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Will a Cow Start World War III?

Will a Cow Start World War III?

Apr 12, 2024

Will a Cow Start World War III?

One of my favorite things as a kid was the Weekly World News, an outlandish black and white supermarket tabloid that was almost a parody of the genre. Unlike hokey, unserious tabloids that questioned whether Burt Reynolds was wearing a rug or if Donald Trump had a new squeeze, the Weekly World News dug into the real stories of the day, like the infamous Bat Boy or who the aliens supported for president.

SHOCKER: Elvis closes Weekly World News after hostile takeover!!!! – Greg  Bardsley
You could always count on the Weekly World News for the straight dirt.

This story could easily fit into the page of the Weekly World News, but I assure you it’s deadly serious, and thousands may have already died as a result of it.

It all has to do with a cow. A very special cow that many believe will end the world.

a brown cow with a white nose
Photo by Eric Brehm on Unsplash

According to CBS News, Hamas cited this cow as one of the reasons it staged the October 7th attack against Israel. Hamas spokesman Abu Obeida said on the 100th-day anniversary of the recent war between Israel and Hamas:

“We look back 100 days to remember the educated, the complicit, and the incapacitated among the world powers governed by the law of the jungle, reminding them of an aggression that reached its peak against our path (Al-Quds) and Al-Aqsa, with the start of its actual temporal and spatial division, and the “bringing of red cows as an application of a detestable religious myth designed for aggression against the feelings of an entire nation in the heart of its Arab identity, and the path of its prophet (the Night Journey) and Ascension to heaven.”

What do red cows have to do with anything? Hold on, it’s a story thousands of years in the making, and like most conflagrations in the Middle East, it can be traced back to the Bible.

The Biblical Origin of the Red Heifer

The book of Numbers gets a bad rap as being boring, but once you get past the first few chapters of counting cows and goats, it’s one of the most interesting books of the Old Testament. There’s an angel with a sword, a talking donkey, and God gives Moses’s sister leprosy for being racist. Also, we find the origin of the red cow that helped inspire the October 7th attack.

One of the reasons Numbers (along with Leviticus and Deuteronomy) has a reputation for being boring is because it’s full of instructions, both for the people of Israel and the priesthood, like this:

And the Lord spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, This is the ordinance of the law which the Lord hath commanded, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring thee a red heifer without spot, wherein is no blemish, and upon which never came yoke: And ye shall give her unto Eleazar the priest, that he may bring her forth without the camp, and one shall slay her before his face: And Eleazar the priest shall take of her blood with his finger, and sprinkle of her blood directly before the tabernacle of the congregation seven times: And one shall burn the heifer in his sight; her skin, and her flesh, and her blood, with her dung, shall he burn:

A heifer is young, female bovine that has not produced offspring. A virgin. The heifer called for in this ritual is to have no blemish, have never been yoked, and be perfectly red.

As you can imagine, this sort of cow is rare. According to Jewish lore, only nine such heifers have been sacrificed since the time of Moses.

The Old Testament outlines many sorts of sacrifices, like sin offerings and wave offerings, but the sacrifice of the red heifer is for a special purpose:

And a man that is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer, and lay them up without the camp in a clean place, and it shall be kept for the congregation of the children of Israel for a water of separation: it is a purification for sin.

So a red heifer would be slaughtered and its ashes mixed with water to create a “water of separation” to purify the Israelites of sin, specifically those who had touched a corpse or anything dead.

Under Old Testament law, such purification was essential in order to touch anything holy. And, of course, holy things need a place to go, and those places themselves must be holy.

And the clean person shall sprinkle upon the unclean on the third day, and on the seventh day: and on the seventh day he shall purify himself, and wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and shall be clean at even.
But the man that shall be unclean, and shall not purify himself, that soul shall be cut off from among the congregation, because he hath defiled the sanctuary of the Lord: the water of separation hath not been sprinkled upon him; he is unclean.

What was the sanctuary of the Lord?

The Tabernacle and the Temples

Everyone knows the story of Moses freeing the Israelites from Egypt, but not as many know what happened between Egypt and the Promised Land. Along the way, God commanded the Israelites to pool together their Egyptian loot to build a house of worship.

The Israelites didn’t yet have the real estate to construct a proper building, so God commanded them to build a giant movable tent, called the tabernacle.

The tabernacle lasted hundreds of years, until the time of King David (you know, the boy who killed the giant with a rock). David got the bright idea to replace the tabernacle with a glorious, permanent building: a temple. However, God would not let David build the Temple, because his hands were too stained with blood (1 Chronicles 22:8).

Instead, the building of the temple fell to David’s heir, Solomon. King Solomon’s reign was a time of unimaginably peace and prosperity. He built the Temple out of the finest of materials, such as cedar and solid gold.

Then all hell broke loose.

At the end of Solomon’s life, he had begun worshipping the pagan gods imported by his many foreign wives. Shortly after his death, the kingdom permanently split into two. For generations, the Israelites continually fell into paganism, debauchery, and even child sacrifice interspersed with the occasional righteous king.

Eventually, God got fed up and sent in Nebuchadnezzar II, king of Babylon, who besieged Jerusalem, destroyed Solomon’s Temple, and led the remaining Israelites captive back to Babylon.

God finally allowed the Israelites to return to Jerusalem and build a Second Temple, which wasn’t as glorious as the first. That temple lasted until the Romans destroyed it in 70 AD.

Why No Third Temple?

Why did no one ever get the bright idea to take a third stab at a temple? After all, the third try is the charm, right?

For one, a Roman emperor attempted it: Julian the Apostate. He’s called “The Apostate,” because he tried to reverse the Christianization of the Empire that began with his grandfather Constantine the Great. In his efforts to strike back against Christianity, he gave the Jews permission to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem.

It did not go well.

According to several ancient authorities, including the Christian historian Sozomen and the pagan historian Ammianus Marcellinus, a friend of Emperor Julian, every time they attempted rebuilding on the site known as the Temple Mount, fire literally shot out of the ground. From The Roman History of Ammianus Marcellinus:

Julian thought to rebuild at an extravagant expense the proud Temple once at Jerusalem, and committed this task to Alypius of Antioch. Alypius set vigorously to work, and was seconded by the governor of the province; when fearful balls of fire, breaking out near the foundations, continued their attacks, till the workmen, after repeated scorchings, could approach no more: and he gave up the attempt.

Julian was killed in battle shortly thereafter and his project to purge the Empire of Christianity died with him.

Maybe someone else would have tried eventually, but the Muslims conquered Jerusalem a few hundred years later, building the Al-Aqsa mosque over top of the Temple Mount. It is one of Islam’s most holy sites.

Even after the Jews regained control of Jerusalem in 1947, they haven’t had complete control over the mosque. The Kingdom of Jordan took control of it in 1948. Israel took back control of the mosque during the Six-Day War 19 years later.

Jordan retains a tenuous custody of the mosque, but Israel controls access to it, and has recently been restricting access to the mosque, infuriating Jordan and the Muslim world.

What Does the Temple Mount Mean to Christians?

For most Christians, the Temple Mount is insignificant. However, for certain evangelical groups, it’s a cornerstone of end times prophecy.

In 2 Thessalonians, St. Paul says:

Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.

There is also the verse in Mark 15, where Christ refers to the “abomination of desolation,” referring back to the book of Daniel.

Many Christians believe that at the end of the world, the antichrist—the son of perdition—will take the place of God in the temple, exalt himself as a replacement God, and will perform abominable sacrifices in the temple—thus, the abomination of desolation.

For the Antichrist to do that, there has to be a temple, which means someone needs to build a new one.

The way they see it. it’s a good news/bad news kind of thing.

Bad news: the end of the world!

Good news: that means Christ is around the corner!

It’s kind of like the joke about the Torment Nexus: “At long last, we have created the Torment Nexus from classic sci-fi novel Don’t Create the Torment Nexus”

But this, in a nutshell is why many Christians were super-excited when Israel was re-established in 1947, and some have a weird attachment to Israel that many Jews find creepy. I’d feel creeped out too if someone wanted to tap me to help me burn the world down.

Back to the Past

So after a round trip of several thousands years, we’re more or less back in the present day and there are three distinct Abrahamic groups with an interest in the site of the first two temples:

  • Muslims who want to preserve the Al-Aqsa mosque
  • Hardline Jews who want to demolish the mosque and build a third temple
  • Christian factions who want to help build a third temple and immanentize the eschaton

It’s important, especially in the current year, to point out that the Jews are not a homogenous group. Like any other gathering of humans, there are different factions. Many, even in Israel, would just as soon leave the Temple Mount alone to keep the peace. Others, however, want to roll the dice.

One such group is the The Temple Institute, which was founded in 1987 with the explicit purpose of building the Third Temple, which has some big money behind it, including a small amount from the Israeli government.

For the past 37 years or so, The Temple Institute has been making all the preparations outlined in the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament). They’ve been slowly reconstructing priestly garments and creating the ritual tools required for temple sacrifices.

They’ve even been training priests believed to be descended from Aaron, the brother of Moses, whom all priests of the Old Testament had to be descended from, and who have been selected for ritual cleanliness.

All they’re missing is the Third Temple, and hands clean enough to build it, because unclean hands cannot be used in the construction of such a holy building. And finding ceremonially clean construction workers is tough, especially in this market.

Which means their trained priests will have to make a batch of the water of separation to cleanse the workers who could build a Third Temple.

So The Temple Institute needed a red heifer, and they spent years and untold sums of money attempting to breed one. And where else would you find a cow but Texas?

Meanwhile, Back on the Ranch…

Bryon Stinson is a Texas businessman founded an organization called Boneh Israel, which literally means “building Israel.” Stinson, who also owns a home in Israel, was recruited by The Temple Institute to find red heifers.

In case you may think I’ve been misrepresenting Stinson’s intentions, he makes them very clear:

“So my Christian friends, Yes, the Antichrist will come and be revealed in the Temple that is about to be built. Do not fear this! Rejoice, for we have a promise that our Saviour is also coming and will be revealed,” Stinson wrote.

Stinson hunted all across Texas to find red heifers suitable for the purpose, and enlisted a rabbi to inspect them.

In September of 2022, Stinson shipped five perfect red heifers to Israel, where they've been grazing until they’re old enough to be slaughtered to create the water of separation.

On October 7, 2023, Hamas, infuriated by the red heifers, launched an all-out assault on Israel, killing some 1,200 people.

Now, there are reports that a massive altar is being built to sacrifice and burn the red heifers, likely around Passover near the end of this month.

Whether or not you believe in the Bible, the Third Temple, or the red heifer, there are many who do and are willing to kill and die for it. And many already have.

How many more will die before it’s over?

Originally published on


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