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red heifer
Kingdom Mysteries
Ashes of the Red Heifer

by haRold Smith
a citizen of the Commonwealth
(Ephesians 2:12)

"And Yeshua said to them, To you has been given the secret of the Kingdom of YHVH, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that 'they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven'." Mark 4:11-12 (quoting Isaiah 6:9-10)

"But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of YHVH, which He decreed before the ages for our glory." 1Corinthians 2:7

"The secret things belong to YHVH our Elohim, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this Torah ." Deuteronomy 29:29

"YHVH spoke to Moshe and Aharon, saying: This is the statute of the Torah which YHVH commanded, saying, Speak to the children of Israel and have them take for you a perfectly red unblemished heifer, upon which no yoke was laid." Numbers 19:2

The English word "mystery" is not found in the Tanakh (OT), only in the Messianic Writings (NT). In fact, in most modern bibles, the Greek word mysterion (click on highlighted words to view content), is actually translated closer to its original meaning as "secret or hidden". In Hebrew, the word translated "secret" in Deuteronomy 29:29 is cathar which also means "to be hidden carefully, be concealed" and that word is translated 72 times as "hide" over the 4 times as "secret". When something is "hidden" it is not "mysterious" - only covered. The mysteries of YHVH's Kingdom are hidden in plain sight to be explored by those who have had their understanding enlightened; i.e., to not be ignorant of it. Thus, when the Hebrew apostle Sha'ul (also known by his Roman name, Paul) says in Ephesians 5:31-32 that when he speaks of the marriage relationship, he is speaking a mysterion, - he is saying he is speaking of a hidden thing that appears in plain sight. These "hidden" things are the Keys to the Kingdom entrusted to those who partake of the Nature of YHVH's Spirit found in His Words - not through mysticism or the evoking of some enchantment.

In like manner, the burning of the red heifer (in Hebrew, parah adumah - e.g., that it be without spot, without blemish, and that it has never been yoked) is part of one of the most "mysterious" rituals described in the Torah - meaning it defies rational sense (Numbers 19:17-19). How do the ashes of a red heifer mixed in "living waters" effect a change in our status from "impure" to "pure"? How is it that the kohen (priest) performing the purification himself becomes rendered impure even as the recipient of the ashes becomes pure? These are mysteries whose secrets are unattainable by the human intellect and, indeed, have baffled the most educated of Hebrew rabbis - but are some of the hidden things Yeshua said are given to those of His Body to understand.

The red heifer was not offered on any schedule as are all the other sacrifices, but only as the ashes from the previous burning began to be depleted. The Talmud (orthodox oral teachings) says there have been nine red heifers offered so far on behalf of the Hebrew people, the first beginning with Moses in Numbers 19:2 (above) and that a tenth (and final) red heifer will be burned by haMashiach (the Messiah) at the time of the rebuilding of the Temple (Mishnah, Parah 3:5). In the days of the physical Temple, the tradition performed was for the priest who was to burn a new heifer to be sprinkled during his week of separation with ashes that had been made previously. Consequently, many are convinced that the ashes of the previous red heifer must be found in order for the construction of the third Temple to begin. However, even though the tradition has been handed down through generations, it is entirely without standing since such instruction is not found in scripture. Indeed, the Temple Institute located in the Old City of Jerusalem in Israel, a research organization dedicated to preparing for the construction of the Third Temple, has just announced a project to restore the commandment of the red heifer to prepare the way for the Third Temple to be erected. What they have not been given to understand, as we shall see, is that the third temple has already been constructed with the tenth heifer having already been offered before YHVH.

What is the purpose of the red heifers burning? According to scripture, the greatest defilement of all is death. Therefore, the sin offering for its purification was itself the most marked. Sin renders fellowship with YaHoVeH impossible because sin is death - it causes death (Romans 6:23). In the same way as light and darkness cannot abide in the same space at the same time, so Life and death are incompatible - there is no in between. The red heifer's function was to temporarily purify the children of Israel from the impurity contracted via contact with a dead body, that is, with death. Death refers to a disconnect from YHVH, the source of all Life - a disconnect which cannot be sustained. What is so interesting about the burning of the red heifer is that it purifies the impure, but it also renders the pure impure; in other words, everybody who participates in the burning becomes impure - they "take on" the very sin being expunged.

The sacrifice of the red heifer is a mystery because it does not fit the pattern of any of the other sacrifices given in the Torah. Says Alfred Edersheim in his book, The Temple: Its Sacrifices and Services, "'A red heifer without spot,' that is, without any white or black hair on its hide, without 'blemish, and on which never a yoke came,' was to be sacrificed as a sin-offering outside the camp, not in the sanctuary, and by the son of, or by the presumptive successor
gan edan
to the high priest." It required a completely red cow over three years old - the only sacrifice in Torah that specifically required an animal of a particular color. It was the most unique sacrifice in the Torah - unlike other animals that could be offered to YHVH, a completely red cow was extremely rare and one of a kind. What is the significance of red? In general, scripture likens sin to red: "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be white as wool" (Isaiah 1:18). Since Israel's sins are red, let the heifer also be red and when it is burned, its ashes are white - thus, His people in the Creator's Name, "shall whiten as snow." How fitting it is that the heifer which figures so importantly in the process of Israel's purification must be completely red, perfect and without blemish. Israel is red, as it is written in Lamentations 4:7, "... they were more ruddy in body than rubies." Israel is perfect - so states Song of Songs 5:2, "…open to me, my sister, my love, my dove, my perfect." The Family of YHVH, Israel, those who keep His Words have no blemish, as it is written, "You are all fair, my love, there is no blemish in you" (ibid. 4:7 and Ephesians 5:27). So, if YHVH considers His Family perfect and without blemish - what was the sin of Israel that needed to be atoned for?

"And the Israelites traveled from Ramses toward Sukkot; approximately 600,000 adult males on foot, besides the children. A mixed multitude also left with them ..." Exodus 12:37-38

The mixed multitude which this verse mentions was a group which numbered well over a million people. They originated from among the Egyptians and from the ranks of many other nations held in servitude as well. The presence of this group among the assembly of Israel proved to be a pitfall for her - then, in the beginning, and throughout history as well. The first thing Israel did upon being rescued from Egypt was to become enticed by the mixed multitude to make a molten idol and worship before it. In fact, Exodus 32:7 reveals the Holy One Himself did not want to accept the mixed multitude into Israel's ranks saying to Moses, "...your people which you brought up out of the land of Egypt have become corrupt... " instead of "…my people…" as seen in Exodus 3:7. It was the mixed multitude who enjoined Israel to participate in making the golden calf for they were idolaters. But Moses approved their acceptance and YHVH acquiesced to him. The heifer is burned, marking an allusion to the calf that was burned: "And he took the calf which they had made, and burned it in the fire..." (Exodus 32:20). And just as the golden calf rendered all those who participated in it impure - for idolatry causes impurity (as it is written: "You shall cast it away as a thing impure..." Isaiah 30:22), so the heifer renders all those who come in contact with it impure. As Israel became impure through the ashes of the golden calf, which Moses burned and ground into a dust - so Israel becomes pure through the ashes of the red heifer. This is why today, Yeshua calls the people of YHVH's Family away from the idolatry of the world - to be separate from the world for He is the tenth red heifer.

None of the sages of the Talmud were able to understand that Yeshua is the fulfillment and substance of this sacrifice (Hebrews 9:11-14) because they had become blinded by the very religion they embraced. We have been saying in these articles for some time that Yeshua's death does not meet any of the requirements of a feast sacrifice - He was not slain in the Tabernacle or Temple on an altar attended to by Priests and which specifically did not include human sacrifice. Yeshua's death DOES fulfill all the requirements of the burning of the red heifer, however. Yeshua was burned in the fire of tribulation, His ministry being just over three years in length (see what it means to be the Salt of the Earth). He was utterly unique (John 1:18). Like the mysterious red heifer, Yeshua was completely without sin or defect (John 8:46). It was the only sacrifice where all the rituals were carried outside of the camp (and later, outside the Temple precincts) - that is, the "blood applications" of this sacrifice occurred in a location apart from the Levitical altar. It is the only sacrifice of blood in the Torah - in other words, the blood of the red heifer was not drained out but, rather, was burned in the fire. Yeshua's blood was part of the sacrifice (Ephesians 2:13, Hebrews 9:14, 1Peter 1:19). It was the only sacrifice that ritually contaminated the priest who offered it, but made the one who was sprinkled by it clean. Yeshua became contaminated by offering Himself as sin for us and His sprinkling makes us clean (2Corinthians 5:21). The items used to cleanse leprosy were burned along with the sacrifice - in other words, the sacrifice would incorporate the means of cleansing from defilement and uncleanness (1Peter 1:2, Hebrews 12:24). It was the only sacrifice where the ashes were preserved and used (other sacrifices required the ashes be disposed outside of the camp). The ashes of the sacrifice were gathered and mixed with running water to create Hebrews 9:14 (niddah mayim). Finally, it was the only sacrifice in Torah that explicitly cleansed from the contact with sin and death - anyone (or anything) that came into contact with a corpse (the embodiment of sin and death) was required to be purified using the niddah mayim. The "water of impurity" that His sacrifice created is the means by which we are made clean from the impurity of sin and death (Ephesians 5:25-26, Hebrews 10:22).

"For the unclean they shall take some ashes of the burnt sin offering, and
living water shall be added in a vessel." Numbers 19:17

living water
In Hebrew, chay mayim means living water. The ashes of the red heifer were combined with this living water in a vessel to produce a mixture that was then applied by dipping into it and sprinkling it on the defilement (v18). This is how Yeshua can say, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me, and let him who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, 'Out of his bowels will flow rivers of living water'." John 7:37-38 (quoting Proverbs 18:4)

The apparent paradox as to how the red heifer purifies the defiled and defiles the pure is actually no paradox at all. Too much sanctity is dangerous to our Me selves - leading to the idolatry of worshipping our own self-determination (Jeremiah 2:13). The burning of the red heifer with its blood, the crimson that was combined with it, and the red color of the animal itself speaks to the power of Yeshua's blood to overcome the power of death, threatening both the sanctity and the existence of the Israelite camp (Exodus 12:22–23). While blood is mostly a source of purity, innocent blood that has been shed is a pollutant. In such a case, the red of the heifer can be seen as the sin that caused the death of the innocent one, which is thereby banished from the camp.

The sages of the Talmud had it partly right. Yeshua's sacrifice as our "red heifer" did indeed precede the "rebuilding" of the Temple (John 2:19) - although this Temple is one "not made with human hands" but by the power of YHVH's Spirit (Mark 14:58). This Temple has been elevated to the Body of Yeshua. The followers of the Messiah are now part of the Temple of His Body (1Corinthians 3:16, 12:27) and are called living stones. The sacrifice of the tenth red heifer, Yeshua, instituted a permanent new priesthood after the order of Malkiy-Tzedek which elevated the older Levitical priesthood of Aaron. Beloved, we have been cleansed from our sins by a better sprinkling than that which the tent of Moses could ever afford (Matthew 26:28). While the physical ashes of the red heifer effected a temporary refutation of death, of disconnect from YHVH; Yeshua's offering as the red heifer became the last, once for all time (Hebrews 9:11-14). But, it is still a required prerequisite for anyone entering the courtyards of the Holy Temple. The Holy Temple is where YHVH's Presence, the Shechinah, abides and is a place where death is unwelcome. It cannot be approached by one who has been rendered tamei met - impure via contact with death. The red heifer empowers us to cleanse ourselves of the dross of our Me-centric selves, enabling us to enter YHVH's Presence (His Holy Temple) to take leave of our Me selves, and to be fully in His Presence. This is the gift of the red heifer!

"…whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." John 4:14
"With joy you will draw water from the wells of Yeshua ." Isaiah 12:3
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