Commentary on the Book of Numbers, Chapters Five and Six

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Numb 5:1 (NIV) The LORD said to Moses,

Numb 5:2 "Command the Israelites to send away from the camp anyone who has an infectious skin disease or a discharge of any kind, or who is ceremonially unclean because of a dead body.

Numb 5:3 Send away male and female alike; send them outside the camp so they will not defile their camp, where I dwell among them."

Numb 5:4 The Israelites did this; they sent them outside the camp. They did just as the LORD had instructed Moses.

Numb 5:5 The LORD said to Moses,

Numb 5:6 "Say to the Israelites: 'When a man or woman wrongs another in any way and so is unfaithful to the LORD, that person is guilty

Numb 5:7 and must confess the sin he has committed. He must make full restitution for his wrong, add one fifth to it and give it all to the person he has wronged.

Numb 5:8 But if that person has no close relative to whom restitution can be made for the wrong, the restitution belongs to the LORD and must be given to the priest, along with the ram with which atonement is made for him.

Numb 5:9 All the sacred contributions the Israelites bring to a priest will belong to him.

Numb 5:10 Each man's sacred gifts are his own, but what he gives to the priest will belong to the priest.'"

Numb 5:11 Then the LORD said to Moses,

Numb 5:11 CMTY The cruel ordeal described in NUMB 5:11 through NUMB 5:31 is designed to make both husband and wife hesitate before either engaging in adultery or accusing the other of engaging in adultery. Even the most jealous husband would not wish his wife to undergo the ordeal, and so he was detered from rashly accusing her of infidelity.

Numb 5:12 "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'If a man's wife goes astray and is unfaithful to him

Numb 5:12 CMTY Many years ago, an exciting idea was born. It went something like this: Man is separated from his neighbor by a huge division, an unbridgeable gulf called individual property. If I own something, it means you can't have it. In a sense, my owning something "steals" it from you. Property is theft. If we could make a society in which everyone owned everything, then no one would be jealous of anyone else. What we need to do is to redeem Capital from the hands of the ruling elite and return it to the people. The Communist ideal spawned several social engineering experiments. The most notable of these was the collective farm. All property was owned by the collective. Everyone ate in a communal dining room. Every member of the collective was to give what he could and take only what he needed. Probably the most famous and successful application of the commune concept was the kibbutz movement in Israel. However, there were other countries where the idea also took root. In China, every commune had an economic and administrative unit that controlled the labor force and all means of production. This unit provided central management of industry, commerce, education, agriculture, and military affairs. Living communally, workers performed both industrial and agricultural tasks and supported a military unit. There were communal nurseries, bathing facilities, barbershops, and the like. Wages and perquisites were controlled by the state. All products were marketed through state agencies. It must have seemed at the time like a Utopian dream. What happened to the dream? The last vestiges of the collective farm have either become Capitalist enterprises or are moribund. Why did such a noble sounding idea fail? One inevitable aspect of collective living was a re-evaluation of the role of the family. Rather than sleeping under the same roof as their parents, children now slept in dormitories. One wonders who would answer a small child who might wake in the middle of the night and cry "Mommy, I want a glass of water!" How successful a mother-substitute could a dormitory supervisor be? There's something very strange about this week's Parsha. Right in the middle of the description of the organization of the machane, the Jewish encampment, there is a seemingly illogical interruption in which the Torah presents, along with other mitzvos, the mitzvah of the sota. The sota is a wife whose behavior has provoked her husband to suspect her fidelity. The Torah prescribes a miraculous process by which, if proven innocent, will restore her completely to her husband's trust. What does the sota have to do with the Jewish encampment? The machane was the paradigm of the future social structure of the Jewish People. Not only did it mandate the placement of each individual tribe, but the machane represented Jewish Society as it was to be lived throughout the generations. The Torah puts the mitzvah of sota in the middle of the description of the machane to teach us that the harmony of society at large is predicated on the united and happy family. The family is the basic building block of society. When you tamper with its delicate balance, when you try and engineer it to conform to man-made concepts of utopian life, inevitably those experiments will be short-lived and will eventually flounder.

Numb 5:13 by sleeping with another man, and this is hidden from her husband and her impurity is undetected (since there is no witness against her and she has not been caught in the act),

Numb 5:14 and if feelings of jealousy come over her husband and he suspects his wife and she is impure - or if he is jealous and suspects her even though she is not impure -

Numb 5:15 then he is to take his wife to the priest. He must also take an offering of a tenth of an ephah of barley flour on her behalf. He must not pour oil on it or put incense on it, because it is a grain offering for jealousy, a reminder offering to draw attention to guilt.

Numb 5:16 "'The priest shall bring her and have her stand before the LORD.

Numb 5:17 Then he shall take some holy water in a clay jar and put some dust from the tabernacle floor into the water.

Numb 5:18 After the priest has had the woman stand before the LORD, he shall loosen her hair and place in her hands the reminder offering, the grain offering for jealousy, while he himself holds the bitter water that brings a curse.

Numb 5:19 Then the priest shall put the woman under oath and say to her, "If no other man has slept with you and you have not gone astray and become impure while married to your husband, may this bitter water that brings a curse not harm you.

Numb 5:20 But if you have gone astray while married to your husband and you have defiled yourself by sleeping with a man other than your husband" -

Numb 5:21 here the priest is to put the woman under this curse of the oath - "may the LORD cause your people to curse and denounce you when he causes your thigh to waste away and your abdomen to swell.

Numb 5:22 May this water that brings a curse enter your body so that your abdomen swells and your thigh wastes away."

"'Then the woman is to say, "Amen. So be it."

Numb 5:23 "'The priest is to write these curses on a scroll and then wash them off into the bitter water.

Numb 5:24 He shall have the woman drink the bitter water that brings a curse, and this water will enter her and cause bitter suffering.

Numb 5:25 The priest is to take from her hands the grain offering for jealousy, wave it before the LORD and bring it to the altar.

Numb 5:26 The priest is then to take a handful of the grain offering as a memorial offering and burn it on the altar; after that, he is to have the woman drink the water.

Numb 5:27 If she has defiled herself and been unfaithful to her husband, then when she is made to drink the water that brings a curse, it will go into her and cause bitter suffering; her abdomen will swell and her thigh waste away, and she will become accursed among her people.

Numb 5:28 If, however, the woman has not defiled herself and is free from impurity, she will be cleared of guilt and will be able to have children.

Numb 5:29 "'This, then, is the law of jealousy when a woman goes astray and defiles herself while married to her husband,

Numb 5:30 or when feelings of jealousy come over a man because he suspects his wife. The priest is to have her stand before the LORD and is to apply this entire law to her.

Numb 5:31 The husband will be innocent of any wrongdoing, but the woman will bear the consequences of her sin.'"

Numb 6:1 The LORD said to Moses,

Numb 6:2 "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'If a man or woman wants to make a special vow, a vow of separation to the LORD as a Nazirite,

Numb 6:3 he must abstain from wine and other fermented drink and must not drink vinegar made from wine or from other fermented drink. He must not drink grape juice or eat grapes or raisins.

Numb 6:4 As long as he is a Nazirite, he must not eat anything that comes from the grapevine, not even the seeds or skins.

Numb 6:5 "'During the entire period of his vow of separation no razor may be used on his head. He must be holy until the period of his separation to the LORD is over; he must let the hair of his head grow long.

Numb 6:5 CMTY Because the Nazirite is called "holy" during his abstinance, some scholars conclude that private or individual fasts are permitted. Those scholars who argue that private or individual fasts are forbidden say that "holy" is referring only to the growth of the locks of his hair: the hair is "holy" in the technical or legal sense, but no general spiritual holiness is implied.

Numb 6:6 Throughout the period of his separation to the LORD he must not go near a dead body.

Numb 6:7 Even if his own father or mother or brother or sister dies, he must not make himself ceremonially unclean on account of them, because the symbol of his separation to God is on his head.

Numb 6:8 Throughout the period of his separation he is consecrated to the LORD.

Numb 6:9 "'If someone dies suddenly in his presence, thus defiling the hair he has dedicated, he must shave his head on the day of his cleansing - the seventh day.

Numb 6:10 Then on the eighth day he must bring two doves or two young pigeons to the priest at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting.

Numb 6:11 The priest is to offer one as a sin offering and the other as a burnt offering to make atonement for him because he sinned by being in the presence of the dead body. That same day he is to consecrate his head.

Numb 6:11 CMTY The Nazirite sinned, in that his first period of abstaining from wine was in vain, and he must begin the period over again. The first period of abstention was in vain, and did not fulfill the Torah, and so he sinned against his own soul, by abstaining from pleasures which the Torah permits. Some scholars conclude that individual or private fasts are thereby forbidden, and that only corporate fasts, or fasts by priestly leaders, are permitted. Those scholars who argue that personal or private fasts are permitted says that the Nazirite is accused of sin because he rendered himself ritually impure, but no spiritual condemnation is implied.

Numb 6:12 He must dedicate himself to the LORD for the period of his separation and must bring a year-old male lamb as a guilt offering. The previous days do not count, because he became defiled during his separation.

Numb 6:13 "'Now this is the law for the Nazirite when the period of his separation is over. He is to be brought to the entrance to the Tent of Meeting.

Numb 6:14 There he is to present his offerings to the LORD: a year-old male lamb without defect for a burnt offering, a year-old ewe lamb without defect for a sin offering, a ram without defect for a fellowship offering,

Numb 6:15 together with their grain offerings and drink offerings, and a basket of bread made without yeast - cakes made of fine flour mixed with oil, and wafers spread with oil.

Numb 6:16 "'The priest is to present them before the LORD and make the sin offering and the burnt offering.

Numb 6:17 He is to present the basket of unleavened bread and is to sacrifice the ram as a fellowship offering to the LORD, together with its grain offering and drink offering.

Numb 6:18 "'Then at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, the Nazirite must shave off the hair that he dedicated. He is to take the hair and put it in the fire that is under the sacrifice of the fellowship offering.

Numb 6:19 "'After the Nazirite has shaved off the hair of his dedication, the priest is to place in his hands a boiled shoulder of the ram, and a cake and a wafer from the basket, both made without yeast.

Numb 6:20 The priest shall then wave them before the LORD as a wave offering; they are holy and belong to the priest, together with the breast that was waved and the thigh that was presented. After that, the Nazirite may drink wine.

Numb 6:21 "'This is the law of the Nazirite who vows his offering to the LORD in accordance with his separation, in addition to whatever else he can afford. He must fulfill the vow he has made, according to the law of the Nazirite.'"

Numb 6:22 The LORD said to Moses,

Numb 6:23 "Tell Aaron and his sons, 'This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:

Numb 6:24 "' "The LORD bless you
and keep you;

Numb 6:25 the LORD make his face shine upon you
and be gracious to you;

Numb 6:26 the LORD turn his face toward you
and give you peace." '

Numb 6:27 "So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them."

Numb 7:1 When Moses finished setting up the tabernacle, he anointed it and consecrated it and all its furnishings. He also anointed and consecrated the altar and all its utensils.


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