Wednesday, 7 July 2021
Cedar wood, hyssop and scarlet wool
As you know, we have been studying the meaning behind the ritual of the Red Heifer. The next question regarding the Red Heifer is perhaps my favorite. What makes it my fav? It is perhaps the hardest to understand. "Why is cedar wood, hyssop and scarlet wool burned with the Red Heifer?" Let's take these 3 ingredients one at a time. But before we do, let's understand something that applies to them all. They all are being added to the burned Red Heifer. These three ingredients become part of her ashes used for cleansing from sin. It is also notable that all 3 ingredients are used in Leviticus 14 along with a live bird to sprinkle the blood of a sacrificed bird on a cleansed leper and his house.
First, we add cedar wood. Cedar is abundant in East Tennessee. It is an excellent building material used in foundations, primarily because it doesn't rot. I have personally seen 150 year old churches that still have their original cedar foundation timbers. Solomon built the Beit HaMikdash (Hebrew that literally means "holy house" but idiomatically means the Holy Temple) using the "cedars of Lebanon" (1 Kings 5:20,21). The Scriptures even indicate that Solomon asked Hiram for the cedar wood because he was endowed with great wisdom from God. Cedar is then mixed with the ashes of the Heifer to represent durability.
Concerning the hyssop, the Hebrew word is "Ayzov." It looks good and it smells good; it is part of the mint family of plants. Psalm 51:9 "Cleanse me with hyssop and I will be clean. Wash me, and I will be whiter than snow."
So far we have what cleans and endures. The "scarlet wool" remains. But the Hebrew doesn't say "wool" in any way. The only word translated as "scarlet wool" is the Hebrew word Tola'at. It actually refers to worms or maggots and the things that are made red when the worms are crushed and used for red dye.
There are two other uses of this Hebrew word I want to point out. First, it is the word used in Psalm 22:7(6) "Am I a worm, and not a man? Am I a scorn of men, despised by people?" In this prophetic Psalm, Yeshua is speaking about His life in the first coming. He was crushed for our transgressions. Secondly, it is the Hebrew word used to explain what happens to manna that is kept overnight. Exodus 16:19-20 "Also Moses said to them, 'Let no one save any of it until the morning.' However, they did not listen to Moses. Some of them preserved it until the morning--but it bred worms and rotted. So Moses was angry with them."
We have discussed the "red thread" before. It is the theme of sin and the cleansing redemption from sin that follows the biblical narrative from Genesis to Revelation. +Should it surprise us that sin (scarlet always represents sin) is cast into the fire? As my friend, Gordon Adams, used to say, "Someday, it's all going to burn."
These ingredients may appear strange and arbitrary on the surface, but God does nothing without a purpose. I pray this has been helpful in revealing His purpose for cedar, hyssop and scarlet being thrown into the fire to become part of the ashes of the Red Heifer. And think, we've just scratched the surface of their full meaning.
Rabbi Michael Weiner,