Welcome to this week’s Torah / Bible study section called CHUKAT (Statute or Decree) “This is a requirement [חֻקַּ֣ת / Chukat / statute] of the law [Torah] that Yahweh has commanded: Tell the Israelites to bring you a red heifer [parahadumah]” (Numbers 19:2).
Last week in section titled "Korach", the Levite Korach incited mutiny against Moses. He and 250 tribe chiefs of Israel questioned the anointed position of Moses as leader and Aaron as high priest. This week’s section Chukat, presents the ritual laws of the ParahAdumah (פָרָהאֲדֻמָּה / Red Heifer) and the deaths of Aaron and the prophetess Miriam, Moses and Aaron's sister.
Chukat (חוקת | Statute)
Torah scriptures: Numbers 19:1-22:1. Prophetic scriptures: Judges 11:1-33 [Jephthah and his vow]. New Testament scripture: Hebrews 9:1-28.
Chukat is the thirty-ninth reading from the Torah. The word chukat (חוקת) means "statute." The name is derived from the second verse of the reading: "This is the statute of the law which YHWH has commanded" (Numbers 19:2). Chukat presents the mysterious laws of the red-heifer ceremony for purification after contact with human death. This reading also contains the story of Moses striking the rock, the stories of the deaths of Aaron and Miriam and the wars with the Amorites. The section concludes with the host of Israel encamping on the edge of the Promised Land.
TORAH Section: Numbers 19:1 | Ceremony of the Red Heifer. Numbers 20:1 | The Waters of Meribah. Numbers 20:14 | Passage through Edom Refused. Numbers 20:22 | The Death of Aaron. Numbers 21:1 | The Bronze Serpent. Numbers 21:10 | The Journey to Moab. Numbers 21:21 | King Sihon Defeated. Numbers 21:33 | King Og Defeated.
The Purity Paradox.
In Numbers 19, the Torah gives the laws for preparing the ashes of the red heifer. The red heifer is an unusual sacrifice which was slaughtered and burned outside of the Tabernacle. Its ashes were then collected and mixed with water. The water was sprinkled in a purification ceremony which removed ritual uncleanness engendered by contact with death. Paradoxically, the preparation of the red heifer renders each person involved unclean. The priest who oversees the slaughter and the burning becomes unclean and incurs first degree impurity. The man who ignites the fire becomes unclean. The man who gathers the ashes together is rendered unclean. Moreover, the one who sprinkles the water of cleansing to remove the impurity of corpse contamination incurs first degree impurity. Is this not a paradox, an inexplicable decree of the Almighty where those doing the cleaning become dirty. I suppose like one who washes dirt off of cloths or cleaning their home. They become dirty from the dirt coming off the cloths or home.
Who decreed this? Was it not … God? We have learned that all the people engaged in preparing the water of the ashes of the red heifer, from beginning to end, defile garments, while the heifer itself makes garments ritually clean.
The same paradox is also present in the rituals of Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). After completing the purification ceremony of Yom Kippur, the high priest needed to immerse (bath) again. Similarly, the man who released the goat into the wilderness needed to immerse before returning to the camp, and the priest who oversaw the burning of the carcasses of the sin offerings needed to immerse himself before returning to the camp. All goes to show the character of God. Nothing unclean or unholy comes near him. That may well include anyone with one unrepented sin. The reason why the deceiver blurs in our minds what is sin and what is not! Many now think a tradition practiced is acceptable to God.
The purification paradox hints toward Messiah who became unclean in order to offer cleansing to repented sinners. To save others from the curse of breaking the law, death, He died. Yahshua took on mortal uncleanness by virtue of His human birth. He took on human uncleanness by virtue of His healing ministry in our midst. He took on the uncleanness, the iniquity, the transgression and sin of Israel. He took on the contaminating impurity of death itself, in order to cleanse us from sin and death. He did not remain long in a state of ritual impurity. Human uncleanness and iniquity did not cling to Him. He stepped out from the tomb in perfect purity. He shed the mortal form and with it He shed ritual impurity. The unclean grave clothes, tainted with the contamination of death, He left behind.
The writer of the book of Hebrews specifically mentions in Hebrews 9:13-14 the ashes of the red heifer. What is more, he attributes efficacy to them as regards cleansing the flesh. The passage compares the blood of Messiah to the ashes of the red heifer. If the ashes of the red heifer work on the outside (the flesh), how much more so does the blood of Messiah work on the inside (the conscience) from sin:
For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Messiah, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:13-14).
The Bridge from Impurity to Purity.
To purify the Temple vessels and priest, the chosen red heifer (a young female cow that has not yet borne a calf) was to be blemish and defect free. It also must never have borne a yoke (wooden apparatus placed on its shoulders to guide it to plough fields). It would be slaughtered under the supervision of the Jewish Priest (Cohen), who would then sprinkle its blood seven times toward the Tabernacle. Its body would be burned outside the camp and its ashes used to create the waters of purification. The waters of purification are necessary to ritually cleanse those who had been contaminated by death through contact with a corpse, bone, or grave. Once purified, they could enter the Tabernacle to draw near to the Living God. In Hebrew, the concepts of clean and unclean or pure (tahor) and impure (tamei) are akin to an insider and an outsider. Only those who were tahor (clean / pure) could enter the dwelling place of God’s presence. Those who were deemed tamei (unclean / defiled) would be kept outside and, if not purified, would be cut off from Israel, for example, lepers. A concept that extends to inheriting the new heaven and earth after judgement day. So we are to make sure we are clean from sin at death.
In addition to the ashes of the Parah Adumah in the waters of purification, three other elements were added: hyssop, cedar wood, and scarlet thread. These elements were all used in the building of the sanctuary. The hyssop was used by the priests for sprinkling the blood, the cedar wood was used for the posts, and the scarlet thread was used in the curtains. Through this mysterious mixing, the sacred elements combined with the ashes of the heifer death and life would come together in order to bring forth cleansing and purification, which would allow a person to cross the bridge from tamei to tahor.
In Numbers 19:10, as in other places previously, we see the same regulations apply to both Israelite by birth or stranger grafted into them. Also that specific instructions and times had to be followed to pass from unclean to clean.
Num 19:11 He that toucheth the dead body of any man shall be unclean seven days. Num 19:12 He shall purify himself with it on the third day, and on the seventh day he shall be clean: but if he purify not himself the third day, then the seventh day he shall not be clean. Num 19:13 Whosoevertoucheth the dead body of any man that is dead, and purifieth not himself, defileth the tabernacle of the LORD; and that soul shall be cut off from Israel: because the water of separation was not sprinkled upon him, he shall be unclean; his uncleanness is yet upon him. Num 19:14 This is the law, when a man dieth in a tent: all that come into the tent, and all that is in the tent, shall be unclean seven days. Num 19:15 And every open vessel, which hath no covering bound upon it, is unclean.
Three principles of God can be seen here. One day was not the same as another and joining with the unclean makes one also unclean. If what God prescribed for the third day was done on the second or forth the cleansing did not occur. If one in ignorance counted the days as man does from midnight to midnight rather than from evening to evening as in Genesis, they again would not be cleansed if they missed the third day. Anyone or anything (i.e. open vessel) coming into contact with the unclean becomes unclean (see also Haggai 2:13). Taking coffins or ashes of the dead into a church as is man’s custom, defiles the church. So do not be deceived that the seventh day is replaceable with the first according to man’s reasoning or other adopted traditions. Acts 5:29 we are to obey God not man.
The Brit Chadashah (New Testament) also speaks of the ashes of the ParahAdumah, promising that the blood of the Messiah has greater power to cleanse our conscience from dead works to serve the Living God:
“For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Messiah, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the Living God?” (Hebrews 9:13–14).
Aaron the Peace Maker.
Why did Israel weep for Aaron thirty days? Aaron was 123 years old when he died, a ripe old age, full of years, yet all Israel wept for Aaron thirty days. Thirty days is the customary term of mourning for a close relative, and Aaron, as high priest over the congregation, was like a close relative to all Israel.
A popular folktale about Aaron, which is good to practice whether it is true or not says that when two men were fighting, Aaron would go to the first one and say to him, "Reuben, I was talking with Simon, and he was saying he's feeling really bad about this fight you are having, and he wants to make peace." Then Aaron would go to Simon and say, "I ran into Reuben, and he was telling me that he's feeling really bad about this fight you are having, and he wants to make peace with you." When the two men encountered each other, they would each assume the other wanted to make peace. They would embrace and set their argument aside. Is this not a practice for marriages and relationships? Maybe a wise child could implement between parents who have argued and are on the brink of separation. You can do the same between any broken relationship even your own.
Perhaps this is why the psalmist says, "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, coming down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard, coming down upon the edge of his robes" (Psalm 133:1-2).
These stories about Aaron remind us that we are called not only to be peaceful people but also to be peacemakers, a people proactively making peace. Being a peacemaker between believers is one of the things that characterize us as disciples of Yahshua. However, do not let your desire for peace be that what gets you or followers of Yahshua killed by those set on destroying God’s followers by death or conversion.
The Bronze snake Num 21:4-9
The people spoke against God and Moses. God sends fiery serpents among them and they were bitten. They went to Moses saying “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD, and against thee; pray unto the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people. Num 21:8 And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. Num 21:9 And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived”.
How can looking at the serpent save them? Because it was Yahweh’s way they broke and his direction on how He would save them. Similar to when we break His commandments and follow His prescribed directive of how to get cleansing through His son Yahshua. God did not take away the serpents nor prevent them getting bitten. He provided a way out for the believer in Him. Similarly He has not taken away His righteous living Laws nor our ability to get bitten by sin. He has though provided a way out for our cleansing through repentance and His son. We shall read more in the Hebrews 9 section. Since it appears that the people were plagued by serpents for some time (Yahweh had not taken them away as they requested), it is likely that they carried the brazen serpent with them, setting it up wherever they camped and that it was fixed in a permanent location once they were Canaan. It was later destroyed by king Hezekiah because the people had begun to worship it (2 kings 18:4).
Lifted on a Miracle.
Yahshua told Nicodemus, "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up" (John 3:14).
When Yahshua said John 3:14, He was hinting about the kind of death He was going to die, but there is a second meaning to these words as well. He was speaking not only of His death, but also of His ascension forty days after the resurrection. God told Moses to "make a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard" (Numbers 21:8). In John 3:14 Yahshua was explaining to Nicodemus that the Son of Man must be “lifted up.” He had just told Nicodemus, “No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man” (John 3:13). In a similar passage, He told the Galileans that He had descended from heaven. When they objected, He replied, “Does this cause you to stumble? What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before?” (John 6:61–62).
In John 3, He told Nicodemus that no one has ascended to heaven, but He will be lifted up because He descended from heaven. Then He explains, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up” (John 3:14). In this context, His words seem to point toward His ascension. It is the ascension of Yahshua, His return to His former station of glory with the Fatherthat holds the promise of salvation for everyone who believes. To believe is to obey by physical action not only to hear and accept in the head knowledge (Rom 2:13, James 1:22). How will this ascension be accomplished? In a sense, just as Moses placed the serpent on the pole and there it remained for all to look unto for salvation, so too, the Son of Man will ascend and remain “lifted up” for the salvation of all who belief in His saving blood as directed by His Father.
Baptized for the Dead.
What does Paul mean when he says, "If the dead are not raised, what will those do who are they baptized for them?" What does it mean to be baptized for the dead? (1Cor 15:16, 29). The Torah (instructions from Yahweh God) says that touching a corpse makes a person ritually unclean. To be cleansed, a person needed to be sprinkled with ashes from the red heifer. After completing the seven-day purification process, the defiled person immersed himself in a mikvah (bath) of living water. This helps explain a difficult passage in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. While defending the hope in a literal resurrection from the dead, Paul wrote, “[If the dead are not raised] what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why then are they baptized for them?” (1 Corinthians 15:29). This strange verse has complexed some readers and Bible students for a long time.
According to Jewish funeral custom, they prepare a corpse for burial with a ceremonial washing of the body. For example, when Tabitha died, Acts 9:37 says the community of believers washed her body. Judaism considers it a high honour to be among those who care for the dead in this manner. The ritual washing of the body expresses faith in the resurrection of the dead. It is a preparation for resurrection. Otherwise why wash a dead body that is about to decay? Those who conduct the ritual washing also undergo immersion, once before attending to the deceased and then again after completing the ceremony. Contact with the dead body incurs corpse contamination. The ashes of the red heifer would not have been applied to people living outside the land of Israel; but the believers in Corinth would still have undergone the prescribed immersion in a mikvah before and after attending to a corpse. The same practice of immersing before and after washing and dressing a corpse persists in the Jewish community today.
Paul seems to have this entire ceremony in view when he rhetorically asks, “If the dead are not raised at all, why then are they baptized for them?” (1 Corinthians 15:29). In other words, if the dead are not raised, why practice the ritual washing of the body, which requires a person conducting the washing to immerse himself? Why concern oneself with according honour to the corpse at all if the dead are not raised? The dead will be raised, and the rituals of cleansing from corpse contamination testify to that coming resurrection. In that day, we will be cleansed from the ritual impurity of our dying, mortal bodies. We will be raised imperishable and pure like our righteous Messiah: “It has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him” (1 John 3:2).
Miriam Perishes in the Wilderness.
“Then the children of Israel, the whole congregation, came into the Wilderness of Zin in the first month, and the people stayed in Kadesh; and Miriam died there and was buried there” (Numbers 20:1). Besides the symbolism of life and death in the waters of purification, this week’s section also provides some details of the death of Moses and Aaron's sister, Miriam, in the Wilderness of Zin. Her death occurs about one year before the Israelites enter the Promised Land, and it is also connected to water. The last time we read about Miriam, she had been stricken with tzara’at (leprosy) as a punishment for speaking against Moses’ choice of a Cushite (Ethiopian) wife. The tzara’at caused her to become tamei (defiled / impure), and she was exiled from the camp for the required period of seven days after “Moses cried out to the LORD, ‘Please, God, heal her!’” (Numbers 12:13). Miriam lived many years after this, healed of her leprosy, and apparently never again allowed pride and arrogance to cause her to speak against the leadership of Moses. Miriam had played an important role in the prophetic fulfillment of God’s promise to bring Israel out of Egypt, and two of the biggest highlights involve water. She was the one who carefully watched over baby Moses as he floated down the Nile River in a basket. She bravely intervened and offered her mother's services as a wet nurse when Pharaoh’s daughter rescued him. Miriam led the procession of women singing, dancing, and rejoicing with tambourines after God safely led the Israelites through the waters of the Red Sea on dry land while drowning the pursuing Egyptians army. Although Miriam was considered a leader and prophetess, her death is mentioned only briefly in the Scriptures. No mention is made of the usual mourning period. After Miriam’s death, the people thirsted for water and complained, yet again: “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to bring us to this terrible place, a seedless place without a fig or a vine or a pomegranate, without even water to drink?” (Numbers 20:5) .
Whether a rock followed them, providing water, or God gave them water wherever they went through other means, He showed mercy for their thirst, telling Moses to speak to the rock to bring forth water. Nevertheless, before following through on God’s command to give them water, Moses responded in anger to their complaining.
Num 20:10 And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock? Num 20:11 And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also. Num 20:12 And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.
In Exodus 17:6 Yahweh previously told Moses to strike the rock. Doing the same thing this time; but contrary to God’s command to speak to the rock resulted in Moses suffering the consequence of not entering the Promised Land, Canaan. His frustration or anger with the people, tiredness or any other possible cause did not excuse him. His disobedience is seen as a sin despite not being in the commandments given at Mount Sania! In Numbers 27:14 the sin is called rebellion, while in Deut 32:51 it is described as trespass. 1Sa 15:23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.
Though the words and action was carried out by Moses, Aaron by his silence or association also suffered the similar consequences similar to those associated with Korach in previous study.
Tending to Our Emotions.
Although Moses never mentioned Miriam again after her death and although she seemed to have been buried quickly, without great public ceremony. Whether it was God’s wish or not the bible does not say. It does say the camp moved when God moved in the cloud or pillar of fire and camped for periods when he stood still. Like Moses’ anger that caused him to disobey God and strike the rock, what we repress instead of deal with ultimately demands attention and it might be expressed in ways not pleasing to God. For instance, we must take the time to properly come to terms with our feelings of loss. We must take the time to grieve, just as the people did at the end of this Torah reading for Aaron, six months after the death of Miriam. Many people blame or turn away from God when losing a loved one; but death and taxes should be expected and prepared for by us all (Job 1:21). To God we can bring to our deepest pain, our darkest despair and our broken hearts. He will cleanse us spiritually from our contact with loss and death and He will heal us.
Judges 11:1-40. God keeps His promises and covenants if we follow the “IFs” that generally accompany them. Likewise we should keep our vows to him. Jephthah kept his as made in verse 31. His loyal daughter also honoured his vow (v37). He did not kill her as some may think; but offered he into service to God as Hannah did with Samuel in 1 Samuel 2.
This section compliments the Brazen Serpent section above. It is a very important section that may clarify what or part of what the Messiah came to achieve. Compare to the two goats of Leviticus 16 and the High Priest actions once per year. I have highlighted some verse wording and some comments for assistance. It occurred to me today that Yahshua parallels BOTH of the goats. One was killed and the other let go alive to take the sins away to a place where no man went. Yahshua was both killed and went away alive (40 days later) to take away sins to a place where no man has been.
Heb 9:1 Then verily the first covenant [inserted word NOT in original] had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary. [needed for forgiveness process].
Heb 9:2 For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the shewbread; which is called the sanctuary. Heb 9:3 And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all;
Heb 9:4 Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; Heb 9:5 And over it the cherubims of glory shadowing the mercyseat; of which we cannot now speak particularly.
Heb 9:6 Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. Heb 9:7 But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: Heb 9:8 The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: Heb 9:9 Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; Heb 9:10 Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.[these ordinances being the specific washing etc the priests had to perform prior to offering the animal sacrifice].
Heb 9:11 But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Heb 9:12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. Heb 9:13 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:
Heb 9:14 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?. [The same 3 things that were required for the Day of Atonement are present in Christ’s better sacrifice; sanctuary, high priest and blood offering. Dead works refering to the former necessary actions of the high priest NOT of believers keeping the commandments of God.]
Heb 9:15 And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. [So it is a promise only to the called that is conditional on the IF as was the first. The promise is in relation to the transgressions that were listed in the first covenant, i.e the law EXODUS 24:7]
Heb 9:16 For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. Heb 9:17 For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth. Heb 9:18 Whereupon neither the first testament [inserted word not in original] was dedicated (or purified see Exodus 24:6) without blood. Heb 9:19 For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and of goats, with water, and scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book, and all the people, Heb 9:20 Saying, This is the blood of the testament which God hath enjoined unto you. Heb 9:21 Moreover he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle, and all the vessels of the ministry. [see Exodus 29:12]
Heb 9:22 And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.
Heb 9:23 It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. Heb 9:24 For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us [the called and cleaned].
Heb 9:25 Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; Heb 9:26 For then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin [NOT THE LAW, definition of sin] by the sacrifice of himself. Heb 9:27 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: Heb 9:28 So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; [NOT ALL] and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.
If law was taken away or we are not under the law, then there would be no transgression and no need or nothing for the Messiah to forgive. Not under the law refers to one specific one relating to the prescribed punishment or curse that follows breakers of them. Verses 19 and 22 also refers to a specific law that deals with how to be cleansed of sin (similar to the looking on the brazen serpent above). Not under the law DOES NOT mean the whole law. When a judge or barrister refers to "the law" they always mean a specific one relating to a specific crime or transgression!!
May Yahweh open our eyes and minds to understanding His plans for us and the world. To not be deceived what is sin or pleasing to Him. To keep within His laws, repent and seek forgiveness through His son Yahshua if we slip and grant us the promise of His everlasting life.