Now the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, “This is the ordinance of the law which the Lord has commanded, saying: ‘Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring you a red heifer without blemish, in which there is no defect and on which a yoke has never come.'” (Numbers 19:1-2)
Some commentators believe that, in the Red Heifer rites, more than one message is being presented. First of all, that Aaron is included in a process that involves a calf as it were, infers that the Red Cow was meant to atone for the Golden Calf — i.e. Aaron fashioned the Golden Calf by fire, now he was to supervise the burning of a different calf. Adding to this notion is the fact that the calf was אדומה adumah or “red.” In Hebrew thought, conceptually this symbolized the carnal nature of man. We can see this connection between red and carnality in the man Esau who was also called אדום Edom or “red.”
So if the slaughter and subsequent burning of the Red Cow was to symbolize atonement for a previous transgression, then why was it a Red Cow — why not white? While we are pondering this, let us also consider that being a heifer, it was an animal who had never calved and, according to the text, had no defects or imperfections. In a sense the red heifer was regarded as “faultless” and, because it had never been used for secular purposes, it was also considered “set apart.” Meeting these requirements meant that the heifer was acceptable as a sacrifice to atone for Israel’s transgressions. I’m sure you can see where this is going.
When Yeshua stood before Pilate, having been beaten, bloodied and accused of capital crimes, the Roman governor was compelled to say, “I find no fault in Him.” He pronounced him “blameless” and, obviously without realizing it, acknowledged that He was the only acceptable sacrifice for the sins of mankind. And thus, God “made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21). The Pure One, in order to make the impure clean, had to be “contaminated” as sin — to become red as it were. Nevertheless, this was the plan and Will of the Father in order that all who call upon His Name might be saved. So in light of what we have learned, let us close with this familiar passage :
“Come now, and let us reason together, says the LORD, though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” (Isaiah 1:18)
Blessings and Shalom,