Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah: 39: Hukkat (Regulation) B’midbar (Numbers) 19:1-22:1
Haftarah: Shof’tim (Judges) 11:1-33
B’rit Chadashah: Yochanan (John) 3:9-21.
In regular years this year Parashah #40 Balak is also read. Please read the separate teaching on the website under the Parashah link for the teaching on this Parashah.
We will start today’s teaching with a review of the parah adumah (red heifer) from a perspective not recognized in Orthodox Judaism because of their refusal to read and consider the B’rit Chadashah (New Testament) for the complete lesson regarding its importance for forgiveness and cleansing from sin. Those who have attended Beth Elohim Messianic Jewish Synagogue for more than a year have been exposed to previous teachings that identify the para adumah as a type of Yahshua. Only through study of both the Old Testament, the B’rit Chadashah, and G-d given wisdom can one understand the complete concept of the para adumah sacrifice.
To begin, the parah adumah is necessarily a red heifer. A heifer was used for individual cleansing rather than bulls that were used otherwise. The heifer is to be a virgin animal not ever having been attached to a yoke. In the context of Yahshua, He was a “virgin”, never having sinned, and He obediently followed G-d as would an obedient wife to her husband. Yahshua gave himself voluntarily as a Lamb taken to slaughter just as the para adumah did not fight her destiny. Yahshua was without blemish (sin) and the para adumah was also without blemish. The heifer had to be totally red, which signifies the complete blood sacrifice required for redemption of sin.
Now, let’s briefly compare the sin of the Golden Calf to the water used in the sacrifice of the parah adumah. Both the golden calf and the parah adumah were burned in fire. The golden calf was crushed to dust; the parah adumah to dust and ashes. The golden calf’s dust was mixed with water; the parah aduma’s ashes were mixed with water. Interestingly, when Yahshua’s side was pierced, blood and water ran together. This is of significant import with multiple spiritual applications. There were no ashes as Yahshua was not physically burned. Yet, He was the perfect Olah offering; a burnt offering of total consecration to YHVH. As 3,000 Jews died because of their worshipping the golden calf, so too three different species: cedar wood, hyssop, and a red thread, were burned in the fire of the parah adumah. As the golden calf made impure a pure nation, so too the parah adumah made impure a pure person who touches it. Yahshua took the sin of the world and became impure according to His definition of impure we will discuss shortly. As the golden calf’s dust purified the people when Moshe had the Jews drink water mixed with its dust, so did the parah adumah purify an impure person who voluntarily drinks of the Water of Life. The sin of the golden calf representing idolatry is pervasive to all generations. The cleansing power of the parah adumah (Yahshua HaMashiach) is available to anyone who drinks the living water, is redeemed by the blood and accepts the sacrifice as a reconciliatory path to G-d. We can now understand this is one of the spiritual applications and references to the blood and water that flowed from Yahshua’s side.
We may ask the reason this parashah focuses on individual cleansing and decontamination? Let’s look at the recent events and their effect on the nation Israel for the answer.
Throughout the wilderness experience the nation lost many of its members; sometimes in great numbers such as the 14,700 who were killed through G-d’s judgment in the Korach incident. Masses of bodies whether from plague, war, or natural causes were a common sight. If the law in Numbers 5:2-4 was to be fulfilled, it had to be the majority of survivors, for the frequent defilement that would occur because of the proximity to dead bodies would mandate spending more time outside than inside. G-d was specifically concerned with the spiritual nature and nurturing of the generation that that had not fallen to His judgement and would be entering the promised land. So, G-d provided a process of cleansing that would remain “a statute forever” (19:10).Following G-d’s instructions would provide an answer to the problem of the excessive presence of corpses, because it was easy to do and was a more efficient system of decontamination.
Let’s now examine the symbology of the materials, cedar wood, scarlet yarn, oregano (hyssop), and scarlet yarn. Cedar-wood is a symbol of endurance and is used as such in the construction of the Temple in Jerusalem, an enduring holy place. Conversely, it may represent haughtiness whereby someone thinks themselves to be “higher” or better than others. Therefore, in order to return to G-d, one must become low like hyssop, the lowest of all trees, and like the worm (from which scarlet dye is produced) – for the attributes of submission and humility are necessary to ascend to G-d. Hyssop is a simple of humility and purification. It was used in smearing the blood on the doorposts of the Israelite houses on Pesach. It also symbolizes external truth which is a means of purification. It was used in cleansing individuals of leprosy including leprosy of internal falsities and evil (sin) as were the other two similar materials of cedar-wood and scarlet: “The priest shall take for the leper that is to be cleansed two living clean birds, and cedar wood, and scarlet and hyssop, and shall dip them in the blood of the bird that was killed, and he shall sprinkle upon him that is to be cleansed” (Lev. 14:4-7). The idea of internal cleansing is illustrated in “in the cleansing of a house if the leprosy be in it “(Lev. 14:49-51). For preparing the water of separation by which cleansings were wrought, cedar wood and hyssop were also employed (Num. 19:6, 18); by “cedar wood” was signified internal spiritual truth, and by “hyssop” external; thus by “cedar” an interior means of purification, by “hyssop” an exterior one. That “hyssop” denotes a means of purification is described in David: “Thou shalt purge me with hyssop, and I shall become clean: Thou shalt wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow (Ps.51.7) where “to be purged with hyssop and made clean” denotes external purification; “to be washed and made whiter than snow” internal purification; “snow” and whiteness” are predicated of truth. That “hyssop” denotes lowest truth, and “cedar” highest truth, is evident in 1 Kings 4:33: Solomon spake of woods from the cedar which is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that goeth out of the wall” where “cedar’ denotes internal truth which is of intelligence; and “hyssop” external truth which is of intelligence. G-d commands the use of these items so we may contemplate the necessity of becoming humble in our approach to G-d and our fellow-man. The true and complete rectification for haughtiness as the root and cause for most sins is humility and submission. Haughtiness is considered so serious a flaw that it is often likened to idolatry. Therefore, the purification for this attribute must be brought about by humility and modesty, in order to undo the damage of pride. A humble spirit can be the vessel to fill our hearts with proper fear and love of G-d. Humility is manifest when we come to understand our complete dependence on YHVH/Yahshua for every second of every day. Without Him, we have nothing; we are nothing. It is through multiple examples of Yahshua’s humility and submission to G-d the Father that we must learn to emulate His ways that we too may one day ascend to heaven.
Now we will examine whether Yahshua followed the Old Testament laws for purification for the parah adumah or if He ignored them and considered them abrogated with his arrival on earth. Since Yahshua came into contact with a dead body (his own) on Nissan 14, He would not have been allowed to enter the earthly nor the heavenly Temple. He had also taken on the sin of the world which disqualified Him from entering the heavenly Temple. Our parashah prescribes the cleansing process for one who has touched a dead body or a grave:
“Whoever touches the dead body of anyone will be unclean for seven days. He must purify himself with the water on the third day and on the seventh day; then he will be clean… then a man who is ceremonially clean is to take some hyssop, dip it in the water and sprinkle the tent and all the furnishings and the people who were there. He must also sprinkle anyone who has touched a human bone or grave or someone who has been killed or someone who has died a natural death…” Since Yahshua was unclean because He had come into contact with his own dead body and the grave, we know that He had to be sprinkled with the ashes of the parah adumah and immerse in the mikveh on the third and seventh days.
Next, we will identify the connection to John 20:17 that takes place when Yahshua came out of the grave on the first day of the week (Sunday): “Yahshua said to her [Miryam,’ Lady, why are you crying? Whom are you looking for?’ Thinking it was the gardener, she said to him, ‘ Sir, if you’re the one who carried him away, just tell me where you put him; I’ll go and get him myself.’ Yahshua said to her, ‘Miryam!’ Turning, she cried out to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbani!’ Stop holding onto me.’ Yahshua said to her, ‘because I haven’t gone back to the Father. What does “ascending to my Father” have to do with the Torah requirements? Nowhere does it say a man must ascend to G-d before he can be touched. John 20:25 takes place in the evening on the same day. Yahshua has not ascended into heaven and has not yet been purified. Thomas says “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands, put my finger into the place where the nails were and put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe it.” Notice Yahshua does not invite Thomas to touch him at this point. John 20:26 picks up a week later (7 days): “A week later his talmidim were once more in the room and this time Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Yahshua came, stood among them and said ‘Shalom aleikhem!’ Then He said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, look at my hands, take your hand and put it into my side. …” Why did Yahshua make Thomas wait a week before allowing him to touch his side? Let’s look at the sod or deepest level of understanding this passage.
Death requires the ashes of the parah adumah and mikveh (immersion) on the 3rd and 7th day according to the Torah (Num. 19:9-12) This washing for death, and by intimation for sleep, is also found in 1 Thess. 4:16-17 “For the L-rd himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of G-d: and the dead in Moshiach shall rise first: Then we which are alive [and ]remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the L-rd in the air: and so shall ever be with the L-rd.” The word Heaven in Hebrew is shamayim indicating a combination of fire and water aish (alef shin) = fire and mayim (mem yud mem) =water. This implies G-d made the firmament from a combination of fire and water; two opposite elements of which only G-d can subdue and use simultaneously. Passing through the seven heavens is the reality typified by the ashes of the parah adumah (red=fire, ashes=the result of fire) which are mixed with water (Mayim) and sprinkled on those who have come in contact with the dead or with a grave. When Yahshua died both his body and spirit were unclean because of death, but as He ascended through the heavens to present himself to the Father, the heavens (Shamayim) themselves acted as the waters of purification of the parah adumah which consist as well of fire and water mixed together. So, passing through seven heavens is the same as being sprinkled by the ashes of the parah adumah. After the sprinkling with the ashes of the parah adumah, the one who came in contact with the dead must be immersed in the mikveh. Once more in John 20:26, we see Yahshua invited Thomas to touch him as he was now clean! His obedience to the Mosaic Law should clarify its applicability in New Testament times beyond any doubt.
Haftarah: Shof’tim (Judges) 11:1-33
The haftarah describes how the Israelites were attacked by the Ammonites. The Ammonites were descendants of Lot’s second son and Molech was their idol. Jephthah’s response to the impending attack is an example of how we should handle conflict. He first sent a missive to Ammon, declaring peaceful intentions. However, he also mentioned how the Israelites conquered Sichon and Og mentioned in our parashah. Jephthah the Giladite was the son of a prostitute. He fled from his home because of his siblings’ complaints that they would not inherit anything because of his birth status. He settled in the land of Tov where he grew into a great warrior simply from experience with raiding with some of his friends. When the Ammonite nation attacked the people of Israel, Jephthah was the one the Israelites came running to lead them into battle. Jephtah agreed to lead them based on their offer to make him the leader of Gil’ad if he agreed. Jephtah agrees and G-d honored Jephthah’s peaceful attempt to resolve the conflict by allowing the Israelites under Jephthah’s command to eliminate the Ammonites. Unfortunately, Jephtah also vowed to Adonai that if the Ammonites were delivered unto him, he would sacrifice whatever came out of his doors to greet him upon his return to Adonai as a burnt offering. His only daughter and child was the first one to come out of his doors to meet him. She told Jephtah to keep his vow to Adonai but that she wanted to go away into the mountains with her friends for two months and mourn as she would die unmarried. She went away for two months, returned as promised, and Jephtah sacrificed her as he vowed to Adonai. Subsequently, it became a law in Israel that the women of Israel would go every year for four days to lament the daughter of Jephtah from Gil’ad. This action describes this father’s obedience to G-d and the seriousness of a vow. It also describes a child’s obedience to her father even unto death, not unlike the willingness of Yahshua to obey YHVH’s will.
B’rit Chadashah: Yochanan (John) 3:9-21
Let’s focus on verses 13-15 which reflect back to Chapter 21 in our parashah; “No one has gone up into heaven; there is only the one who has come down from heaven, the Son of Man. Just as Moshe lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that everyone who trusts in him may have eternal life.” Our first question may be “why would Yahshua ask us to look up to a serpent?” Let’s think about what we’ve previously covered in this lesson. Yahshua became sin for us; unclean until He ascended to heaven. In our parashah G-d tells Moshe that anyone who has been bitten and looks up to the snake on the pole will remain alive (Num. 21:9). According to the apocryphal book, “Wisdom of Solomon,” which says that the serpent served as lesson and symbol: “He who turned toward it was saved, not by what he saw, but by You, Savior of all.” And the Mishnah (contained in the Talmud) teaches “Could the serpent slay or the serpent keep alive? It is rather to teach us that when the Israelites directed their thoughts toward on high and kept their hearts in subjection to their Father in heaven, they were healed; otherwise, they perished.” The lesson for us is that we must actively trust in Yahshua and keep our eyes on Him, even when we are in the midst of “being bitten.”
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart