Holman Bible Dictionary
The function of the red heifer ceremony was production of ash for the water used to remove ritual impurity contracted through contact with a corpse, bones, or a grave (Numbers 19:1
). The rite involved: slaughter of a sacrificially acceptable heifer outside the camp; sprinkling blood toward the tent of meeting seven times; burning the entire heifer, including its blood and dung, together with cedarwood, hyssop, and scarlet thread (compare Leviticus 14:4
); and storing the ash in a clean place outside the camp. The water for removing the impurity contracted through contact with the dead was prepared by mixing running water with the ash. Impure persons and objects were sprinkled on the third and seventh days after contamination to remove uncleanness. Hebrews 9:14
uses the image of the red heifer ceremony to picture Christ's cleansing believers of the effect of “dead works.” Dead works refer either to “acts that lead to death” (NIV; “useless rituals” in view of salvation TEV) or works produced prior to being made alive in Christ (compare Hebrews 6:1
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Red Heifer'. Holman Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hbd/r/red-heifer.html. 1991.