Thursday, July 14, 2016

Parashat Chukat ("Decree of") Numbers 19:1-22:1

Parashat Chukat ("Decree of")   Numbers 19:1-22:1
The Red Heifer (Parah Adumah)
I found it interesting that the Talmud states that of all the 613 commandments, this is the only one that King Solomon could not fathom, since this sacrifice is the most paradoxical of all the sacrifices found in the Torah.   Even modern day scholars have not been able to fathom the depth of this mitzvot.   I can see attempts by some Messianics to ascribe this particular sacrifice as a forshadow of Yeshua, but I am not yet satisfied in their reasoning. 

The parah adumah had to be a perfect specimen that was completely red, "without blemish, in which there is no defect ."  It had to be absolutely perfect without any discolouration or abnormality.  This is the only sacrifice in the Torah where the colour of the animal is explicitly required.   Some point out that the red symbolises the blood that covered Yeshua during his ordeal.  Eitherway, the parah adumah was never to have had a yoke upon it, meaning that it must never have been used for any profane purposes.

Unlike all other sacrifices offered at the altar at the Mishkan, the parah adumah was taken outside the camp, slaughtered before the priest who then took some of its blood and sprinkled it seven times before the Mishkan.   Hyssop, scarlet yarn, and a cedar stick would be thrown upon the burning parah adumah, which were the same items used to cleanse from tzara'at (skin disease). Unlike other offerings, all of the blood of the sacrifice was to be burned in the fire.  It was a complete offering.
The ashes of the sacrifice, which were then gathered and mixed with water to create what was called the "waters of separation" (i.e., mei niddah: מֵי נִדָּה).   Anyone (or anything) that came into contact with a corpse (the embodiment of sin and death) was required to be purified using the mei niddah.  Interestingly the word “niddah” refers to menstrual impurity and is used in the prophecy found in Zechariah 13:1: "On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and from niddah."

The purification procedure took a full seven days.   On the third day stalks of hyssop are dipped into the water / ash mixture and shaken over the ritually defiled person.  This occurs again on the seventh day.  After the second sprinkling, the defiled person was immersed in a mikvah and would be declared clean on the following evening.
Maimonides wrote, "Nine Parot Adumot were prepared from the time the Commandment was given until the destruction of the Second Temple. Moses our Teacher prepared one, Ezra prepared one and seven more were prepared until the Destruction of the Temple. The tenth will prepared by the Mashiach."   

It was the only sacrifice that ritually contaminated the priest who offered it, but made the one who was sprinkled by it clean.  This paradox can also be found in Numbers 21:8, “And the LORD said unto Moses, Make you a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looks upon it, shall live.”   The abomination of the serpent will bring life?

It was the only sacrifice where the ashes were preserved and used (other sacrifices required the ashes be disposed outside of the camp). It is a tradition amongst members of the Temple Mount Institute that they know where a vial of the previous ashes can be found.   
Whilst there is enough disagreement within the Messianic community as to the identity and purpose of the Parah Adumah, I do see how one can come to the conclusion about Yeshua.
1.       He was completely without sin or defect (2 Cor 5:21; John 8:46);
2.       He was sacrificed outside the camp (Heb 13:13);
3.      He made Himself sin / a sin offering for us (2 Cor 5:21);
4.      Claimed to be as the snake upon the pole (John 3:14-15).
5.      His sprinkling makes us clean (1 Pet 1:2; Heb 12:24);
6.      The "water of separation" that His sacrifice created is the means by which we are made clean from the impurity of sin (Eph 5:25-6; Heb 10:22).
Either way, the mystery of the Parah Adumah is yet to be understood.     I do find it interesting that we live in a time that the long forgotten red heifer is making a come back.   Additionally interesting is that right now is only the second time in history that an ark has been built.  Signs?  Maybe.


Jon Eaton

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