The Red Heifer

The Red Heifer (Hebrew: פרה אדמה‎; Parah Adumah; translated to English as: Red Cow) in Judaism, is a sacrificial cow whose ashes are used for the ritual purification of people who come into contact with a corpse.

The Red Heifer YouTube video:

According to

Numbers 19:2: “Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring thee a red heifer without spot, wherein is no blemish, and upon which never came yoke”—in other words, the animal must not have hairs of any other color, it must be in perfect health, and it must never have been used to perform work. The heifer is then slain (Numbers 19:3) and burned outside of the camp (Numbers 19:3–6). Cedar wood, hyssop, and scarlet are added to the fire, and the remaining ashes are placed in a vessel containing pure water (Numbers 19:9).

In order to purify a person who has become ritually contaminated by contact with a corpse, water from the vessel is sprinkled on him, using a bunch of hyssop, on the third and seventh day of the decontamination process (Numbers 19:18–19). The kohen who have performed the ritual then become impure themselves. The kohen who performs the ritual must then bathe himself and his clothes in water. He shall be deemed impure until evening.

The existence of a red heifer that conforms with all of the rigid requirements imposed by halakha is a biological anomaly. The animal must be entirely of one color, and there are a series of tests listed by the rabbis to ensure this, for instance, the hair of the cow must be absolutely straight (to ensure that the cow had not previously been yoked, as this is a disqualifier). According to Jewish tradition, only nine Red Heifers were actually slaughtered in the period extending from Moses to the destruction of the Second Temple. Mishnah Parah recounts eight, stating that Moses prepared the first, Ezra the second, Simon the Just and Yochanan the High Priest prepared two each, and Eliechonnai ben Hakkot and Hanameel the Egyptian prepared one each. (Mishna Parah 3:5)

The absolute rarity of the animal, combined with the mystical ritual in which it is used, have given the Red Heifer special status in Jewish tradition. It is cited as the prime example of a chok, or biblical law for which there is no apparent logic, and is therefore of absolute Divine origin. Because the state of ritual purity obtained through the ashes of a Red Heifer is a necessary prerequisite for participating in any Temple service, efforts have been made in modern times by Jews wanting to rebuild the Temple to locate a red heifer and recreate the ritual. However, multiple candidates have been disqualified, as late as 2002.

Book of Daniel

In the Book of Daniel is a reference to a Red Heifer.In Daniel 12:10, God tells Daniel that in the last days, “many shall be purified and made white”; a reference to the purification ritual of the Red Heifer, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isa 1:18, Num 19:6). The analogy appears to relate to a partner of the returning End Time messiah.

Christian tradition Red Heifer

The non-canonical Epistle of Barnabas (8:1) explicitly equates the Red Heifer with Jesus. In the New Testament, the phrases “without the gate” (Hebrews 13:12) and “without the camp” (Numbers 19:3, Hebrews 13:13) have been taken to be not only an identification of Jesus with the Red Heifer, but an indication as to the location of the crucifixion. This is the thesis of Ernest L. Martin in his 1984 book Secrets of Golgotha.



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