Significance of the Red
Heifer: Christ Crucified Outside the Camp
by Gerald L. Finneman
The heifer, unlike the par
"bull," was not usually used in the Old Testament as a
sacrificial animal. The red heifer was the exception. This animal was
slaughtered and burned outside the camp (Num. 19:1-9). The ashes were
preserved for future use. The ashes were to be kept for a "water
separation," or a "purification for sin." (vv 9, 17-22).
That ceremony was to remove defilement incurred through contact with the
dead (vv 11-16). In Hebrews 9:13 is found a referral to this custom when
writing of the effectiveness of Christ's blood for the forgiveness of
The word in Numbers 19 for heifer is
parah (paw raw'). This is the feminine gender of the term for
"bullock." It means a cow, a kine, or a calf or young cow. The
red heifer was to be "without spot" and without a yoke
typifying Christ's voluntary coming to redeem us and His sinless
character even though He took our sins as His own.
The red heifer was similar to, yet
different from, the other offerings for sin. Nevertheless, the purpose
was the same. It was a sin offering. However, the blood was not
individually applied to the sinner. The blood is mentioned only in
relationship to the sacrifice, when the priest sprinkled it toward the
tabernacle seven times. Neither was the heifer offered within the
confines of the court as were the other sacrifices. The blood of this
slain animal was not carried into the first apartment of the tabernacle.
It was not sprinkled before the veil. Neither was there a fingerprint, a
blood print, placed upon the horns of the altar of incense as a record
of the sin committed, confessed and forgiven.
The sacrifice of the red heifer was not
directly connected with the regular and usual worship service of the
sanctuary. The ceremony was conducted outside the camp. The offering of
the red heifer was not only for the Israelite, but also for the stranger
or gentile among them. (Num. 19:10). This offering was not a regular
offering, only an occasional ceremony. It was universal in its scope.
The word "red" used here (vs
2) is adom'. It is related to the words adam and ground
(or earth) [ada'mah]. The words "red" "Adam"
and "ground" all come from the same root word 'dm. (In
Lam. 4:7 the word adam is translated "ruddy"). In the
beginning God made adam out of the ground (ada'mah) (Gen.
2:7). When Adam sinned all of creation was altered. The created
structure of earth (ada'mah) was violated. Because of adam’s
sin, the ada'mah brings forth thorns and thistles thus making adam's
tilling of the ada'mah much more labor intensive (Gen.
3:17,18, 23). Finally after a lifetime of toil, adam must return
to the ada'mah from which he was made (Gen. 3:19).
However, from adam God promised
to bring forth a lifegiver (Gen. 3:15). The woman ('ishsha) was
the physical counterpart of the man (Gen. 2:23, 24). Woman used in a
collective sense such as "born of a woman" indicates man's
mortality with his inherent frailties. (See Job 14:1; 15:14; 25:4.). The
last Adam was to be "born of a woman" to redeem those who are
under the condemnation of the law (Gal. 4:4, 5). In the first three
chapters of Genesis we have the creation-fall-redemption pattern and
model that guides us through the study of the Patriarchal, the
Levitical, and the Christian ages revealed in both the Old and New
The ceremony of the red heifer is most
significant in the creation-fall-redemption model. Man was cast out of
the paradise garden of Eden. At the end of his life he was consigned to
the ground from which he came. But Christ, the second Adam, who was
above all law, came under the law to redeem man. He went outside the
gate to become the curse of God in order to redeem Adam's failure. The
red heifer was to be one upon which a yoke had never been placed. This
signified the voluntary offer of Himself for us. The only cord that
bound Him was the cord of His own love for us. Christ was above all law.
But He came under the jurisdiction and the condemnation of His violated
The red heifer was a congregational, or
corporate, offering (Num. 19:1). It was to be offered outside the camp
as an impure thing, typifying Christ who was made to be sin and a curse
for us. He suffered outside the established order of things (Heb.
13:12). Outside the camp, Christ as the son of Adam (earthy-red)
came in red apparel—red with His own blood which was the blood of
mankind, red with the blood of His enemies. Although enemies, He
reconciled us to God, through His death (Isa. 63:1-3; Rom. 5:10).
The heifer was to be totally consumed
with nothing remaining but ashes. This typified the extent to which the
last Adam would go. He offered Himself, both soul and body, as a
sacrifice made by fire (2 Cor. 5:21; Isa. 9:18, Psa. 22:14). When Jesus
spoke of His death, He never called it a sleep as in the first death. He
spoke of it as it really was—eternal death, separation from the
Father, the equivalent of what the Bible calls the second death. Hell is
where both soul and body are destroyed (Matt. 10:28). This is the depth
to which Christ went in order to save the world. He went to hell for us.
He offered His soul for us (Isa. 53:12). The burning to ashes represents
the total consumption and destruction of sin and sinners (Mal. 4:1, 3).
This is the full extent covered in the infinite sacrifice to which
Christ gave himself! He took our place as the Sin-bearer. Yea, more than
this. He became sin itself in order that He might destroy him who had
the power of sin and death (Heb. 2:14, 15).
The ashes were sufficient for all the
people. When a person or a family needed purification, a fresh heifer
was not required to be sacrificed. One was sufficient for all, including
the sojourning stranger (Num. 19:10). So the sacrifice of Christ is
sufficient for everyone. It is everlastingly efficacious. There is
enough virtue in His sacrifice for the sins of the world. (1 John 2:2).
The ashes were stored for all future needs. So the sacrifice of Christ
is laid up for us as an inexhaustible fountain of merit to which we have
daily access for the purging of our consciences (Heb. 9:13, 14; Zech.
Further, the red heifer was offered
alone. Christ was all alone. There is but one sin-bearer and He trod the
winepress alone. He endured the contradiction (hostility) of sinners
(those he came to save) against himself, alone (Heb. 12:3).
And it is of interest here to note that
the person who offered the red heifer himself became unclean. The only
way he could be purified was by the ashes of that offering. So it is
with those who crucified Christ. Man became guilty and defiled by
sacrificing Christ. And it is by that very same sacrifice that the sin
and guilt which crucified Him cleanses us. It is by virtue of the same
blood which we shed, on Calvary, that we are cleansed from our guilt
through faith. The sacrifice of Christ pollutes the clean (those who
suppose they are so) by their guilt in crucifying Him; and that same
sacrifice cleanses those who are unclean. Christ went outside the camp
of heaven and became the accursed of God for the fallen human race. In
His being cursed, He redeemed us from the curse (Gal. 3:13). He was
"made to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of
God in Him."(2 Cor. 5:21).
The sacrifice of the red heifer was the
cross in type. It was designed to create an influence in favor of the
cross, even where there was no interest. It was the means to move the
world. That sacrifice, accomplished outside the camp of Israel, was
witnessed by heathen passers-by. The offering was itself a call to all
who were unclean, and helpless and perishing. It was an invitation to
come for purification. It drew the attention of those outside the
confines of the camp of Israel as well as Israel. It was the gospel
declaration to "Look unto Me and be ye saved, all the ends of the
earth!" (Isa. 45:22).
The crucified Christ draws everyone to
Himself (John 12:32). A person must exert himself from being drawn to
Christ or he will be pulled to Him. One must willingly take and keep
himself away or he will be led to the foot of the cross. More than this,
he will have to tear himself away from the mighty drawing influence of
the Holy Spirit. God has made it hard for the willful sinner to be lost.
The red heifer, sacrificed outside the
camp, was the gospel of Jesus Christ hanging upon the cross for the lost
race. In the Levitical age it was the message, the doctrine, the
argument and the warning to the impenitent. It was encouragement for the
defiled and the sorrowing. It was the hope of every believer. It was
designed to awaken an interest in the minds of men to cause them to fix
their eyes on Christ. Christ and Him crucified was typified in the
sacrifice of the red heifer. And in this type there was no other like it
that was so characterized by clear, precise and terse expression of the
far-reaching gospel of Christ crucified.
Spirit of Prophecy Statements
Corporate Sacrifice for Corporate Sin
As Adam and Eve were banished from Eden
for transgressing the law of God, so Christ was to suffer without the
boundaries of the holy place. He died outside the camp,
where felons and murderers were executed. There He trod the winepress
alone, bearing the penalty that should have fallen on the sinner. How deep
and full of significance are the words, "Christ hath
redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us." He
went forth without the camp, thus showing that He gave His life not only
for the Jewish nation, but for the whole world. …
Christ was indeed enduring the
contradiction of sinners against himself. But every pang of suffering
that he bore helped tear away the foundation of the enemy's kingdom.
Satan bruised Christ's heel, but Christ bruised Satan's head. Through
death the Saviour destroyed him that had the power of death. In the very
act of grasping his prey, death was vanquished; for by dying, Christ
brought to light life and immortality through the gospel. Never was the
Son of God more beloved by his Father, by the heavenly family, and by
the inhabitants of the unfallen worlds, than when he humbled himself to
bear disgrace, humiliation, shame, and abuse. By becoming the
sin-bearer, he lifted from the human race the curse of sin. In his
own body he paid the penalty of that on which the power of Satan over
humanity is founded—sin.
Not that sin might become
righteousness, and transgression of the law a virtue, did Christ die. He
died that sin might be made to appear exceeding sinful, the hateful
thing that it is. By his death he became the possessor of the keys of
hell and of death. Satan could no longer reign without a rival, and be
reverenced as a god. Temples had been erected to him, and human
sacrifices offered on his altars. But the emancipation papers of the
race have been signed by the blood of the Son of God. A way has been
opened for the message of hope and mercy to be carried to the ends of
the earth. Now, whosoever will may take hold of God's strength, and make
peace with him. The heathen are no longer to be wrapped in the
darkness of superstition. The gloom is to disappear before the
bright beams of the Sun of righteousness. (YI June 28, 1900).
The children of Israel were anciently
commanded to make an offering for the entire congregation to
purify, them from ceremonial defilement. This sacrifice was a red heifer
and represented the more perfect offering that should redeem from the
pollution of sin. This was an occasional sacrifice for the
purification of all those who had necessarily or accidentally touched
the dead. All who came in contact with death in any way were considered
ceremonially unclean. This was to forcibly impress the minds of the
Hebrews with the fact that death came in consequence of sin and
therefore is a representative of sin. The one heifer, the one
ark, the one brazen serpent, impressively point to the one
great offering, the sacrifice of Christ.
This heifer was to be red, which was a
symbol of blood. It must be without spot or blemish, and one that had
never borne a yoke. Here, again, Christ was typified. The Son of God
came voluntarily to accomplish the work of atonement. There was no
obligatory yoke upon Him, for He was independent and above all law.
The angels, as God's intelligent messengers, were under the yoke of
obligation; no personal sacrifice of theirs could atone for the guilt of
fallen man. Christ alone was free from the claims of the law to
undertake the redemption of the sinful race. He had power to lay down
His life and to take it up again. "Who, being in the form of God,
thought it not robbery to be equal with God." (4T 120, 121).
The sacrificial heifer was conducted
without the camp and slain in the most imposing manner. Thus Christ
suffered without the gates of Jerusalem, for Calvary was outside the
city walls. This was to show that Christ did not die for the Hebrews
alone, but for all mankind. He proclaims to a fallen world that He
has come to be their Redeemer and urges them to accept the salvation He
offers them. The heifer having been slain in a most solemn manner, the
priest, clothed in pure white garments, took the blood in his hands as
it issued from the body of the victim and cast it toward the temple
seven times. "And having an high priest over the house of God; let
us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our
hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with
pure water." (4T 121).
The body of the heifer was burned to
ashes, which signified a whole and ample sacrifice. The ashes were then
gathered up by a person uncontaminated by contact with the dead and
placed in a vessel containing water from a running stream. This clean
and pure person then took a cedar stick with scarlet cloth and a bunch
of hyssop, and sprinkled the contents of the vessel upon the tent and
the people assembled. This ceremony was repeated several times in
order to be thorough and was done as a purification from sin. (4T
Thus Christ, in His own spotless
righteousness, after shedding His precious blood, enters into the holy
place to cleanse the sanctuary. And there the crimson current is brought
into the service of reconciling God to man. Some may look upon this
slaying of the heifer as a meaningless ceremony, but it was done by the
command of God and bears a deep significance that has not lost its
application to the present time.
The priest used cedar and hyssop,
dipping them into the cleansing water and sprinkling the unclean. This
symbolized the blood of Christ spilled to cleanse us from moral
impurities. The repeated sprinklings illustrate the thoroughness of
the work that must be accomplished for the repenting sinner. All
that he has must be consecrated. Not only should his own soul be washed
clean and pure, but he should strive to have his family, his domestic
arrangements, his property, and his entire belongings consecrated to
After the tent had been sprinkled with
hyssop, over the door of those cleansed was written: I am not my own;
Lord, I am Thine. Thus should it be with those who profess to be
cleansed by the blood of Christ. God is no less exacting now than He was
in olden times. The psalmist, in his prayer, refers to this symbolic
ceremony when he says: "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be
clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." "Create in
me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me."
"Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation; and uphold me with Thy
free spirit." (4T 122).
The blood of Christ is efficacious, but
it needs to be applied continually.
God not only wants His servants to use the means He has entrusted to
them for His glory, but He desires them to make a consecration of
themselves to His cause. If you, my brethren, have become selfish and
are withholding from the Lord that which you should cheerfully give to
His service, then you need the blood of sprinkling thoroughly applied,
consecrating you and all your possessions to God. (4T 122, 323).
My much-respected brethren, you have
not that earnest and unselfish devotion to the work of God that He
requires of you. You have given your attention to temporal matters. You
have trained your minds for business in order to thereby benefit
yourselves. But God calls for you to come into closer union with Him,
that He may mold and train you for His work. A solemn statement was made
to ancient Israel that the man who should remain unclean and refuse
to purify himself should be cut off from among the congregation. This
has a special meaning for us. If it was necessary in ancient times
for the unclean to be purified by the blood of sprinkling, how essential
for those living in the perils of the last days, and exposed to the
temptations of Satan, to have the blood of Christ applied to their
hearts daily. "For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the
ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying
of the flesh: how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the
eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your
conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" (4T 123).