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The Law of Jealousy (Numbers 5)

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The Trial Of Jealousy

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CHAPTER 5 Mar. 24 
Rebuilding Relationships after Sin
Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, 2Command the children of Israel that they put out of the camp every leper, and everyone who has an issue, and whoever is unclean by the dead. 3Both male and female you shall put outside of the camp that they not defile their camp, in the midst of which I dwell. 4The children of Israel did so, and put them out outside of the camp; as Yahweh spoke to Moses, so did the children of Israel. 5Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, 6Speak to the children of Israel: ‘When a man or woman commits any sin that people commit, so as to trespass against Yahweh, and that soul is guilty; 7then he shall confess his sin which he has done, and he shall make restitution for his guilt in full, and add to it the fifth part of it, and give it to him in respect of whom he has been guilty. 8But if the man has no kinsman to whom restitution may be made for the guilt, the restitution for guilt which is made to Yahweh shall be the priest’s; besides the ram of the atonement, by which atonement shall be made for him. 9Every heave offering of all the holy things of the children of Israel, which they present to the priest, shall be his. 10Every man’s holy things shall be his: whatever any man gives the priest, it shall be his’. 
The Trial of Jealousy
11Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, 12Speak to the children of Israel, and tell them: ‘If any man’s wife goes astray, and is unfaithful to him, 13and a man lies with her carnally, and it is hidden from the eyes of her husband, and is kept close, and she is defiled, and there is no witness against her, and she isn’t taken in the act; 14and the spirit of jealousy comes on him, and he is jealous of his wife, and she is defiled: or if the spirit of jealousy comes on him, and he is jealous of his wife, and she isn’t defiled; 15then the man shall bring his wife to the priest, and shall bring her offering for her, the tenth part of an ephah of barley meal. He shall pour no oil on it, nor put frankincense on it, for it is a grain offering of jealousy, a grain offering of memorial, bringing iniquity to memory. 16The priest shall bring her near, and set her before Yahweh; 17and the priest shall take holy water in an earthen vessel; and of the dust that is on the floor of the tabernacle the priest shall take, and put it into the water. 18The priest shall set the woman before Yahweh, and let the hair of the woman’s head go loose, and put the grain offering of memorial in her hands, which is the grain offering of jealousy. The priest shall have in his hand the water of bitterness that brings a curse. 19The priest shall cause her to swear, and shall tell the woman, If no man has lain with you, and if you haven’t gone aside to uncleanness, being under your husband, be free from this water of bitterness that brings a curse. 20But if you have gone astray, being under your husband, and if you are defiled, and some man has lain with you besides your husband; 21then the priest shall cause the woman to swear with the oath of cursing, and the priest shall tell the woman, Yahweh make you a curse and an oath among your people, when Yahweh allows your thigh to fall away, and your body to swell; 22and this water that brings a curse will go into your bowels, and make your body swell, and your thigh fall away. The woman shall say, Amen, Amen.23‘The priest shall write these curses in a book, and he shall blot them out into the water of bitterness. 24He shall make the woman drink the water of bitterness that causes the curse; and the water that causes the curse shall enter into her and become bitter. 25The priest shall take the grain offering of jealousy out of the woman’s hand, and shall wave the grain offering before Yahweh, and bring it to the altar. 26The priest shall take a handful of the grain offering, as its memorial, and burn it on the altar, and afterward shall make the woman drink the water. 27When he has made her drink the water, then it shall happen. If she is defiled, and has committed a trespass against her husband, that the water that causes the curse will enter into her and become bitter, and her body will swell, and her thigh will fall away; and the woman will be a curse among her people. 28If the woman isn’t defiled, but is clean; then she shall be free, and shall conceive seed. 29This is the law of jealousy, when a wife, being under her husband, goes astray, and is defiled; 30or when the spirit of jealousy comes on a man, and he is jealous of his wife; then he shall set the woman before Yahweh, and the priest shall execute on her all this law. 31The man shall be free from iniquity, and that woman shall bear her iniquity’.


5:4 The children of Israel did so- Israel’s obedience was mainly when it came to disciplining others, giving materially and making things. But the Pentateuch emphasizes their disobedience when it came to personal morality, internal spirituality and worshipping God alone rather than any idols. We must analyze our own obediences and see if they follow a similar pattern. To be externally religious isn’t difficult, indeed we can rather enjoy being like that.
5;6-8 When a man or woman commits any sin... he shall confess... the man- Proof that the Bible often uses the masculine singular to mean ‘any person’, of either gender.
5:7 Both confession and restitution were required. These two elements are still required if we are to truly resolve broken relationships.
5:12 There were various possibilities for how a man should respond in this situation. He could have his wife stoned; divorce her; put her through this ‘trial of jealousy’; or simply forgive her. We too have a range of options open to us when wrong is done to us or when we suspect it has been. The very existence of these options encourages us to think through our responses, and surely inspires us to choose the way of grace over the way of personal revenge or justification.
5:14 This provision for the trial of jealousy appears to have been a concession to human weakness, in this case, male weakness. For the New Testament outlaws envy (the Hebrew word translated “jealousy” here has this sense): Rom. 1:29; Phil. 1:15; 1 Tim. 6:4; Tit. 3:3. It could be that James 4:5 alludes to the spirit of male jealousy which this legislation sought to make a concession to (:14). The simple lesson for us can be that God does indeed make concessions to our human weakness; but we are to use them sparingly, and realize that their very existence is actually intended to inspire us not to make use of them but to serve God on the highest level we can.
5:24 The Corinthians were told that they would “provoke the Lord to jealousy" by breaking bread and yet also worshipping idols (1 Cor. 10:22). This is surely an allusion to the “trial of jealousy". A curse was recited and then the believer drunk a cup; if they were unfaithful, they drunk to their condemnation. Paul’s allusion suggests that each day we break bread and drink the cup, we as the bride of Christ are going through the trial of jealousy. Brutal honesty and self-examination, and not merely of our lives in the last few days, is therefore crucial before drinking the cup.