The Red Cow
God spoke to Moses and Aaron: “This is the rule from the Revelation that God commands: Tell the People of Israel to get a red cow, a healthy specimen, ritually clean, that has never been in harness. Present it to Eleazar the priest, then take it outside the camp and butcher it while he looks on. Eleazar will take some of the blood on his finger and splash it seven times in the direction of the Tent of Meeting.
“Then under Eleazar’s supervision burn the cow, the whole thing—hide, meat, blood, even its dung. The priest then will take a stick of cedar, some sprigs of hyssop, and a piece of scarlet material and throw them on the burning cow. Afterwards the priest must wash his clothes and bathe well with water. He can then come into the camp but he remains ritually unclean until evening. The man who burns the cow must also wash his clothes and bathe with water. He also is unclean until evening.
“Then a man who is ritually clean will gather the ashes of the cow and place them in a ritually clean place outside the camp. The congregation of Israel will keep them to use in the Water-of-Cleansing, an Absolution-Offering.
“The man who gathered up the ashes must scrub his clothes; he is ritually unclean until evening. This is to be a standing rule for both native-born Israelites and foreigners living among them.
“Anyone who touches a dead body is ritually unclean for seven days. He must purify himself with the Water-of-Cleansing on the third day; on the seventh day he will be clean. But if he doesn’t follow the procedures for the third and seventh days, he won’t be clean. Anyone who touches the dead body of anyone and doesn’t get cleansed desecrates God’s Dwelling and is to be excommunicated. For as long as the Water-of-Cleansing has not been sprinkled on him, he remains ritually unclean.
“This is the rule for someone who dies in his tent: Anyone who enters the tent or is already in the tent is ritually unclean for seven days, and every open container without a lid is unclean.
“Anyone out in the open field who touches a corpse, whether dead from violent or natural causes, or a human bone or a grave is unclean for seven days. For this unclean person, take some ashes from the burned Absolution-Offering and add some fresh water to it in a bowl. Find a ritually clean man to dip a sprig of hyssop into the water and sprinkle the tent and all its furnishings, the persons who were in the tent, the one who touched the bones of the person who was killed or died a natural death, and whoever may have touched a grave. Then he is to sprinkle the unclean person on the third and seventh days. On the seventh day he is considered cleansed. The cleansed person must then scrub his clothes and take a bath; by evening he is clean. But if an unclean person does not go through these cleansing procedures, he must be excommunicated from the community; he has desecrated the Sanctuary of God. The Water-of-Cleansing has not been sprinkled on him and he is ritually unclean. This is the standing rule for these cases.
“The man who sprinkles the Water-of-Cleansing has to scrub his clothes; anyone else who touched the Water-of-Cleansing is also ritually unclean until evening.
“Anything the ritually unclean man touches becomes unclean, and the person who touches what he touched is unclean until evening.”
In the first month, the entire company of the People of Israel arrived in the Wilderness of Zin. The people stayed in Kadesh.
Miriam died there, and she was buried.
There was no water there for the community, so they ganged up on Moses and Aaron. They attacked Moses: “We wish we’d died when the rest of our brothers died before God. Why did you haul this congregation of God out here into this wilderness to die, people and cattle alike? And why did you take us out of Egypt in the first place, dragging us into this miserable country? No grain, no figs, no grapevines, no pomegranates—and now not even any water!”
Moses and Aaron walked from the assembled congregation to the Tent of Meeting and threw themselves facedown on the ground. And they saw the Glory of God.
God spoke to Moses: “Take the staff. Assemble the community, you and your brother Aaron. Speak to that rock that’s right in front of them and it will give water. You will bring water out of the rock for them; congregation and cattle will both drink.”
Moses took the staff away from God’s presence, as commanded. He and Aaron rounded up the whole congregation in front of the rock. Moses spoke: “Listen, rebels! Do we have to bring water out of this rock for you?”
With that Moses raised his arm and slammed his staff against the rock—once, twice. Water poured out. Congregation and cattle drank.
God said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you didn’t trust me, didn’t treat me with holy reverence in front of the People of Israel, you two aren’t going to lead this company into the land that I am giving them.”
These were the Waters of Meribah (Bickering) where the People of Israel bickered with God, and he revealed himself as holy.
Moses sent emissaries from Kadesh to the king of Edom with this message: “A message from your brother Israel: You are familiar with all the trouble we’ve run into. Our ancestors went down to Egypt and lived there a long time. The Egyptians viciously abused both us and our ancestors. But when we cried out for help to God, he heard our cry. He sent an angel and got us out of Egypt. And now here we are at Kadesh, a town at the border of your land.
“Will you give us permission to cut across your land? We won’t trespass through your fields or orchards and we won’t drink out of your wells; we’ll keep to the main road, the King’s Road, straying neither right nor left until we’ve crossed your border.”
The king of Edom answered, “Not on your life. If you so much as set a foot on my land, I’ll kill you.”
The People of Israel said, “Look, we’ll stay on the main road. If we or our animals drink any water, we’ll pay you for it. We’re harmless—just a company of footsore travelers.”
He answered again: “No. You may not come through.” And Edom came out and blocked the way with a crowd of people brandishing weapons. Edom refused to let them cross through his land. So Israel had to detour around him.
The People of Israel, the entire company, set out from Kadesh and traveled to Mount Hor.
God said to Moses and Aaron at Mount Hor at the border of Edom, “It’s time for Aaron to be gathered into the company of his ancestors. He will not enter the land I am giving to the People of Israel because you both rebelled against my orders at the Waters of Meribah. So take Aaron and his son Eleazar and lead them up Mount Hor. Remove Aaron’s clothes from him and put them on his son Eleazar. Aaron will be gathered there; Aaron will die.”
Moses obeyed God’s command. They climbed Mount Hor as the whole congregation watched. Moses took off Aaron’s clothes and put them on his son Eleazar. Aaron died on top of the mountain. Then Moses and Eleazar came down from the mountain. The whole congregation, getting the news that Aaron had died, went into thirty days of mourning for him.
The Canaanite king of Arad, ruling in the Negev, heard that Israel was advancing up the road to Atharim. He attacked Israel and took prisoners of war.
Israel vowed a vow to God: “If you will give this people into our power, we’ll destroy their towns and present the ruins to you as a holy destruction.”
God listened to Israel’s prayer and gave them the Canaanites. They destroyed both them and their towns, a holy destruction. They named the place Hormah (Holy Destruction).