Bible Readings for April 28th
In Numbers 5, Yahweh continues to establish physical boundaries, instituting three new policies to keep his own holiness free from any contamination that the people of Israel might cause.
First, Yahweh commands that anyone with disease, discharge, or uncleanness from contact with the dead should be put outside the camp (Num. 5:1–4). While Yahweh had already commanded that the lepers dwell outside of the camp (Lev. 13:46), this is the first place we read that people with other kinds of uncleannesses were to be excluded from the camp. Now, while leprosy and discharges and contact with the dead are not sins, all disease and death comes as a result of sin, and Yahweh cannot allow a product of the curse to remain in his presence.
Second, for cases when Israelites did sin, Yahweh clarifies here how sinners could make restitution when the people they defrauded had no next of kin (Num. 5:5–10). Since the guilt offering required making restitution (Lev. 6:1–7), Yahweh explains here in Numbers 5:8 that a priest would receive the restitution if no next of kin could receive it. In this way, Yahweh both provided for his priests and made a way for worshipers to make restitution under any circumstances.
The third provision that Yahweh establishes in Numbers 5:11–31 is easily the strangest to modern readers. Why should the adulterous woman be singled out, while the adulterous man is nowhere to be found? Why this bizarre ritual, and why such a strange curse?
The text, however, does not answer those questions—not directly, at least. Instead, notice that Numbers 5:16 says: “And the priest shall bring her near and set her before the LORD.” The phrase “shall bring her near” is a form of the word qarab, which we looked at in our meditation on Numbers 3. In other words, the function of this whole process is to bring someone who may or may not be guilty of the sin of adultery into Yahweh’s holy presence.
Because we have been studying the significance of coming near to Yahweh through the book of Numbers, we can get some perspective on this passage. If the woman is innocent, then nothing bad happens to her. Her cleanness in the presence of Yahweh protects her. But if the woman is guilty, then her sin in the presence of Yahweh brings a very specific curse on her, leaving her incapable of having more children.
It is a dangerous thing to dwell near to God while remaining in your sin, but hear the promise of the gospel of Jesus: “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus…let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Heb. 10:19, 22).
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.