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Bible Commentaries

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Numbers 5

A.M. 2514. B.C. 1490.

A command to remove the unclean out of the camp, Numbers 5:1-4 . Laws concerning restitution, Numbers 5:5-10 . The law concerning a woman suspected of adultery, Numbers 5:11-31 .

Verse 1

Numbers 5:1. The camps and divisions of priests, Levites, and people being thus settled, now was the time when the law about excluding leprous and unclean persons from the camps was to take place; God having, for wise reasons, appointed that all persons under such legal impurities should, in proportion to the degree of them, be excluded from the community where he himself dwelt by the symbols of his divine presence till they were cleansed again. This the Israelites began now to put in execution by express order from God to Moses.

Verse 3

Numbers 5:3. That they defile not the camp By which God would intimate the danger of being made guilty by other men’s sins, and the duty of avoiding intimate converse with wicked men. I dwell By my special and gracious presence.

Verse 6

Numbers 5:6. Any sin that men commit Hebrew, any sins of men; that is, sins against men, as deceits or wrongs, whereby other men are injured, of which he manifestly speaks. Against the Lord Which words may be added, to show that such injuries done to men are also sins against God, who hath commanded justice to men, as well as religion to himself. Guilty That is, shall be sensible of his guilt, convicted in his conscience.

Verse 7

Numbers 5:7. They shall confess their sin They shall not continue in the denial of the fact, but give glory to God, and take shame to themselves by acknowledging it. The principal That is, the thing he took away, or what is equivalent to it. And add Both as a compensation to the injured person for want of his goods so long, and as a penalty upon the injurious dealer, to discourage others from such attempts.

Verse 8

Numbers 5:8. No kinsman This supposes the person injured to be dead, or gone into some unknown place. To the priest Whom God appointed as his deputy, to receive his dues, and take them to his own use, that so he might more cheerfully and entirely devote himself to the ministration of holy things. This is an additional explication to that law, Leviticus 6:2, and for the sake thereof it seems here to be repeated.

Verse 10

Numbers 5:10. Every man’s hallowed things Understand this not of the sacrifices, because these were not the priest’s entirely, but part of them was offered to God, and the remainder was eaten by the offerer as well as by the priest; but of such other things as were devoted to God, and could not be offered in sacrifices; as, suppose a man consecrated a house to the Lord, this was to be the priest’s.

Verse 12

Numbers 5:12. If a man’s wife go aside From the way of piety and virtue, and that either in truth or in her husband’s opinion. This law was given partly to deter wives from adulterous practices, and partly to secure them against the rage of their hard-hearted husbands, who otherwise might, upon mere suspicion, have effected their destruction, or at least put them away. There was not the like fear of inconveniences to husbands from the jealousy of their wives, who had not that authority and power, and opportunity for the putting away or killing their husbands, which the husbands had with respect to their wives.

Verse 15

Numbers 5:15. The man shall bring her to the priest With the witnesses that could prove the ground of his suspicions, and desire she might be put upon her trial. The Jews say, the priest was first to endeavour to persuade her to confess the truth, saying, to this purpose, “Dear daughter, perhaps thou wast overtaken by drinking wine, or wast carried away by the heat of youth, or the examples of ill neighbours; come, confess the truth, for the sake of his great name, which is described in this most sacred ceremony; and do not let it be blotted out with the bitter water.” If she confessed, saying, I am defiled, she was not put to death, but was divorced, and lost her dowry; if she said, I am pure, then they proceeded.

Verse 27

Numbers 5:27. The water shall enter into her These effects, the Jews tell us, presently followed; for she grew pale, and her eyes were ready to start out of her head, so that they cried out, Carry her away, lest she defile the court of the temple, by dying there. But if what has just been observed from the Jewish writers be true, that, upon confessing her guilt, the woman was only divorced and condemned to lose her dowry, it is probable there were not many instances wherein this miraculous judgment was inflicted; for it is hardly to be supposed that any woman, conscious of her guilt, would, by asserting her innocence thus solemnly, in defiance of the Almighty, venture upon the hazard of sudden and immediate death, with all the miserable circumstances here described, rather than confess and gain time to repent. And the woman shall be a curse among her people Such woful effects shall the before-mentioned bitter draught produce, that she shall become a perfect proverb of a curse and wretchedness in the mouths of all her neighbours.

Verse 28

Numbers 5:28. Conceive seed That is, shall bring forth children: as the Jews say, in case of her innocence, she infallibly did, yea, though she had been barren before.

Verse 29

Numbers 5:29. This is the law of jealousy “It is not to be wondered,” says Grotius, “if God, among his own people, produced a miraculous effect for the detection of a crime most heinous, and very difficult to be proved. Indeed history abounds with examples of the direful effects of jealousy, not only to private persons and families, but to whole states and kingdoms; the design, therefore, of this institution was to prevent these evils, by appointing a method whereby injured innocence might be cleared, and every shameful breach of conjugal fidelity brought to condign punishment. By this solemn and awful decision of Providence, jealous husbands were restrained from cruel outrages against their wives, and wives were preserved in their duty out of dread of punishment.”

Verse 31

Numbers 5:31. Then shall the man be guiltless Which he should not have been if he had either indulged her in so great a wickedness, and not endeavoured to bring her to repentance or punishment, or cherished suspicions in his breast, and thereupon proceeded to hate her or cast her off. Whereas now, whatsoever the consequence is, the husband shall not be censured for bringing such curses upon her, or for defaming her, if she appear to be innocent. Her iniquity That is, the punishment of her iniquity, whether she was false to her husband, or by any light carriage gave him occasion to suspect her.

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Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Numbers 5". Benson's Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/numbers-5.html. 1857.