If you have an appetite for something “meaty,” 2 I believe you will enjoy the following study, which investigates the Red Heifer sacrifice a relatively “obscure” feature of the Mosaic Law and its astounding significance for the crucifixion of Jesus Christ nearly two millennia ago. In some respects this could be considered an “advanced” study. But then solid food is for the mature. As the writer of Hebrews stated,
We have much to say but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! [S]olid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation And God permitting, we will do so (5:11-6:3). 3
What exactly is this “solid food”? What sorts of topics does the writer tantalize us with, before deciding to stick to a simpler agenda? 4 The writer touches on such topics as angels, the elusive Melchizedek, Old Testament typology and fulfillment, the nature of sacrifice and especially, for our purposes, the Red Heifer. Now unless we have steeped ourselves in the Old Testament, we may be struck by the unfamiliarity of many items in this paper, which weaves together Torah, Mishnah, history, linguistics, the New Testament, and early Christian testimony to support its thesis. Please bear this in mind as you patiently consider the following pages. So lets dig in!
Sacrifice is found in nearly every book of the Bible, and this theme binds together all the other themes and plots in Scripture. The place of sacrifice par excellence is Moriah. Often we hear mention of “Mount Moriah.” In a sense, there is more than one “Mount Moriah.” Just as the Ark came to rest on “one of the mountains of Ararat,” rather than on the Mount Ararat (Genesis 8:4), so Abraham was bidden by God to sacrifice his son on one of the mountains in the land of Moriah (Genesis 22:2):
Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”
There are conceivably a number of “Moriahs.” Jesus too was sacrificed in the land of Moriah. Is there any need to remind the reader that there are at least ten amazing parallels, by way of foreshadowing, between the sacrifice of Isaac and the sacrifice of Jesus? It would come as no surprise if they were “sacrificed” and “received back” on the same mountain. The sacrifice of Christ takes on new meaning when we understand the Old Testament foreshadowing in this case, with startling coincidence of detail. 5 The site of Jesus execution, like that of Isaacs “sacrifice,” is never identified with the Temple Mount, unlike the threshing floor of Araunah:
Then Solomon began to build the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to his father David. It was on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, the place provided by David (2 Chronicles 3:1).
There are, in effect, two theologically significant places of sacrifice in the land of Moriah. The Mount of Olives is located on Moriah, and it is probable that here both Isaac and Jesus were offered. The threshing floor at which David stemmed the plague, indeed the very site at which Solomon erected his magnificent Temple, were not on the Mount of Olives, but on Moriah. The Mount of Olives we could call “Upper” Mt. Moriah, the Temple Mount, “Lower” Mt. Moriah.