Red Heifer or Red Herring
The Bible tells the people of Israel in Numbers 19:2 “This is the ordinance of the law which the LORD hath commanded, saying, 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:”
This "red heifer" sacrifice is unique, being mentioned only once in the Old Testament. Dispatched and consumed with flames outside the camp, the ashes from this slaughtered animal are taken to a clean place and mixed with the water to be used on the third and seventh day of a seven day purification process required whenever someone is considered unclean, having come in contact with the dead.
We are to believe that somehow God wanted the people to kill a heifer and burn it up outside the camp -- and that it was important that the heifer was red. They also had to gather the ashes and sprinkle blood in a special way. If they did all this bizarre “rituals and ceremonies”, their nation would be blessed by God and the ashes of the sacrifice would protect them from coming into contact with the dead.
Are we missing something?
Is the Bible translated correctly?
The Pharisees all read the Torah, but somehow they seemed to have got it wrong.
One of the most popular religious groups at the time thought that many of the rituals performed by the Pharisees, especially animal sacrifices, were the result of not understanding the Hebrew text.
While they believed in Moses and Abraham and the sacred text, they did not participate in the daily blood sacrifice. They sacrificed, but they were also one of the most charitable religious groups of the time. They read the Torah too, but they understood it differently.
Were these bloody, bizarre, even macabre “rituals and ceremonies” the real directives in the Old Testament?
Or were they really meant to be practical instructions to a nation that was to be a priest to all nations?
Pharisees were trying to do all that modern Christians think these verses say, but Jesus said they did not even know Moses or they would have known him. Jesus did not do these things, and for the most part, neither did some other religious groups who were using the same instruction book, the Torah.
So what did they get wrong?
How are these bizarre “rituals and ceremonies” bearing fruit?
The gullible and superstitious have been led to believe that they are to kill some young cow and set it on fire. Are they unmooring the practice from the purpose?
What if I told you that Numbers 19 was not describing a bizarre bloody observance?
What if it was a detailed instruction about charity outside the nation, outside a nation operating by a national network of charity and freewill offerings?
What if I told you that the sacrifice of the red heifer was nothing more than the description of how the “Church in the wilderness” as a government of the people, was to distribute foreign aid to the needy people of other nations?
If they were really speaking of foreign aid, how would we follow those instructions today?
The early Church was appointed a kingdom, and with its daily ministration, it provided all the social welfare for the followers of Christ who were doers of the word. All those who followed The Way of Christ were able to forgo the free bread of the Roman welfare state which had been a snare.
The "union and discipline" of a vast network of Christians organized in the ancient pattern of tens according to the perfect law of liberty became a viable body of influence in the heart of the Roman world. They also were able to aid and assist others because of their common sacrifice during the decline and fall of the Roman Empire, winning the hearts and minds of many, and warranting the grace of God in their recompense.
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- Exodus 19:6 And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These [are] the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.
- Genesis 18:18 Seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?
- Ga 3:8 And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, [saying], In thee shall all nations be blessed.
- 0121 ^םדא^ ‘Adam the same as 0120, Greek 76 ~Αδαμ~; n pr m; AV-Adam 9; 9 Adam= "red" 1) first man
- 0120 ^םדא^ ‘adam \@aw-dawm’\@ from 0119; AV-man 408, men 121, Adam 13, person(s) 8, common sort + 07230 1, hypocrite 1; 552 1) man, mankind 1a) man, human being 1b) man, mankind (much more frequently intended sense in OT)1c) Adam, first man
- 06510 ^הרפ^ parah \ from 06499; n f; AV-kine 18, heifer 6, cow 2; 26 1) cow, heifer
- 06509 ^הרפ^ parah a primitive root; v; AV-fruitful 19, increased 3, grow 2, beareth 1, forth 1, bring fruit 1, make fruitful 1; 29 1) to bear fruit, be fruitful, branch off 1a) (Qal) to bear fruit, be fruitful
- Matthew 21:43 Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.
- The union and discipline of the Christian republic…it gradually formed an independent and increasing state in the heart of the Roman Empire. — Edward Gibbon in “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”