Speak unto the children of Israel that they bring thee, etc. - The ordinance of the red heifer was a sacrifice of general application. All the people were to have an interest in it, and therefore the people at large are to provide the sacrifice. This Jewish rite certainly had a reference to things done under the Gospel, as the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews has remarked: "For if," says he, "the blood of bulls and of goats," alluding, probably, to the sin-offerings and the scape-goat, "and the ashes of a 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!" Hebrews 9:13, Hebrews 9:14. As the principal stress of the allusion here is to the ordinance of the red heifer, we may certainly conclude that it was designed to typify the sacrifice of our blessed Lord.
We may remark several curious particulars in this ordinance.
Just such a sacrifice as that prescribed here, does Diomede vow to offer to Pallas - Iliad, lib. x., ver. 291.
Ὡς νυν μοι εθελουσα παριστασο, και με φυλασσε·π
Σοι δ ' αυ εγω ῥεξω βουν ηνιν ευρυμετωπον,
Αδμητην, ἡν ουπω ὑπο ζυγον ηγαγεν ανηρ·π
Την τοι εγω ῥεξω, χρυσον κερασιν περιχευας .
"So now be present, O celestial maid;
So still continue to the race thine aid;
A yearling heifer falls beneath the stroke,
Untamed, unconscious of the galling yoke,
With ample forehead and with spreading horns,
Whose tapering tops refulgent gold adorns."
Altered from Pope.
In the very same words Nestor, Odyss., lib. iii., ver. 382, promises a similar sacrifice to Pallas.
The Romans had the same religion with the Greeks, and consequently the same kind of sacrifices; so Virgil, Georg. iv., ver. 550.
Quatuor eximios praestanti corpore tauros
Ducit, et intacta totidem cervice juveneas.
" - From his herd he culls
For slaughter four the fairest of his bulls;
Four heifers from his female stock he took,
All fair, and all unknowing of the yoke."
It is very likely that the Gentiles learnt their first sacrificial rites from the patriarchs; and on this account we need not wonder to find so many coincidences in the sacrificial system of the patriarchs and Jews, and all the neighboring nations.
A red heifer - Red, in order to shadow forth man‘s earthly body, even as the name Adam bears allusion to the red earth of which man‘s body was fashioned.
Without spot, wherein is no blemish - As with sin-offerings generally Leviticus 4:3.
Upon which never came yoke - So here and elsewhere (see the marginal references), in the case of female victims.
When selfishness is striving for the victory over you, bear in mind One who left the glorious courts of heaven and laid aside the robes of royalty for your sakes, becoming poor that through His poverty you might be made rich. Will you, then, disregard this great love and boundless mercy by refusing to be inconvenienced and to deny yourselves for His dear sake? Will you cling to the treasures of this life and neglect to aid in carrying forward the great work of truth? 4T 120.1
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. 4T 120.2
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 120.3Read in context »