The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Numbers 5

Num 5:1

Num 5: "The law of jealousy was a most unusual, although significant, ritual. It determined the honesty and attitude of a wife under accusation. It sets before us the position of the espoused of Christ, and our relationship to Yahweh. It taught that Yahweh is a jealous God (Exo 20:5; 14:14), and Israel is His Bride (Isa 54:5). There was no provision for a wife to press a case against a husband, because the Law saw beyond natural relationships to those existing between Yahweh and His people. Though the wife might be cleansed of the accusation of adultery, her conduct to her husband was the cause of her humiliation, and to that extent she was guilty and deserving of the shame heaped upon her. Israel became guilty of spiritual adultery (Jer 3:1-3). With the temple service, etc, there was all the appearance of bearing seed -- but none to the glory of the Father without the spiritual purity of His ways. Those humbled, but who have not been guilty of adultery, will be restored and bear seed. Thus the ch presents the parable of Israel provoking Yahweh to jealousy, and all who do so will find their name 'blotted out' from the way of joy and peace (Deu 28:17-20)" (GEM).

Num 5:11

Vv 11-31: "As the sin of adultery is particularly defiling and destructive of the relations existing between Yahweh and Israel -- which are typified by the husband and his wife (Isa 54:5; Lev 20:26) -- and as such sin is disruptive of the very foundations of the social order, the whole subject is dealt with in this chapter at a length proportionate to its importance. However, Scripture does not reveal one instance where this law was invoked by a jealous husband, so it is evident that it is designed to illustrate spiritual adultery and Yahweh's viewpoint towards it.

"Considered in that light, this strange law become prophetic of Israel's relationship with Yahweh her spiritual Husband, and His treatment of her as exhibited by the words and actions of Hosea, the prophet of enduring love.

"Through Moses, Israel was warned that it must have no other God: 'for Yahweh, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God' (Exo 34:14). The Law relating to the Trial of Jealousy reveals the responsibility resting upon the nation because of its privileged position as Yahweh's bride, and the consequences of spiritual adultery" (Expos).

Num 5:12

Vv 12 - 31: The trial of jealousy. The mixing of the dust of the tabernacle floor with the water (Num 5:17) and then causing of the woman to drink of it (Num 5:24) is reminiscent of the way that the golden calf was dealt with Exo 32:20. In Exodus Israel was committing spiritual adultery and Yahweh was showing that He was a jealous God.

Num 5:17

HOLY WATER: "Waters of purification" derived from ashes of red heifer (Num 19:11-22). The only other holy water in Law.

DUST: A sharing of the curse of the woman and the serpent again (Gen 3:14,16).

Num 5:21

Vv 21,22: THIGH... ABDOMEN: Prob euphemisms for the sexual organs.

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