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Sunday School 11/9/08

Purity, Restitution, & Unfaithfulness


Numbers 5:1-31
I. Context
When and where does this passage take place?

When: As in previou s weeks, we know that Exodu s ends with the completion of the Tabernacle and the indwelling of
the Spirit of the Lord u pon it. (Exodu s 40:34-48 ) We are told that this occu rred on the "first day of the first month
of the second year" (Exodu s 40:17). In Nu mbers Chapter 1, The Lord tells Moses to take a censu s of the people on
the "first day of the second month of the second year" (Nu m 1:1), so last week's passage took place one month after
the tabernacle had been erected in the desert below Mt. Sinai. This week's passage occu rrs sometime between the
nu mbering of the Levites in Chapter 4 and their departu re from Mt. Sinai.
Where: Ju st as with previou s weeks, the events of the passage take place in the desert below Mt. Sinai, probably
somewhere in the Sinai valley.

What is going on? (Summary of Events)

Purification of the Camp (v. 1-4): Anyone who had any infections skin diseases, inclu ding bu t not limited to
leprosy, discharge/infection of any kind, or who was ceremonially u nclean becau se of a dead body were to be sent
ou tside of the camp as the Lord commanded Moses.
Restitution for Wrongs (v. 5-10): If a man or woman sins against another, they make restitu tion to that person by
repaying the loss plu s 20% in addition to the requ ired offerings for atonement which were made to the priest. If
restitu tion cou ld not be made to the person or close relative, then it wou ld be made to the priest.
Dealing with Suspicions of Adulery (11-31): This section prescribes a "trial" of sorts that was to be performed
when a hu sband had su spicion that his wife had been u nfaithfu l to him, yet no witnesses or evidence cou ld be
fou nd. The hu sband was to take his wife to the priest along with an offering of barley flou r. The wife wou ld stand
before the Lord and the priest wou ld take some holy water in a clay jar and add du st from the tabernacle floor to it. He
wou ld then place the woman u nder oath that if she had not been u nfaithfu l, may the water not harm her, bu t if she
had been u nfaithfu l that it wou ld cau s her abdomen to swell and her thigh waste away. She was to answer in
agreement to this oath, "Amen, so be it." The priest wou ld write the words he u sed in the oath/cu rse on a piece of
parchment and then wash it away (some translations may indicate he wou ld scrape the writings instead) in the water.
After offering the barley flou r, the woman was to drink the water and, depending on her innocence, the water wou ld
resu lt in bitter su ffering as described above or no su ffering at all.

II. Interpretation

What principles are illu strated in this passage? What wou ld you consider the theme of this passage?

What do we learn of God's character from this passage? Does this passage point u s toward or connect with Christ? If so,
how?

Althou gh this test of a wife's u nfaithfu lness seems strange, how might things have been decided withou t it? How does this
test reflect proper ownership of ju stice?

III. Application

1. The key issu e with pu rifying the camp was that u ncleanliness mu st not be allowed in God's presence. The Lord dwelt within
the Israelites' camp, yet he dwells within each of ou r hearts as believers today. We mu st be diligent in maintaining the pu rity
of ou r body, His temple (read 1 Cor. 6:15-20, esp. v.19-20)
2. The law requ ired that not only restitu tion was to be made for wrong, bu t that the wrongdoer mu st go above and beyond the
wrong by adding 20%. The application for u s is that the u ltimate cost of wronging someone is often greater than the actu al loss
incu rred. We need to realize that sin always costs more than it seems to.
3. What is done in secret will be brou ght into the light and made known. This test of u nfaithfu lness relied totally on the
"omniscience of God" (M.Henry) in that He is the only one from whom sin can never be hidden. Matthew Henry's
commentary indicates that the effects of the water, du st, and parchment writings when combined wou ld not in and of
themselves cau se the prescribed cu rse; thu s, it wou ld only be by God's response to the woman's sin that the cu rse wou ld
resu lt in the prescribed physical ou tcome. We may hide ou r sin from others, bu t God knows ou r hearts.

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