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Bible Commentaries
Numbers 5

Kretzmann's Popular Commentary of the BibleKretzmann's Commentary

Verses 1-4

Exclusion of The levitically Unclean from the camp

v. 1. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,

v. 2. Command the children of Israel that they put out of the camp every leper, Leviticus 13:3-46, and every one that hath an issue, Leviticus 15:2, and whosoever is defiled by the dead, by contact with a dead person, or, in some cases, by the mere presence in the house where a person dies, Leviticus 21:1;

v. 3. both male and female shall ye put out, without the camp shall ye put them, (and this regulation was enforced even in the case of Miriam, Numbers 12:14,) that they defile not their camps, the plural being used here because the large encampment was divided into smaller camps, as ordered in Chapter 2, in the midst whereof I dwell.

v. 4. And the children of Israel did so, and put them out without the camp; as the Lord spake unto Moses, so did the children of Israel. At a later day, in Canaan, this regulation was observed by assigning, at least to the lepers, a special district outside of the city to live.

Verses 5-10

Restitution in Trespasses

v. 5. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,

v. 6. Speak unto the children of Israel, When a man or woman shall commit any sin that men commit, to do a trespass against the Lord, and that person be guilty,

v. 7. then they shall confess their sin which they have done; and he shall recompense his trespass with the principal thereof, and add unto it the fifth part thereof, and give it unto him against whom he hath trespassed. The reference is to some form of trespass which concerned the neighbor's property, the guilt in that case consisting not only in depriving the neighbor of that which was his, but also in disturbing the relation of neighborliness in the people of God and thus in sinning directly against the Lord, Leviticus 6:1-7.

v. 8. But if the man have no kinsman to recompense the trespass unto, if he himself had died and there was no near relative to receive the ransom-money of the guilty one, let the trespass be recompensed unto the Lord, even to the priest, as the representative of the Lord; beside the ram of the atonement, whereby an atonement shall be made for him, Leviticus 6:6-7.

v. 9. And every offering, everything that the children of Israel lift off or take away from their property as a gift to the Sanctuary, of all the holy things of the children of Israel which they bring unto the priest, shall be his. This included all the gifts for the altar, especially the votive offerings and the firstlings.

v. 10. And every man's hallowed things shall be his, that is, the priest's; whatsoever any man giveth the priest, it shall be his. Thus the needs of the priests were provided for by special legislation, whereas in the New Testament the Lord expects the law of love, governed by a living faith, to provide for His servants.

Verses 11-31

The Trial of Jealousy

v. 11. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,

v. 12. Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any man's wife go aside and commit a trespass against him, in transgressing the Sixth Commandment,

v. 13. and a man lie with her carnally, and it be hid from the eyes of her husband and be kept close, the sinful happening or relation be covered over by the guilty woman, and she be defiled, and there be no witness against her, neither she be taken with the manner, caught in the act,

v. 14. and the spirit of jealousy come upon him, her husband, and he be jealous of his wife, and she be defiled; or if the spirit of jealousy come upon him, and he be jealous of his wife, and she be not defiled, whether his suspicions have a good foundation or not:

v. 15. then shall the man bring his wife unto the priest, and he shall bring her offering for her, the tenth part of an ephah of barley meal; he shall pour no oil upon it, nor put frankincense thereon; for it is an offering of jealousy, an offering of memorial, bringing iniquity to remembrance. This passage is included at this point of the legislation because it concerned the preserving of the nation's purity as the army of Jehovah. The husband's suspicion, whether justified or not, endangered the life of the family, and whether the man, in a fit of anger, was inclined to repudiate his wife, although she was innocent, or whether he, in case she was guilty, winked at her transgression and continued to live with her, although he regarded her as a common harlot, the danger to the nation's morals was the same.

v. 16. And the priest shall "bring her near, and set her before the Lord, formally place her in the docket as one accused of such a heinous transgression;

v. 17. and the priest shall take holy water in an earthen vessel, and of the dust that is in the floor of the Tabernacle the priest shall take, and put it into the water, to remind those witnessing the act of the deep shame and humiliation which accompanies a transgression of the nature here concerned;

v. 18. and the priest shall set the woman before the Lord, and uncover the woman's head, loosen her hair as a symbol of the suspicion of unfaithfulness and of the suspension of the husband's protection for the time being, and put the offering of memorial in her hands, which is the jealousy offering, the barley signifying the suspicious character of the behavior of which she is accused, and she herself, as it were, holding in her hands the fruit of her actions and placing it before the Lord for judgment. And the priest shall have in his hand the bitter water that causeth the curse, to signify that, if she be guilty, the bitter suffering of God's curse would strike her;

v. 19. and the priest shall charge her by an oath and say unto the woman, If no man have lain with thee, and if thou hast not gone aside to uncleanness with another instead of thy husband, literally, "if thou hast not been dissolute unto uncleanness while under thy husband," namely, as his lawful wife, be thou free from this bitter water that causeth the curse;

v. 20. but if thou hast gone aside to another instead of thy husband, and if thou be denied, and some man have lain with thee beside thine husband, in the act which is permitted only in lawful wedlock,

v. 21. then the priest, continuing his adjuration, shall charge the woman with an oath of cursing, and the priest shall say unto the woman, The Lord make thee a curse and an oath among thy people, when the Lord doth make thy thigh to rot, to waste away, and thy belly to swell, those organs which are the seat of procreation;

v. 22. and this water that causeth the curse shall go into thy bowels, to make thy belly to swell and thy thigh to rot. And the woman shall say, Amen, amen, thus agreeing to the oath and calling down its curse upon her in case she were guilty.

v. 23. And the priest shall write these curses in a book, on a small writing-tablet, and he shall blot them out with the bitter water, wash them off so as to make them a component of the water of cursing;

v. 24. and he shall cause the woman to drink the bitter water that causeth the curse, that is, after the offering of the sacrifice; and the water that causeth the curse shall enter into her and become bitter.

v. 25. Then the priest shall take the jealousy offering out of the woman's hand, and shall wave the offering before the Lord, and offer it upon the altar;

v. 26. and the priest shall take an handful of the offering, even the memorial thereof, and burn it upon the altar, and afterward shall cause the woman to drink the water. Her oath had cleansed her from the suspicion of adultery at least to this extent that she was able to make her offering, to place it before the holy God with a feeling of outraged innocence.

v. 27. And when he hath made her to drink the water, then it shall come to pass that, if she be defiled, and have done trespass against her husband, that the water that causeth the curse shall enter into her and become bitter, cause bitter pains and excessive suffering, in an illness laid upon the woman as a direct punishment of the Lord, and her belly shall swell, and her thigh shall rot; and the woman shall be a curse among her people, as an adulteress struck down by the wrath of God.

v. 28. And if the woman be not defiled, but be clean, then she shall be free, not be visited by the punishment of God, and free to hold up her head among the members of her people, and shall conceive seed, have the ability to bear children. This shows that the trial of jealousy was by no means so one-sided as some writers would have it, for the innocent wife, outraged to the quick by the suspicions voiced by her husband, could insist upon this public justification of herself, to the deep humiliation of the man unjustly accusing her.

v. 29. This is the law of jealousies, when a wife goeth aside to another instead of her husband, and is defiled;

v. 30. or when the spirit of jealousy cometh upon him, and he be jealous over his wife, and shall set the woman before the Lord, and the priest shall execute upon her all this law.

v. 31. Then shall the man be guiltless from iniquity, if his suspicions or his accusation is well founded, and this woman shall bear her iniquity. In the New Testament ordeals of this nature are unknown, but all Christians will bear in mind the necessity of keeping their sexual life unspotted, whether they live in holy wedlock or outside of it.

Bibliographical Information
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Numbers 5". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kpc/numbers-5.html. 1921-23.
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