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Occasional Duties of the Priesthood.
1. The method of burning the red heifer, and using its ashes; ceremonies used
in our Saviour's days: their great care about the person who burnt, and the person who purified: the number of red heifers slain from the time of Moses, till the destruction of Jerusalem. The probable reason of their appointment. -2. The mode of administering the waters of jealousy ; much burdened with traditions.
It is natural to think, that besides the stated service of the priests, there were occasional duties which they were called upon to observe. The two, however, which were of most note, were the burning the red heifer, and administering the waters of jealousy: on each of which we shall offer some remarks.
As the preparation of the ashes of the red heifer, for cleansing those who were defiled with a dead body, was an important article in the Jewish ritual, we shall here add an account of it; not as it was performed in Numbers, chap. xix. but according as it was burdened with the traditions of the fathers in the days of our Saviour. In the 1st place, then, the marks for choosing the red heifer take up no less than the first two chapters of the treatise entitled Parah; but it is needless to spend time in repeating them. 2. For seven days before it was burnt, the person who was to burn it was shut up in the chamber in the north-east corner of the Court of Israel, called the chamber of stone vessels : and the reason of his confinement was, to prevent his being defiled by a grave or dead body. 3. On the day appointed for burning it, the person who was to be employed in that work, left the chamber of stone vessels, accompanied by some of the priests, and advanced towards Mount Olivet, preceded by the elders of the people; where, to prevent all possibility of defilement from graves, or a dead body, the whole of the space from the east gate of the Temple, through the Valley of Kidron, to the place where it was to be burnt, was one continued causeway of arch upon arch. 4. Having reached the spot, the person who was to officiate, was desired by the elders to bathe himself in a chamber, which had been made for the purpose ; whilst the other priests erected the pile, tied the animal with cords, and laid it upon the pile, with its head pointing to the south, and its back to the west, or the Temple. 5. When all was thus ready, the priest who was to officiate came forward, stood on the east side of the heifer, between its fore-legs and head, with his face to the Temple, and in that attitude killed it with his right hand, and received the blood with his left: which blood, as he could not, from his situation, sprinkle seven times before the tabernacle of the congregation, according to the statute, Num. xix. 4, so it was considered sufficient to stand with his face to the Temple, and to sprinkle it towards it seven times. 6. The next thing in order was, his setting fire to the pile, and while it was burning, taking cedarwood, hyssop, and scarlet wool, and throwing them into it in succession, saying as he did it, “ This is cedarwood-this is cedar-wood-this is cedar-wood :" to which the priests and elders always replied, “ Well
66 well-well.” “ This is hyssop
this is hyssop-this is hyssop :" to which they replied, “ Well-well
“ This is scarlet wool-this is scarlet woolthis is scarlet wool:" to which they again replied in the same manner. Lastly, After the whole was reduced to ashes, and these were collected with great care, pounded, and sifted, one-third of them was laid up in a chamber in Mount Olivet, for sprinkling the people; one third was delivered to the twenty-four courses, for sprinkling the priests; and one-third was laid up in a
chamber in the Sacred Fence, to be kept for a memorial.
Such was the manner of making these ashes in our Saviour's days; let us next see how they used them. The general injunction in the law was, that they should be sprinkled by a clean person ;but the traditions strained this to a person that had never been defiled by a dead body in his life : and, accordingly, that such persons might be had, there were arches formed in a rock in Jerusalem, like those already described, with houses built upon these arches, into which certain women with child were brought to be delivered; whose children were kept at the public expense, to be ready, when they came of age, to sprinkle the ashes on those who needed them: and the prescribed form of doing it was this :-One of these persons, mounted on an ox, went to the Pool of Siloam, alighted in the water for fear of being defiled with some dead body, filled a pitcher with water, remounted the ox, went to the chamber on Mount Olivet, which contained the ashes, took as many as were sufficient for his pitcher, mixed them and the water well together, sprinkled them on the persons that needed cleansing by means of a bunch of hyssop, mounted the ox, and returned to his cell. Lightfoot, from whom this account is taken, tells us, that nine of these kine were killed between the time of Moses and the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans; viz. one by Eleazar, the son of Aaron; one by Ezra; two by Simeon the just; two by Jochanan, the son of Matthias; one by Elioenai, the son of Hakkoph; one by Hanameel Hammizri; one by Ishmael, the son of Fabi; and that they look for a tenth in the days of the Messiah. On reviewing these nine red heifers, one cannot help remarking, how their de
* Num. xix. 18.
• Temple Service, ch. xvii, sect. 2.
filements increased with their traditions. For two of these kine served till after Ezra's time, which was about a thousand years : but when the traditions were introduced, the other seven were killed in less than five hun
Hitherto we have said nothing about the probable reason, why God appointed this law for purification; let us now inquire into it.
In the first place, then, God chose a female rather than a male, to pour contempt on the worship of Egypt; for the females were sacred to Isis or Apis. Thus, Herodotus says, that “ All the Egyptians sacrifice clean cattle, and always males; for it is not allowed to sacrifice females, as being sacred to Isis.” Porphyry says, that, “ With the Egyptians and Phænicians, any one would sooner taste human flesh than the flesh of a cow." And Tacitus observes of the Jews, “ That they slew a ram in contempt of Hammon; and sacrificed a cow, which the Egyptians worship, as a symbol of Apis.”
In the second place, God appointed to the Jews a red heifer in particular, not because it was most highly esteemed, or resembled the golden calf which Aaron made, but because cows of that colour were offered by the Egyptians to Typhon, Python, or the devil. Thus Diodorus Siculusd tells us, that “ the Egyptians sacrifice red cows, because Typhon, who oppressed Osiris by his snares, had this colour.” And Plutarcho says, “ The Egyptians, thinking Typhon to have been of a red colour, sacrifice no cows unless they be red; making such minute observation, that if they had but one black hair, they were not to be sacrificed.” The Egyptians, indeed, suited their sacrifices to their gods. Thus a
c Hist. lib. y.
a Lib. ii. cap. 41.
Hist. lib. i. $ 79.
b De Abstin. lib. ii. sect. 11.
black cow was sacrificed to the Nile, because the Nile was black: the obelisks were of pyrites, which are of a red colour; to resemble the rays of the sun; horned bulls were offered to the moon; white horses to the sun; and red cows to Typhon, or the devil.
In the third place, the singular ceremonies used in killing the heifer, had an evident reference to heathen usages, and were intended to counteract them. Thus, it was killed in the presence of the high priest, who represented Jehovah, to shew that it was not sacrificed to a heathen deity. It was slain without the
not only to be a type of Christ who suffered without the gate, but also to cast contempt on their sacrificing it in their temples to Typhon.
Its blood was sprinkled, not thrice only towards the Tabernacle, which was the heathen number of sprinkling, but seven times, or the sacred number which was appropriated to the sprinklings in the sacrifices to Jehovah. And when its carcass was burnt, three different articles were thrown into the fire along with it-cedarwood and hyssop, each the size of a man's hand, according to Maimonides, and scarlet wool of the weight of five shekels, according to the same author. These were used by heathens in their lustrations, and were ordered to be burnt along with the heifer, to teach the Israelites their inefficiency.
Lastly, The method of applying the ashes of the red heifer as a lustration in the case of defilement by a dead body, was intended to vilify the sacred heifer of Egypt, and to lead them from those heathen methods of purifying which they had seen, and probably had approved of in Egypt; for the Egyptians employed the water in which the Ibis had drunk, and which had been farther consecrated by certain magical rites, in order to remove various kinds of pollution. Now, by confining the lusVol. I.