What is the big deal about a red heifer? Isn’t it just a cow?
A heifer is a young, female bovine that has not yet given birth. After a heifer has had a calf, she is called a cow. A heifer born completely red, without so much as two hairs of a different color, is exceedingly rare. Even more rare is a red heifer who remains red as she grows.
Jewish law, or Halakah, declares all Jews impure due to their direct or indirect contact with death. Today, many rabbis prohibit their followers from going to the Temple Mount even to pray, because they are considered ritually impure. The Torah commands those who attend Temple service and offer sacrifices be ritually pure, since the destruction of the second Temple in AD 70.
According to the Mishnah Parah, the ritual of the red heifer, whose ashes are used to symbolically purify a person, has only been performed nine times in history:
- Moshe (Moses) performed the first ritual as outlined in Numbers 19.
- Ezra the Scribe, an important Jewish scribe and first high priest of the Second Temple period. He is believed to have penned the Old Testament books of Ezra, Nehemiah, Chronicles, and Malachi.
- Shimon (Simeon) the Righteous (Simeon the Just), a Jewish high priest of the Second Temple period. He is known for rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem and repairing the Temple, among other projects. He met with Alexander the Great but refused his demand to have his statue erected in the Temple.
- Shimon (Simeon) the Just
- Yochanan (Johanan) the High Priest, a first century high priest assassinated in AD 58 by the Roman procurator Felix.
- Yochanan the High Priest
- El’yhoeini ben Hakof (Elioenai ben HaQayaph)
- Chanamel HaMitzri (Hannameel) (Ananelus) the Egyptian, a first century high priest appointed by Herod to the office. Josephus identifies him as Babylonian.
- Yishmael ben Pi’avi (Ishmael ben Fabus (ben Phiabi), a first-century high priest appointed by the Roman governor, Valerius Gratus. His time in office coincided with the life of Jesus Christ, but he is not mentioned in the New Testament.
Then the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, “This is the statute of the law which the Lord has commanded, saying, ‘Speak to the sons of Israel that they bring you an unblemished red heifer in which there is no defect and on which a yoke has never been mounted. And you shall give it to Eleazar the priest, and it shall be brought outside the camp and be slaughtered in his presence. And Eleazar the priest shall take some of its blood with his finger and sprinkle some of its blood toward the front of the tent of meeting seven times. Then the heifer shall be burned in his sight; its hide, its flesh, and its blood, with its refuse, shall be burned.'”
– Numbers 19:1-5
It was long believed Temple service couldn’t be restored until the ashes of the red heifer last sacrificed were found. Today, a growing movement has opted to produce a new red heifer and use her ashes to purify Jews for Temple service. A vibrant and expensive program to create a new line of ritually pure red heifers has been established and has produced five red heifers raised under strict guidelines and found to be without spot or blemish.
These heifers arrived from the United States to Israel with great fanfare in 2022 and have been cared for on a farm at Beit Shean. The oldest is just months away from being of the age for preparation.
In July of 2023, a special contingent of Israelis met at the site of the ancient tabernacle in Shiloh for the Binyamin Temple Conference. There, they welcomed the arrival of the first of the five red heifers from the United States that will be housed at Ancient Shiloh heritage site.
The Red Heifer Center will continue to development the program devoted to producing the first ashes for purification in over two millennia. The event was organized by the Binyamin Regional Council in association with the Temple Institute and featured a banquet spotlighting ancient and Temple era foods.
Why Is It Important?
The influential Jewish astronomer, philosopher, and physician Moses ben Maimon lived from 1138-1204. He is often known as Maimonides. His Mishneh Torah is considered an authoritative work of Jewish law. This theologian and man of science is quoted as having made an amazing prediction about the coming of the Moshaich:
“…and the tenth red heifer will be accomplished by the king, the Messiah; may he be revealed speedily, Amen, May it be God’s will.”
The emergence of the red heifers in light of this ancient proclamation is not lost on traditional Judaism. The Temple Institute has been doggedly researching and collecting the materials for a third temple. A new generation of Levite priests is being prepared. The blueprints for the Temple have been drafted. A remnant in Israel awaits its king.
None of this changes the fact that their king is Jesus Christ. It will take seven heartbreaking years for the nation of Israel to realize their mistake.
A Bible prophecy teacher once quipped that when you see the Halloween decorations in the stores, you know Christmas is coming.
For the believer who loves Israel, the preliminary events leading up to the Tribulation are a reminder that if Israel is ready to crown a false messiah, the real one is at hand.