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The daily summaries are written by Wayne D. Turner, Pastor of SouthPointe Bible Fellowship in Fayetteville, Georgia

This is the March 16 reading. Select here for a new reading date:

BibleTrack Summary: March 16
<< Num 4

For New King James text and comment, click here.

Numbers 5-6     Listen Podcast


Get the unclean folks out (Numbers 5:1-4)

1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
2 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:
3 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.
4 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.

We saw back in Leviticus three categories of uncleanness given special attention.

  1. Infectious skin diseases (Leviticus 13, see notes and Leviticus14, see notes)
  2. Bodily discharges (Leviticus 15:2-25, see notes)
  3. Touching dead bodies (Leviticus 11:39, see notes; Leviticus 21:1-4, see notes)

It was the priests' job to keep the camp of Israel free of uncleanness. These four verses raise some questions which are not easily answered regarding the day-to-day practice of Israel. The two chapters, Leviticus 13-14 (see notes), make it very clear that lepers had a place outside the camp where they stayed until they were deemed to be clean. Furthermore, those touching dead bodies are clearly dealt with in Numbers 19:11 (see notes), "He that toucheth the dead body of any man shall be unclean seven days." Here we are told that during the period of their uncleanness, they are to stay outside the camp. Presumably, they had their own place separate from those with skin disorders. But it's the "bodily discharge" stipulation of these verses that is difficult to surmise exactly how they practiced it. In Deuteronomy 23:10-14 (see notes) we are told that bodily relief was only to take place outside the camp. If, due to a surprise occurrence during the night, the person was unable to make it outside the camp in time, that person was to remain outside the camp for the remainder of the day before he could be pronounced clean again. The context of that passage may be indicating this to be the practice for battle encampments only. There's not enough written to be certain of the common practice.

The most difficult of these to reconcile with the brief scripture provided is regarding a woman's monthly cycle. We are told in Leviticus 15:19 (see notes) that "she shall be put apart seven days." While we might get the impression from Leviticus 15 (see notes) that this separation might be isolation within the camp, Numbers 5:1-4 here would indicate that even the woman on her monthly cycle was to have a place outside the camp where she was to go for that week each month. Hmmmmm...away from the kids, no meal preparation, cleaning, etc. - maybe this is not so bad. However, that does leave a lot of unanswered questions about family care that simply aren't addressed in scripture.

Makin' it right after you cheat or steal (Numbers 5:5-10)

5 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
6 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;
7 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.
8 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.
9 And every offering of all the holy things of the children of Israel, which they bring unto the priest, shall be his.
10 And every man’s hallowed things shall be his: whatsoever any man giveth the priest, it shall be his.

Here's the offering scenario we saw back in Leviticus 5-6 (see notes). If you stole from or cheated a fellow Hebrew, you had to pay it back with a 20% penalty and make the appropriate sacrifice to the priest. If the person defrauded had died in the interim, you paid the near kinsman.

So...the husband thinks the wife has committed adultery (Numbers 5:11-31)

11 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
12 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any man’s wife go aside, and commit a trespass against him,
13 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;
14 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:
15 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.
16 And 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 in the floor of the tabernacle the priest shall take, and put it into the water:
18 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:
19 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:
20 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:
21 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;
22 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.
23 And the priest shall write these curses in a book, and he shall blot them out with the bitter water:
24 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.
25 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:
26 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.
27 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.
28 And if the woman be not defiled, but be clean; then she shall be free, and shall conceive seed.
29 This is the law of jealousies, when a wife goeth aside to another instead of her husband, and is defiled;
30 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.
31 Then shall the man be guiltless from iniquity, and this woman shall bear her iniquity.

I guess the place to begin explaining this section is by quoting from the Ten Commandments; Exodus 20:14 (see notes) says, "Thou shalt not commit adultery." But what if it were concluded definitely that someone had committed adultery? Leviticus 20:10 (see notes) says, "And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death." Let me draw a conclusion here; if you're a woman who commits adultery, you're likely to lie about having done I right? Well, Numbers 5:11-31 has a test of integrity for you! Keep in mind, an admission of guilt results in the deaths of two people, the man and the woman - a real incentive to stick to your cover story.

Marital infidelity by the woman was considered to be a grave offense because it threatened the purity of the lineage. In the Mosaic Law, adultery specifically speaks to sexual contact between a married woman and a man other than her husband. Since Israel at that time was a polygynous society, sexual contact between a married man and an unmarried woman was not categorized as adultery.

When a husband becomes suspicious that his wife has committed adultery as he experiences a "spirit of jealousy," he takes his wife before the priest with an offering. When she admits nothing, here are the steps the priest takes:

If the woman is guilty, "her belly shall swell, and her thigh shall rot" (27). What does that mean? Some have suggested that she will become pregnant and miscarry - never to be able to bear children again. However, the consequences of this trial by ordeal seem to me to be more immediate than that. Others have suggested such female maladies as a flooded uterus, a pelvic prolapse or swollen then atrophied genitalia. Whatever the intermediate symptoms, the inability to bear children afterward seems to be conclusive (verse 28). If she is guiltless of her husband's suspicions, she remains healthy and unaffected by the ritual and able to bear children.

It has been suggested that perhaps the "spirit of jealousy" was brought on by a suspicious pregnancy - one in which the husband suspected that he was not the father of the child. If that's the case, then the consequences of the water ordeal may be a little clearer to us inasmuch as we may be talking about a difficult pregnancy ending in miscarriage. However, that's just speculation.

The sacred vow of the Nazarite (Numbers 6:1-21)

1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
2 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When either man or woman shall separate themselves to vow a vow of a Nazarite, to separate themselves unto the LORD:
3 He shall separate himself from wine and strong drink, and shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink, neither shall he drink any liquor of grapes, nor eat moist grapes, or dried.
4 All the days of his separation shall he eat nothing that is made of the vine tree, from the kernels even to the husk.
5 All the days of the vow of his separation there shall no razor come upon his head: until the days be fulfilled, in the which he separateth himself unto the LORD, he shall be holy, and shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow.
6 All the days that he separateth himself unto the LORD he shall come at no dead body.
7 He shall not make himself unclean for his father, or for his mother, for his brother, or for his sister, when they die: because the consecration of his God is upon his head.
8 All the days of his separation he is holy unto the LORD.
9 And if any man die very suddenly by him, and he hath defiled the head of his consecration; then he shall shave his head in the day of his cleansing, on the seventh day shall he shave it.
10 And on the eighth day he shall bring two turtles, or two young pigeons, to the priest, to the door of the tabernacle of the congregation:
11 And the priest shall offer the one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering, and make an atonement for him, for that he sinned by the dead, and shall hallow his head that same day.
12 And he shall consecrate unto the LORD the days of his separation, and shall bring a lamb of the first year for a trespass offering: but the days that were before shall be lost, because his separation was defiled.
13 And this is the law of the Nazarite, when the days of his separation are fulfilled: he shall be brought unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation:
14 And he shall offer his offering unto the LORD, one he lamb of the first year without blemish for a burnt offering, and one ewe lamb of the first year without blemish for a sin offering, and one ram without blemish for peace offerings,
15 And a basket of unleavened bread, cakes of fine flour mingled with oil, and wafers of unleavened bread anointed with oil, and their meat offering, and their drink offerings.
16 And the priest shall bring them before the LORD, and shall offer his sin offering, and his burnt offering:
17 And he shall offer the ram for a sacrifice of peace offerings unto the LORD, with the basket of unleavened bread: the priest shall offer also his meat offering, and his drink offering.
18 And the Nazarite shall shave the head of his separation at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and shall take the hair of the head of his separation, and put it in the fire which is under the sacrifice of the peace offerings.
19 And the priest shall take the sodden shoulder of the ram, and one unleavened cake out of the basket, and one unleavened wafer, and shall put them upon the hands of the Nazarite, after the hair of his separation is shaven:
20 And the priest shall wave them for a wave offering before the LORD: this is holy for the priest, with the wave breast and heave shoulder: and after that the Nazarite may drink wine.
21 This is the law of the Nazarite who hath vowed, and of his offering unto the LORD for his separation, beside that that his hand shall get: according to the vow which he vowed, so he must do after the law of his separation.

The vow of the Nazarite involved consecrating oneself to God for a limited time period. They were treated as lay priests, having restrictions similar to priests. The vow imposed a number of restrictions to one's lifestyle i.e. abstaining from fermented drinks and grape products, abstaining from cutting one's hair and abstaining from coming into contact with the dead.

Here's the procedure for the ritual vow to becoming a Nazarite - man or woman (verse 2). You will recall that Samson was a Nazarite from birth (Judges 13, see notes). Furthermore, Paul seems to have made such a vow (Acts 18:18, see notes; Acts 21:20-26, see notes) when he attempted to demonstrate to the Jews in Jerusalem that he himself was a Law-abiding Jew.

Typically, the Nazarite vow was to be for a specified period of time. There were three distinct characteristics of those who had taken the Nazarite vow:

  1. Abstaining from wine and grape products (3-4)
  2. Not touching dead bodies - even if it's Mom or Dad (6-8)
  3. Not cutting one's hair (5).

At the conclusion of the Nazarite vow, there was a special ritual involving several steps:

  1. The participant comes to the door of the Tabernacle.
  2. The participant offers one first-year male lamb without blemish for a burnt offering.
  3. The participant offers one first-year female lamb without blemish for a sin offering.
  4. The participant offers one ram (uncastrated male sheep) as a peace offering.
  5. The participant offers a basket of unleavened bread.
  6. The participant offers cakes of fine flour mixed with oil.
  7. The participant offers unleavened wafers anointed with oil.
  8. The participant offers their grain offering with their drink offerings.
  9. The priest then offers the participant's sin offering and burnt offering.
  10. The priest then offers the participant's ram as a sacrifice of a peace offering. With the peace offering, the priest offers the basket of unleavened bread, the grain offering and the drink offering.
  11. The participant then shaves his head and puts the hair into the fire under the peace offering.
    (Burning hair is a repulsive smell.)
  12. The priest then performs a ritual of waving the peace offering before the LORD.
  13. At this point the Nazarite vow has been completed; the participant is now free from the restrictions of the vow.

We see that later in Israel's history, they sinned against God by giving Nazarites wine to drink (Amos 2:11-12, see notes). Paul had taken the vow himself in Acts 18:18, 21 (see notes) while concluding his second missionary journey, and this is also the ceremony in which Paul participated in Acts 21:20-26 (see notes).

An official blessing (Numbers 6:22-27)

22 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
23 Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying, On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel, saying unto them,
24 The LORD bless thee, and keep thee:
25 The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:
26 The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.
27 And they shall put my name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them.

God gives the priests a verbal blessing to issue upon the people of Israel. You may have heard preachers conclude their services with a modified version of this blessing.

For commentary on another passage, click here.

Copyright 2003-2011 by Wayne D. Turner