Sunday, September 9, 2018
What Ever Happened to the Ashes of the Red Heifer?
9 September 2018
Numbers 19:1-22, "And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, 2 This is the ordinance of the law which the LORD hath commanded, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring thee a red heifer without spot, wherein is no blemish, and upon which never came yoke: 3 And ye shall give her unto Eleazar the priest, that he may bring her forth without the camp, and one shall slay her before his face: 4 And Eleazar the priest shall take of her blood with his finger, and sprinkle of her blood directly before the tabernacle of the congregation seven times: 5 And one shall burn the heifer in his sight; her skin, and her flesh, and her blood, with her dung, shall he burn: 6 And the priest shall take cedar wood, and hyssop, and scarlet, and cast it into the midst of the burning of the heifer. 7 Then the priest shall wash his clothes, and he shall bathe his flesh in water, and afterward he shall come into the camp, and the priest shall be unclean until the even. 8 And he that burneth her shall wash his clothes in water, and bathe his flesh in water, and shall be unclean until the even. 9 And a man that is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer, and lay them up without the camp in a clean place, and it shall be kept for the congregation of the children of Israel for a water of separation: it is a purification for sin. 10 And he that gathereth the ashes of the heifer shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until the even: and it shall be unto the children of Israel, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among them, for a statute for ever. 11 He that toucheth the dead body of any man shall be unclean seven days. 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. 13 Whosoever toucheth 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. 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. 15 And every open vessel, which hath no covering bound upon it, is unclean. 16 And whosoever toucheth one that is slain with a sword in the open fields, or a dead body, or a bone of a man, or a grave, shall be unclean seven days. 17 And for an unclean person they shall take of the ashes of the burnt heifer of purification for sin, and running water shall be put thereto in a vessel: 18 And a clean person shall take hyssop, and dip it in the water, and sprinkle it upon the tent, and upon all the vessels, and upon the persons that were there, and upon him that touched a bone, or one slain, or one dead, or a grave: 19 And the clean person shall sprinkle upon the unclean on the third day, and on the seventh day: and on the seventh day he shall purify himself, and wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and shall be clean at even. 20 But the man that shall be unclean, and shall not purify himself, that soul shall be cut off from among the congregation, because he hath defiled the sanctuary of the LORD: the water of separation hath not been sprinkled upon him; he is unclean. 21 And it shall be a perpetual statute unto them, that he that sprinkleth the water of separation shall wash his clothes; and he that toucheth the water of separation shall be unclean until even. 22 And whatsoever the unclean person toucheth shall be unclean; and the soul that toucheth it shall be unclean until even."
This particular piece is inspired by a friend on social media who posted an article and video of a newly born Red Heifer in Israel. Many folks who are into the signs of the times may know of the significance of what the red heifer represents. Many may be hearing about this bovine beauty for the first time and may not know about it's role in our day and age. This article isn't going to be an in-depth lesson on the red heifer and how she will be used as much as it is about how the social media post inspired me to tell a personal story from my own past experience. In that vein, I'll begin.
Back in 1985, at Shady Grove Baptist 'Church' in Bossier City, LA where I was a member, my pastor had invited a man to speak to us for a week on Bible Numerics and Bible Prophesy. The speaker's name was Dr. Ed Vallowe from Forrest Park, GA. He had been a Baptist Evangelist for over 50 years and held seven earned doctorates. He also looked and spoke like Elmer Fudd. Anyone who knew him or saw him on T.V. can verify this. When I had met him he was well into his seventies and still going strong. As a matter of fact, he owned a 'Church' Group Touring company which specialized in taking people to the Holy Land each year. He had been in charge of organizing itineraries and tour sites for many years. He even had a personal guide he would hire every year. The guide's name was Avi.
The last day of the conference came and I was so impressed by Dr. Vallowe's presentation that I had decided the night before to select from my belongings a gift to present to him. I selected a very early edition of the Foxx's Book of Martyrs my Grandfather had given me. When I approached him after his morning presentation I told him that I would like him to accept this book as a gift. He said, "How did you know I collected old books?" I said that I didn't. He was very appreciative and asked if there was anything he could do for me. I told him that the book was a gift and there would be no need paying me back for anything since that's not how gift giving works. He smiled and thanked me. We shook hands and I told him I'd be back for his last presentation that evening.
Later that evening he presented a message about the Ashes of the Red Heifer. Until that moment I had never heard of the ashes of the red heifer and was intrigued. He began by telling us a story of one of his most recent visits to Israel. On this particular trip, he met with his faithful guide Avi. Avi was a native who was always keeping his eyes out for interesting things he could show Dr. Vallowe's tour group. On this visit he asked Dr. Vallowe if they'd be interested in going to see a new archeological dig site that had been worked by the local authorities, the Museum curator and an archeologist and language professor at the University by the name of Dr. Vendell Jones. Dr. Jones was the model used for the fictional Dr. Henry 'Indiana' Jones character from the Raider's of the Lost Ark movie franchise. Dr. Vallowe was happy for the opportunity since he was friends with Dr. Jones and was glad to see him again.
Dr. Jones was from east Texas and had a talent for languages. He spoke, read and wrote fluent Hebrew, Greek, Latin and Chaldean. He was also an expert in archaic language and taught Jews how to read and write Hebrew at the University. He also held duel citizenship of the U.S. and Israel. To make his background relevant to this story he was asked to play a major role in deciphering one of the recently opened Dead Sea scrolls. These scrolls were found by accident by a young man playing by some of the many arid caves near the Dead Sea in1947 or '48. He threw a rock into a cave and he heard something break. The rock struck a clay pitcher that contained the scrolls and as most Bible students know, many were opened to find whole books and passages of the Old Testament still in tact.
However, there was one scroll that was a bit different from the others. It was rolled copper and the metal had become brittle and wasn't opened for fear of crumbling it's contents. In the late 1970's they found a way to safely unravel this scroll which was only three or four leafs long. What they found was a dialect they couldn't decipher. But they also found a map etched into one of the copper leaves describing a certain location. What the location held was the mystery. That's why they called in Dr. Jones to see if he could be of help. Once presented with the copper scroll, he knew immediately what the map meant. This was a treasure map and directions to the prize. It was a map describing where Jeremiah the prophet had buried the ashes of the red heifer. It was a message from Jeremiah himself. This particular scroll not only told of where the ashes were buried, it also said that one indicator that this is the correct site is that it would be found by a Gentile! I guess you can't get anymore Gentile than being born in east Texas.
If you remember, Jeremiah was a contemporary of Daniel the prophet. Daniel was a captive of Nebuchadnezzar and was stuck in Persia. Jehoakim was the wicked king of Israel and kept breaking agreements with the kings of Persia. Over 22 years the Persians would ran sack the Temple in Jerusalem. Before the ran sacking began, Jeremiah decided to hide some relics he knew the LORD wouldn't be too happy about if the Persians got their hands on. So he took it upon himself to hide the vessel that contained the ashes. He left behind this map, instructions on what to do when they found the site and clues to which location was the correct one. One must know that in this area there are thousands of caves. Looking into each cave would be an impossible chore. The map and instructions were a short cut through all of that.
After being briefed by Dr. Jones as to the adventure he was apart of, Dr. Vallowe was very excited to see this for himself. After their briefing they were on there way to the site.
First off the map showed an unusual looking cave. It was spilt down the middle by a natural column with two openings. One entrance was higher than the other. The taller entrance was at its highest point equivalent to a nine to ten story building. This was confirmed in scale by a Polaroid Dr. Vallowe took from the road while he was approaching the dig site. He had brought the photo and copies of the scrolls and the map with him for us all to see which he obtained from Dr. Jones during his briefing. The Polaroid he took of the opening of the site showed one piece of heavy earth moving equipment, a dozier at least halfway up the hill to where the floor of the opening was. The dozier was dwarft by the size of the openings and could not ascend any further because the terrain was too steep and rocky. The elevation from the road to the floor of the entrances was at least 150 feet of steep terrain where the dozier, if pushed, could easily tip over. Any surveying would have to be done manually. But there was one other thing that the photo showed that Dr. Vallowe pointed out. Halfway between the road and the entrance was a single hyssop bush protruding out of the hill.
What was interesting is that there were no other signs of plant life in that area as it was too dry to support normal vegetation. A hyssop bush is no normal plant. It would have to have a root deep enough to find a water source. Hyssop has a very deep root that when planted or naturally grown finds it's way deep down in the earth and when it reaches a solid rock or boulder wraps itself around the rock as it grows. It keeps growing until it finds a water source or it eventually dies. Apparently this particular hyssop bush found it's drinking fountain. To pull up a hyssop bush is near impossible because of how deep it grows and what it wraps itself around. But there it was, big as life! It had no neighboring plants around it to converse with. It was all alone standing there like a sentinel. For all we know Jeremiah could have chosen this spot because the bush was already there and can be used as a marker for which opening to use. Also, the hyssop could be a foresight provision used for the purification ceremony. Either way, we know it is at least as old as Jeremiah.
It took Dr. Vallowe some time and effort for a man his age to climb up the rocky surface, but he made it. I suspect that his adrenaline was flowing pretty well that day. Once inside the opening where the map indicated, Dr. Vallowe and party arrived at the dig site. Around the site was a lot of mounds of dirt and sand where the dig took place. He saw something unusual and asked if he could grab himself a chunk. His request was granted and he took himself a piece of plaster that was lying at his feet. He thought it was unusual for plaster to be there and asked about it. Dr. Jones told him the story of the dig that happened only a few months prior to his visit. During the manual excavation Dr. Jones was accompanied by the Senior Rabbi, archeologists and the curator of the museum.
Dr. Jones explained that the instructions Jeremiah wrote down said that the plaster would be the first indicator or marker for where the ashes of the red heifer was buried. The instructions started out by telling how many steps from the correct entrance the digger would have to take before they arrived at the actual dig site. Take so many steps and start digging. After they dug awhile, they would hit an area of plaster about a few inches thick. After breaking open the plaster they would dig a little more and they would hit an area of white sand. That was the second marker. Under the white sand would be a third marker of twelve stones surrounding one larger stone. As they dug they found the stones and cleared the area leaving the stones in place undisturbed.
Dr. Jones was given the honor of lifting up the center stone. When he did, the other stones around it moved. Jeremiah apparently Jerry-rigged the stones with planks of wood. The ends of each plank was set under each stone and reached across to be settled underneath the center stone. The planks were concealed under the dirt so they weren't visible or could be felt when Dr. Jones stepped to the center. But when he lifted the center stone it triggered the other stones to move. At that point the Rabbi stopped the dig. He said that a ceremony had to take place where twelve young men who were properly purified and virgins had to remove the stones and lift out the vessel that contained the ashes just underneath. The area was roped off and could only be inspected by those who had clearance. Dr. Jones was included since he was the Gentile who found it.
Preparations had to be made to find the twelve virgin boys and everything else involved in the ceremony so the site lay dormant until that time. In the meantime, Dr. Vallowe's tour of the site was granted. The touring party however was not. They were kept outside of the dig site near the road, on the bus or outside of the roped off area for those who wanted to make the trip to the entrance. After seeing the site Dr. Vallowe wanted to buy more film to take some more photos of the site and left for the hotel where they were staying. It was hot and he wanted to grab a bite and rest up for the next day's adventures. His plan was to return for a second visit while Avi guided the tour group to other places of interest. During the night however a small earthquake hit the area and collapsed the site. At that point, it would be almost impossible to dig it out since so much rubble surrounds the site. No heavy equipment could reach the site and no explosives can be use for fear of collapsing the entire cave. I suppose the LORD didn't want the ashes to be found during that time. It just wasn't His time. I know. This sounds like a movie, right? But that's the way he told it, and I for one believe him knowing that he was a man of integrity.
Anyway, while back at the 'Church', after he told the story and showed us the plaster, copies of the scroll, drawing of the cave and photo that he took of the site, I went up to Dr. Vallowe to wish him well and told him how much I enjoyed the meetings. He asked me about the book I had presented him and thanked me again. He still wanted to know if there was anything he could do for me. I told him it wasn't necessary. He insisted. So I asked him, never expecting he's go through with it, "Okay. How about breaking off a piece of that plaster you brought along so I can have it as a keepsake of this time with you?" He looked down at the carpet, shook his head and in an annoyed and elevated voice said, "C'mon; follow me!" He took me out the side entrance of the sanctuary and threw the plaster with great force onto the cement walkway outside. He did it very animated like. Just how Elmer Fudd would. I was stunned! Three pieces broke off. He gave me the two smallest pieces, one of which I still have today. If I can ever figure out a way to post a photo of it here with this article I will. He said that he had the plaster dated and it matched the time of Jeremiah. It could very well be that I own a piece of red heifer history. A piece of plaster mixed and laid down by the prophet Jeremiah himself.
As to the significance of the actual ashes of the red heifer, we at least now know where it is buried. As to what they are used for, you can see this for yourself by reading the text shown above. I hope this story blessed those who read it. I'd like to thank my friend Laura Fritz for posting on social media the video and article.