(In a regular year, read with Parashah 40; in a leap year read separately.)
“Adonai said to Moshe and Aharon, ‘This is the regulation from the Torah which Adonai has commanded. Tell the people of Isra’el to bring you a young red female cow without fault or defect and which has never borne a yoke’” (Numbers 19:1-2).
Red Heifer – The Cleansing Ashes
Adonai instructed the Israelites to find a pure, undefiled parah adumah, red heifer, and bring it to Eleazar the priest. Unlike other sacrifices where a male animal was offered, the slaughter for the purification water was female. A heifer is a young cow that has never birthed a calf. The animal’s hair was to be entirely of one color: red. However, the word adumah and adamah (earth) have the same root so the color is more brownish red like the earth than bright red like a rose. Its hair was to be straight to ensure that the heifer had never worn a yoke.
The heifer was taken outside the camp and slaughtered in front of Eleazar, the priest. He was to take some of the blood on his finger and sprinkle it seven times toward the front of the Mishkan. He burned the entire cow –– its hide, flesh, blood, and dung. He took cedar wood, hyssop, and scarlet yarn and threw them into the fire. Afterwards, Eleazar washed his garments, bathed, and re-entered the camp. The man who burned the heifer washed his clothes, took a bath, and remained ‘unclean’ until evening. Another man who was ‘clean’ gathered the ashes of the heifer and put them outside the camp to be kept for purifying the water. After gathering up the ashes, the man washed his clothes, took a bath, and was ‘unclean’ until evening.
Cedar wood oil, hyssop, and scarlet yarn was added to the burning heifer. Cedar wood oil came from the cedars in Lebanon and was known for its ability to preserve and prevent decay. Hyssop was used by the priests for various cleansing rituals (Psalm 51:7). Scarlet yarn symbolized the blood lineage of the Messiah. The ashes offering and these three items were mixed with water to make the water of purification.
The ashes of the red heifer were split into three parts. One part went to the Mount of Olives and was used to consecrate the high priest. The second part went to the Temple to be kept for future generations to mix with the next red heifer’s ashes. The third and final part was divided between the 24 divisions of the priesthood and remained in the priest’s home where it would be used to purify the people in the Land.
According to Jewish history, nine red heifers were offered from the time of this commandment until the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE. The first red heifer was prepared by Moses. The second was prepared by the prophet Ezra during the first Temple period. Shimon the Righteous and Yochanan the High Priest prepared two each. Eliehoeinai ben Hakoof, Chanamel Hamitzri, and Yishmael ben Piavi prepared one each until the second Temple period ended. The tenth red heifer has a connection to Messiah Yeshua who will return as King: “And the tenth red heifer will be accomplished by the King, the Messiah; may he be revealed speedily, Amen, May it be God’s will.”
“For if sprinkling ceremonially unclean persons with the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer restores their outward purity, then how much more the blood of the Messiah, who, through the eternal Spirit, offered himself to God as a sacrifice without blemish, will purify our conscience from works that lead to death, so that we can serve the living God!” (Hebrews 9:13-14)
Purification with the Ashes
“This is the ritual: When a person dies in a tent, whoever enters the tent and whoever is in the tent shall be unclean seven days; and every open vessel, with no lid fastened down, shall be unclean. And in the open, anyone who touches a person who was killed or who died naturally, or human bone, or a grave, shall be unclean for seven days. Some of the ashes from the fire of cleansing shall be taken for the unclean person and fresh water shall be added to them in a vessel. A person who is clean shall take hyssop, dip it in water, and sprinkle on the tent and on all the vessels and people who were there, or on him who touched the bones or the person who was killed or died naturally or the grave. The clean person shall sprinkle it upon the unclean person on the third day and on the seventh day, thus cleansing him by the seventh day. He shall then wash his clothes and bathe in water, and at nightfall he shall be clean. If anyone who has become unclean fails to cleanse himself, that person shall be cut off from the congregation, for he has defiled Adonai’s sanctuary. The water of purification was not dashed on him: he is unclean” (Numbers 19:14-20, NIV).
The purification water made from the ashes of the red heifer was used to cleanse the community of Isra’el from the physical contamination of dead bodies; it was a lasting ordinance for both the Israelite and the foreigner who lived among them (Numbers 19:10).
A cleansing procedure was followed after touching a corpse. It began with an immersion or mikveh in the purified water. For seven days after touching the dead body, an individual would be ’unclean.’ On the third and seventh day, the purification water would be sprinkled on the individual. On seventh day, to complete the process, the individual would mikveh again.
Until modern times, people used their homes to prepare the body of a deceased family member. Touching a dead body was a common occurrence. Jewish tradition includes a ritual washing of a dead body and is considered an expression of faith in the resurrection of the dead. As those who have put their faith in Yeshua, we know there is a resurrection of the dead. For some reason, perhaps because it was rendered a ‘Jewish tradition,’ we no longer wash our beloved family members who pass away; we no longer prepare them for the glorious event of the resurrection; we no longer express that faith.
“Marta said to Yeshua, ‘Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died. Even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.” Yeshua said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Marta said, “I know that he will rise again at the Resurrection on the Last Day.” Yeshua said to her, “I Am the Resurrection and the Life! Whoever puts his trust in me will live, even if he dies; and everyone living and trusting in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world” (John 11:21-27).
Clyde Lott, a cattle breeder in O’Neill, Nebraska is attempting to systematically breed red heifers and export them to Isra’el to establish a breeding line of red heifers in the hope that this will bring about the construction of the Third Temple and ultimately the Second Coming of Yeshua.
A ‘Shadow’ in the Red Heifer
“Now what do you suppose this to be a type of, that a command was given to Isra’el, that men … should offer a heifer, and slay and burn it, and, that then boys should take the ashes, and put these into vessels, and bind round a stick purple wool along with hyssop, and that thus the boys should sprinkle the people, one by one, in order that they might be purified from their sins? Consider how He speaks to you with simplicity.”
“The calf is Jesus [Yeshua]: the sinful men offering it are those who led Him to the slaughter. But now the men are no longer guilty, are no longer regarded as sinners. And the boys that sprinkle are those that have proclaimed to us the remission of sins and purification of heart. To these He gave authority to preach the Gospel, being twelve in number, corresponding to the 12 Tribes of Isra’el.”
“But why are there three boys that sprinkle? To correspond to Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, because these were great with God.”
“And why was the wool [placed] upon the wood? Because by wood Jesus [Yeshua] holds His kingdom, so that [through the cross] those believing on Him shall live for ever.”
“But why was hyssop joined with the wool? Because in His kingdom the days will be evil and polluted in which we shall be saved, [and] because he who suffers in body is cured through the cleansing efficacy of hyssop. And on this account the things which stand thus are clear to us, but obscure to them because they did not hear the voice of the Lord” (Epistle of Barnabas, chapter 8, see Study Helps).
The Sin at the ‘Rock’
“Take the staff, assemble the community, you and Aharon your brother; and before their eyes, tell the rock to produce its water. You will bring them water out of the rock and thus enable the community and their livestock to drink” (Numbers 20:8).
The Israelites grumble against Moshe and Aaron again. They complain there are no seeds, figs, grapevines, pomegranates or water! They wish they had died in the desert with their brothers. Moshe and Aaron fall on their faces before Elohim. The glory of Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh appears and tells them to take Aaron’s rod and assemble the community in front of the ‘Rock’. Moshe grabs the ‘branch’ from the presence of Adonai and gathers the people of Isra’el in front of the ‘Rock’.
Moshe was frustrated with the Israelites. They whined again about water and returning to Egypt. In his frustration, rather than speaking to the ‘Rock’ to produce water, he struck it with the ‘branch.’
“Listen here, you rebels! Are we supposed to bring you water from this rock? Then Moshe raised his hand and hit the rock twice with his staff. Water flowed out in abundance, and the community and their livestock drank” (Numbers 20:10-11).
Moshe and miracles are synonymous. From the beginning of his life, he was miraculously taken from the Nile River and raised to be an Egyptian leader. He didn’t reason with Pharaoh to set the Hebrews free, miracles through the supernatural hand of Adonai were used. He led the Hebrews through the waters of the Red Sea on dry ground with the ‘branch’ of Elohim. Water flowed from the ‘Rock’ the first time he hit it bringing forth the miracle of living water. In leading Isra’el, he always relied on supernatural means when faced with impossible situations.
This time Moshe reacted to his circumstances. This event happened 39 years after the water gushed from the ‘Rock’. Moshe should have matured in his relationship with Adonai, enough to overcome his human impulse to hit the ‘Rock.’ His reaction cost him the Promised Land just like the ten spies and a generation of people. Adonai wanted His people to understand the future words of Yeshua, “Ask and it shall be given to you” (Matthew 7:7).
Perhaps there was another reason that Adonai kept Moshe out of the Promised Land. One commentary suggests that Moshe was too spiritual to take the Israelites into the Promised Land. For 40 years, the nation of Isra’el had the miracles of Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh surrounding them, specifically the daily manna. When they entered the Promised Land, they weren’t going to receive manna. They were going to have to plant and harvest. They weren’t going to miraculously take over the land by annihilating each nation. They were going to have to fight to possess the land. They weren’t going to have the cloud of glory by day and its fire by night. They were going to have to reveal the glory of Adonai by obeying His instructions. Moshe could not be their leader as they would look to him for miraculous supernatural deliverance. It had to be a faithful and courageous man like Y’hoshua to lead them into the Promised Land.
“Because you did not trust in me, so as to cause me to be regarded as holy by the people of Isra’el, you will not bring this community into the land I have given them” (Numbers 20:12).
This place where Moshe hit the ‘Rock’ was named Meribah Spring (Disputation) where the Israelites disputed with Elohim, and He caused them to regard Him as holy.
Hebrew Word Pictures
Disputing or meribah – מריבה – mem, resh, yod, bet, hey
– mighty highest authority, finished work of the house revealed
The Highway through Edom
There were two main highways between Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the lower Arabian Peninsula: ‘The Way of the Sea’ and ‘The King’s Highway.’ ‘The King’s Highway’ was a trade route that connected Africa with Mesopotamia. It went from Egypt across the Sinai Peninsula to the modern Suez Canal toward Eliat, a city on the tip of the Red Sea, where it turned northward across the lands of the Ammonites and Moabites eventually going to Damascus and the Euphrates River. It was an unpaved path wide enough for wagons and chariots, but its deep canyons made it difficult for travel. This is the road most likely taken by Abraham when he pursued the desert kings who had taken Lot as a captive. On this same highway, Kings David and Solomon traded with their eastern neighbors, Moab and Edom, who depended on this route for trade.
‘The Way of the Sea’ was the main coastal highway because it was close to water, food, towns, and avoided the more difficult hill country. From northern Egypt, it went along the Mediterranean coast, crossed the Promised Land through the Jezreel Valley and Megiddo toward the Sea of Galilee, eventually turning north toward Damascus. In order for Isra’el to travel ‘The Way of the Sea,’ they had to go through Edom which had been settled by Jacob’s brother, Esau. Edom lay south of Moab and the Dead Sea. The area included much of the Negev desert and included the city of Petra.
Moshe sent messengers to the King of Edom asking to pass through his land. He promises that they will not go through fields, vineyards or drink water from their wells, but remain on ‘The King’s Highway.’ Even when Moshe offers to pay for inadvertent use of water or food, the King of Edom refuses to allow ‘his brother’ Isra’el to pass through.
”Aaron is about to be gathered to his people, because he is not to enter the land … inasmuch as you rebelled against what I said at the Meribah Spring” (Numbers 20:24).
The Israelites traveled to the border of Edom to Mount Hor which was a short distance from Kadesh on the eastern shore of the Dead Sea. Moshe takes Aaron to the top of Mount Hor while the armies of Isra’el watch. He removes Aaron’s garments and puts them on his son, Eleazer. Aaron dies on the top of the mountain at 123 years of age. When Isra’el saw that Aaron had died, they mourned him for 30 days.
According to the historian Josephus, Mount Hor was known in Arabic as ‘Jebel Haroun’ which is found near Petra. ‘Jebel Haroun’ literally means ‘the mountain of Aaron.’ It is 4,780 feet above sea level in the Edomite Mountains. On the top of the mountain is a shrine marking the grave of Isra’el’s first high priest, Aaron.
The Battles Begin
King Arad, a Canaanite lived in the Negev desert. When he heard that Isra’el was approaching his land, he attacked them and took some of the people captive. Isra’el made a vow to Elohim: “If you will hand this people over to me, I will completely destroy their cities” (Numbers 21:2). Adonai listened and Isra’el completely destroyed the Canaanite city; the first of many Canaanite cities they would take. They named the place Hormah meaning ‘complete destruction.’ According to Judges 1:17, Hormah is located between Beer Sheva and Gaza and was known by its Canaanite name, Zephath or in Hebrew, Tzfat.
Snake on a Pole
Because the Edomites did not allow Isra’el to cross their land, they had to detour across the wilderness. This new generation of Israelites cried out against Adonai and Moshe. They were tired of manna and wanted water! Adonai sent poisonous snakes to bite the people that killed many of them. Realizing their sin, they asked Moshe to pray that Elohim would get rid of the serpents.
“Make a poisonous snake and put it on a pole. When anyone who has been bitten sees it, he will live” (Numbers 21:8).
Hebrew Word Pictures
Fiery Serpent or nechashim seraphim – נחשים שרפים –
nun, chet, shin, yod, mem – shin, resh, peh, yod, mem
– life protects, consuming finished work of chaos
– consume the highest authority, source of finished work of chaos
Nehushtan – נחושתן – nun, chet, vav, shin tav, nun
– life protects, binding consumes the sign of life
The Hebrew text does not use ‘poisonous snakes,’ but nachashim seraphim or ‘fiery serpents’ suggesting the snakes didn’t just have poison, but a lethal burning. They may have also been ‘flaming’ as described by the prophet Ezekiel: “The appearance of the living creatures was something that looked like fiery coals burning the way torches do, with the fire flashing here and there between the living creatures; the fire had a brilliance, and out of the fire went lightning. The living creatures kept speeding here and there like flashes of lightning” (Ezekiel 1:13-14).
The thought of looking up at a replica of the very thing that was causing death probably seemed ludicrous, but it the way of ‘I Am’ or death. You obeyed Him or your bones would be left to decay in the desert sand. It took a personal act of faith to look up at the ‘fiery serpent’ to receive physical healing from a spiritual disease called rebellion. Each person had to acknowledge their individual sin and its consequence. They needed personal reconciliation between them and Adonai for corporate redemption.
“Just as Moshe lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that everyone who trusts in him may have eternal life” (John 3:14).
“And it is all from God, who through the Messiah [snake] has reconciled us to himself and has given us the work of that reconciliation, which is that God in the Messiah [snake] was reconciling mankind to himself, not counting their sins against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore we are ambassadors of the Messiah [snake]; in effect, God is making his appeal through us. What we do is appeal on behalf of the Messiah [snake], ‘Be reconciled to God! God made this sinless man [snake] be a sin offering on our behalf, so that in union with him we might fully share in God’s righteousness’” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
The ‘fiery serpent’ was not to be worshiped. It was a tool used by Elohim to prove Him the Rafa-el, the Healer. Centuries later, King Hezekiah of Judah had to destroy the bronze snake because the Israelites were burning incense to it. It was given the derogatory name Nehushtan meaning ‘piece of brass’ and had become an idol in Isra’el.
Hebrew Word Pictures
Ovot (Desire or Want) – לאבות – lamed, alef, bet, vav, tav
– urge forward first strength of the house binding sign
South of the Dead Sea in the Arabah Valley
Ha-Avarim or Iye-Abarim (Ruins of Abarim) – עברים – ayin, bet, resh, yod, mem
– see the house, the highest authority finished work mighty
Mountain range across from Jordan near the Dead Sea with Mount Nebo
Vadi Zered (Luxuriant, Willow Bush) – זרד – zayin, resh, dalet
– divide the highest authority pathway
A vadi or wadi is a valley or dry river bed
Arnon (A Roaring Stream) – ארנין – alef, resh, nun, vav, nun
– first strength, highest authority of life binding to life
Boundary between the Ammonites and Moabites
“This is why it says, in the Book of the Wars of Adonai,
Vahev at Sufah, the vadis of Arnon, and the slope of the vadis extending
as far as the site of ‘Ar, which lie next to the territory of Mo’av” (Numbers 21:14-15).
The Book of the Wars is a collection of early Israelite war songs
that includes hymns of victory, curses, and poems recounting the victories of Adonai
over Isra’el’s enemies. Some scholars believe it is similar to the Book of Jasher.
Be’er (Well) – בירה – bet, yod, resh, hey
– house finished work highest authority, revealed
“That is the well about which Adonai said to Moshe,
‘Assemble the people, and I will give them water.’ Then Isra’el sang this song:
‘Spring up, oh well! Sing to the well sunk by the princes,
dug by the people’s leaders with the scepter, with their staffs!’” (Numbers 21:16-18)
Mattanah (Gift or Bribe of Elohim) – מתנה – mem, tav, nun, hey
– mighty sign of life revealed
A place in the desert where Isra’el camped.
Nachali’el (Torrents of God) – נחליאל – nun, chet, lamed, yod, alef, lamed
– life protects, urges forward the finished work, first strength urges forward
A wilderness location north of Arnon
Bamot (High Place) – במות –bet, mem, vav, tav
– house mighty binding sign
A place of pagan idolatry
War with the Emorites
Isra’el arrived at the land of he Emorites and sent a message to King Sichon asking to pass through his land on ‘The King’s Highway.’ The king mustered his armies to fight Isra’el and was defeated. Isra’el took control of the land of the Emorites from Arnon to the Yabok River, but only as far as Amon because the cities were fortified. Isra’el lived in all the cities of the Emorites including Heshbon, the city of Sichon. Isra’el also captured the towns of Ya’zer and drove out the Emorites.
“This is why the storytellers say, ‘Come to Heshbon! Let it be rebuilt! Let Sichon’s city be restored! For fire burst out of Heshbon, a flame from the city of Sichon. It consumed ‘Ar of Mo’av, the lords of Arnon’s high places. Woe to you, Mo’av! You are destroyed, people of K’mosh! He let his sons be fugitives and his daughters captives of Sichon, king of the Emori. We shot them down; Heshbon is destroyed, all the way to Divon. We even laid waste to Nofach, which extends as far as Meidva. Thus Isra’el lived in the land of the Emorites” (Numbers 21:27-30).
The Israelites turned and went up the road to Bashan. Og, the king of Bashan, marched out against them to fight at Edrei. Adonai tells Moshe not to fear Og for he will be handed over to Isra’el. They attacked and struck down Og with his sons and all of his people until there was no one left alive. Isra’el took control of his land. The Israelites moved and camped beyond the Jordan River opposite Jericho.
Yeshua and the Red Heifer
Cleansing water for the Ruach Elohim
“One of the soldiers stabbed his side with a spear, and at once blood and water flowed out”
The red heifer was completely destroyed.
Yeshua suffered in body, soul and spirit (Isaiah 53).
The red heifer was slaughtered outside the camp.
“So too Yeshua suffered death outside the gate, in order to make the people holy through his own blood” (Hebrews 13:12).
The red heifer never had a yoke.
“Come to me, all of you who are struggling and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
The red heifer was burned with cedar wood known for preserving bodies and preventing decay.
“Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to Sheol, nor will you let your faithful one see decay” (Psalm 16:9-10).
“For just as Yonah [Jonah] was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea-monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the depths of the earth” (Matthew 12:40).
The red heifer was burned with hyssop.
“‘I am thirsty.’ A sponge was soaked with wine vinegar and put on a hyssop plant and lifted to Yeshua’s mouth” (John 19:30).
The red heifer was burned with scarlet yarn.
“In fact, according to Torah, almost everything is purified with blood; indeed, without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22).
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