January 20, 2014
From the desk of Dr. A.J. Higgins
A Red Heifer
“bring . a red heifer without spot, wherein is no blemish,
and upon which never came yoke:
One of the least appreciated of all the sacrifices is found, not in Leviticus, but in Numbers. It is the ordinance of the red heifer. Tucked away in Numbers, the wilderness book, it is ideally placed to deal with the issue of defilement, not sin. It is specially situated to deal with the problem of defilement by contact with death, a dead body, a bone, or a grave.
A moment’s reflection will reinforce the need. Perhaps upwards of one million people had to die in the wilderness before the children of Israel could enter Canaan. Taking into account plagues and several occasions of divine judgment with large numbers of people taken away, there would still need to be a considerable number of funerals each day for one million people to die over a 40 year period (about 14,400 days- you do the math).
There are many unique features about this sacrifice: it was slain outside the camp; and the blood was burned with the sacrifice. We are told of the sacrifice before we are told of the need for the sacrifice. And with the possible exception of Numbers 31, we never read of it being carried out.
But there are several features which are worthy of our note and meditation: it was a heifer, it was without blemish, and it had never come under the yoke.
As a heifer, it was a source of life. Similar to the ritual and heifer of Deuteronomy 21, life is being contrasted to death. The One Who was the source of all life came into a barren and dead world to deal not only with sin, but with its defiling effects as well. Every trace of the results of sin and the death it has brought to man and nature, will one day be abolished. The source of life, by going into death, has abolished death and brought life and incorruptibility to light (2 Timothy 1:10).
The heifer was without spot or blemish. It was very likely totally red without any interspersed white or other color. Externally perfect. But most would know that the word for ‘red’ is ‘adammah’ or Adam. Reminding us of His full humanity and His perfect humanity. He was a real man but not a mere man!
But here was a heifer that had never known a yoke. It never needed to be subdued and broken. It had no self will. How fitting and perfect in its typology: the Lord Jesus is the only Man Who moved here Who never had to be ‘subdued’ and Who never needed to be taught to yield His will to God. Coming into the world, the words on His lips were, ‘I come to do Thy will.’ (Hebrew 10:7)
How perfect God’s pictures are, preparing us for the otherwise incredible advent of a perfect Man and Servant into our world to do His Father’s will.
1. Read Numbers 19 and look at the beauty, burning, and blood of the heifer.
2. Defilement is not the same as sin. Why do you think God wanted His people to be sensitive to defilement? In what way do we come in contact with ‘death’ on a daily basis?
3. What does the fact that in Israel’s history there appears to be a lack of this ritual for cleansing being implemented suggest?