A Red Heifer or A Red Herring
We don’t know for certain why a “red herring” is representative of a trick or fallacy, but most of us are at least familiar with the idiom. According to the Wikipedia article, a red herring may be intentional or unintentional, but it is always misleading. An intentional use of one might be as a diversion tactic, as a false path that shows up before the real path a person should be on.
In today’s reading from Numbers 19:1 through Numbers 19:17, we begin a new week and a new portion, Parashah 39. In Hebrew it’s called Hukkat and it means “Regulation.” The regulation it deals with in today’s section concerns the red heifer. The Lord tells Moses and Aaron to have the people bring them a young red cow that is without fault or blemish and has not yet given birth. He tells them to give the cow to the priest, Eleazar, who will prepare it for sacrifice. This sacrifice is to be completely burned to ash in the presence of the priest who will then wash but remain unclean until evening.
A temple servant will do the actual sacrifice in the presence of the priest who will watch it burn. Then, while the cow is burning, the priest is to throw cedar wood, hyssop, and scarlet yarn on it. The servant who burnt it can then wash but will also be unclean until evening. Finally, another temple servant will carry the ashes to a clean place outside the camp. He too will wash his body and clothes but will be unclean until evening.
The purpose of the ashes is purification for those who touch anything dead. If someone touches any kind of corpse, no matter whose dead body it is or how the person died, he will automatically be unclean for seven days, and he must cleanse himself on the third and seventh days with the ashes mixed with water. All who enter a tent where someone died are unclean for seven days, as are people who enter a field with a dead body whether it was killed or died naturally. Anyone who touches the bone of a dead person or a grave is also unclean.
God says that anyone who refuses to be cleansed is defiling the tabernacle because if he does not get sprinkled with the mixture of ashes and water, his uncleanness will stay on him. Uncleanness separates a person from his people and his God, so in His mercy, God ordained ways to separate men from their uncleanness.
Before writing this post, I did a little research since the red heifer is now considered a pretty important part of current prophecy. Those who are working to build the third temple have been looking for the perfect red heifer to be able to offer that ritual cleansing. Supposedly, there were none for some 2000 years, and the first was born in 1997. One was born in Israel in 2002, but all that have been born since 1997 have been disqualified for one reason or other.
According to The Temple Institute site, there were only nine red heifers ever sacrificed, and there is prophecy that says the tenth red heifer will be ushered in by The Messiah Himself. Since they do not know Yeshua as their Messiah, this is exciting news for them. There is even a man in the U.S. that is raising red cattle and shipping them to Israel in hopes of ushering in Bible prophecy about the third temple, though I’m not certain if he is doing it to bring on The Messiah or His second coming.
But what if all this current red heifer stuff is just a red herring to distract people from following the true Messiah? I do not think I can put it as well as the writers of an article about “The Tenth Red Heifer” at Hebrew For Christians. Their article sums up why Christians do not need to be influenced by prophecy of a tenth red heifer because Messiah fulfilled the shadow that was given by the original. The idea of the tenth heifer and timeline of Messiah is a fallacy that diverts them from the true Messiah.
While the births of these red cows may not fulfill a prophecy that has already been fulfilled, they most certainly could signal that times are indeed changing. It is possible that the thing which is a red herring for some could actually be a sign for us that our redemption draws near.
(Note: To make sure people know I’m being honest, I will tell you that this post wasn’t completed until after 3am. However, it’s still my day since I haven’t gone to sleep, and I backdate to 11:59 the previous day, so the archives will show that I have in fact done one post for each day. I’ve done this for a few where I didn’t finish until after midnight, but this one, as many on the 2nd Saturday of the month, is quite late due to my writer’s meeting. Still, I love my fellow Christian writers and the visiting we have after the meeting, so it’s worth it to me.)
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