In the Old Testament, red heifers are female cattle never pregnant, milked, or yoked sacrificed as commanded by God to the Israelites.

“The LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron: This is the statute for the ritual which the LORD has commanded. Tell the Israelites to procure for you a red heifer without defect and free from every blemish and on which no yoke has ever been laid.” – Numbers 19:1-2

Could the sacrifice of the red heifer be a prefiguring of the Crucifixion?

“You will give it to Eleazar the priest, and it will be led outside the camp and slaughtered in his presence.” – Numbers 19:3

It’s very possible!

In fact, “several early Christian writers saw in this a prefiguring of the sacrificial death of Jesus outside the walls of Jerusalem.”

These verses below have been taken to be an identification of Jesus with the red heifer:

“The bodies of the animals whose blood the high priest brings into the sanctuary as a sin offering are burned outside the camp. Therefore, Jesus also suffered outside the gate, to consecrate the people by his own blood.” – Hebrews 13:11-12

“Now many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek.” – John 19:20

“and carrying the cross himself he went out to what is called the Place of the Skull, in Hebrew, Golgotha.” – John 19:17

Interestingly, the non-canonical Epistle of Barnabas explicitly equates the red heifer with Jesus.

“But what think ye meaneth the type, where the commandment is given to Israel that those men, whose sins are full grown, offer an heifer and slaughter and burn it, and then that the children take up the ashes, and cast them into vessels, and twist the scarlet wool on a tree (see here again is the type of the cross and the scarlet wool), and the hyssop, and that this done the children should sprinkle the people one by one, that they may be purified from their sins? Understand ye how in all plainness it is spoken unto you; the calf is Jesus, the men that offer it, being sinners, are they that offered Him for the slaughter. After this it is no more men (who offer); the glory is no more for sinners.” – Barnabas 8:1-2

Photo credit: Evgeny Haritonov /
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