0 The red heifer (Num 17-19)

Episode 61: The red heifer

(Numbers 17-19)

Aaron's rod

17 1 God said to Moses,

2 Tell the Israelites to get twelve rods, one from each of tribe, and write the name of a man from each tribe on it. 3 Write Aaron's name on the rod of Levi. 4 Lay the rods in the tabernacle in front of the testimony. I'll meet you there. 5 I'll choose one of the rods and make it blossom. That will make the murmurers stop murmuring against you.

6 Moses delivered God's message to the Israelites, and each of the twelve princes gave Moses a rod from their tribe. 7 Moses put the rods in front of God in the tabernacle.

8 Aaron's rod budded, bloomed, and yielded almonds.

10 God said to Moses,

Put Aaron's rod in front of the testimony, as a sign to the rebels.

That will stop them from murmuring against me and stop me from killing them.

11 Moses did as God commanded.

12 The Israelites said to Moses,

Behold, we die. We all die.

13 Whoever gets near God's tabernacle will die.

Shall we be consumed with dying?

18 See notes

The red heifer

19 1 God said to Moses and Aaron,

Bring an unblemished, spotless red heifer.

3-4 Kill it and sprinkle its blood seven times in front of the tabernacle.

5 Burn the heifer, with its skin, flesh, blood, and dung.

9 Gather the ashes and put them in a clean place. These ashes will be used to make a water of separation, a purification for sin.

10 This is a statute forever.

An Israeli rabbi examines a cow to determine if it is a red heifer

Touching dead bodies, bones, and graves

15 Every open container is unclean.

16 Whoever touches a dead body, a bone of a man, or a grave is unclean for seven days.

17 To get clean, an unclean person must: take the ashes of the burnt heifer and mix it with running water in a vessel.

18 Then a clean person will take hyssop and dip it in the water and sprinkle it on the tent, the vessels, and persons that were in the tent, and upon the person that touched the bone, dead body, or grave.

19 The clean person shall sprinkle it on the unclean person on the third day and on the seventh day. On the seventh day, the unclean person must wash his clothes, bathe in water, and be clean in the evening.

21 This is a perpetual statute.

A few more words about this episode

Some things left out of this episode
Instructions for priests (Num 18:1-13)
See Episode 53 (Lev 21-22)
How to redeem your firstborn sons (Num 18:14-20)
See Episode 30 (Ex 13)
Tithes (Num 18:21-32)
The first mention of tithing was in Episode 3 when Abraham gave Melchizedek a tithe of 10%. (Gen 14)
The red heifer (Num 19)
The red heifer is a big deal for many Jews and Christians. The rabbis say that a third temple can't be built until a red heifer can be found and sacrificed to produce the cleansing water described in Numbers 19.

Maimonides said that only nine red heifers had been sacrificed from the time of Moses to the destruction of the second temple in 70 CE. Their ashes had been used during this time for purification purposes. But the ashes of the last red heifer were lost after the second temple's destruction.

According to Maimonides, the third temple will be rebuilt when the tenth red heifer is sacrificed - and then the Messiah will come.

Many Christians believe that when a red heifer is found and the temple is rebuilt, Jesus will return.

Recently five red heifers have been sent from Texas to Jerusalem, hoping that one of them will meet the rabbi's standards.

Here's a video about it.

Dwindling in Unbelief: About the red cow of Numbers 19
No comments yet

Copyright © 1999-2024
The Skeptic's Annotated Bible

Send comments to Steve Wells
at swwells(at)gmail.com