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Numbers Chapter 5
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Purifying the Camp
5:1 God spoke to Moses, saying:
5:2 Instruct the Israelites to send out of the camp everyone who has a leprous mark or a male discharge, and all who are ritually defiled by the dead.
5:3 Whether male or female, they must be sent out of the camp so that they not defile their camp where I dwell among them.
5:4 The Israelites did this, sending [all such people] out of the camp. The Israelites did exactly as God had told Moses.

5:5 God spoke to Moses, telling him to
5:6 speak [as follows] to the Israelites:

If a man or woman sins against his fellow man, thus being untrue to God, and becoming guilty of a crime,

5:7 he must confess the sin that he has committed. He must [then] make restitution of the principle plus a 20% surcharge, and give it to the victim of his crime.
5:8 If there is no relative to whom the dishonest gain can be returned, it must be returned to God, [and given] to the priest. This is in addition to the atonement ram through which [the wrongdoer's] sin is expiated.
5:9 All the sacred offerings that the Israelites present as elevated gifts to the priest shall become his property.
5:10 The sacred offerings of each individual remain his own property. When they are given to the priest, they become [the priest's] property.

The Suspected Adulteress
5:11 God spoke to Moses, telling him to
5:12 speak to the Israelites and say to them:

[This is the law] if any man's wife is suspected of committing adultery and being false to her husband.

5:13 A man may have Iain with her carnally, keeping it hidden from her husband, and they may have acted secretly so that there could be no witness against [the woman]. [The woman] was not raped.
5:14 [This is a case where] the man [had previously] expressed feelings of jealousy against his wife, and she then [may have been] defiled. [However,] he may have expressed such feelings of jealousy against his wife, and she [may have not been] defiled.
5:15 [The law is] that the man must bring [his wife] to the priest. When he brings her, he must also bring a sacrifice for her consisting of 1/10 ephah of barley meal. He shall not pour oil on it, nor place frankincense on it, since it is a jealousy offering. It is a reminder offering to recall sin.
5:16 The priest shall bring forth [the woman] and have her stand before God.
5:17 The priest shall take sanctified water in a clay bowl. He shall [also] take some earth from the Tabernacle floor and place it in the water.
5:18 The priest shall stand the woman before God and uncover her hair. He shall place on her hands the reminder offering, the jealousy offering. In the priest's hand shall be the curse-bearing bitter water.
5:19 The priest shall administer an oath to the woman, saying to her, 'If a man has not lain with you, and you have not committed adultery so as to be defiled to your husband, you shall be unharmed by this curse-bearing bitter water.
5:20 But if you have committed adultery against your husband and have become defiled, and if a man other than your husband has had intercourse with you...'
5:21 [At this point] the priest shall administer to the woman [the part of] the oath containing the curse. The priest shall say to the woman, '[In such a case], God will make you into a curse and an oath among your people, causing your sexual organs to rupture and your belly to blow up.
5:22 This curse-bearing water will enter your body and it will cause your belly to blow up and your sexual organs to rupture'.

The woman shall respond, 'Amen. Amen'.

5:23 The priest shall then write these curses on a parchment, and dissolve [the writing] in the bitter waters.
5:24 He shall then make the woman drink the bitter curse-bearing waters, and the curse-bearing waters shall begin to take effect.
5:25 The priest shall take the jealousy offering from the woman, and wave the offering in the prescribed motions before God, bringing it near the altar.
5:26 Thus after he makes the woman drink the water, the priest shall scoop out the memorial portion of the meal offering and burn it on the altar.
5:27 When the woman drinks the water, if she has been defiled and untrue to her husband, the curse-bearing water, will enter her body to poison her, causing her belly to blow up and her sexual organs to rupture. The woman will be a curse among her people.
5:28 However, if the woman is pure and has not been defiled to her husband, she will remain unharmed and will become pregnant.
5:29 This is the [entire] law regarding jealousy for the case when a woman commits adultery and becomes unclean
5:30 or when a man simply has a feeling of jealousy against his wife. He shall stand the woman before God, and the priest shall follow this entire procedure.
5:31 The man will then be free of sin, but the woman will be punished if guilty.


God spoke to Moses...
  This occurred on the first of Nissan, the day the Tabernacle was erected; see Exodus 40:17 (Gittin 60a,b). According to some, this is true of everything in this section up to the Priestly Blessings (see Numbers 6:22). Thus, the narrative now goes back one month to the first of Nissan.

leprous mark
  See Leviticus 13:1-46.

male discharge
  See Leviticus 15:1-15.

defiled by the dead
  (Targum; Rashi; Septuagint). Literally, 'unclean for a soul.' See Numbers 19:14,16.

If a man or woman...
  See Leviticus 5:21.

he must confess...
  This is a commandment to confess a sin to God as part of one's repentance (Yad, Teshuva 1:1; Sefer HaMitzvoth, Positive Commandment 73). See Leviticus 5:5, 26:40.

  See Leviticus 5:24.

  Literally, 'redeemer'. It is speaking of the case where the victim has died. By tradition, it is speaking of the case where there can not be any heirs at all, which is only possible in the case of a proselyte (Bava Kama 109a; Yad, Gezelah 8:6).

and given...
  (Sifri; Rashi).

atonement ram
  Leviticus 5:24

elevated gifts

This is the law...
  This ordeal, however, is only effective if the husband himself has never committed a sexual offence (Sotah 28a). Therefore, when such offences became overly common, the ordeal ceased to be administered (Sotah 47a; Yad, Sotah 3:18, 19).

suspected of committing adultery
  (cf. Rashi; Septuagint). Or, 'goes astray' (Radak, Sherashim; cf. Proverbs 4:15, 7:25), or, 'behaves foolishly' (Sotah 3a; Rashi).

  (Sotah 3a; Rashi). The law is that a woman becomes a sotah only if her husband had warned her not to be alone with a certain man, and she then violated the warning.

1/10 ephah
  Approximately 2 quarts.

before God
  At the entrance of the Communion Tent facing the Holy of Holies (Sifri; Yad, Sotah 3:3; Josephus, Antiquities 3:11:6).

sanctified water
  From the washstand (Sifri; Rashi); cf. Exodus 30:17. This is because the washstand was made of the mirrors of the righteous women (Exodus 38:8; BeMidbar Rabbah 9:15; Rashi). One half log (around 5 oz.) water was used (Menachoth 88a; Yad, Sotah 3:9).

clay bowl
  A new one (Sotah 15b; Yad, Sotah 3:9).

uncover her hair
  (Targum; Sifri). This teaches that a married woman's hair is normally covered (Kethuvoth 72a). Or, 'he shall undo her hair (Sotah 7a; Rashi; cf. Yad, Sotah 3:11). The woman also had her clothing torn (Ibid.)

  This indicates that a bitter substance was added to the water (Sotah 20a; Yad, Sotah 3:10; Chizzkuni), possibly a drug (see 5:27). According to others, it is water with a bitter after-effect (Sifri; Rashi). Or, 'waters of conviction' (Septuagint).

sexual organs
  (Chizzkuni). Expressed euphemistically as 'thigh;' see note on Genesis 24:3, 32:26. According to some, however, it literally denotes the thigh (Rashi, Sotah 8b, s.v. yerekh), particularly the right thigh (Josephus, Antiquities 3:11:6).

  Literally, 'fall'. Cf. Psalms 58:9, Ecclesiastes 6:3. Or, 'become sterile' (Chizzkuni), or, 'rot' (Targum Yonathan; Septuagint). Or, 'your thigh shall become dislocated' (Josephus). The woman would also experience a menstrual discharge (Niddah 20b).

blow up
  (Targum; Septuagint; Radak, Sherashim). Or, 'become distended with water' (Josephus). There would be a tremendous build up of internal body pressure, and the woman would die (Sotah 20a; Yad, Sotah 3:16).

  (Sotah 17a; Yad, Sotah 3:8). It was a rolled up parchment, referred to here as a 'book.'

He shall then make...
  (Sotah 19a; Yad, Sotah 3:15). According to others, however, the offering would be presented before the woman would drink (Ibid.; Rashi). This verse would then be translated, 'These shall be the bitter curse-bearing waters that he shall make the woman drink...'

  According to the first opinion in previous note. According to the second opinion, 'The priest shall scoop out... and he shall then make the woman drink the water'.

scoop out...
  See Leviticus 2:2.

become pregnant
  (Targum Yonathan; Rashbam; Ibn Ezra; Josephus). She will also have a much better pregnancy than previously (Sotah 26a; Rashi). Or, 'she is permitted to her husband' (Chizzkuni).

  See note on Leviticus 13:59.

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