Numbers 5
Benson Commentary
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
Numbers 5:1. The camps and divisions of priests, Levites, and people being thus settled, now was the time when the law about excluding leprous and unclean persons from the camps was to take place; God having, for wise reasons, appointed that all persons under such legal impurities should, in proportion to the degree of them, be excluded from the community where he himself dwelt by the symbols of his divine presence till they were cleansed again. This the Israelites began now to put in execution by express order from God to Moses.

Command the children of Israel, that they put out of the camp every leper, and every one that hath an issue, and whosoever is defiled by the dead:
Both male and female shall ye put out, without the camp shall ye put them; that they defile not their camps, in the midst whereof I dwell.
Numbers 5:3. That they defile not the camp — By which God would intimate the danger of being made guilty by other men’s sins, and the duty of avoiding intimate converse with wicked men. I dwell — By my special and gracious presence.

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.
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
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;
Numbers 5:6. Any sin that men commit — Hebrew, any sins of men; that is, sins against men, as deceits or wrongs, whereby other men are injured, of which he manifestly speaks. Against the Lord — Which words may be added, to show that such injuries done to men are also sins against God, who hath commanded justice to men, as well as religion to himself. Guilty — That is, shall be sensible of his guilt, convicted in his conscience.

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.
Numbers 5:7. They shall confess their sin — They shall not continue in the denial of the fact, but give glory to God, and take shame to themselves by acknowledging it. The principal — That is, the thing he took away, or what is equivalent to it. And add — Both as a compensation to the injured person for want of his goods so long, and as a penalty upon the injurious dealer, to discourage others from such attempts.

But if the man have no kinsman to recompense the trespass unto, let the trespass be recompensed unto the LORD, even to the priest; beside the ram of the atonement, whereby an atonement shall be made for him.
Numbers 5:8. No kinsman — This supposes the person injured to be dead, or gone into some unknown place. To the priest — Whom God appointed as his deputy, to receive his dues, and take them to his own use, that so he might more cheerfully and entirely devote himself to the ministration of holy things. This is an additional explication to that law, Leviticus 6:2, and for the sake thereof it seems here to be repeated.

And every offering of all the holy things of the children of Israel, which they bring unto the priest, shall be his.
And every man's hallowed things shall be his: whatsoever any man giveth the priest, it shall be his.
Numbers 5:10. Every man’s hallowed things — Understand this not of the sacrifices, because these were not the priest’s entirely, but part of them was offered to God, and the remainder was eaten by the offerer as well as by the priest; but of such other things as were devoted to God, and could not be offered in sacrifices; as, suppose a man consecrated a house to the Lord, this was to be the priest’s.

And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any man's wife go aside, and commit a trespass against him,
Numbers 5:12. If a man’s wife go aside — From the way of piety and virtue, and that either in truth or in her husband’s opinion. This law was given partly to deter wives from adulterous practices, and partly to secure them against the rage of their hard-hearted husbands, who otherwise might, upon mere suspicion, have effected their destruction, or at least put them away. There was not the like fear of inconveniences to husbands from the jealousy of their wives, who had not that authority and power, and opportunity for the putting away or killing their husbands, which the husbands had with respect to their wives.

And a man lie with her carnally, and it be hid from the eyes of her husband, and be kept close, and she be defiled, and there be no witness against her, neither she be taken with the manner;
And the spirit of jealousy come upon him, 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:
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.
Numbers 5:15. The man shall bring her to the priest — With the witnesses that could prove the ground of his suspicions, and desire she might be put upon her trial. The Jews say, the priest was first to endeavour to persuade her to confess the truth, saying, to this purpose, “Dear daughter, perhaps thou wast overtaken by drinking wine, or wast carried away by the heat of youth, or the examples of ill neighbours; come, confess the truth, for the sake of his great name, which is described in this most sacred ceremony; and do not let it be blotted out with the bitter water.” If she confessed, saying, I am defiled, she was not put to death, but was divorced, and lost her dowry; if she said, I am pure, then they proceeded.

And the priest shall bring her near, and set her before the LORD:
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:
And the priest shall set the woman before the LORD, and uncover the woman's head, and put the offering of memorial in her hands, which is the jealousy offering: and the priest shall have in his hand the bitter water that causeth the curse:
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, be thou free from this bitter water that causeth the curse:
But if thou hast gone aside to another instead of thy husband, and if thou be defiled, and some man have lain with thee beside thine husband:
Then the priest 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, and thy belly to swell;
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.
And the priest shall write these curses in a book, and he shall blot them out with the bitter water:
And he shall cause the woman to drink the bitter water that causeth the curse: and the water that causeth the curse shall enter into her, and become bitter.
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:
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.
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, and her belly shall swell, and her thigh shall rot: and the woman shall be a curse among her people.
Numbers 5:27. The water shall enter into her — These effects, the Jews tell us, presently followed; for she grew pale, and her eyes were ready to start out of her head, so that they cried out, Carry her away, lest she defile the court of the temple, by dying there. But if what has just been observed from the Jewish writers be true, that, upon confessing her guilt, the woman was only divorced and condemned to lose her dowry, it is probable there were not many instances wherein this miraculous judgment was inflicted; for it is hardly to be supposed that any woman, conscious of her guilt, would, by asserting her innocence thus solemnly, in defiance of the Almighty, venture upon the hazard of sudden and immediate death, with all the miserable circumstances here described, rather than confess and gain time to repent. And the woman shall be a curse among her people — Such woful effects shall the before-mentioned bitter draught produce, that she shall become a perfect proverb of a curse and wretchedness in the mouths of all her neighbours.

And if the woman be not defiled, but be clean; then she shall be free, and shall conceive seed.
Numbers 5:28. Conceive seed — That is, shall bring forth children: as the Jews say, in case of her innocence, she infallibly did, yea, though she had been barren before.

This is the law of jealousies, when a wife goeth aside to another instead of her husband, and is defiled;
Numbers 5:29. This is the law of jealousy — “It is not to be wondered,” says Grotius, “if God, among his own people, produced a miraculous effect for the detection of a crime most heinous, and very difficult to be proved. Indeed history abounds with examples of the direful effects of jealousy, not only to private persons and families, but to whole states and kingdoms; the design, therefore, of this institution was to prevent these evils, by appointing a method whereby injured innocence might be cleared, and every shameful breach of conjugal fidelity brought to condign punishment. By this solemn and awful decision of Providence, jealous husbands were restrained from cruel outrages against their wives, and wives were preserved in their duty out of dread of punishment.”

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.
Then shall the man be guiltless from iniquity, and this woman shall bear her iniquity.
Numbers 5:31. Then shall the man be guiltless — Which he should not have been if he had either indulged her in so great a wickedness, and not endeavoured to bring her to repentance or punishment, or cherished suspicions in his breast, and thereupon proceeded to hate her or cast her off. Whereas now, whatsoever the consequence is, the husband shall not be censured for bringing such curses upon her, or for defaming her, if she appear to be innocent. Her iniquity — That is, the punishment of her iniquity, whether she was false to her husband, or by any light carriage gave him occasion to suspect her.

Benson Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

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