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5. Purity of the Camp

And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 2Command 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: 3Both 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. 4And 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.

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

11And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, 12Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any man’s wife go aside, and commit a trespass against him, 13And 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; 14And 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: 15Then 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. 16And the priest shall bring her near, and set her before the Lord: 17And 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: 18And 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: 19And 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: 20But 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: 21Then 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; 22And 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. 23And the priest shall write these curses in a book, and he shall blot them out with the bitter water: 24And 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. 25Then 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: 26And 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. 27And 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. 28And if the woman be not defiled, but be clean; then she shall be free, and shall conceive seed. 29This is the law of jealousies, when a wife goeth aside to another instead of her husband, and is defiled; 30Or 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. 31Then shall the man be guiltless from iniquity, and this woman shall bear her iniquity.

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.

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.


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