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Bible Commentaries

L. M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible
Numbers 5

 

 

Verses 1-31

DEFILEMENT CALLING FOR ISOLATION

(vs.1-4)

The principle of 1 Corinthians 5:6, "a little leaven leavens the whole lump" was just as true in the Old Testament as in the new. However, the defilement of Numbers 5:1-4 is ceremonial, not moral or spiritual, as is that insisted on in the New Testament. But it is symbolical of spiritual defilement. Every leper was to be excluded from the camp of Israel when it was proven he was indeed a leper (Leviticus 13:1-3). For the leper is typical of one today in whom serious sin is active, as in the case of the man in 1 Corinthians 5:1-13 who was cohabiting with his step-mother. As the leper was put out of the camp, so that man was to be "put away from among" the assembly at Corinth.

The one who had a discharge, or issue, was similarly excluded (v.2), for this speaks of the eruption of our old sinful nature. One who does not judge himself in connection with such evil ways must be judged by the assembly and put outside, where he may learn to rightly judge himself (1 Corinthians 5:11-12).

The one who touched the body of a dead person was unclean for seven days, when he could be purified through the offering of the red heifer (Numbers 19:11-12). In the meanwhile he was put outside the camp (v.2). This speaks of any willing contact with what is spiritually corrupt today. There are such dead bodies as denominations practicing falsehood, and association with these can be deeply defiling. Until one is purified from such associations he is not fit for fellowship among the saints of God. Consider 2 Corinthians 6:14-18. Whether in male of female, this defilement required being put out of the camp, for their presence would defile the camp (v.3), and God dwelt there. Israel at this time did as God commanded. Surely we should be as careful to obey as they.

SIN CONFESSED AND RESTITUTION MADE

(vs.5-10)

These verses insist on what has already been commanded in Leviticus 5:14-19, therefore emphasizing its importance. If a man or woman had trespassed against the Lord, this was to be honestly confessed, not covered or palliated, and restitution was to be fully made, plus one-fifth of the amount, to the person who had been wronged (v.7). If, for some reason, this could not be given to a particular person, then it was given to the Lord (v.8), as well as offering a ram as a trespass offering. For there must be some penalty for the sin, and we must be made to feel the fact that it was necessary for Christ to suffer on account of our sins.

These things given to the Lord went directly to the priest, as was the case with offerings (vs.9-10). Though the peace offering was given to the priest, however, the priest had only a share of this. God also had His share and the offerer was given a share (Leviticus 3:3-17; Leviticus 7:11-18).

UNFAITHFULNESS IN A WIFE

(vs.11-31)

The mere suspicion of a man that his wife was unfaithful was not to be ignored in Israel, but tested as in the presence of the Lord. We are not told that a wife's suspicions of her husband were to be tested also. This may be because this matter has special spiritual significance. For the man primarily typifies Christ, in whom there can never be even the least suspicion of unfaithfulness. "If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself" (2 Timothy 2:13). But believers who are joined to the Lord by a bond symbolized by marriage (Romans 7:4) are often exposed to the danger of becoming unfaithful to the Lord. The very fact that suspicion in Numbers was not to be ignored should exercise us to be always on guard against anything that might tempt us from the path of total devotion to our Lord.

However, this was not a matter even for the priest to judge. When the scriptural procedure was followed the whole matter was left in the hand of God, who would make manifest the woman's guilt or her innocence. Yet the man was to bring his wife to the priest as well as an offering to one-tenth of an ephah of barley meal, with no oil or frankincense as in the case of the meal offerings generally (v.15). For this was not a thank-offering, but almost the opposite. Then the priest was to take holy water in an earthen vessel and mix dust with it from the tabernacle floor. The holy water speaks of life, but the dust speaks of death (Psalms 22:15). If there was no sin unto death, life would be given, but guilt would lead to death.

The offering would be put in the woman's hand and the priest would hold the bitter water, which in the case of guilt, would bring a curse. Then the priest would put her under oath. Of course, if she had confessed herself guilty before, this would not be necessary, but her oath would be to the effect that she was not guilty. She would be warned by the priest that if she was lying, the Lord would cause her thigh to rot and her belly to swell, making her a curse among the people (v.21), and she was to answer, "Amen, so be it" (v.22).

When the accused wife had sworn an oath of innocence and had been warned of the results of falsehood, then the priest would take the grain offering from the woman and wave it before the Lord, then take from it a handful as a memorial portion to burn on the altar (vs.25-26). The waving of the offering speaks of Christ ascended to heaven following His death and resurrection, now in absolute authority, so that everything must be subject to Him. The portion burned tells us that God is to be glorified in this whole matter. Afterward the woman was required to drink the bitter water. this was mentioned in verse 24, but evidently it took place after the burning of the Lord's portion.

If she was guilty, the Lord would expose this by causing her thigh to rot and her belly to swell. what would develop from this we are not told but the stigma of a curse would be upon her in the eyes of the people. If these symptoms did not follow, then she was fully exonerated (v.28). In a case like this, we may well suppose that the husband should apologize to her for his suspicions.

If the charge of guilt was sustained against the wife, however, the husband was declared to be free from iniquity, for the evil has been exposed and judges. But the woman must bear the results of her guilt (vs.30-31).

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Numbers 5:4". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lmg/numbers-5.html. 1897-1910.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, October 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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