return to Bible Probe
Visit the Message Board

Ashes of the Red Heifer
red heifer picture

Stephen M. Yulish Ph.D.

According to an article in The Mid-East Dispatch, issue 237, the 16th of March 1997, the birth of a red heifer in Israel is being hailed by religious Jews as a sign from God that work can soon begin on building the Third temple in Jerusalem.

The report stated that a team of Rabbinical experts confirmed that the animal, born six months ago on a religious kibbutz, Kfar Hassidim, near the northern Israeli port of Haifa, meets the Biblical criteria for the red heifer needed for purification of those who wish to rebuild the temple.

As stated in the fourth book of the Torah, Numbers Chapter 19, an unblemished red heifer in which there is no defect and on which a yoke has never been placed, is to be slaughtered and burned and its ashes made into a liquid paste used in the ceremony for purification from sin.

Since Herod's Temple was destroyed by the Roman emperor Titus in AD 70 no flawless red heifer has been born within the Biblical land of Israel according to Rabbinical sources. Besides, the Jewish people did not see the re-creation of the State of Israel until 1948, nor the recapturing of Jerusalem until 1967.

The birth of the animal to a black and white mother and a dun colored bull is being hailed as a miracle by Jewish activists who want to rebuild the temple and prepare the way for the Jewish Messiah's entry into Jerusalem. "We have been waiting for 2000 years for a sign from God", one of them said. "and now he has provided us with a red heifer."

Christians also view the rebuilding of the Temple as an important sign of the return of the Messiah. In Matthew 24:2, Jesus accurately predicted that Herod's Temple would be destroyed. When He was asked by His Disciples what would be the sign of His return and the end of the age, Jesus responded that when you see the abomination of desolation which was spoken of by the prophet Daniel standing in the Holy place(Temple). This could not take place in Herod's Temple because it would be destroyed and it was ( in 70 A.D.). One cannot have a desolation of the Temple as in the days of Antiochus Epiphanies without a Temple. The red heifer is but another piece in the prophetic timetable which is moving closer to the end of the age and the return of Messiah.

Muslims are incensed by this notion of rebuilding the temple on one of Islam's holiest sites. The current fight for Jerusalem as capital of a new Palestinian state as opposed to being the capital of Israel, the Temple rebuilding notwithstanding, is all over the evening news. Just as the prophet Zechariah said that it would be 2500 years ago, Jerusalem is a cup that causes reeling to all peoples and is a heavy stone for all peoples who lift it (Zechariah 12:2-3). The Mid-East Dispatch stated that the Faithful will have to wait until the heifer is at least three years old ( 2000 A.D.) before it can be used in a ritual sacrifice.

Jesus, in speaking of His return said in Matthew 24:33-34 that "when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door...truly I say to you this generation will not pass away until all these things take place." Biblical prophecy is fulfilling itself right before our eyes.

Stephen M. Yulish Ph.D. was a professor at the University of Arizona for 7 years. His Ph.D. is in History of American education from the University of Illinois and his BA was in Human paleontology-Human Evolution. At age 22 he published a paper in the journal primates in 1970. After leaving the University of Arizona he became director of the Jewish national fund and later the Endowment fund of the Jewish federation of Phoenix.
Today he leads a Messianic fellowship, Chayim Chadashim.

References :

-The Mid-East Dispatch, issue 237, the 16th of March 1997

-SUNDAY TELEGRAPH (London) 3/16/1997


The Mystery of the Red Heifer Sacrifice

Grant R. Jeffrey

In Numbers 19, Moses wrote these inspired instructions regarding the mysterious sacrifice of the Red Heifer: "Then the heifer shall be burned in his sight: its hide, its flesh, its blood, and the offal shall be burned. And the priest shall take cedar wood and hyssop and scarlet, and cast them into the midst of the fire burning the heifer. Then the priest shall wash his clothes, he shall bathe in water, and afterward he shall come into the camp; the priest shall be unclean until evening. And the one who burns it shall wash his clothes in water, bathe in water, and shall be unclean until evening. Then a man who is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer, and store them outside the camp in a clean place; and they shall be kept for the congregation of the children of Israel for the water of purification; it is purifying from sin. And the one who gathers the ashes of the heifer shall wash his cloths, and be unclean until evening. It shall be a statute forever to the children of Israel and to the stranger who sojourns among them. He who touches the dead body of anyone shall be unclean seven days. He shall purify himself with the water on the third day and on the seventh day; then he will be clean. But if he does not purify himself on the third day and on the seventh day, he will not be clean. Whoever touches the body of anyone who has died, and does not purify himself, defiles the tabernacle of the Lord. That person shall be cut off from Israel. He shall be unclean, because the water of purification was not sprinkled on him; his uncleanness is still on him" (Numbers 19:5-13)

The primary spiritual significance of the Sacrifice of the Red Heifer is the fact that it symbolically points to the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ as our only hope of being cleansed from the uncleanliness of our sins. The Talmud claims that the Red Heifer sacrifice was the only one of God's commands that King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, claimed he did not understand. Although the priest obediently offered the sacrifice as demanded by God, Solomon apparently did not understand why Numbers 19 declared that the priest would be "unclean until evening." 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. Christ paid the price for our sins. 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. In contrast to the normal male animals sacrificed, the Red Heifer was the only female animal the Law commanded to be sacrificed. Significantly, our Lord was betrayed for thirty pieces of silver, the price of a female slave.

In addition to the obvious spiritual significance of the law of the Sacrifice of the Red Heifer we now understand that the water of purification described in Number 19 actually had the ability to destroy germs and infection. The resulting water of purification solution contained ashes from the Red Heifer sacrifice combined with cedar, hyssop and scarlet thread. This water of purification contained "cedar" oil that came from a kind of juniper tree that grew in both Israel and in the Sinai. This cedar oil would irritate the skin, encouraging the person to vigorously rub the solution into their hands. Most importantly, the hyssop tree-associated with mint, possibly marjoram-would produce hyssop oil. This hyssop oil is actually a very effective antiseptic and antibacterial agent. Hyssop oil contains 50 percent carvacrol which is an antifungal and antibacterial agent still used in medicine, according to the book None Of These Diseases. When we note that the waters of purification from the Red Heifer Sacrifice were to be used to cleanse someone who had become defiled and unclean due to touching a dead body, we begin to understand that this law was an incredibly effective medical law as well as a spiritual law. The Book of Hebrews reveals that Paul, an educated rabbi, understood that the Red Heifer sacrifice had a practical medical effect as well as its more obvious spiritual element. Paul declared that "the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh" (Hebrews 9:13). The Jews stood apart from the pagan nations in attention to sanitation and personal cleanliness as a result of the commands of God revealed in the Old Testament.

Reference: Jeffrey, Grant R., "The Signature of God", Frontier Research Publications, Inc. (1996), p.152-153