The Red Heifer

“To thee will I sacrifice a yearling heifer, broad at brow, unbroken, that never yet hath man led beneath the yoke. Her will I sacrifice to thee, and gild her horns with gold.”

There is an aristocratic African tribe in Rwanda (Ruanda) Urundi called the Watusi.  Africa is my homeland, and I grew up calling these people the “Tutsi”. I could talk about them for hours, but this post is about their beautiful, lyre-horned, red cattle.



The Tutsi can exceed eight feet in height and the horns of their cattle, also called ‘Watusi”, can exceed the same length.  I refer to the people as “Tutsi” and their cattle as “Watusi”. When I was growing up, red was the most common colour of the Watusi.


The Tutsi are the best looking people the soil of Africa can produce, and in my opinion, they are the most beautiful people on Earth.  When a Tutsi walks by, everyone stares.


As much as I’d like to talk about the Tutsi, as I’ve said, this post is about their cattle.  The intermingling of the Watusi with other cattle has led to many red and white Watusi and to black Watusi, but the red Watusi have always been revered by Africans.  A perfect red Watusi is very suitable as a gift for a king.  To be considered perfect, a red Watusi must have lyre shaped horns.


Wonderful horns are common among Watusi, lyre-shaped horns are not.  So, once the owner can see that the horns are taking on the shape of a lyre, that fortunate animal is “earmarked” for royalty.


The magnificent animal in the picture below has a spectacular set of horns, but because of her colouring, by African standards, she’s not “fit for a king”.


If you’re thinking, “An African king is very exacting”, you’re right.  An African king believes that all of Africa is his birth right.  And since he doesn’t want to be inundated with cattle, he accepts only the best.  And his people understand, “The king has many cattle, so if we want to add to his herd we must offer him our best.”  It comes naturally to Africans to give their best to their king, and they feel that by giving their best to their king, they are propitiating God.

It touches the heart of man when he receives a gift from his children, and yet he seems to have a problem understanding that the LORD, like any parent, delights in a gift from His children.  More importantly, the LORD can be propitiated with a gift. Obviously, a gift which is not fit for a king is not fit for the LORD.

A Watusi with lyre-shaped horns that has toiled and bears the marks of the yoke, even a single scar, would not be a suitable gift to present to an African king.

African’s instinctively admire lyre shaped horns for a number of reason, some of which I can illustrate with pictures:


Lyre shaped horns kindle within us an image of arms thrust upward joyously.  All over the world we express jubilation with up flung arms:



The woman greeting the Sun in the picture above, unthinkingly, has her arm raised in the shape of a lyre.  Praising the LORD, blessing the people, jumping for joy, celebrating a victory, for all these actions we throw our arms above our heads.  The lyre-shaped horns of the Watusi are symbolic of all this and more.  And then there is surrender.  The underlying feeling is very different, but we express “surrender” in the same way.


“You have been victorious.  You have captured me.  I surrender.”  Whether or not you believe in the LORD ultimately you will know of His existence and you will surrender to Him.  That’s as much as is needed to explain the symbolism behind the horns of the Watusi. A great deal more could be said about lyre-shaped horns: an explanation of the horns of the Altar would occupy several pages and many pictures.  This is but a brief explanation for the Red Heifer (Parah Adumah) that the LORD requires of repentant Jews.

 The ordinance of the law which the LORD has commanded, saying, Tell the children of Israel, that they bring thee a red heifer without spot, wherein is no blemish, and upon which never came yoke. Numbers Chapter 19 Verse 2 


The elders of that city shall take a heifer, which hath not toiled, and which has not drawn in the yoke. And the elders of the city shall bring down the heifer to a wild valley, which is neither eared nor sown, and shall strike off the heifer’s neck there in the valley: And the priests, the sons of Levi shall come near; for the LORD thy God has chosen them to minister unto him, and to bless in the name of the LORD; and by their word shall every controversy and every stroke be tried. Deuteronomy Chapter 21 Verses 3 to 5

For the life of the flesh is in the blood, to give upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that makes an atonement for the life. Leviticus Chapter 17 Verse 11

Pure, innocent blood atones for sin. The LORD requires a heifer that has never toiled to be sacrificed on soil that has never been worked by man. Such an animal, and such soil has never experienced the rough handling of an impatient farmer, has never felt the fear and confusion of being harnessed. Such an animal has grazed as peacefully as a fawn in the wild.


Man contaminates everything he touches.  The LORD wants the animal and the soil to have come into very little contact with the hands of man.  Remember all the sins you have committed throughout your life?  Count your sins if you are able. Do you hope that prayer will bring about the LORD’S forgiveness?


If the Red Heifer could think it through, would she prefer to be a steak on your plate? Your shoes? A baseball?  A football? Gloves? Chewing gum? Gummy bears? Marshmallows?  You have an issue with sacrifice because you don’t understand death.  If you truly understood life, death and rebirth, you’d know that the Red Heifer will be born again in a more evolved form.  And because she’s been sacrificed to the LORD, as innocent as a fawn, when she re-enters life, her next form will be the best of the best.  Taking into account all the wrong you’ve done over the course of your life, what are the chances that your next form and your next life will be the best of the best?  The Red Heifer will return to life.  You will return to life:

The LORD kills, and He makes alive: he brings down to the grave, and brings up. 1 Samuel Chapter 2 Verse 6

The Parah Adumah will be reborn gloriously.

The life of a creature is in the blood.  Sin is in the blood.  Sinful blood contaminates.  Pure blood, shed in the confines of the Temple by ritually cleansed priests can purge sins. I don’t expect you to comprehend the unreachable mind of the LORD, so if you don’t understand this post, then consider sacrifice to be a ‘hok’, a requirement of the LORD that is beyond man’s comprehension.



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