Numbers 5

1 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Command the children of Israel that they put out of the camp every leper, and everyone who has an issue, and whoever is unclean by the dead. 3 Both you shall put male and female outside of the camp; that they not defile their camp, in the middle of which I dwell.” 4 The children of Israel did so, and put them outside of the camp; as the LORD spoke to Moses, so did the children of Israel. 5 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 6 “Speak to the children of Israel: ‘When a man or woman commits any sin that men commit, so as to trespass against the LORD, and that soul is guilty; 7 then he shall confess his sin which he has done, and he shall make restitution for his guilt in full, and add to it the fifth part of it, and give it to him in respect of whom he has been guilty. 8 But if the man has no kinsman to whom restitution may be made for the guilt, the restitution for guilt which is made to the LORD shall be the priest’s; besides the ram of the atonement, by which atonement shall be made for him. 9 Every heave offering of all the holy things of the children of Israel, which they present to the priest, shall be his. 10 Every man’s holy things shall be his: whatever any man gives the priest, it shall be his.’” 11 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 12 “Speak to the children of Israel, and tell them: ‘If any man’s wife goes astray, and is unfaithful to him, 13 and a man lies with her carnally, and it is hidden from the eyes of her husband, and is kept close, and she is defiled, and there is no witness against her, and she isn’t taken in the act; 14 and the spirit of jealousy comes on him, and he is jealous of his wife, and she is defiled: or if the spirit of jealousy comes on him, and he is jealous of his wife, and she isn’t defiled: 15 then the man shall bring his wife to the priest, and shall bring her offering for her: one tenth of an ephah of barley meal. He shall pour no oil on it, nor put frankincense on it, for it is a meal offering of jealousy, a meal offering of memorial, bringing iniquity to memory. 16 The priest shall bring her near, and set her before the LORD; 17 and the priest shall take holy water in an earthen vessel; and of the dust that is on the floor of the tabernacle the priest shall take, and put it into the water. 18 The priest shall set the woman before the LORD, and let the hair of the woman’s head go loose, and put the meal offering of memorial in her hands, which is the meal offering of jealousy. The priest shall have in his hand the water of bitterness that brings a curse. 19 The priest shall cause her to swear, and shall tell the woman, “If no man has lain with you, and if you haven’t gone aside to uncleanness, being under your husband, be free from this water of bitterness that brings a curse. 20 But if you have gone astray, being under your husband, and if you are defiled, and some man has lain with you besides your husband:” 21 then the priest shall cause the woman to swear with the oath of cursing, and the priest shall tell the woman, “The LORD make you a curse and an oath amongst your people, when the LORD allows your thigh to fall away, and your body to swell; 22 and this water that brings a curse will go into your bowels, and make your body swell, and your thigh fall away.” The woman shall say, “Amen, Amen.” 23 “‘The priest shall write these curses in a book, and he shall blot them out into the water of bitterness. 24 He shall make the woman drink the water of bitterness that causes the curse; and the water that causes the curse shall enter into her and become bitter. 25 The priest shall take the meal offering of jealousy out of the woman’s hand, and shall wave the meal offering before the LORD, and bring it to the altar. 26 The priest shall take a handful of the meal offering, as its memorial, and burn it on the altar, and afterward shall make the woman drink the water. 27 When he has made her drink the water, then it shall happen, if she is defiled, and has committed a trespass against her husband, that the water that causes the curse will enter into her and become bitter, and her body will swell, and her thigh will fall away: and the woman will be a curse amongst her people. 28 If the woman isn’t defiled, but is clean; then she shall be free, and shall conceive offspring. 29 “‘This is the law of jealousy, when a wife, being under her husband, goes astray, and is defiled; 30 or when the spirit of jealousy comes on a man, and he is jealous of his wife; then he shall set the woman before the LORD, and the priest shall execute on her all this law. 31 The man shall be free from iniquity, and that woman shall bear her iniquity.’”

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Questions about today’s reading? See if Matthew Henry can help.
Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, 1706

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, Ro 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.

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