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Numbers 5

Numbers 5:11-31

11. And the Lord spoke unto Moses, saying,

11. Loquutus est Jehova ad Mosen, dicendo:

12. Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any man’s wife go aside, and commit a trespass against him,

12. Alloquere filios Israel, et dicas illis, Quum diverterit uxor cujuspiam, et praevaricata fuerit praevaricatione:

13. And a man lie with her carnally, and it be hid from the eyes of her husband, and he kept close, and she be defiled, and there be no witness against her, neither she be taken with the manner;

13. Et coierit aliquis cum ea coitu seminis, absconditum autem fuerit ab oculis viri sui et delituerit, ipsaque polluta fuerit: testis vero non fuerit contra eam, neque ipsa fuerit deprehensa:

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:

14. Et transierit super eum spiritus zelotypiae, zelatusque fuerit uxorem suam, et ipsa polluta fuerit: vel transierit super eum spiritus zelotypiae, zelatusque fuerit uxorem suam, et ipsa non fuerit polluta:

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.

15. Tunc adducet vir uxorem suam ad sacerdotem, et afferet obtationem ejus cum illa, nempe decimam partem epha farinae hordeaceae: non fundet super eam oleum, neque ponet super eam thus, quia oblatio zelotypiarum est, oblatio memoriae revocans in memoriam iniquitatem.

16. And the priest shall bring her near, and set her before the Lord.

16. Et appropinquare faciet eam sacerdos, statuetque eam coram Jehova.

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.

17. Tolletque sacerdos aquam sanctum in vase testaceo, de pulvere quoque qui fuerit in pavimento tabernaculi tollet sacerdos, et mittet in aquam illam.

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.

18. Tum statuet sacerdos mulierem coram Jehova, et discooperiet caput illius mulieris, ponetque super manus ejus oblationem memoriae, quae oblatio zelotypiarum est: et in manum sacerdotis erunt aquae amarae maledictae.

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:

19. Et adjurabit eam sacerdos, dicetque illi, Si non coierit quispiam tecum, et si non declinaveris ad immunditiam sub viro tuo, munda esto ab aquis istis amaris maledictis:

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 besides thine husband:

20. Si vero declinaveris sub viro tuo, et polluta fueris, dederitque aliquis in te semen suum praeter virum tuum:

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:

21. (Adjurabit, inquam, mulierem illam sacerdos adjuratione maledictionis, et dicet mulieri,) Det te Jehova in maledictionem et adjurationem in medio populi tui, quum dederit Jehova femur tuum cadens, et uterum tuum tumescentem:

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.

22. Ingredianturque aquae maledictae istae in interiora tua, ut tumescere faciant uterum, et cadere faciant femur. Et dicet mulier illa, Amen, amen.

23. And the priest shall write these curses in a book, and he shall blot them out with the bitter water:

23. Et scriber maledictiones istas sacerdos in libro, et delebit postea illas cum aquis amaris:

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.

24. Tum ad potandum dabit mulieri aquas amaras maledictas, et ingredientur in eam aquae maledictae, in amaras.

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.

25. Postea capiet sacerdos e manu mulieris oblationem zelotypiarum, et elevabit illam coram Jehova, offeretque eam super altare.

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.

26. Tollet etiam sacerdos pugillum plenum de oblatione memoriam ejus, adolebitque illud super altare, et postea ad potandum dabit mulieri aquas:

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.

27. Ad potandum, inquam, dabit ei aquas illas: et erit, si polluta fuerit, praevaricataque fuerit praevaricatione in virum suum, tunc ingredientur in illam aquae maledictae versae in amaritudinem, intumescetque uterus ejus, et cadet femur ejus: et erit mulier illa in maledictionem in medio populi sui.

28. And if the woman be not defiled, but be clean; then she shall be free, and shall conceive seed.

28. Quod si non fuerit polluta mulier, sed munda fuerit, munda erit, seminabiturque semine.

29. This is the law of jealousies, when a wife goeth aside to another instead of her husband, and is defiled;

29. Haec est lex zelotypiarum, quum diverterit mulier sub viro suo, et polluta fuerit.

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.

30. Aut viri super quem transierit spiritus zelotypiae, et zelatus fuerit uxorem suam, statueritque mulierem coram Jehova, ac fecerit ei sacerdos secundum omnem legem hanc.

31. Then shall the man be guiltless from iniquity, and this woman shall bear her iniquity.

31. Et innocens erit vir ille ab iniquitate, mulier vero illa portabit iniquitatem suam.


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.

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