What does Red Heifer mean in the Bible?

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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Red Heifer
RED HEIFER . The ashes of a ‘red heifer’ more correctly a red cow added to ‘running water,’ formed the most powerful means known to the Hebrews of removing the defilement produced by contact with a dead body. The method of preparing the ashes and the regulations for the application of the ‘water of impurity’ (see below) are the subject of a special section of the Priests’ Code ( Numbers 19:1-22 ). It will be advisable to summarize the contents of the chapter, in the first place, and thereafter to inquire into the significance of the rite in the light of recent anthropological research.
1 . The chapter above cited consists of two parts; the first part, Numbers 19:1-13 , gives instructions for the preparation of the ashes, and ( Numbers 19:11-13 ) for the removal by their means of the defilement contracted by actual contact with the dead body. The second part, Numbers 19:14-22 , is an expansion of Numbers 19:12 f., extending the application of ‘the water of impurity’ to uncleanness arising from a variety of sources connected with death.
The animal whose ashes acquired this special virtue had to be of the female sex, of a red, or rather reddish-brown, colour, physically without blemish, and one that had never borne the yoke. The duty of superintending the burning, which took place ‘without the camp,’ was entrusted to a deputy of the high priest. The actual burning, however, was carried through by a lay assistant, which fact, taken along with the detail (Numbers 19:5 ) that every particle of the animal, including the blood , was burned, shows that we have not to do here with a ritual sacrifice, as might be inferred from the EV [1] of Numbers 19:9 . The word there rendered ‘sin-offering’ properly denotes in this connexion (cf. Numbers 8:7 ) ‘a purification for sin’ ( Oxf. Heb. Lex . 310 a ; cf. Sacrifice, § 14). The priest’s share in the ceremony was confined to the sprinkling of some of the blood ‘toward the front of the tent of meeting’ ( Numbers 8:4 RV [2] ), in token of the dedication of the animal to J″ [3] , and to the casting into the burning mass of a piece of cedar wood and a bunch of hyssop bound with a piece of scarlet cloth (such, at least, is the regulation of the Mishna treatise dealing with this subject).
A third person the priest and his assistant having themselves Become ‘unclean’ through contact with these sacred things (see below) now gathered the ashes and laid them up ‘without the camp in a clean place,’ to be used as occasion required. The special name given to the mixture of ‘running water’ (Numbers 8:17 , lit. ‘living water,’ i.e. water from a spring, not a cistern) and the ashes is properly ‘water of impurity’ ( Numbers 8:9 ; Numbers 8:13 ; Numbers 8:20-21 so RVm [4] ; Amer. RV [2] ‘water for impurity’; EV [1] water of separation ), i.e. water for the removal of impurity or uncleanness. This powerful cathartic was applied to the person or thing to be cleansed, either by being thrown over them (see Gray, Com . on Numbers 8:13 ), or by being sprinkled with a sprinkler of hyssop ( Numbers 8:18 ). This was done on the third and seventh days, after which the defiled person washed his person and garments, and was then restored to the privileges of the cult and the community. The only other reference to ‘the water of impurity’ is in the late passage, Numbers 31:23 .
2. The clue to the significance of the rite above described is found in the primitive conception of uncleanness, as this has been disclosed by modern anthropological research (see Clean and Unclean). In all primitive societies a dead body in particular is regarded as not only unclean in itself, but as capable of infecting with uncleanness all who come in contact with it or are even in proximity to it. The Semites shared these ideas with primitive communities in every part of the world. Hence, although the literary formulation of the rite of the Red Heifer in Numbers 19:1-22 may be late, the ideas and practices thereof are certainly older than the Hebrews themselves.
While the central idea of the rite the efficacy of ashes as a cathartic, due probably to their connexion with fire (cf. Numbers 31:23 , and Farnell, The Evolution of Religion , 101 n. [7] ) has its parallels elsewhere, the original significance of several of the details is still very obscure. This applies, for example, to the red colour of the cow, and to the addition to her ashes of the ‘cedar wood and hyssop and scarlet’ (for various suggestions see, in addition to Gray, op. cit., Hastings’ DB [8] iv. 208 ff.; Bewer in JBL [6]4 xxiv. (1905) 42 ff., who suggests that the cow may have been originally a sacrifice to the dead).
The value of the chapter for the student of Hebrew ritual lies in the illustration it affords of the primitive conceptions of uncleanness, especially of the uncleanness of the dead, and of the ‘contagiousness of holiness,’ the nature of which has been so clearly expounded by Robertson Smith (see RS [10] 2 446ff. ‘Holiness, Uncleanness, and Taboo’). The ashes of the red heifer and the water of impurity here appear, in virtue of their intense ‘holiness,’ as ‘a conducting vehicle of a dangerous spiritual electricity’ (Farnell, op. cit. 95), and have the same power as the dead body of rendering unclean all who come in contact with them (see Numbers 31:7 ff., Numbers 31:21 f. and art. Clean and Unclean).
There are no inventions in ritual, it has been said, only survivals, and in the rite under review we have one of the most interesting of these survivals. The remarks made in a previous article (Atonement [6]2) are equally applicable to the present case. As re-interpreted by the compilers of the Priests’ Code, the rite conveys, in striking symbolism, the eternal truth that purity and holiness are the essential characteristics of the people of God.
A. R. S. Kennedy.
Holman Bible Dictionary - Red Heifer
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 (Numbers 19:1 ). 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 Leviticus 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” (NIV; “useless rituals” in view of salvation TEV) or works produced prior to being made alive in Christ (compare Hebrews 6:1 ).
Chabad Knowledge Base - Red Heifer
The Mitzvah of: offering made in Temple times as part of a process of ritual cleansing (discussed in Numbers 19:1-22)
The Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary - Red Heifer
Among all the laws of the Levitical priesthood concerning sacrifices, there is hardly one more striking in all the particulars of it: as referring to the Lord Jesus Christ; and yet there is not one so generally little understood, or attended to. I beg the reader's attention to it as a subject highly interesting. He will find the account of it set forth at large, Numbers 19:1-10. Moses was commanded to speak unto the children of Israel to bring a red heifer without spot, wherein was no blemish, and upon which never came yoke. Eleazer the priest was to bring her forth without the camp, and one was to slay her before his face. Eleazer was then to take of her blood with his finger, and sprinkle of her blood directly before the tabernacle of the congregation seven times. One was then to burn the heifer in his sight; her skin, her flesh, and her blood, with her dung, all was to be burnt. Then the priest was to take cedar wood, and hyssop, and scarlet, and cast it into the midst of the burning of the heifer. Then the priest was to wash his clothes, and to bathe his flesh in water, and afterward he was to come into the camp, and be unclean until the even. And he that burned the heifer was to wash his clothes inwater, and bathe his flesh in water, and be unclean until the even. And a man that was clean was to gather the ashes of the heifer and lay them up without the camp in a clean place, to be kept for the congregation of the children of Israel for a water of separation: it is a purification for sin. And this was to be both to the children of Israel, and the stranger that sojourned among them, for a statute for ever.
Such are the interesting particulars in the Lord's appointment of the sacrifice of the red heifer. I would now beg to call the reader's attention to the service itself, in order to remark the prominent features of the ordinance, as typical of the person and offering of the Lord Jesus Christ,
And first, the heifer was to be red. A most unlikely thing to obtain, as if to prefigure the singularity of the person of Jesus; for none but the Lord Christ could be suited for our salvation: and the personal fitness of Jesus, in the singularity of his person and character, is that which endears him so highly to his people. Perhaps the reader may not know, or if he doth, he may not immediately re collect, that Adam was called Adam, or Adamah, on account of the red earth or dust from whence he was taken. Pure virgin earth is naturally red. Now the Lord Jesus is also called the last Adam. (1 Corinthians 15:45) And it is said of him, with peculiar reference to his human nature, that "forasmuch as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same." (Hebrews 2:14) And hence the church sings of him in the joy of her heart, "My beloved (said she) is white and ruddy, the chiefest among, ten thousand." (Song of Song of Solomon 5:10)
Secondly, this red heifer was to be without spot, and wherein there was no blemish. What could more strikingly depicture the features of him "who with out spot offered himself to God!" He was indeed, as the Holy Ghost hath drawn him, "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens." (Hebrews 7:26) We are told that the Jews were so very tenacious that this heifer should be exactly corresponding to the %ordinance in those particulars, that if the animal had but a spot of different colour from the red, yea, but in a single hair, it was rejected. Surely nothing could be more in reference to the "lamb of God who was without blemish and without spot." (1 Peter 1:19)
Thirdly, that particularity of the red heifer in the Jewish church, that it should be one upon which there never came yoke, is of all others the most striking, as typical of Christ; and the more so, be cause, among all the sacrifices under the law, it is the only one we ever meet with of such an appoint ment. There was no yoke, no obligation, upon Christ, but his own freewill, for which he became a sacrifice for his people. For although he glorified not himself to be either an high priest, or sacrifice, uncalled and unsent of God, yet equally certain it is, that without his own voluntary offering he could not have suited the purpose of our redemption. Hence he saith himself, (John 10:17-18) "Therefore doth my Father love me because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself; I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father."
Fourthly, the heifer, to signify uncleanness, was "slain without the camp." And Jesus, that he "might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate," The apostle makes a most beautiful persuasive and unanswerable appeal to the church, in this view of Jesus, when he saith, "Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach;" (Hebrews 13:12-13)
Fifthly, when the heifer had been slain, the blood was to be sprinkled directly before the tabernacle seven times. And it forms an express doc trine of the cross, the blood of sprinkling. As the tabernacle represented the whole church of Jesus, so all his people are supposed to be brought under the cleansing by the blood of Christ. Believers are said to have received the atonement. (Romans 5:11) Hence Paul, speaking of the privilege of the church, saith, "Ye are come to the blood of sprinkling." The blood of the heifer shed was not sufficient; it must be sprinkled. The blood of Christ is not only shed, but sprinkled, speaking peace from God to the sinner, and speaking of covenant faithfulness to God, in the infinite fulness of Christ's merits. Seven times performing the sprinkling of the blood of the heifer may probably mean, as Scripture numbers sometimes do, an indefinite number for a definite, by way of shewing the importance of it. The number seven is certainly used in Scripture with peculiar honour. The seven days of creation, the seventh day for the Sabbath, the seven times seven for the Sabbatical or Jubilee year, and the seventh day becoming an emblem of the everlasting Sabbath of heaven; all these are very high evidences of the peculiar honour conferred on the number. But no special reason other wise that I know of is given in the word of God for the consecration of seven to sacred things.
Sixthly, the heifer was to be wholly burnt, no part nor portion exempted. So Christ is a whole Saviour. They that are looking to him for salvation must wholly look. "Is Christ divided?" saith the apostle. The completeness of acceptance in Jesus renders it essentially necessary that his people should look only to him, for the everlasting acceptance of their persons in him. "If righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain." (Galatians 2:21)
Seventhly, the whole congregation are said to be alike interested in this heifer, both in providing it, and in the enjoyment of the privileges of it. So the Lord Jesus is said "to have given himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time." (1 Timothy 2:6) And as we do not read in any other part of this ordinance being appointed to be observed but once, so nothing could more blessedly point out the everlasting efficacy of that "one offering of the body of Jesus Christ once offered, whereby he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified." (Hebrews 10:14)
The Jews have a tradition, that this one heifer, with the ashes of the water of purification, lasted for near a thousand years, until the time of the captivity. But of this we have no Scriptural authority. It is sufficient for Christians to behold Christ both preached to the ear, and set forth to the eye, in type and figure, under the law. And it is doubly blessed, under the gospel, to behold the whole fulfilled in the person, blood, and righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord give his people grace, while beholding the law as having "a shadow of good things to come," to know that Christ is the substance, and that Christ is indeed "the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth!"
Morrish Bible Dictionary - Red Heifer
See HEIFER, RED.

Sentence search

Separation, Water of - See Red Heifer
Water of Separation - See Red Heifer
Water of Separation - Used along with the ashes of a Red Heifer for the ceremonial cleansing of persons defiled by contact with a dead body (Numbers 19 )
Parshat parah - "portion of the cow"); Torah portion concerning the mitzvah of the Red Heifer, read on Shabbat in the second half of the month of Adar
Chukim - The quintessential chok (singular for chukim) is the mitzvah of the Red Heifer
Heifer - See also Ox, Red Heifer
Ashes - The ashes of a Red Heifer burnt entire, according to regulations prescribed in Numb
Red Heifer - 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 (Numbers 19:1 ). Hebrews 9:14 uses the image of the Red Heifer ceremony to picture Christ's cleansing believers of the effect of “dead works
Ashes - The ashes of a Red Heifer were used in ceremonial purification, Numbers 19:1-22
Ashes - The ashes of a Red Heifer burned entire (Numbers 19:5 ) when sprinkled on the unclean made them ceremonially clean (Hebrews 9:13 )
Heifer - The ordinance of sacrifice of the "red heifer" described in Numbers 19:1-10 ; Compare Hebrews 9:13
Ashes - The ashes of a Red Heifer burnt entire, according to regulations prescribed in Numbers 19:1-22, had the ceremonial efficacy of purifying the unclean, Hebrews 9:13, but of polluting the clean
Ashes - The ashes of a Red Heifer burnt entire (Numbers 19), when sprinkled upon, purified ceremonially the unclean (Hebrews 9:13) but defiled the clean person
Heifer, Red - The Red Heifer was killed outside the camp, and its blood was sprinkled by the priest seven times directly before the tabernacle. ...
The ordinance of the Red Heifer was an exceptional form of sin offering
Ashes - ’ For the use of ashes in the priestly ritual see Red Heifer
Ashes - For the ashes of the Red Heifer see HEIFER
Scarlet - , in connection with the cleansing of a leper, Leviticus 14:4,6 , "scarlet;" with the offering of the Red Heifer, Numbers 19:6 ; (b) of the robe put on Christ by the soldiers, Matthew 27:28 ; (c) of the "beast" seen in symbolic vision in Revelation 17:3 , "scarlet-colored;" (d) of the clothing of the "woman" as seen sitting on the "beast," Revelation 17:4 ; (e) of part of the merchandise of Babylon, Revelation 18:12 ; (f) figuratively, of the glory of the city itself, Revelation 18:16 ; the neuter is used in the last three instances
Cedar - ...
In the cleansing of the leper, and in connection with burning the Red Heifer, cedar wood and hyssop were used, typical of the highest and the lowest (the judgement of death upon all men and the whole fashion of this world)
Heifer - Moses and Aaron were instructed to deliver the divine command to the children of Israel that they should procure "a Red Heifer, without spot," that is, one that was entirely red, without one spot of any other colour; "free from blemish, and on which the yoke had never yet come," that is, which had never yet been employed in ploughing the ground or in any other work; for according to the common sense of all mankind, those animals which had been made to serve other uses, became unfit to be offered to God,—a sentiment which we find in Homer and other Heathen writers
Red Heifer - Red Heifer . The ashes of a ‘red heifer’ more correctly a red cow added to ‘running water,’ formed the most powerful means known to the Hebrews of removing the defilement produced by contact with a dead body. Hence, although the literary formulation of the rite of the Red Heifer in Numbers 19:1-22 may be late, the ideas and practices thereof are certainly older than the Hebrews themselves. The ashes of the Red Heifer and the water of impurity here appear, in virtue of their intense ‘holiness,’ as ‘a conducting vehicle of a dangerous spiritual electricity’ (Farnell, op
Washing - The clothes of him who led away the scape-goat, and of the priest who offered the Red Heifer, were washed (Leviticus 16:26; Numbers 19:7)
Red Heifer - Moses was commanded to speak unto the children of Israel to bring a Red Heifer without spot, wherein was no blemish, and upon which never came yoke. ...
Such are the interesting particulars in the Lord's appointment of the sacrifice of the Red Heifer. " (Song of Song of Solomon 5:10)...
Secondly, this Red Heifer was to be without spot, and wherein there was no blemish. " (1 Peter 1:19)...
Thirdly, that particularity of the Red Heifer in the Jewish church, that it should be one upon which there never came yoke, is of all others the most striking, as typical of Christ; and the more so, be cause, among all the sacrifices under the law, it is the only one we ever meet with of such an appoint ment
Burn - The “burning” of a Red Heifer was for the purpose of producing ashes for purification ( Impurity - Many of these pollutions were expiated by sacrifices, and others by a certain water or lye made with the ashes of a Red Heifer, sacrificed on the great day of expiation
Color, Symbolic Meaning of - The Red Heifer (Numbers 19:1-10 ) and scarlet wool (Hebrews 9:19 ) symbolize the Old Testament means of purification through blood; the New Testament powerfully expresses the fullness of Christ's atoning work through a contradictory color image: believers' robes are washed pure white through the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 7:9,13-14 ; 19:13-14 )
Heifer - 288; article ‘Red Heifer’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) and Jewish Encyclopedia
Heifer, Red - ...
The Mishna, Parah 3:2, states that the children sent to fetch water for the Red Heifer sacrifice from Siloam were mounted on bulls in order to have their feet off the ground, so as to escape pollution
Unclean And Clean - (See LAW; LEPER; Red Heifer. So the ashes of the Red Heifer, the remedy for uncleanness, themselves defiled the clean (Numbers 19:7, etc
Uncleanness - (Genesis 3:16 ; 1 Timothy 2:14 ) Among causes of defilement should be noticed the fact that the ashes of the Red Heifer burnt whole which were mixed with water and became the standing resource for purifying uncleanness in the second degree, themselves became a source of defilement to all who were clean, even as of purification to the unclean, and so the water
Siloam, the Pool of - The water for the ashes of the Red Heifer also was taken from Siloam (Dach Τalm
Colour - Scarlet thread is mentioned in connection with the rites of cleansing the leper (Leviticus 14:4,6,51 ) and of burning the Red Heifer (Numbers 19:6 )
Olives, Mount of - The second ceremony referred to was the burning of the Red Heifer
Colours - The same word is used of the reddish-brown colour of the ‘red heifer’ of Numbers 19:1-22 , and of the chestnut horse of Zechariah’s vision ( Numbers 1:8 , AV Numbers, Book of - Then is given the law of the Red Heifer, a provision for defilement in the wilderness. These lead, in their spiritual significance, to the conclusion that the means necessary to conduct a people through the wilderness are the water of purification ( Numbers 19 ), and priestly ministration (Numbers 20 ): Christ in death and Christ risen; the Red Heifer, and the budding rod
Sacrifices in the Old Testament - , that of the Red Heifer, the ashes of which entered into the composition of the "water of aspersion"; and of the heifer slain at the occasion of the murder of a man in case the murderer remained unknown
Old Testament, Sacrifices in the - , that of the Red Heifer, the ashes of which entered into the composition of the "water of aspersion"; and of the heifer slain at the occasion of the murder of a man in case the murderer remained unknown
Cattle - ...
Damalis is the Greek equivalent for Hebrew eglah and is used in the New Testament to refer to the Red Heifer of Numbers 9:2-9
High Priest - He figures in the narrative of Numbers 16:1 where the offering of incense is affirmed as the exclusive prerogative of the priests and in the Red Heifer ceremony ( Numbers 19:1 )
Clean, Unclean - Typologically, the ashes of the Red Heifer (for corpse contamination), the sin offering, and the ritual baths foreshadowed the power of Jesus' blood to cleanse the conscience (Hebrews 9:13-14 ; 10:22 ; 1 John 1:7 ; Revelation 7:14 )
Atonement - ...
So also the Red Heifer, Numbers 19:1-22 , was not initself an act of atonement, but of purification
Numbers, the Book of - ), the ashes of the Red Heifer (Numbers 19); all having an affinity to, though certainly not borrowed from, Egyptian rites
Priest, Priesthood - ...
Sometimes this involved presiding over certain specified sacrificial cleansing procedures on irregular occasions: for example, the burnt and sin offering rituals for the woman after childbirth (Leviticus 12:6-8 ), the combination of two bird, guilt, sin, and burnt offering rituals for the cleansing of the leper (Leviticus 14:4-20 ), the sin and burnt offering rituals for the man or woman with an irregular discharge (Leviticus 15:13-15,25-30 ), and the preparation of the ashes of the Red Heifer for purification for touching a dead corpse (Numbers 19:1-10 )
Wilderness of the Wanderings - , Numbers 16; Aaron's rod budding, Numbers 17; the Levites' and priests' charge and portion, Numbers 18; the Red Heifer water of separation, Numbers 19) are recorded in Numbers 15:1-19:22
Baptism - The plural" baptisms" is used in the wider sense, all purifications by water; as of the priest's hands and feet in the laver outside before entering the tabernacle, in the daily service (Exodus 30:17-21); of the high priest's flesh in the holy place on the day of atonement (Leviticus 16:23); of persons ceremonially unclean (Leviticus 14; 15; Leviticus 16:26-28; Leviticus 17:15; Leviticus 22:4-6), a leper, one with an issue, one who ate that which died of itself, one who touched a dead body, the one who let go the scape-goat or buried the ashes of the Red Heifer, of the people before a religious festival (Exodus 19:10; John 11:55)
Entry Into Jerusalem - Numbers 19:3 ‘a Red Heifer … upon which never came yoke
Clean And Unclean - The purifying medium was water, the blood and ashes of a Red Heifer, with cedar, hyssop, and scarlet
Sacrifice - ...
Besides there were the peculiar offerings, the Passover lamb, the scape-goat, and the Red Heifer; also the chagigah peace offering during the Passover
Offerings, the - ...
THE Red Heifer was also a sin offering
Sanhedrin - Nor can it be taken as an actual practice of the Sanhedrin when it is charged with the burning of the Red Heifer (Numbers 19), or the breaking of the neck of the heifer to atone for a murder the perpetrator of which cannot be found (Deuteronomy 21:1 f
Barnabas, Epistle of - his treatment of the Red Heifer of Numbers 19 in ch