Numbers 5

Listen to Numbers 5
1 The LORD gave these instructions to Moses:
2 “Command the people of Israel to remove from the camp anyone who has a skin disease or a discharge, or who has become ceremonially unclean by touching a dead person.
3 This command applies to men and women alike. Remove them so they will not defile the camp in which I live among them.”
4 So the Israelites did as the LORD had commanded Moses and removed such people from the camp.
5 Then the LORD said to Moses,
6 “Give the following instructions to the people of Israel: If any of the people—men or women—betray the LORD by doing wrong to another person, they are guilty.
7 They must confess their sin and make full restitution for what they have done, adding an additional 20 percent and returning it to the person who was wronged.
8 But if the person who was wronged is dead, and there are no near relatives to whom restitution can be made, the payment belongs to the LORD and must be given to the priest. Those who are guilty must also bring a ram as a sacrifice, and they will be purified and made right with the LORD .
9 All the sacred offerings that the Israelites bring to a priest will belong to him.
10 Each priest may keep all the sacred donations that he receives.”
11 And the LORD said to Moses,
12 “Give the following instructions to the people of Israel. “Suppose a man’s wife goes astray, and she is unfaithful to her husband
13 and has sex with another man, but neither her husband nor anyone else knows about it. She has defiled herself, even though there was no witness and she was not caught in the act.
14 If her husband becomes jealous and is suspicious of his wife and needs to know whether or not she has defiled herself,
15 the husband must bring his wife to the priest. He must also bring an offering of two quarts of barley flour to be presented on her behalf. Do not mix it with olive oil or frankincense, for it is a jealousy offering—an offering to prove whether or not she is guilty.
16 “The priest will then present her to stand trial before the LORD .
17 He must take some holy water in a clay jar and pour into it dust he has taken from the Tabernacle floor.
18 When the priest has presented the woman before the LORD, he must unbind her hair and place in her hands the offering of proof—the jealousy offering to determine whether her husband’s suspicions are justified. The priest will stand before her, holding the jar of bitter water that brings a curse to those who are guilty.
19 The priest will then put the woman under oath and say to her, ‘If no other man has had sex with you, and you have not gone astray and defiled yourself while under your husband’s authority, may you be immune from the effects of this bitter water that brings on the curse.
20 But if you have gone astray by being unfaithful to your husband, and have defiled yourself by having sex with another man—’
21 “At this point the priest must put the woman under oath by saying, ‘May the people know that the LORD ’s curse is upon you when he makes you infertile, causing your womb to shrivel and your abdomen to swell.
22 Now may this water that brings the curse enter your body and cause your abdomen to swell and your womb to shrivel. ’ And the woman will be required to say, ‘Yes, let it be so.’
23 And the priest will write these curses on a piece of leather and wash them off into the bitter water.
24 He will make the woman drink the bitter water that brings on the curse. When the water enters her body, it will cause bitter suffering if she is guilty.
25 “The priest will take the jealousy offering from the woman’s hand, lift it up before the LORD, and carry it to the altar.
26 He will take a handful of the flour as a token portion and burn it on the altar, and he will require the woman to drink the water.
27 If she has defiled herself by being unfaithful to her husband, the water that brings on the curse will cause bitter suffering. Her abdomen will swell and her womb will shrink, and her name will become a curse among her people.
28 But if she has not defiled herself and is pure, then she will be unharmed and will still be able to have children.
29 “This is the ritual law for dealing with suspicion. If a woman goes astray and defiles herself while under her husband’s authority,
30 or if a man becomes jealous and is suspicious that his wife has been unfaithful, the husband must present his wife before the LORD, and the priest will apply this entire ritual law to her.
31 The husband will be innocent of any guilt in this matter, but his wife will be held accountable for her sin.”

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.

Footnotes 6

  • [a]. Traditionally rendered leprosy. The Hebrew word used here describes various skin diseases.
  • [b]. Or bring a ram for atonement, which will make atonement for them.
  • [c]. Hebrew of an ephah [2.2 liters].
  • [d]. Hebrew when he causes your thigh to waste away.
  • [e]. Hebrew and your thigh to waste away.
  • [f]. Hebrew and her thigh will waste away.

Chapter Summary

INTRODUCTION TO NUMBERS 5

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