Numbers 5

Listen to Numbers 5

Unclean People

1 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying,
2 "Command the people of Israel that they 1put out of the camp everyone who is leprous[a] or has 2a discharge and everyone who is 3unclean through contact with the dead.
3 You shall put out both male and female, putting them outside the camp, that they may not defile their camp, 4in the midst of which I dwell."
4 And the people of Israel did so, and put them outside the camp; as the LORD said to Moses, so the people of Israel did.

Confession and Restitution

5 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,
6 "Speak to the people of Israel, 5When a man or woman commits any of the sins that people commit by breaking faith with the LORD, and that person realizes his guilt,
7 6he shall confess his sin that he has committed.[b]7And he shall make full restitution for his wrong, adding a fifth to it and giving it to him to whom he did the wrong.
8 But if the man has no next of kin to whom restitution may be made for the wrong, the restitution for wrong shall go to the LORD for the priest, in addition to 8the ram of atonement with which atonement is made for him.
9 And 9every contribution, all the holy donations of the people of Israel, which they bring to the priest, shall be his.
10 Each one shall keep his holy donations: whatever anyone gives to the priest shall be his."

A Test for Adultery

11 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,
12 "Speak to the people of Israel, If any man's wife goes astray and breaks faith with him,
13 if a man 10lies with her sexually, and it is hidden from the eyes of her husband, and she is undetected though she has defiled herself, and there is no witness against her, 11since she was not taken in the act,
14 and if the spirit of jealousy comes over him and he is jealous of his wife who has defiled herself, or if the spirit of jealousy comes over him and he is jealous of his wife, though she has not defiled herself,
15 then the man shall bring his wife to the priest and bring the offering required of her, a tenth of an ephah[c] of barley flour. 12He shall pour no oil on it and put no frankincense on it, for it is a grain offering of jealousy, a grain offering of remembrance, 13bringing iniquity to remembrance.
16 "And the priest shall bring her near and set her before the LORD.
17 And the priest shall take holy water in an earthenware vessel and take some of the dust that is on the floor of the tabernacle and put it into the water.
18 And the priest shall set the woman before the LORD and 14unbind the hair of the woman's head and place in her hands the grain offering of remembrance, which is the grain offering of jealousy. And in his hand the priest shall have the water of bitterness that brings the curse.
19 Then the priest shall make her take an oath, saying, 'If no man has lain with you, and if you have not turned aside to uncleanness while you were under your husband's authority, be free from this water of bitterness that brings the curse.
20 But if you have gone astray, though you are under your husband's authority, and if you have defiled yourself, and some man other than your husband has lain with you,
21 then' (let the priest make the woman take the oath of the curse, and say to the woman) 15'the LORD make you a curse and an oath among your people, when the LORD makes your thigh fall away and your body swell.
22 May this water that brings the curse 16pass into your bowels and make your womb swell and your thigh fall away.' And the woman shall say, 17'Amen, Amen.'
23 "Then the priest shall write these curses in a book and wash them off into the water of bitterness.
24 And he shall make the woman drink the water of bitterness that brings the curse, and the water that brings the curse shall enter into her and cause bitter pain.
25 And the priest shall take the grain offering of jealousy out of the woman's hand 18and shall wave the grain offering before the LORD and bring it to the altar.
26 And the priest 19shall take a handful of the grain offering, as its memorial portion, and burn it on the altar, and afterward shall make the woman drink the water.
27 And when he has made her drink the water, then, if she has defiled herself and has broken faith with her husband, the water that brings the curse shall enter into her and cause bitter pain, and her womb shall swell, and her thigh shall fall away, and the woman 20shall become a curse among her people.
28 But if the woman has not defiled herself and is clean, then she shall be free and shall conceive children.
29 "This is the law in cases of jealousy, when a wife, 21though under her husband's authority, goes astray and defiles herself,
30 or when the spirit of jealousy comes over a man and he is jealous of his wife. Then he shall set the woman before the LORD, and the priest shall carry out for her all this law.
31 The man shall be free from iniquity, but the woman 22shall bear her iniquity."

Numbers 5 Commentary

Chapter 5

The unclean to be removed out of the camp, Restitution to be made for trespasses. (1-10) The trial of jealousy. (11-31)

Verses 1-10 The camp was to be cleansed. The purity of the church must be kept as carefully as the peace and order of it. Every polluted Israelite must be separated. The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable. The greater profession of religion any house or family makes, the more they are obliged to put away iniquity far from them. If a man overreach or defraud his brother in any matter, it is a trespass against the Lord, who strictly charges and commands us to do justly. What is to be done when a man's awakened conscience charges him with guilt of this kind, though done long ago? He must confess his sin, confess it to God, confess it to his neighbour, and take shame to himself; though it go against him to own himself in a lie, yet he must do it. Satisfaction must be made for the offence done to God, as well as for the loss sustained by the neighbour; restitution in that case is not enough without faith and repentance. While that which is wrongly gotten is knowingly kept, the guilt remains on the conscience, and is not done away by sacrifice or offering, prayers or tears; for it is the same act of sin persisted in. This is the doctrine of right reason, and of the word of God. It detects hypocrites, and directs the tender conscience to proper conduct, which, springing from faith in Christ, will make way for inward peace.

Verses 11-31 This law would make the women of Israel watch against giving cause for suspicion. On the other hand, it would hinder the cruel treatment such suspicions might occasion. It would also hinder the guilty from escaping, and the innocent from coming under just suspicion. When no proof could be brought, the wife was called on to make this solemn appeal to a heart-searching God. No woman, if she were guilty, could say "Amen" to the adjuration, and drink the water after it, unless she disbelieved the truth of God, or defied his justice. The water is called the bitter water, because it caused the curse. Thus sin is called an evil and a bitter thing. Let all that meddle with forbidden pleasures, know that they will be bitterness in the latter end. From the whole learn, 1. Secret sins are known to God, and sometimes are strangely brought to light in this life; and that there is a day coming when God will, by Christ, judge the secrets of men according to the gospel, ( Romans 2:16 ) . 2 In particular, Whoremongers and adulterers God will surely judge. Though we have not now the waters of jealousy, yet we have God's word, which ought to be as great a terror. Sensual lusts will end in bitterness. 3. God will manifest the innocency of the innocent. The same providence is for good to some, and for hurt to others. And it will answer the purposes which God intends.

Cross References 22

  • 1. Numbers 12:14; Leviticus 13:46
  • 2. Leviticus 15:2
  • 3. Numbers 9:6, 10; Numbers 19:11, 13; Numbers 31:19; Leviticus 21:1; [Haggai 2:13]
  • 4. See Leviticus 26:11, 12
  • 5. Leviticus 6:2, 3
  • 6. Leviticus 5:5; Leviticus 26:40; [Joshua 7:19]
  • 7. Leviticus 6:5
  • 8. Leviticus 6:6, 7
  • 9. Numbers 18:19; Exodus 29:28; Leviticus 6:17, 18; Leviticus 7:6, 7, 9, 10, 14; Deuteronomy 18:3, 4
  • 10. Leviticus 18:20
  • 11. John 8:4
  • 12. [Leviticus 2:1, 15; Leviticus 5:11]
  • 13. 1 Kings 17:18; Ezekiel 29:16
  • 14. [1 Corinthians 11:5-7]
  • 15. [Jeremiah 29:22]
  • 16. Psalms 109:18
  • 17. See Deuteronomy 27:15-26
  • 18. [Leviticus 8:27]
  • 19. Leviticus 2:2, 9; Leviticus 5:12
  • 20. Deuteronomy 28:37; Jeremiah 24:9; Jeremiah 29:18, 22; Jeremiah 42:18; Jeremiah 44:12; Zechariah 8:13
  • 21. ver. 19, 20
  • 22. Lev. 20:17, 19, 20

Footnotes 3

  • [a]. Leprosy was a term for several skin diseases; see Leviticus 13
  • [b]. Hebrew they shall confess their sin that they have committed
  • [c]. An ephah was about 3/5 bushel or 22 liters

Chapter Summary


This chapter contains a repetition of some former laws, concerning putting unclean persons out of the camp, Nu 5:1-4; making restitution in case of trespass against another, Nu 5:5-8; and of giving the offering of all holy things and all hallowed things to the priests, Nu 5:9,10; and a new law concerning jealousy, in a man, of his wife, Nu 5:11-14; when she was to be brought to the priest, and various rites and ceremonies to be used, Nu 5:15-23; who was to give her bitter water as a trial of her chastity, which, if guilty, would have a strange effect upon her, and make her accursed, but if not, would not affect her, and she would be free and happy, Nu 5:24-31.

Numbers 5 Commentaries

The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.