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Thus shall they cleanse the land

November 6, 2000

(Ezek 39:12-16 KJV) And seven months shall the house of Israel be burying of them, that they may cleanse the land. {13} Yea, all the people of the land shall bury them; and it shall be to them a renown the day that I shall be glorified, saith the Lord GOD. {14} And they shall sever out men of continual employment, passing through the land to bury with the passengers those that remain upon the face of the earth, to cleanse it: after the end of seven months shall they search. {15} And the passengers that pass through the land, when any seeth a man's bone, then shall he set up a sign by it, till the buriers have buried it in the valley of Hamongog. {16} And also the name of the city shall be Hamonah. Thus shall they cleanse the land.

(Num 19:16-18 KJV) 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:

The Temple: Its Ministry and Services
by Alfred Edersheim
Chapter 18 - On Purifications

Purification for the Dead

"Such was the service of purification connected with the origin of life. Yet it was not nearly so solemn or important as that for the removal of defilement from contact with death. A stain attached indeed to the spring of life; but death, which cast its icy shadow from the gates of Paradise to those of Hades, pointed to the second death, under whose ban every one lay, and which, if unremoved, would exercise eternal sway. Hence defilement by the dead was symbolically treated as the greatest of all. It lasted seven days; it required a special kind of purification; and it extended not only to those who had touched the dead, but even to the house or tent where the body had lain, and all open vessels therein. More than that, to enter such a house; to come into contact with the smallest bone, or with a grave; * even to partake of a feast for the dead (Hosea 9:4), rendered ceremonially unclean for seven days (Num 19:11-16,18; 31:19). "

* According to Jewish tradition, a dead body, however deeply buried, communicated defilement all the way up to the surface, unless indeed it were vaulted in, or vaulted over, to cut off contact with the earth above."

The Temple: Its Ministry and Services
by Alfred Edersheim
Chapter 11 - The Passover

The Preparations for the Passover

"But the preparations for the Passover had begun long before the 14th of Nisan. Already a month previously (on the 15th of Adar), bridges and roads had been repaired for the use of the pilgrims. That was also the time for administering the testing draught to women suspected of adultery, for burning the red heifer, and for boring the ears of those who wished to remain in servitude--in short, for making all kinds of preliminary arrangements before the festive season began. One of these is specially interesting as recalling the words of the Saviour. In general, cemeteries were outside the cities; but any dead body found in the field was (according to an ordinance which tradition traces up to Joshua) to be buried on the spot where it had been discovered. Now, as the festive pilgrims might have contracted 'uncleanness' by unwitting contact with such graves, it was ordered that all 'sepulchres' should be 'whitened' a month before the Passover. It was, therefore, evidently in reference to what He actually saw going on around Him at the time He spoke, that Jesus compared the Pharisees 'unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness' (Matt 23:27)."

"Concerning the whiting of sepulchres, there are these traditions: 'In the fifteenth day of the month Adar they mend the ways, and the streets, and the common sewers, and perform those things that concern the public, and they paint (or mark) the sepulchres.' The manner is described in Maasar Sheni; They paint the sepulchres with chalk, tempered and infused in water. The Jerusalem Gemarists give the reason of it in abundance of places: 'Do they not mark the sepulchres (say they) before the month Adar? Yes, but it is supposed that the colours are wiped off. For what cause do they paint them so? That this matter may be like the case of the leper. The leprous man crieth out, 'Unclean, unclean'; and here, in like manner, uncleanness cries out to you and saith, 'Come not near.'' R. Illa, in the name of R. Samuel Bar Nachman, allegeth that of Ezekiel; 'If one passing through the land seeth a man's bone, he shall set up a burial sign by it.'

"The Glossers deliver both the reason and the manner of it thus: 'From the fifteenth day of the month Adar they began their search; and wheresoever they found a sepulchre whose whiting was washed off with the rain, they renewed it, that the unclean place might be discerned, and the priests who were to eat the Trumah might avoid it.' Gloss on Shekalim, and again on Maasar Sheni: 'They marked the sepulchres with chalk in the likeness of bones; and mixing it with water, they washed the sepulchre all about with it, that thereby all might know that the place was unclean, and therefore to be avoided.' Concerning this matter also, the Gloss speaks; 'They made marks like bones on the sepulchres with white chalk...'"

From the 23rd chapter of Matthew in "A Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica" by John Lightfoot

The Sages instituted four special Torah readings on four different Shabbos's during the Purim season. "One of these readings is the Parshat Parah (Numbers 19:1-22) which is read the Shabbat following Purim. These verses deal with the Red Heifer used in the spiritual purification process. This issue is important at this time, since in looking toward Pesach, every Jew seeks spiritual purity in order to be included in the Passover offerings."

Greg Killian

Adar 14 and 15 is the Jewish celebration known as the Feast of Purim in memory of their deliverance from Haman who plotted to kill them (The Book of Esther). The celebration would begin on the 14th in unwalled villages and towns, and continue on the 15th in the fortified cities. Today the festival is a joyous occasion observed with the sharing of presents and food.

[In March of 1997 [Adar 5757] came reports of a pure red heifer found in Israel. Although recent new reports have stated that the heifer was not pure, rumors continue to circulate that the animal is kosher and thus is in hiding to protect it from those that would want to destroy it. A red heifer in Israel would certainly inflame those that want to keep the Temple Mount out of the hands of the Jews.]

"The faithful will need to wait until the heifer is at least three before it can be used in a ritual sacrifice. That would enable religious Jews to start the new millennium (a Christian event, but still regarded as portentous) in a state of purity...

"News of the red heifer's appearance, however, will not be well received by Muslims. The site of the old Jewish temples in the Holy City is now occupied by one of Islam's holiest shrines, the Dome of the Rock. Jewish extremists want to destroy the Dome and the adjoining Al-Aqsa mosque to make way for a new temple. In 1985 a group of Jewish terrorists were jailed in Israel for planning to destroy the Dome with high explosives.

"But Jewish activists say they regard it as their divine mission to build a new Temple. "We have been waiting 2,000 years for a sign from God, and now he has provided us with a red heifer," said Yehudah Etzion, the ringleader of the Eighties' plot to blow up the Dome, who was present at last week's inspection of the red heifer at Kfar Hassidim. "There were a couple of little white hairs which worried us, but the rabbis are satisfied that it is the red heifer referred to in the Bible," said Mr Etzion."

Electronic Telegraph
Sunday 16 March 1997
Issue 660
By Con Coughlin in Jerusalem


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