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Unclean Persons

 5

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 2Command the Israelites to put out of the camp everyone who is leprous, or has a discharge, and everyone who is unclean through contact with a corpse; 3you shall put out both male and female, putting them outside the camp; they must not defile their camp, where I dwell among them. 4The Israelites did so, putting them outside the camp; as the Lord had spoken to Moses, so the Israelites did.

Confession and Restitution

5 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 6Speak to the Israelites: When a man or a woman wrongs another, breaking faith with the Lord, that person incurs guilt 7and shall confess the sin that has been committed. The person shall make full restitution for the wrong, adding one-fifth to it, and giving it to the one who was wronged. 8If the injured party 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 the ram of atonement with which atonement is made for the guilty party. 9Among all the sacred donations of the Israelites, every gift that they bring to the priest shall be his. 10The sacred donations of all are their own; whatever anyone gives to the priest shall be his.

Concerning an Unfaithful Wife

11 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 12Speak to the Israelites and say to them: If any man’s wife goes astray and is unfaithful to him, 13if a man has had intercourse with her but it is hidden from her husband, so that she is undetected though she has defiled herself, and there is no witness against her since she was not caught in the act; 14if a spirit of jealousy comes on him, and he is jealous of his wife who has defiled herself; or if a spirit of jealousy comes on him, and he is jealous of his wife, though she has not defiled herself; 15then the man shall bring his wife to the priest. And he shall bring the offering required for her, one-tenth of an ephah of barley flour. He 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, bringing iniquity to remembrance.

16 Then the priest shall bring her near, and set her before the Lord; 17the priest shall take holy water in an earthen vessel, and take some of the dust that is on the floor of the tabernacle and put it into the water. 18The priest shall set the woman before the Lord, dishevel the woman’s hair, and place in her hands the grain offering of remembrance, which is the grain offering of jealousy. In his own hand the priest shall have the water of bitterness that brings the curse. 19Then the priest shall make her take an oath, saying, “If no man has lain with you, if you have not turned aside to uncleanness while under your husband’s authority, be immune to this water of bitterness that brings the curse. 20But if you have gone astray while under your husband’s authority, if you have defiled yourself and some man other than your husband has had intercourse with you,” 21—let the priest make the woman take the oath of the curse and say to the woman—“the Lord make you an execration and an oath among your people, when the Lord makes your uterus drop, your womb discharge; 22now may this water that brings the curse enter your bowels and make your womb discharge, your uterus drop!” And the woman shall say, “Amen. Amen.”

23 Then the priest shall put these curses in writing, and wash them off into the water of bitterness. 24He shall make the woman drink the water of bitterness that brings the curse, and the water that brings the curse shall enter her and cause bitter pain. 25The priest shall take the grain offering of jealousy out of the woman’s hand, and shall elevate the grain offering before the Lord and bring it to the altar; 26and the priest shall take a handful of the grain offering, as its memorial portion, and turn it into smoke on the altar, and afterward shall make the woman drink the water. 27When he has made her drink the water, then, if she has defiled herself and has been unfaithful to her husband, the water that brings the curse shall enter into her and cause bitter pain, and her womb shall discharge, her uterus drop, and the woman shall become an execration among her people. 28But if the woman has not defiled herself and is clean, then she shall be immune and be able to conceive children.

29 This is the law in cases of jealousy, when a wife, while under her husband’s authority, goes astray and defiles herself, 30or when a 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 apply this entire law to her. 31The man shall be free from iniquity, but the woman shall bear her iniquity.


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34. And Moses and Aaron and the chief of the congregation Another exception is subjoined, viz., that none should be received unless they were free from all defect and blemish; for we have seen elsewhere that those, who were blind and lame, or defective in any part of their body, were excluded from the tabernacle, lest their disfigurement should produce contempt; and also that they might be admonished by this external sign, to preserve themselves more diligently from all spiritual defilement. Therefore, those are said to enter into the sanctuary who are fit to exercise the priesthood; and hence the expression, “for the service,” 426426     “For the work.” — A. V. Ver. 35. is added.

Inasmuch as the inequality (of their charges) might have been the source of envy, God’s authority is asserted at the end of the chapter, where Moses records that he was only acting ministerially, and that he distributed the offices among them according to God’s command.

5. And the Lord spoke unto Moses. Although at the outset He seems to include all trespasses, yet we gather from the context that the precept only refers to things stolen or fraudulently withheld, that he, who is conscious of his guilt, should make reparation. It must be observed, however, that the law relates to more secret thefts, which are not usually brought to justice: and on this account it is said, “If they have committed any sin after the manner of men, they must not seek for subterfuge from ordinary use and custom.” Although, therefore, they may have many companions, God declares that this will not avail for their excuse; and consequently commands them voluntarily to restore what they have fraudulently or wrongfully appropriated. He will treat hereafter of the punishment of theft; He now only prescribes that, although no one shall bring the guilty parties to justice, and their crime may not be discovered, still they should diligently examine their consciences, and themselves ingenuously declare the secret transgression; and also make compensation for the loss conferred, since, without restitution, their confession would be but illusory. I now pass over what Moses adds, that, if no heir exists to whom the stolen goods may be restored, they should offer it to the priest, because I have already expounded it: except that we gather frost thence, that a contamination is contracted by fraud and rapine, which is never purged unless the house is well cleared of the ill-gotten gain. But this offering was treated of amongst the laws of the priests: 128128     See vol. 2, p. 273, on Numbers 5:8. now, with respect to the restitution, we must consider that the fifth part was superadded, not so much in order that he, who had suffered the loss, should be enriched, as that all should diligently beware of every offense, which they hear not only to be useless to themselves, but also to be productive of loss. Besides, when a man has been robbed, it is often of more consequence than this additional fifth part, that he should have been deprived of the use of his property.

8 But if the man have no kinsman. This passage, which I have inserted from chapter 5 is connected 213213     “Depend bien de la matiere qui est traitee plus au long des larrecins:” depends indeed on the subject of theft which is treated more at length. — Fr. indeed with another subject, and yet, because it directly refers to the right of the priests, it was necessary to remove it to this place, especially since it expresses that kind of sacrifice which Moses has lately adverted to, i.e., when they expiated the crime of theft. God did not indeed desire that the priests should be enriched by others’ losses, nor that thieves should go free, if they offered what they had stolen to the priests; but, if there were no one to whom they could restore it, He would have their houses delivered from (the proceeds of) their sin; and with very good reason, since otherwise the very gross offender would have never hesitated to plunder the goods of a dead man, if he were without heirs. First, therefore, He commanded their property to be restored to the lawful owners; and, if they were dead, He substituted their kinsmen, who are called גאלים, goelim, on account of the right of redemption, which God granted in the Law to relatives, as we shall see elsewhere; and because he who was next of kin was commanded to marry the widow of one who had left no seed. It was therefore a very uncommon thing that a person who had defrauded another had to recompense the loss to the priest; for in most cases some successor to the dead man would be found.

9. And every offering. Thus far I have brought together the passages, in which Moses treats of the office of the priests, and have briefly expounded them, I will now begin to treat of their rights, i.e., of the honor which God invested them with, that He might have them ready and cheerful in their obedience. Here, however, Moses lightly touches upon what he more fully sets forth in other passages, as we shall presently see, viz., He assigns to the priests all the holy oblations, the various kinds of which He afterwards enumerates. Now, there were three principal grounds for this law; — First, Lest what had been already dedicated to God should be profaned by its promiscuous use; for, that the sacrifices might retain their proper dignity, it was necessary to distinguish the sacred from ordinary meats. Secondly, A vainglorious excess in respect to the ceremonies was restrained; for if after the victims were killed all the flesh had been returned to the owners, a desire of ostentation 207207     “C’estoit pour inciter les gens a une fole convoitise de se monstrer, et faire leurs parades:” it would have incited men to a foolish ambition for ostentation and parade. — Fr. would have grown up amongst foolish men, the rich would have come emulously to gain applause, and when they had feasted magnificently, they would have exposed the rest for sale. Thus would they have abused their false pretense of worshipping God to the acquirement of favor towards themselves. The third ground is that which Paul touches upon, viz., that it is just that the ministers of the altar should live by the altar, (1 Corinthians 9:13;) for though it is an unworthy thing that the servants of God should be attracted by their hire, yet was God unwilling that the priests, when they had freely bestowed their labor on the worship of the sanctuary, should suffer from hunger, lest their alacrity might thus be repressed. For if they desired to execute their office properly, it was necessary that they should attend altogether to spiritual things, and abandon the care of their domestic affairs. If any should object that these were incentives to avarice, and that an excellent and profitable calling was set before the priests, the reply is easy: whatever came to their share, since it was restricted to their own eating, could not have been excessive in quantity; for they were not allowed to sell any, nor even to give it away to others, as we have already seen, and as will hereafter be repeated. Thus then the foul dishonesty of those, who taunt Moses as if he had enriched the priests by the spoils of the people, is abundantly reftired; for if there were any whose interests he would have desired to consult, surely his own sons would have been preferred to all; yet to them there is no reference here. Nay, whatever he grants to the priests, he takes away from his own sons and their posterity; as if he purposely deprived them of advantages which were not otherwise unlawful. In a word, the dignity of holy things was alone consulted, without any endeavor being made to enrich the priests.

11. And the Lord spoke unto Moses. Although this ceremony appears to be part of the legal services, still I have thought fit to postpone it to this place, because it relates to the observance of the Seventh Commandment. The object of it is, lest women, trusting that they would escape punishment, should abandon themselves to unchastity, or lest jealousy should lead to dissension, and, by alienating the mind of the husband from the wife, should loosen the ties of pure affection, since thus the door would be open to many iniquities. By this rite, therefore, God proclaims Himself the guardian and avenger of conjugal fidelity; and hence it appears how acceptable a sacrifice in His sight is the chastity of married women, of which He condescends to profess Himself the guardian. It is, therefore, no trifling consolation to husbands, that God undertakes the cognizance of the secret wrong, if, perchance, their wives have dealt treacherously with them.

But it will be better to examine the details in order. When at the outset he says, — If a man’s wife go aside, and her offense be concealed, an absurdity appears to be implied; as if He would thus bring to judgment none but those who should be convicted, whereas, if the fact were established, there would be no use in the application of the test. But the condition, “if she commit a trespass against him,” does not signify that the woman’s adultery should be discovered, but refers to the opinion of her husband; and thus the words must be paraphrased in this way: If any one should think that his wife has had connection with another man, and he cannot otherwise be relieved from the anxiety which oppresses him, let him appeal to God for that judgment, which is beyond the reach of man. Still God 7878     “Toutefois il semble bien que Dieu ait poisee le cas, qu’une femme fust chargee de presomption vehemente;” still it fully appears that God has supposed the case, that the woman should be charged upon strong presumption. — Fr. seems designedly to have expressed the crime, lest husbands should heedlessly involve their innocent wives in disgrace. We know that many are causelessly suspicious; and when jealousy has once taken possession of the mind, there is no room for moderation or equity. 7979     “Nous savons qu’il y a beaucoup de gens ombrageux, qui concoyvent des fantasies a la volee;” we know that there are many suspicious persons who hastily take fancies into their heads. — Fr. Wherefore it would be inhuman to permit morose and unreasonable husbands to drag their wives to this horrible judgment of God on account of certain trifling suspicions. For, if the husband were cruel and ungodly, it would be like putting a sword into the hands of a madman, to give him such a power without any distinction. God, therefore, implies that the priest should carefully consider, so as not too easily to receive every complaint; although He afterwards more clearly expresses Himself in another part of the conditions, “if a man be jealous of his wife, and she be not defiled.”

15. Then shall the man bring his wife to the priest. This offering is different from the rest, which have been heretofore mentioned, because it is a kind of adjuration, whereby the woman exposes herself to be accursed. Pure meal without frankincense or oil is therefore offered, since the rite 8080     “Litandi ritus.” — Lat. “La facon d’obtenir grace devant Dieu, et se reconcilier.” — Fr. of expiation would not be in accordance with the curse. That the woman may be more afraid of perjuring herself, she is presented before God, with her head uncovered too, as if the priest would drag her from her lurking-place; for it seems incongruous that, as some suppose, the veil was removed from her head in token of her infamy, since thus she would have been condemned before her case was heard. She is, then, brought before God’s face with her head bare, that she may be seriously alarmed; and then follows the mode of absolution or condemnation. The priest is commanded to take holy water in an earthen vessel, to throw in some dust from the floor, and then a book or scroll, on which were written the words of the curse, so that the blots should remain in the water, and so to give the cup to the woman. Some interpret the holy water to be that which was kept ill the brazen laver, to be always ready for the ablution of those engaged in duly offering sacrifices. Let my readers, however, consider whether he does not rather mean the water in which the ashes of the red heifer were sprinkled, and whereby solemn purifications were made, (Numbers 19:1,) as we have already seen. For thus the woman was admonished that, if she perjured herself, no further means of expiation remained. The dust collected from the floor was also a sign of detestation: in short, the whole proceedings were calculated to humble her, so that she might not double her offense by perjury. Besides, the priest is commanded to repeat the words of the curse, lest she should seek to escape by some subterfuge or other. The question, however, arises, why she should be compelled to imprecate evil upon herself rather than others were who were suspected of murder or other atrocious crimes? and I think it was for this reason, because no other offense can be so easily concealed. Lest, therefore, women should grow hardened from their cunning and evil arts, a remedy is provided against their various deceptions; and thus God shows that the marriage-bed is under His protection and safeguard. We must remember, too, that this was not a mere empty bugbear, inasmuch as God undoubtedly appeared as the open avenger of unfaithfulness, according to His declaration. Nor is the threat added in vain, that if the woman be a deceiver, she should be a curse among the people, because her belly should swell and her thigh dissolve; whilst, on the other hand, He does not promise in vain, that if she be innocent, she should not only be free, but prolific also; so that God’s blessing would be the seal of her absolution. For this is the meaning of the expression, “she shall be sown with seed;” 8181     A. V., “and shall conceive seed.” “Heb., shall be sown with seed; which the Chaldee expoundeth, shall prove with child.” — Ainsworth. as, on the contrary, it was said that her thigh 8282     “Thy thigh to fall. Heb., thy thigh falling; in Greek, thy thigh fallen; in Chaldee, thy thigh dissolved. — Ibid. “Something similar to the disease called prolapsus uteri.” — Adam Clarke. should dissolve when she wasted away with barrenness. We infer, from the opposite effects of the same water, that by the outward symbol God wrought with His secret power as the occasion demanded.




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