.’ Dead works refer either to ‘acts that lead to death, … or works produced prior to being made alive in Christ (compare Heb. 6:1)’….” (p. 1169).

The Bible does not explain the meaning of the various elements in this sacrifice but here are some possible interpretations. The heifer may identify with the idolatry of the golden calf as acknowledgement of sin. The red of the heifer, the scarlet thread and the red cedarwood, suggest the blood sacrifice. Cedarwood lasts longer than most kinds of wood. I remember we used cedar fence posts on the farm where I grew up. Cedar also repels insects. We use cedar chests and line our closets with cedar today to protect our clothing from moths. Hyssop was a sponge-like plant used in cleaning. At the first Passover, God told Moses to use the hyssop bush to place the blood of the Passover lamb on the doorpost (Ex. 12:22). David said, “Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean: …” (Psalm 51:7). Hyssop also had medicinal benefits. The last ingredient of this cleansing ceremony was running water (Num. 19:17), which is usually purer than standing water. Water also symbolizes the washing of the word of God (Eph. 5:26).

Clyde Lott, a cattleman of Canton, Mississippi, began to work on breeding a “red heifer” during the 1990’s, which would meet the Biblical requirements of Numbers 19. During this time he corresponded with the Rabbis of the Temple Institute in Jerusalem.

His success is reported on the Temple Institute website, including pictures of the red heifer. Click here for more, or read the following bulletin:

April 8th, 2002--“It can now be revealed that less than one month ago, a red heifer was born in Israel. After the heifer's owner contacted the Temple Institute on Friday, April 5th, 2002, Rabbi Menachem Makover and Rabbi Chaim Richman traveled to the farm where the heifer is located to inspect and validate her status. The rabbis found her to be kosher and were satisfied that this heifer could indeed be a candidate to be used in the process of purification described in the book of Numbers, chapter 19. This is an important development towards the rebuilding of the Holy Temple.”

As everything falls in place to build the third temple in Jerusalem, can the return of our Lord Jesus to rapture His Church to Heaven be far behind? Are you ready to meet the Lord? “… Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved and thy house.” Amen!        

                                     © 2002 D. B. Martin

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