King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

Numbers > Old Testament > Home

Numbers 5

The unclean to be removed out of the camp, Restitution to be made for trespasses. (1-10) The trial of jealousy. (11-31)

Numbers 5 Audio:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

The unclean to be removed out of the camp, Restitution to be made for trespasses

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.

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.

The trial of jealousy

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.

« »

G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 2. Camp; in the midst of which God had fixed his tabernacle. See Lev. xvi. 16. Some pretend that these unclean persons were only excluded from the camp of the Lord, and from that of the Levites, which occupied 2000 cubits round the tabernacle. But God will not permit any of the camp to be defiled by such people. They were to absent themselves for seven days, and then wash themselves, &c. C. xix. 11. If lepers be excluded from the camp, how much more do heretics deserve to be cast out of the Church! Theod. q. 8. W.

Ver. 3. It. Heb. “their camps, in the midst of which I dwell.” C.

Ver. 6. To commit, against one another, v. 7. S. Aug. q. 9. When the thing is secret, so that the judges cannot take cognizance of it, the offender must nevertheless abide by the decision of the priest. Moses condemns him who had stolen an ox to restore it with another, or even to give five oxen, if he have not the one stolen in his possession. Ex. xxii. 1. 4. H. — Here to reward the sincerity of the man, who confesses his private fault, he only requires the thing itself to be restored, with a fifth part besides. C. — Negligence, not with contempt; (M.) though he knows that he is transgressing the divine and natural law. T.

Ver. 7. Shall confess. This confession and satisfaction, ordained in the old law, was a figure of the sacrament of penance. Ch. — A special confession of their sin, with satisfaction, and a sacrifice, are required. So Christ orders us to lay open our consciences to his priests. S. John. xx., &c. W.

Ver. 8. But if. Moses does not mention this case. Lev. vi. 2, 5. Here he determines that the heirs, if known, must be entitled to the restitution. A Hebrew could not die without an heir; but a proselyte might, and then restitution was to be made to God. The Rabbins say, that when the person injured was already dead, the offender took 10 persons with him to the grave of the deceased, and said, “I have sinned against the Lord and against N.; I have injured him thus.“ After which he gave what was due to his heirs; or, if none could be found, to the house of judgment or the judges, who might restore it, if any claimant appeared afterwards.

Ver. 9. First-fruits; (teruman,) a term which comprises also voluntary oblations of all sorts, and the parts of the victims which belong to the priests; unless the person offering expressed a different intention. C.

Ver. 14. The spirit of jealousy, &c. This ordinance was designed to clear the innocent, and to prevent jealous husbands from doing mischief to their wives: as likewise to give all a horror of adultery, by punishing it in so remarkable a manner. Ch. — The spirit of jealousy, of fear, &c. denotes those passions of the soul. This very remarkable law of Moses suited the genius of his people, (C.) and tended greatly to restrain the infidelity of the married couple, and the fury of suspicious husbands. Theod. q. 10. God was pleased, by a continual miracle, to manifest the truth, on this occasion, provided the husband were not also guilty: for in that case, the Rabbins assert, the waters had no effect. They relate many particularities, which seem contrary to Philo and Josephus, who inform us that the trial was still made in their time, though the former writers pretend that it was disused, on account of the many adulteries which were committed, in the age preceding the destruction of the temple by Titus. They say that the person who had committed the crime with the woman, died at the same time that the bitter waters put an end to her existence. When the suspected person was brought before the Sanhedrim, they tried, by all means, to extort a confession from her. But if she persisted in maintaining her innocence, they made her stand in black, before the eastern gate of the court, denouncing to her what she had to expect. If she answered Amen, the priest wrote the imprecations (ver. 19-22,) on vellum, with ink, which had no mixture of vitriol in it; and taking water from the laver, and dust from the court, with something bitter, like wormwood, effaced the writing in a new earthen vessel; while another priest tore her garments as far as the breast, and tied them up with an Egyptian cord, to remind her of the miracles wrought by God. If she confessed the crime before the writing was effaced, she was to be repudiated, without any dowry; or, if she kept company with a suspected person, contrary to her husband’s admonition, after she had come off victorious from drinking the bitter waters, she was subjected to the same punishment, and could not demand to be admitted any more to make the miraculous experiment. See Selden, Uxor. iii. 13.

Ver. 15. Measure, (sati). Heb. and Sept. “epha,” of which the measure was only one-third. C. — Oil, &c. These were rejected in sacrifices for sin. Lev. v. 11. Jealous husbands have no sentiments of commiseration, or of sweetness; (H.) nor can any experience the emotions of joy, while they are in such a situation. T.

Ver. 17—18. Holy water, destined for sacred uses, which is called most bitter, v. 18, (M.) and cursed, (v. 22,) on account of the imprecations used to detect the guilty. W. — Earth, to shew the woman, that if she had been unfaithful, she deserved to be trodden upon as dung. Ecclus. ix. 10. — Head, that she may remember all is naked before the Lord. M. — Heb. may signify, “he shall cut the hair of her head,” (see Lev. x. 6. C.) or take off her veil. Joseph. iii. 10. H. — Remembrance, by which God was requested to manifest the truth, either by punishing or by rewarding the woman, v. 15, 28. M. — Bitter, either on account of the wormwood, or because of their effects on the guilty. C.

Ver. 19. Adjure. The woman was put to her oath. Josephus. H.

Ver. 21. Curse. Heb. “an object of execration, and an oath,” &c. so that people can wish no greater misfortune to befall any one, than what thou shalt endure. H.

Ver. 22. Amen. Our Saviour often uses this form, to confirm what he says, verily, truly. The woman gives her assent to what had been proposed, “so be it.” C.

Ver. 23. Book. Heb. sepher, may also denote a board covered with wax, which was used as one of the most ancient modes of writing. C. — Josephus says, the priest wrote the name of God on parchment, and washed it out in the bitter waters.

Ver. 24. Up. Heb. “and the water, which causeth the malediction, shall enter into her, bitter.” According to Josephus, the jealous husband threw first a handful of the gomer of barley flour, upon the altar, and gave the rest to the priest; and after the other ceremonies were finished, the woman drunk the water, and either had a son within ten months, or died with the marks of infamy. B. iii. 11. Edit. Bern. Some Rabbins say she became livid and rotten, though she might linger on part of the year. Sotæ iii. But if she proved innocent, she acquired fresh beauty and health, and was delivered with ease of a son. Maimon. H.

Ver. 27. Through her. Heb. “into her,” exerting all their efficacy.

Ver. 28. Children, that her husband may love her the more, and she may receive some compensation, for the stain thrown upon her character. M. — We do not read in Scripture that any was ever subjected to this trial. The method of giving a bill of divorce was more easy. C.

Ver. 31. Blameless. To act in conformity with God’s injunctions could not be reprehensible. But it would have been certainly criminal to tempt God in this manner, in order to discover a secret offence, if he had not authorized it expressly. If the husband wished to avoid the displeasure of God, he was bound to banish from his heart all malice, rash judgments, &c. The permission here granted, was owing to the hardness of heart of this stiff-necked people, as well as the laws regarding divorces and retaliation. Women, being of a more fickle and suspicious temper, are not indulged with the privilege of divorcing their husbands, or of making them drink the waters of jealousy. But if a man were taken in the act of adultery, he was put to death, Leviticus xx. 10. The crime is equal in both parties. “The husband, says Lactantius, (de V. Cultu. xxiii.) ought, by the regularity of his conduct, to shew his wife what she owes him. For it is very unjust to exact from another, what you do not practise yourself. This injustice is the cause of the disorders, into which married women sometimes fall. They are vexed at being obliged to continue faithful to those, who will not be so to them.” The Romans would not allow wives to bring an action against their husbands. “You would kill, with impunity, your wife taken in adultery, without any trial, said Cato, and she would not dare to touch you with her finger, if you fell into the same crime.” Gell. x. 23. The authority which was given to husbands over their wives, was deemed a sufficient restraint; and men being obliged to be often from home, and in company, would have been exposed to continual alarms, from the suspicious temper of their wives, if they had been subjected to the like trials. C. — In latter ages, however, the Jewish ladies began to assume the right of divorcing their husbands, in imitation of Salome, sister of Herod the great, and of Herodias, his grand-daughter. Matt. xiv. 3. Josep. Ant. xv. 11. xviii. 7. Grotius supposes that the Samaritan woman had divorced her five husbands. Jo. iv. 18. But this being contrary to the law, her first marriage alone subsisted. H. — Her iniquity, in giving her husband any grounds of suspicion. The Rabbins observe, that he was bound first to admonish her, before witnesses, not to keep company with people of bad character; and if he could bring witnesses that she had been found afterwards with them for ever so short a time, he might have the remedy of the law. The pagans maintained, that several of their fountains and rivers had the power of disclosing and punishing perjury. Polemon mentions a fountain of this nature in Sicily; and Solinus (C. xi.) says, that one in Sardinia caused the perjured to go blind. The waters of the Styx were greatly feared on this account. Hesiod, Theog. 783. Tatitus (vii. 20,) mentions some other fountains, which had the same effects as the bitter waters. C. — The various ordeal trials which were formerly in use, were probably established in imitation of this law of Moses; but not having the same authority or sanction, they were in danger of being looked upon as superstitious. H.