The Red Heifer

*OLD Testament Reading: Numbers 18-19

Psalms Reading: Psalm 68

New Testament Reading: 2 Corinthians 5

Numbers 18-19 continue laying out God’s specifics for his tabernacle with things like priestly duties, purification procedures, and one topic covered in detail in Chapter 19 is the sacrifice of the red heifer. This sacrifice is unique from others, and worth taking the time to look at a bit. The sacrifice of the red heifer was different than other animal sacrifices laid out in the law of Moses.

For one, this was a female animal instead of male. Also, this one was to be slaughtered outside the camp, burned in all of its flesh and blood (and dung!) with a few specific additions to the fire including cedar, hyssop, and scarlet wool. (Interestingly, I realized that I now have some hyssop popping up that I planted last year, and I added cedar shavings to the garden this past week. But, no scarlet wool and no red heifers around here!).  It seems this sacrifice was extremely specific and unique, and definitely similar to some things we see in Jesus’s sacrifice for us. If you want to read more about the symbolism and foreshadowing from the red heifer to Jesus, it is certainly out there. And, without looking too hard, we can definitely see connections including Jesus being killed in all of his flesh/blood outside of the temple, being perfectly flawless, being offered hyssop on the cross, being a sacrifice for our sins the way the red heifer was for the Israelites, etc., etc.

Evidencing that Old Testament stories are still relevant for us today, according to the Temple Institute, five blemish-free red heifers from Texas arrived in Israel in September 2022. Some view this acquisition as a step forward to the functioning of the new temple and related to Bible prophecy. No matter what, it is interesting to see how this reading from Numbers is still related to current events, and humbling to think what Jesus was willing to sacrifice for all of us.

“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;  and he himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.” (I John 2:1-2, NASB)

-Jennifer Hall

Reflection Questions

  1. How was Jesus’ sacrifice different from the red heifer sacrifice – and different from all the other Old Testament sacrifices? What do all these sacrifices have in common?
  2. What can we learn about God through our Bible reading today?

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