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Bible Commentaries

Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible

Numbers 5

Verses 1-31

Various Ceremonial Laws

1-4. On the seclusion of lepers and unclean persons, see Leviticus 13-15.

5-10. On the law of restitution, see Leviticus 5:14 to Leviticus 6:7, to which the present passage is a supplement, providing that if the injured person dies and has no kindred to whom the price of restitution may be paid, it has to be given to the priest. Numbers 5:9-10 prescribe that the heave offerings (see on Leviticus 7:28-34) are the perquisite of the particular priest who officiates at the sacrifice, and are not to be distributed among the priests generally.

1131. On Marital Jealousy.

A wife suspected of unfaithfulness is required to undergo a trial by ordeal. A potion is prepared by the priest, which she must drink, after taking an oath of purgation (Numbers 5:19-24). If she is innocent the potion is harmless, but if guilty it injures her, thereby bringing her guilt to light (Numbers 5:27-28). Trial by ordeal is of the nature of an appeal to God to reveal the innocence or guilt of a suspected person. During the middle ages it was frequently resorted to in Europe under sanction of the church and the law. The most common forms of ordeal were those by fire, by water, and by wager of battle. The difference between these and the ordeal prescribed here is that the latter is not in itself injurious, but depends for its efficacy on the direct interposition of God.

13. No witness] The ordeal is prescribed for cases of doubt. To other cases the law of Leviticus 20:10 applies.

15. Cp. Leviticus 2:1.

17. Holy water] This is the only place where this phrase is found, and it is not explained. Water from the laver is probably meant: see Exodus 30:17-21.

18. Uncover the.. head] rather, as in RV, ’let the hair.. go loose,’ a common sign of mourning: see Leviticus 10:6; Leviticus 13:45. Bitter water] so called as being the instrument of the curse.

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Bibliographical Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Numbers 5". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". 1909.