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The Power of the Red Heifer

The first chapter of this Torah portion (Numbers 19) contains one of the greatest mysteries in all of Judaism: the sacrifice of the Red Heifer. It is unlike any other sacrifice. Even the instructions seem to contradict themselves. But when looked at through the lens of the Ruach HaKodesh (the Holy Spirit), the mystery is not only easily solved but has great significance and application for today. I am first going to give you the plain facts surrounding this strange sacrifice and then we’ll let the Spirit open up the true meaning for today. Let’s dive in.

Things to Note:

  • The red heifer was simply a red female cow. It could not have more than two white hairs on it; it had to be completely red.
  • It was raised for the purpose of being sacrificed and thus could never have never been used for work or have had any kind of yoke put on it.
  • The sacrifice was only done seven times in the history of Israel and was only done as the first of all sacrifices used to cleanse the temple, its components, and the priests themselves. If the Temple had been violated in any way, the only thing that could cleanse it were the ashes of the red heifer. It is what God chose as the cleaner to inaugurate and make the entire system ready for operation.
  • This sacrifice is one of the only sacrifices that could not be done inside the Temple area. It had to be done outside the camp to the east of the tabernacle so that there was a clear view into the Holy of Holies.
    • Outside the camp was considered 2000 cubits (about 3000 feet) from the center of the Temple, which puts the location across the Kidron Valley halfway up the Mount of Olives.
    • This is not to be confused with a Sabbath day’s journey, which is 2000 cubits from the outside of the wall of Jerusalem.
  • Each time the red heifer needed to be sacrificed, they built a three-tiered bridge across the Kidron Valley from the Temple Mount over to the Mount of Olives to the spot of the red heifer altar. This was to prevent the priests from defiling themselves by coming in contact with the sepulchers that were in the valley below.
  • The Yom Kippur goats were also burned outside the camp in this exact location.
  • After killing the cow, the high priest would take some of the blood with one hand and sprinkle it toward the Temple seven times. The Temple doors and the curtain to the Holy of Holies were both open wide.
  • When they burned the red heifer, they would use scarlet, cedar, and hyssop all wrapped together with the cow.
  • Finally, they would take the ashes of the heifer, mix it with water, put it in jars, and store it in a clean place.

It is beyond remarkable how much of this sacrifice relates to the Messiah. Although Yeshua is more popularly known as the Passover Lamb, there can be no doubt that the prophetic symbolism that was fulfilled in the red heifer sacrifice is just as powerful. For the sake of time, I’m just going to go through a few of the connections since I’ve already done an entire teaching on this subject on location in Israel from the exact spot where both the sacrifice took place and where Yeshua was crucified. It will be available at the end of 2016 at

The entire sacrificial system was set up to temporarily cover the sin of Israel and purify us so that we could stay in right standing with God. The human high priest had to go into the Temple once a year and atone for all the sins of the nation of Israel that had not been atoned for throughout the year. The slate had to be cleaned each and every Yom Kippur so the people could be ensured that Yahweh would be with them the following year. But when Yeshua came, He came not only to be the Passover Lamb, paying for the sins of the firstborn Adam and reversing the curse on all mankind, but He came to initiate into service a new priesthood in the order of Melchizedek (king of righteousness). He became the new High Priest and a new sacrificial system was to be inaugurated. And according to Torah, if there was going to be an inauguration of a Temple system, there had to be a red heifer sacrifice. That is exactly what Yeshua was. Take a look at how He fulfilled this amazing sacrifice:

  • The red heifer had to be sacrificed outside the camp facing directly into the Holy of Holies whose curtain was open.
    • Yeshua was crucified outside the camp within yards of this exact location.
    • He was facing the Temple and because of the earthquake, the doors flew open and the curtain ripped in two, providing a clear view into the “face of God,” which was between the Cherubs on the Mercy Seat of the Ark of the Covenant.
    • This is why Yahweh had to turn away from His Son, because He could not stand to look at the sin His Son was carrying for the rest of us.
  • Just like the heifer had to be purchased with money from the Temple treasury, so Yeshua was purchased with the thirty pieces of silver given to Judas directly from the Temple treasury.
  • The heifer had to be perfect and without blemish.
    • Yeshua was perfect and without sin.
  • The red heifer had to be handed over to the high priest for examination right before it was sacrificed.
    • Yeshua was handed over to the high priest Caiaphas for examination the night before He died.
  • The actual sacrifice was not required to be performed by a priest. The priest was only required to sprinkle the blood.
    • This was the only sacrifice that even a non-Israelite could perform.
    • In the same way, Yeshua was actually killed by the Romans, not the Jews.
  • The ashes would be mixed with water and then had to be placed in a newly-hewn spot in the rocky hillside for three days before they could be used.
    • Yeshua was placed in a newly-hewn sepulcher that belonged to Joseph of Arimathea.
    • He was there for three days before He was raised from the dead and His purifying power was available for all mankind.
  • The heifer had to be mixed with hyssop, scarlet and cedar wood when it was sacrificed.
    • We see these exact same items in the crucifixion.
    • Yeshua was forced to wear a scarlet robe to mock Him as the King of the Jews, hyssop was used at the crucifixion site, and the beam He was nailed to was no doubt cedar. Every component was meticulously fulfilled.

Although these items help us begin to see the powerful connection between the death of the Messiah and the red heifer sacrifice, there is so much more. In the video teaching, I go through how it’s connected to Golgotha and uncover the real mystery of where the original crucifixion site is as well as the site of the tomb where our Lord was laid. There has been much speculation over the centuries as to the locations of these amazing places. But when we put them back into their proper Hebraic context, the truth always comes shining before us like a lighthouse in the dark of a stormy night.


How Does This Apply To Us Today?

The cleansing water of the red heifer sacrifice is used when someone touches a corpse to purify the person that touched the dead body as well as the house that was defiled if the person died inside it. What was God’s original intent when He gave this commandment? What is the spiritual principle behind it? What is He trying to convey about coming in contact with dead men? If you’re in a group setting, discuss this now. If not, just think about it for a moment.

In the days when there was a physical Temple, the Temple was the focus of life. No death could ever come near it outside of the sacrifices which were a symbol of life. If someone touched a dead man and then came near the Temple, he would defile the Temple because he brought death into an area that was guaranteed to be ceremonially clean. Because of this “sanctuary” from death, the Spirit of Yahweh was able to reside and fully manifest Himself within the Temple.

Today, WE are the temple of the Ruach HaKodesh (the Holy Spirit). When we surrender to the sacrifice of Christ and place His blood on the doorposts of our heart (our temple), we are, in a real sense, taking part in the red heifer sacrifice. This inaugurates us as priests in His service in the new Temple system where our bodies are the housing for the Temple and our spirits are the inner chamber where He resides. The problem is that because the temple system is still in effect, just taking a different form, the same strict care must be taken to maintain a clean “sanctuary” in which the Spirit can reside. If we come in contact with anything unclean, we must immediately claim the cleansing powers of His sacrifice over our lives again.

Death can be many different things. Sin is one thing that can lead to death. Being around someone that is sinning can bring you death, too, as their sin can easily influence your life. Look at it this way. Imagine the Temple being perfectly clean in every way. Every thought, every action, and every heart motive is pure and clean. Everything that is presented before the Holy of Holies is an acceptable sacrifice of praise. Now, when you think a bad thought, imagine it becoming a physical object that is placed in the Holy Place. That thought has defiled your Temple. From accidentally seeing an impure image to sinning deliberately to trying to do a righteous deed for the wrong motive, any single thing we do that is unrighteous is like putting unclean objects into the Temple before Him. When we allow those objects to be brought into the sanctuary, we are defiling the Temple itself. There’s a reason why it’s called a “sanctuary.” It is to be the one place on earth in which the Spirit of God can dwell that does not have sin. But everyone continues to sin. So how does that work?

The answer to this question proves that the law of God has not been done away with and the sacrificial system is still in full effect. When the Temple has been defiled or sin has been found in the camp, a covering (sacrifice) has to be made. And because the blood of bulls and goats could never actually take away the sin, the sacrifices had to be offered continually. Where the red heifer purification cleansed the body, the blood of Yeshua cleanses the conscience and completely removes the guilt (Hebrews 9:13). Today, when we sin and defile our Temples, we must still take the same measures to make the Temple clean again through a sacrifice. The great news is that Yeshua has become the sacrifice that doesn’t just cover the sin but removes it permanently. The key is that we need to plead that sacrifice each and every time we sin.

There is a terrible heresy moving through the Christian world today that all we have to do is accept Jesus once and He covers all future sins regardless of what we do. It teaches a “hyper grace” doctrine that puts no emphasis on repentance or real sacrifice. If you understand what Messiah’s sacrifice did, it’s easy to see what our part is. He paid for the sin of Adam, thus removing the curse of certain eternal death from all mankind. Anyone who believes and confesses that fact with the marriage oath of following Him till death do us part is born again. This immediately cleans the Temple. However, it in no way removes the requirement that we keep our temples clean so that He can reside in us fully. When we sin, we are required to repent, plead the blood of Yeshua, make any required restitution, and do our best not to sin again.

It is a daily, constant feat to keep our Temples clean. As a parent of six daughters, my wife can tell you that much of what she does all day is clean the house and pick up after kids. If she doesn’t do it every day, it will pile up so quickly that it will be overwhelming in just a few days. In the same way, we are to humble ourselves before the Lord and examine ourselves daily to make sure that there is NOTHING in our temples that could offend our King.

If we sin against someone else, whether in secret or in their presence, we are not allowed to come before the Lord until we make things right. He will not take even a thanksgiving offering until we have fully repented for our sin (Mathew 5:23-24). If you have any secret sins in your closet that you have never confessed, your Temple is defiled and you are cheating yourself out of the full presence of God. He simply cannot allow you to come close to Him until your Temple is clean. It may be difficult, but the cleansing rain of His presence follows purifying the conscience once and for all.

One of the biggest mysteries of the red heifer sacrifice is found in Numbers 19:21: “…He who sprinkles the water of purification shall be unclean until evening.” This is quite the paradox. How can a person start out clean and be used to sprinkle the waters of purification onto the person that is unclean and, in the process, become unclean himself? Well, from a prophetic standpoint, the answer is easy. The moment Yeshua became the living water for all time by offering Himself as a sacrifice for every unclean person on the planet, he took on the sin of the world and made Himself unclean.

From today’s standpoint, whenever we help someone with their sins, we are playing the same role as Yeshua. The text says that the sprinkling of blood is a required action by the high priest for the red heifer sacrifice. But only a clean person is required to cleanse someone who has touched death. This tells us that when we’re working with someone with very serious sin issues, it is very likely going to affect us in some way. Knowing this fact helps us to keep our guard up and better understand the supernatural realm around us. As a matter of fact, in Galatians 6:1, Paul warns us when he says, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are [spiritually mature] restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.” We should never underestimate the power of the spiritual realm and what is happening behind the scenes when we are ministering to people. We should always be aware of the fact that as we pour ourselves out, we become weaker. This is when the enemy loves to attack: after a major spiritual victory or ministry session with someone else. You have poured out so much of the waters of purification that you are empty and vulnerable. We need to immediately fill back up with that special time with our King, that time where we are cleansed by the water of His Word.

Although this article is not about all the details of clean and unclean, it is highly connected to these concepts. The entire reason why the ashes of the red heifer are needed is because of an interaction. When we interact with something that is unclean, it makes us unclean. When we go to a place that is unclean, when we hang around people who are filled with sin, when we interact with anything that is unclean, that “uncleanness” is bound to rub off on us. This is the very reason why the scriptures say that we should not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. Read 2 Corinthians 6:14-18.

EXERCISE: Find a partner. The stronger person stands on an elevated platform (a couch, chair, etc.) while the other stands on the ground in front of them. The one on the chair represents the one who is clean and the one on the ground represents the one who is unclean. The person on the chair takes the hand of the person on the ground and tries to pull them up onto the chair.

Did it work? No, the person on the ground will always be able to pull the one that is on the chair down to the ground even though the stronger person is on the chair. I have tried this with my children and found that even a child can pull a grown adult from his elevated position. It doesn’t take much to see the spiritual connection. In all our good motives to bring those who are unclean up to where we are, when we yoke with them, they will inevitably bring us down to their level. We are to love them by helping them build a bridge to Christ. When we point them to Yeshua and explain to them how they can become clean, we have done the job of the priest. He does not touch the leper but explains to the leper what they need to do to become clean so that he can touch them. Real love is not just accepting sinners into your life, thus causing you to be unclean. Real love is helping the sinner see their sin so that they can be clean!

You can see that the passage in 2 Corinthians is talking about our Temples and how they are to remain clean. If we yoke ourselves through friendship or marriage to someone that is an unbeliever, it is like bringing an idol into our Temple. Did you ever consider that just being really good friends with an unbeliever is like having an idol in your pocket? To be clear, He’s not talking about being friends with neighbors, having acquaintances at work, and so on. He’s talking about who you allow inside your life. Who do you choose to spend time with and allow to influence you? According to Torah, no uncircumcised Gentile is allowed to even come near the Temple.

This concept does not just apply to unbelievers. There are times in our lives where we will be faced with the choice of having to remove ourselves from believers that have unconfessed sin in their lives that is making them unclean. When a believer is found in sin and is approached according to the protocol of Mathew 18, they are to be removed from the congregation if they do not repent. Why? It’s so the “leaven” of their sin doesn’t infect the rest of the dough. 2 Corinthians says, “For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness?” To fellowship with someone who is walking in known sin is to take part in their sin. You will become unclean by default. We can love those who are in sin, but we cannot fellowship with them.

As you can see, the power of the red heifer sacrifice is a beautiful reminder of how detailed our God really is and how much He really desires a clean house to live in. It is a great reminder of how much the sacrificial system is still really in effect and how much we need to take it seriously. Sin is serious, and it can cause a person, a marriage, or an entire congregation to be defiled before Him. If the sin is not removed and full confession, repentance, and restoration made, we will remain in that unclean state, unable to retrieve all the blessings He desires for us.

  • Have you ever looked at your life as a real Temple that needs to be cleaned and audited every day?
  • Have you ever had to distance yourself from someone because of the unrepentant sin in their lives?
  • In a practical sense, how can you make sure that the purifying waters of the red heifer sacrifice of Yeshua are cleansing you every day?

Don’t forget, it was not just the ashes of the red heifer that were important. They had to be mixed with pure water. When we wash daily with the water of the Word, through our faith in Yeshua, we are sprinkling ourselves with His cleansing power. When we study and know His Word, it will reveal our uncleanness and show us our sin. That brings us to the place of repentance, that beautiful place of the constant spring of cleansing waters that washes us clean, making us a true living sacrifice before our King. So don’t wait! Start right now and ask Him to reveal to you any unclean items or idols in your Temple that can prevent you from drawing close to Him and receiving all He truly desires to give you!

Jim Staley


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