Reading Plan 
Daily Bible Reading (daily) February 6
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Numbers 4:1--6:27

Context
The Service of the Kohathites

4:1 1 Then the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron: 4:2 “Take a census 2  of the Kohathites from among the Levites, by their families and by their clans, 4:3 from thirty years old and upward to fifty years old, all who enter the company 3  to do the work in the tent of meeting. 4:4 This is the service of the Kohathites in the tent of meeting, relating to the most holy things. 4  4:5 When it is time for the camp to journey, 5  Aaron and his sons must come and take down the screening curtain and cover the ark of the testimony with it. 4:6 Then they must put over it a covering of fine leather 6  and spread over that a cloth entirely of blue, and then they must insert its poles.

4:7 “On the table of the presence 7  they must spread a blue 8  cloth, and put on it the dishes, the pans, the bowls, and the pitchers for pouring, and the Bread of the Presence must be on it continually. 4:8 They must spread over them a scarlet cloth, and cover the same with a covering of fine leather; and they must insert its poles.

4:9 “They must take a blue cloth and cover the lampstand of the light, with its lamps, its wick-trimmers, its trays, and all its oil vessels, with which they service it. 4:10 Then they must put it with all its utensils in a covering of fine leather, and put it on a carrying beam. 9 

4:11 “They must spread a blue cloth on the gold altar, and cover it with a covering of fine leather; and they must insert its poles. 4:12 Then they must take all the utensils of the service, with which they serve in the sanctuary, put them in a blue cloth, cover them with a covering of fine leather, and put them on a carrying beam. 4:13 Also, they must take away the ashes from the altar 10  and spread a purple cloth over it. 4:14 Then they must place on it all its implements with which they serve there – the trays, the meat forks, the shovels, the basins, and all the utensils of the altar – and they must spread on it a covering of fine leather, and then insert its poles. 11 

4:15 “When Aaron and his sons have finished 12  covering 13  the sanctuary and all the furnishings of the sanctuary, when the camp is ready to journey, then 14  the Kohathites will come to carry them; 15  but they must not touch 16  any 17  holy thing, or they will die. 18  These are the responsibilities 19  of the Kohathites with the tent of meeting.

4:16 “The appointed responsibility of Eleazar son of Aaron the priest is for the oil for the light, and the spiced incense, and the daily grain offering, and the anointing oil; he also has 20  the appointed responsibility over all the tabernacle with 21  all that is in it, over the sanctuary and over all its furnishings.” 22 

4:17 Then the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron: 4:18 “Do not allow the tribe of the families of the Kohathites to be cut off 23  from among the Levites; 4:19 but in order that they will live 24  and not die when they approach the most holy things, do this for them: Aaron and his sons will go in and appoint 25  each man 26  to his service and his responsibility. 4:20 But the Kohathites 27  are not to go in to watch while the holy things are being covered, or they will die.”

The Service of the Gershonites

4:21 Then the Lord spoke to Moses: 4:22 “Also take a census of the Gershonites, by their clans and by their families. 4:23 You must number them from thirty years old and upward to fifty years old, all who enter the company to do the work of the tent of meeting. 4:24 This is the service of the families of Gershonites, as they serve 28  and carry it. 4:25 They must carry the curtains for the tabernacle and the tent of meeting with its covering, the covering of fine leather that is over it, the curtains for the entrance of the tent of meeting, 4:26 the hangings for the courtyard, the curtain for the entrance of the gate of the court, 29  which is around the tabernacle and the altar, and their ropes, along with all the furnishings for their service and everything that is made for them. So they are to serve. 30 

4:27 “All the service of the Gershonites, whether 31  carrying loads 32  or for any of their work, will be at the direction of 33  Aaron and his sons. You will assign them all their tasks 34  as their responsibility. 4:28 This is the service of the families of the Gershonites concerning the tent of meeting. Their responsibilities will be under the authority 35  of Ithamar son of Aaron the priest. 36 

The Service of the Merarites

4:29 “As for the sons of Merari, you are to number them by their families and by their clans. 4:30 You must number them from thirty years old and upward to fifty years old, all who enter the company to do the work of the tent of meeting. 4:31 This is what they are responsible to carry as their entire service in the tent of meeting: the frames 37  of the tabernacle, its crossbars, its posts, its sockets, 4:32 and the posts of the surrounding courtyard with their sockets, tent pegs, and ropes, along with all their furnishings and everything for their service. You are to assign by names the items that each man is responsible to carry. 38  4:33 This is the service of the families of the Merarites, their entire service concerning the tent of meeting, under the authority of Ithamar son of Aaron the priest.”

Summary

4:34 So Moses and Aaron and the leaders of the community numbered the Kohathites by their families and by clans, 4:35 from thirty years old and upward to fifty years old, everyone who entered the company for the work in the tent of meeting; 4:36 and those of them numbered by their families were 2,750. 4:37 These were those numbered from the families of the Kohathites, everyone who served in the tent of meeting, whom Moses and Aaron numbered according to the word of the Lord by the authority of Moses.

4:38 Those numbered from the Gershonites, by their families and by their clans, 4:39 from thirty years old and upward to fifty years old, everyone who entered the company for the work in the tent of meeting – 4:40 those of them numbered by their families, by their clans, were 2,630. 4:41 These were those numbered from the families of the Gershonites, everyone who served in the tent of meeting, whom Moses and Aaron numbered according to the word of the Lord.

4:42 Those numbered from the families of the Merarites, by their families, by their clans, 4:43 from thirty years old and upward to fifty years old, everyone who entered the company for the work in the tent of meeting – 4:44 those of them numbered by their families were 3,200. 4:45 These are those numbered from the families of the Merarites, whom Moses and Aaron numbered according to the word of the Lord by the authority of Moses.

4:46 All who were numbered of the Levites, whom Moses, Aaron, and the leaders of Israel numbered by their families and by their clans, 4:47 from thirty years old and upward to fifty years old, everyone who entered to do the work of service and the work of carrying 39  relating to the tent of meeting – 4:48 those of them numbered were 8,580. 4:49 According to the word of the Lord they were numbered, 40  by the authority of Moses, each according to his service and according to what he was to carry. 41  Thus were they numbered by him, 42  as the Lord had commanded Moses.

Separation of the Unclean

5:1 43 Then the Lord spoke to Moses: 5:2 “Command the Israelites to expel 44  from the camp every leper, 45  everyone who has a discharge, 46  and whoever becomes defiled by a corpse. 47  5:3 You must expel both men and women; you must put them outside the camp, so that 48  they will not defile their camps, among which I live.” 5:4 So the Israelites did so, and expelled them outside the camp. As the Lord had spoken 49  to Moses, so the Israelites did.

Restitution for Sin

5:5 Then the Lord spoke to Moses: 5:6 “Tell the Israelites, ‘When 50  a man or a woman commits any sin that people commit, 51  thereby breaking faith 52  with the Lord, and that person is found guilty, 53  5:7 then he must confess 54  his sin that he has committed and must make full reparation, 55  add one fifth to it, and give it to whomever he wronged. 56  5:8 But if the individual has no close relative 57  to whom reparation can be made for the wrong, the reparation for the wrong must be paid to the Lord 58  for the priest, in addition to the ram of atonement by which atonement is made for him. 5:9 Every offering 59  of all the Israelites’ holy things that they bring to the priest will be his. 5:10 Every man’s holy things 60  will be his; whatever any man gives the priest will be his.’”

The Jealousy Ordeal

5:11 61 The Lord spoke to Moses: 5:12 “Speak to the Israelites and tell them, ‘If any man’s wife goes astray and behaves unfaithfully toward him, 5:13 and a man has sexual relations 62  with her 63  without her husband knowing it, 64  and it is hidden that she has defiled herself, since 65  there was no witness against her, nor was she caught – 5:14 and if jealous feelings 66  come over him and he becomes suspicious 67  of his wife, when she is defiled; 68  or if jealous feelings come over him and he becomes suspicious of his wife, when she is not defiled – 5:15 then 69  the man must bring his wife to the priest, and he must bring the offering required for her, one tenth of an ephah of barley meal; he must not pour olive oil on it or put frankincense on it, because it is a grain offering of suspicion, 70  a grain offering for remembering, 71  for bringing 72  iniquity to remembrance.

5:16 “‘Then the priest will bring her near and have her stand 73  before the Lord. 5:17 The priest will then take holy water 74  in a pottery jar, and take some 75  of the dust 76  that is on the floor of the tabernacle, and put it into the water. 5:18 Then the priest will have the woman stand before the Lord, uncover the woman’s head, and put the grain offering for remembering in her hands, which is the grain offering of suspicion. The priest will hold in his hand the bitter water that brings a curse. 77  5:19 Then the priest will put the woman under oath and say to the her, “If no other 78  man has had sexual relations with you, and if you have not gone astray and become defiled while under your husband’s authority, may you be free from this bitter water that brings a curse. 79  5:20 But if you 80  have gone astray while under your husband’s authority, and if you have defiled yourself and some man other than your husband has had sexual relations with you….” 81  5:21 Then the priest will put the woman under the oath of the curse 82  and will say 83  to the her, “The Lord make you an attested curse 84  among your people, 85  if the Lord makes 86  your thigh fall away 87  and your abdomen swell; 88  5:22 and this water that causes the curse will go 89  into your stomach, and make your abdomen swell and your thigh rot.” 90  Then the woman must say, “Amen, amen.” 91 

5:23 “‘Then the priest will write these curses on a scroll and then scrape them off into the bitter water. 92  5:24 He will make the woman drink the bitter water that brings a curse, and the water that brings a curse will enter her to produce bitterness. 5:25 The priest will take the grain offering of suspicion from the woman’s hand, wave the grain offering before the Lord, and bring it to the altar. 5:26 Then the priest will take a handful of the grain offering as its memorial portion, burn it on the altar, and afterward make the woman drink the water. 5:27 When he has made her drink the water, then, if she has defiled herself and behaved unfaithfully toward her husband, the water that brings a curse will enter her to produce bitterness – her abdomen will swell, her thigh will fall away, and the woman will become a curse among her people. 5:28 But if the woman has not defiled herself, and is clean, then she will be free of ill effects 93  and will be able to bear children.

5:29 “‘This is the law for cases of jealousy, 94  when a wife, while under her husband’s authority, goes astray and defiles herself, 5:30 or when jealous feelings come over a man and he becomes suspicious of his wife; then he must have the woman stand before the Lord, and the priest will carry out all this law upon her. 5:31 Then the man will be free from iniquity, but that woman will bear the consequences 95  of her iniquity.’” 96 

The Nazirite Vow

6:1 97 Then the Lord spoke to Moses: 6:2 “Speak to the Israelites, and tell them, ‘When either a man or a woman 98  takes a special vow, 99  to take a vow 100  as a Nazirite, 101  to separate 102  himself to the Lord, 6:3 he must separate 103  himself from wine and strong drink, he must drink neither vinegar 104  made from wine nor vinegar made from strong drink, nor may he drink any juice 105  of grapes, nor eat fresh grapes or raisins. 106  6:4 All the days of his separation he must not eat anything that is produced by the grapevine, from seed 107  to skin. 108 

6:5 “‘All the days of the vow 109  of his separation no razor may be used on his head 110  until the time 111  is fulfilled for which he separated himself to the Lord. He will be holy, 112  and he must let 113  the locks of hair on his head grow long.

6:6 “‘All the days that he separates himself to the Lord he must not contact 114  a dead body. 115  6:7 He must not defile himself even 116  for his father or his mother or his brother or his sister if they die, 117  because the separation 118  for 119  his God is on his head. 6:8 All the days of his separation he must be holy to the Lord.

Contingencies for Defilement

6:9 “‘If anyone dies very suddenly 120  beside him and he defiles 121  his consecrated head, 122  then he must shave his head on the day of his purification – on the seventh day he must shave it. 6:10 On the eighth day he is to bring 123  two turtledoves or two young pigeons to the priest, to the entrance to the tent of meeting. 6:11 Then the priest will offer one for a purification offering 124  and the other 125  as a burnt offering, 126  and make atonement 127  for him, because of his transgression 128  in regard to the corpse. So he must reconsecrate 129  his head on that day. 6:12 He must rededicate 130  to the Lord the days of his separation and bring a male lamb in its first year as a reparation offering, 131  but the former days will not be counted 132  because his separation 133  was defiled.

Fulfilling the Vows

6:13 “‘Now this is the law of the Nazirite: When the days of his separation are fulfilled, he must be brought 134  to the entrance of the tent of meeting, 6:14 and he must present his offering 135  to the Lord: one male lamb in its first year without blemish for a burnt offering, one ewe lamb in its first year without blemish for a purification offering, one ram without blemish for a peace offering, 136  6:15 and a basket of bread made without yeast, cakes of fine flour mixed with olive oil, wafers made without yeast and smeared with olive oil, and their 137  grain offering and their drink offerings. 138 

6:16 “‘Then the priest must present all these 139  before the Lord and offer 140  his purification offering and his burnt offering. 6:17 Then he must offer the ram as a peace offering 141  to the Lord, with the basket of bread made without yeast; the priest must also offer his grain offering and his drink offering.

6:18 “‘Then the Nazirite must shave his consecrated head 142  at the entrance to the tent of meeting and must take the hair from his consecrated head and put it on the fire 143  where the peace offering is burning. 144  6:19 And the priest must take the boiled shoulder of the ram, one cake made without yeast from the basket, and one wafer made without yeast, and put them on the hands of the Nazirite after he has shaved his consecrated head; 145  6:20 then the priest must wave them as a wave offering 146  before the Lord; it is a holy portion for the priest, together with the breast of the wave offering and the thigh of the raised offering. 147  After this the Nazirite may drink 148  wine.’

6:21 “This is the law 149  of the Nazirite who vows to the Lord his offering according to his separation, as well as whatever else he can provide. 150  Thus he must fulfill 151  his vow that he makes, according to the law of his separation.”

The Priestly Benediction

6:22 152 The Lord spoke to Moses: 6:23 “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is the way 153  you are to bless 154  the Israelites. Say 155  to them:

6:24 “The Lord bless you 156  and protect 157  you;

6:25 The Lord make his face to shine upon you,

and be gracious to you; 158 

6:26 The Lord lift up his countenance upon you 159 

and give you peace.”’

6:27 So they will put my name 160  on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”

1 sn The chapter has four main parts to it: Kohathites (1-20), Gershonites (21-28), Merarites (29-33) and the census of the Levites (34-49).

2 tn Heb “lift up the head.” The form נָשֹׂא (naso’) is the Qal infinitive absolute functioning here as a pure verb form. This serves to emphasize the basic verbal root idea (see GKC 346 §113.bb).

sn The census of chapter 3 was to register all male Levites from a month old and up. It arranged the general duties of each of the tribes. The second census of Levites now will focus on those between 30 and 50 years of age, those who were actually in service. These are the working Levites. The duties here will be more specific for each of the families. The Kohathites, although part of the ordinary ministry of Levites, were a special group chosen to handle the most holy furnishings. J. Milgrom shows three aspects of their service: (1) skilled labor (מְלָאכָה, mÿlakhah) or “work,” (2) physical labor (עֲבֹדָה, ‘avodah) or “service,” and (3) assisting the priests (שָׁרֵת, sharet) or “ministering” (see his Studies in Levitical Terminology, 1:60-70).

3 tn The word “company” is literally “host, army” (צָבָא, tsava’). The repetition of similar expressions makes the translation difficult: Heb “all [who] come to the host to do work in the tent.”

4 tn The Hebrew text simply has “the holy of holies,” or “the holy of the holy things” (קֹדֶשׁ הַקֳּדָשִׁים, qodesh haqqodashim). The context indicates that this refers to all the sacred furnishings.

5 tn The Hebrew text uses the infinitive construct in an adverbial clause of time; literally it says “in the journeying of the camp.” The genitive in such constructions is usually the subject. Here the implication is that people would be preparing to transport the camp and its equipment.

6 tn The exact meaning of the Hebrew word here is difficult to determine. The term תַּחַשׁ (takhash) has been translated “badgers’ [skins]” by KJV. ASV has “sealskin” while RSV uses “goatskin”; NEB and NASB have “porpoise skin,” and NIV has “hides of sea cows.” This is close to “porpoise,” and seems influenced by the Arabic. The evidence is not strong for any of these meanings, and some of the suggestions would be problematic. It is possible the word is simply used for “fine leather,” based on the Egyptian ths. This has been followed by NRSV (“fine leather”) and NLT (“fine goatskin leather”) along with the present translation. See further HALOT 1720-21 s.v. תַּחַשׁ.

7 sn The Hebrew actually has the “table of faces,” and this has been traditionally rendered “table of shewbread.”

8 tn The Greek has “violet” instead of blue. This is also the case in vv. 8, 10, and 14.

9 tn The “pole” or “bar” (מוֹט, mot) is of a different style than the poles used for transporting the ark. It seems to be a flexible bar carried by two men with the implements being transported tied to the bar. The NEB suggests the items were put in a bag and slung over the bar, but there is no indication of the manner.

10 tc The Greek text has “and he must place the cover upon the altar” instead of “and they must take away the ashes from the altar.” The verb is the Piel form; its nuance seems to be privative, i.e., stating that the object is deprived of the material – the ashes are removed. This is the main altar in the courtyard.

11 tc For this passage the Greek and Smr have a substantial addition concerning the purple cloth for the laver and its base, and a further covering of skin (see D. W. Gooding, “On the Use of the LXX for Dating Midrashic Elements in the Targums,” JTS 25 [1974]: 1-11).

12 tn The verb form is the Piel perfect with a vav (ו) consecutive; it continues the future sequence, but in this verse forms a subordinate clause to the parallel sequential verb to follow.

13 tn The Piel infinitive construct with the preposition serves as the direct object of the preceding verbal form, answering the question of what it was that they finished.

14 tn Heb “after this.”

15 tn The form is the Qal infinitive construct from נָשָׂא (nasa’, “to lift, carry”); here it indicates the purpose clause after the verb “come.”

16 tn The imperfect tense may be given the nuance of negated instruction (“they are not to”) or negated obligation (“they must not”).

17 tn Here the article expresses the generic idea of any holy thing (R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 19, §92).

18 tn The verb is the perfect tense with a vav (ו) consecutive, following the imperfect tense warning against touching the holy thing. The form shows the consequence of touching the holy thing, and so could be translated “or they will die” or “lest they die.” The first is stronger.

19 tn The word מַשָּׂא (massa’) is normally rendered “burden,” especially in prophetic literature. It indicates the load that one must carry, whether an oracle, or here the physical responsibility.

20 tn This is supplied to the line to clarify “appointed.”

21 tn Heb “and.”

22 sn One would assume that he would prepare and wrap these items, but that the Kohathites would carry them to the next place.

23 sn The verb is simply the Qal, “do not cut off.” The context calls for a permissive nuance – “do not let them be cut off.” It was a difficult task to be handling the holy things correctly; Moses and Aaron were to see to it that they did it right and did not handle the objects, that is, Moses and Aaron were to safeguard their lives by making certain that proper procedures were followed.

24 tn The word order is different in the Hebrew text: Do this…and they will live. Consequently, the verb “and they will live” is a perfect tense with a vav (ו) consecutive to express the future consequence of “doing this” for them.

25 tn The perfect tense with vav (ו) consecutive continues the instruction for Aaron.

26 tn The distributive sense is obtained by the repetition, “a man” and “a man.”

27 tn In the Hebrew text the verse has as the subject “they,” but to avoid confusion the antecedent has been clarified in the translation.

28 tn The two forms are the infinitive construct and then the noun: “to serve and for the burden.” They are to serve and they are to take the responsibility. The infinitive is explaining the verb.

29 tc This whole clause is not in the Greek text; it is likely missing due to homoioteleuton.

30 tn The work of these people would have been very demanding, since the size and weight of the various curtains and courtyard hangings would have been great. For a detailed discussion of these, see the notes in the book of Exodus on the construction of the items.

31 tn The term “whether” is supplied to introduce the enumerated parts of the explanatory phrase.

32 tn Here again is the use of the noun “burden” in the sense of the loads they were to carry (see the use of carts in Num 7:7).

33 tn The expression is literally “upon/at the mouth of” (עַל־פִּי, ’al-pi); it means that the work of these men would be under the direct orders of Aaron and his sons.

34 tn Or “burden.”

35 tn Or “the direction” (NASB, TEV); Heb “under/by the hand of.” The word “hand” is often used idiomatically for “power” or “authority.” So also in vv. 33, 37, 45, 48.

36 sn The material here suggests that Eleazar had heavier responsibilities than Ithamar, Aaron’s fourth and youngest son. It is the first indication that the Zadokite Levites would take precedence over the Ithamar Levites (see 1 Chr 24:3-6).

37 sn More recent studies have concluded that these “boards” were made of two long uprights joined by cross-bars (like a ladder). They were frames rather than boards, meaning that the structure under the tent was not a solid building. It also meant that the “boards” would have been lighter to carry.

38 tn Heb “you shall assign by names the vessels of the responsibility of their burden.”

39 tn The text multiplies the vocabulary of service here in the summary. In the Hebrew text the line reads literally: “everyone who came to serve the service of serving, and the service of burden.” The Levites came into service in the shrine, and that involved working in the sanctuary as well as carrying it from one place to the next.

40 tn The verb is the simple perfect tense – “he numbered them.” There is no expressed subject; therefore, the verb can be rendered as a passive.

41 tn Or “his burden.”

42 tn The passive form simply reads “those numbered by him.” Because of the cryptic nature of the word, some suggest reading a preterite, “and they were numbered.” This is supported by the Greek, Syriac, Targum, and Vulgate. It would follow in the emendation that the relative pronoun be changed to “just as” (כַּאֲשֶׁר, kaasher). The MT is impossible the way it stands; it can only be rendered into smooth English by adding something that is missing.

43 sn The fifth chapter falls into four main parts: separation of the unclean (vv. 1-4), restitution for sin (vv. 5-10), the jealousy ordeal (vv. 11-28), and the summary (vv. 29-31). There is a good deal of literature on the biblical theme of holiness (for which see the notes on Leviticus primarily). But with regard to this chapter, see (with caution), Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger; J. Neusner, The Idea of Purity in Ancient Judaism; and K. Milgrom, “Two Kinds of h£at£t£a„át,VT 26 (1976): 333-37.

44 tn The construction uses the Piel imperative followed by this Piel imperfect/jussive form; it is here subordinated to the preceding volitive, providing the content of the command. The verb שָׁלַח (shalakh) in this verbal stem is a strong word, meaning “expel, put out, send away, or release” (as in “let my people go”).

45 sn The word צָרוּעַ (tsarua’), although translated “leper,” does not primarily refer to leprosy proper (i.e., Hansen’s disease). The RSV and the NASB continued the KJV tradition of using “leper” and “leprosy.” More recent studies have concluded that the Hebrew word is a generic term covering all infectious skin diseases (including leprosy when that actually showed up). True leprosy was known and feared certainly by the time of Amos (ca. 760 b.c.). There is evidence that the disease was known in Egypt by 1500 b.c. So this term would include that disease in all probability. But in view of the diagnosis and healing described in Leviticus 13 and 14, the term must be broader. The whole basis for the laws of separation may be found in the book of Leviticus. The holiness of the Lord who dwelt among his people meant that a high standard was imposed on them for their living arrangements as well as access to the sanctuary. Anything that was corrupted, diseased, dying, or contaminated was simply not compatible with the holiness of God and was therefore excluded. This is not to say that it was treated as sin, or the afflicted as sinners. It simply was revealing – and safeguarding – the holiness of the Lord. It thus provided a revelation for all time that in the world to come nothing unclean will enter into the heavenly sanctuary. As the Apostle Paul says, we will all be changed from this corruptible body into one that is incorruptible (1 Cor 15:53). So while the laws of purity and holiness were practical for the immediate audience, they have far-reaching implications for theology. The purity regulations have been done away with in Christ – the problem is dealt with differently in the new covenant. There is no earthly temple, and so the separation laws are not in force. Wisdom would instruct someone with an infectious disease to isolate, however. But just because the procedure is fulfilled in Christ does not mean that believers today are fit for glory just as they are. On the contrary, they must be changed before going into his presence. In like manner the sacrifices have been done away in Christ – not what they covered. Sin is still sin, even though it is dealt with differently on this side of the cross. But the ritual and the regulations of the old covenant at Sinai have been fulfilled in Christ.

46 sn The rules of discharge (Lev 12 and 15) include everything from menstruation to chronic diseases (see G. Wyper, ISBE 1:947, as well as R. K. Harrison, Leviticus (TOTC), 158-66, and G. J. Wenham, Leviticus (NICOT), 217-25.

47 tn The word is נֶפֶשׁ (nefesh), which usually simply means “[whole] life,” i.e., the soul in the body, the person. But here it must mean the corpse, the dead person, since that is what will defile (although it was also possible to become unclean by touching certain diseased people, such as a leper).

48 tn The imperfect tense functions here as a final imperfect, expressing the purpose of putting such folks outside the camp. The two preceding imperfects (repeated for emphasis) are taken here as instruction or legislation.

49 tn The perfect tense is here given a past perfect nuance to stress that the word of the Lord preceded the obedience.

50 sn This type of law is known as casuistic. The law is introduced with “when/if” and then the procedure to be adopted follows it. The type of law was common in the Law Code of Hammurabi.

51 tn The verse simply says “any sin of a man,” but the genitive could mean that it is any sin that a man would commit (subjective genitive), or one committed against a man (objective genitive). Because of the similarity with Lev 5:22, the subjective is better. The sin is essentially “missing the mark” which is the standard of the Law of the Lord. The sin is not in this case accidental or inadvertent. It means here simply failing to live up to the standard of the Lord. Since both men and women are mentioned in the preceding clause, the translation uses “people” here.

52 tn The verb is מַעַל (maal), which means to “defraud, violate, trespass against,” or “to deal treacherously, do an act of treachery.” In doing any sin that people do, the guilty have been unfaithful to the Lord, and therefore must bring him a sacrifice.

53 tn The word used here for this violation is אָשָׁם (’asham). It can be translated “guilt, to be guilty”; it can also be used for the reparation offering. The basic assumption here is that the individual is in a state of sin – is guilty. In that state he or she feels remorse for the sin and seeks forgiveness through repentance. See further P. P. Saydon, “Sin Offering and Trespass Offering,” CBQ 8 (1946): 393-98; H. C. Thompson, “The Significance of the Term ’Asham in the Old Testament,” TGUOS 14 (1953): 20-26.

54 tn The verb is the Hitpael perfect tense with vav (ו) consecutive from the verb יָדָה (yadah), which in this stem means “acknowledge, confess sin,” but in the Hiphil (primarily) it means “praise, give thanks.” In both cases one is acknowledging something, either the sin, or the person and work of the Lord. Here the verb comes in the apodosis: “when…then he must confess.”

55 tn The verb is the Hiphil perfect of שׁוּב (shuv, “return”). Here it has the sense of “repay” with the word “reparation” (traditionally rendered “guilt offering,” but now is understood to refer to what was defrauded). The Levitical rulings called for the guilty to restore what was taken, if it could be made right, and pay a fifth more as a surcharge.

56 tn This is now the third use of אָשָׁם (’asham); the first referred to “guilt,” the second to “reparation,” and now “wronged.” The idea of “guilt” lies behind the second two uses as well as the first. In the second “he must repay his guilt” (meaning what he is guilty of); and here it can also mean “the one against whom he is guilty of sinning.”

57 sn For more information on the word, see A. R. Johnson, “The Primary Meaning of גאל,” VTSup 1 (1953): 67-77.

58 tc The editors of BHS prefer to follow the Greek, Syriac, and Latin and not read “for the Lord” here, but read a form of the verb “to be” instead. But the text makes more sense as it stands: The payment is to be made to the Lord for the benefit of the priests.

59 tn The Hebrew word תְּרוּמָה (tÿrumah) seems to be a general word for any offering that goes to the priests (see J. Milgrom, Studies in Cultic Theology and Terminology [SJLA 36], 159-72).

60 sn The “holy gifts” are described with the root of קֹדֶשׁ (qodesh) to convey that they were separate. Such things had been taken out of the ordinary and normal activities of life.

61 sn There is a good bit of bibliography here. See, e.g., J. M. Sasson, “Numbers 5 and the Waters of Judgment,” BZ 16 (1972): 249-51; and M. Fishbane, “Accusation of Adultery: A Study of Law and Scribal Practice in Numbers 5:11-31,” HUCA 45 (1974): 25-46.

62 tn Heb “and a man lies with her with the emission of semen.” This makes it clear that there was adultery involved, so that the going astray is going astray morally. The indication in the text is that if she had never behaved suspiciously the sin might not have been detected.

63 tc The sign of the accusative אֹתָהּ (’otah) is probably to be repointed to the preposition with the suffix, אִתָּהּ (’ittah).

64 tn Heb “and it is concealed from the eyes of her husband.”

65 tn The noun clause beginning with the simple conjunction is here a circumstantial clause, explaining that there was no witness to the sin.

66 tn The Hebrew text has the construct case, “spirit of jealousy.” The word “spirit” here has the sense of attitude, mood, feelings. The word קִנְאָה (qinah) is the genitive of attribute, modifying what kind of feelings they are. The word means either “zeal” or “jealousy,” depending on the context. It is a passionate feeling to guard or protect an institution or relationship. It can also express strong emotional possessiveness such as envy and coveting. Here there is a feeling of jealousy, but no proof of infidelity.

67 tn The word is now used in the Piel stem; the connotation is certainly “suspicious,” for his jealousy seems now to have some basis, even if it is merely suspicion.

68 tn The noun clause begins with the conjunction and the pronoun; here it is forming a circumstantial clause, either temporal or causal.

69 tn All the conditions have been laid down now for the instruction to begin – if all this happened, then this is the procedure to follow.

70 tn The Hebrew word is “jealousy,” which also would be an acceptable translation here. But since the connotation is that suspicion has been raised about the other person, “suspicion” seems to be a better rendering in this context.

71 tn The word “remembering” is זִכָּרוֹן (zikkaron); the meaning of the word here is not so much “memorial,” which would not communicate much, but the idea of bearing witness before God concerning the charges. The truth would come to light through this ritual, and so the attestation would stand. This memorial would bring the truth to light. It was a somber occasion, and so no sweet smelling additives were placed on the altar.

72 tn The final verbal form, מַזְכֶּרֶת (mazkeret), explains what the memorial was all about – it was causing iniquity to be remembered.

73 tn The verb is the Hiphil of the word “to stand.” It could be rendered “station her,” but that sounds too unnatural. This is a meeting between an accused person and the Judge of the whole earth.

74 tn This is probably water taken from the large bronze basin in the courtyard. It is water set apart for sacred service. “Clean water” (so NEB) does not capture the sense very well, but it does have the support of the Greek that has “pure running water.” That pure water would no doubt be from the bronze basin anyway.

75 tn Heb “from.” The preposition is used here with a partitive sense.

76 sn The dust may have come from the sanctuary floor, but it is still dust, and therefore would have all the pollutants in it.

77 tn The expression has been challenged. The first part, “bitter water,” has been thought to mean “water of contention” (so NEB), but this is not convincing. It has some support in the versions which read “contention” and “testing,” no doubt trying to fit the passage better. N. H. Snaith (Leviticus and Numbers [NCB], 129) suggests from an Arabic word that it was designed to cause an abortion – but that would raise an entirely different question, one of who the father of a child was. And that has not been introduced here. The water was “bitter” in view of the consequences it held for her if she was proven to be guilty. That is then enforced by the wordplay with the last word, the Piel participle הַמְאָרֲרִים (hamararim). The bitter water, if it convicted her, would pronounce a curse on her. So she was literally holding her life in her hands.

sn This ancient ritual seems to have functioned like a lie detector test, with all the stress and tension involved. It can be compared to water tests in the pagan world, with the exception that in Israel it was stacked more toward an innocent verdict. It seems to have been a temporary provision, for this is the only place that it appears, and no provision is made for its use later. It may have served as a didactic force, warning more than actually legislating. No provision is made in it for a similar charge to be brought against the man, but in the case of the suspicion of the woman the man would be very hesitant to demand this test given the harshness on false witnessing in Israel. The passage remains a rather strange section of the Law.

78 tn The word “other” is implied, since the woman would not be guilty of having sexual relations with her own husband.

79 sn Although there would be stress involved, a woman who was innocent would have nothing to hide, and would be confident. The wording of the priest’s oath is actually designed to enable the potion to keep her from harm and not produce the physical effects it was designed to do.

80 tn The pronoun is emphatic – “but you, if you have gone astray.”

81 tn This is an example of the rhetorical device known as aposiopesis, or “sudden silence.” The sentence is broken off due to the intensity or emphasis of the moment. The reader is left to conclude what the sentence would have said.

82 sn For information on such curses, see M. R. Lehmann, “Biblical Oaths,” ZAW 81 (1969): 74-92; A. C. Thiselton, “The Supposed Power of Words in the Biblical Writings,” JTS 25 (1974): 283-99; and F. C. Fensham, “Malediction and Benediction in Ancient Vassal Treaties and the Old Testament,” ZAW 74 (1962): 1-9.

83 tn Heb “the priest will say.”

84 tn This interpretation takes the two nouns as a hendiadys. The literal wording is “the Lord make you a curse and an oath among the people.” In what sense would she be an oath? The point of the whole passage is that the priest is making her take an oath to see if she has been sinful and will be cursed.

85 sn The outcome of this would be that she would be quoted by people in such forms of expression as an oath or a curse (see Jer 29:22).

86 tn The construction uses the infinitive construct with the preposition to form an adverbial clause: “in the giving of the Lord…,” meaning, “if and when the Lord makes such and such to happen.”

87 tn TEV takes the expression “your thigh” as a euphemism for the genitals: “cause your genital organs to shrink.”

88 sn Most commentators take the expressions to be euphemisms of miscarriage or stillbirth, meaning that there would be no fruit from an illegitimate union. The idea of the abdomen swelling has been reinterpreted by NEB to mean “fall away.” If this interpretation stands, then the idea is that the woman has become pregnant, and that has aroused the suspicion of the husband for some reason. R. K. Harrison (Numbers [WEC], 111-13) discusses a variety of other explanations for diseases and conditions that might be described by these terms. He translates it with “miscarriage,” but leaves open what the description might actually be. Cf. NRSV “makes your uterus drop, your womb discharge.”

89 tn The verb is the perfect tense with vav (ו) consecutive. It could be taken as a jussive following the words of the priest in the previous section, but it is more likely to be a simple future.

90 tn Heb “fall away.”

91 tn The word “amen” carries the idea of “so be it,” or “truly.” The woman who submits to this test is willing to have the test demonstrate the examination of God.

92 sn The words written on the scroll were written with a combination of ingredients mixed into an ink. The idea is probably that they would have been washed or flaked off into the water, so that she drank the words of the curse – it became a part of her being.

93 tn Heb “will be free”; the words “of ill effects” have been supplied as a clarification.

94 tn Heb “law of jealousies.”

95 sn The text does not say what the consequences are. Presumably the punishment would come from God, and not from those administering the test.

96 tn The word “iniquity” can also mean the guilt for the iniquity as well as the punishment of consequences for the iniquity. These categories of meanings grew up through figurative usage (metonymies). Here the idea is that if she is guilty then she must “bear the consequences.”

97 sn This chapter can be divided into five sections: The vow is described in vv. 1-8, then the contingencies for defilement are enumerated in vv. 9-12, then there is a discussion of discharging the vows in vv. 13-20, and then a summary in v. 21; after this is the high priestly blessing (vv. 22-27). For information on the vow, see G. B. Gray, “The Nazirite,” JTS 1 (1899-1900): 201-11; Z. Weisman, “The Biblical Nazirite, Its Types and Roots,” Tarbiz 36 (1967): 207-20; and W. Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament (OTL), 1:303-6.

98 tn The formula is used here again: “a man or a woman – when he takes.” The vow is open to both men and women.

99 tn The vow is considered special in view of the use of the verb יַפְלִא (yafli’), the Hiphil imperfect of the verb “to be wonderful, extraordinary.”

100 tn The construction uses the infinitive construct followed by the cognate accusative: “to vow a vow.” This intensifies the idea that the vow is being taken carefully.

101 tn The name of the vow is taken from the verb that follows; נָזַר (nazar) means “to consecrate oneself,” and so the Nazirite is a consecrated one. These are folks who would make a decision to take an oath for a time or for a lifetime to be committed to the Lord and show signs of separation from the world. Samuel was to be a Nazirite, as the fragment of the text from Qumran confirms – “he will be a נָזִיר (nazir) forever” (1 Sam 1:22).

102 tn The form of the verb is an Hiphil infinitive construct, forming the wordplay and explanation for the name Nazirite. The Hiphil is here an internal causative, having the meaning of “consecrate oneself” or just “consecrate to the Lord.”

103 tn The operative verb now will be the Hiphil of נָזַר (nazar); the consecration to the Lord meant separation from certain things in the world. The first will be wine and strong drink – barley beer (from Akkadian sikaru, a fermented beer). But the second word may be somewhat wider in its application than beer. The Nazirite, then, was to avoid all intoxicants as a sign of his commitment to the Lord. The restriction may have proved a hardship in the daily diet of the one taking the vow, but it spoke a protest to the corrupt religious and social world that used alcohol to excess.

104 tn The “vinegar” (חֹמֶץ, homets) is some kind of drink preparation that has been allowed to go sour.

105 tn This word occurs only here. It may come from the word “to water, to be moist,” and so refer to juice.

106 tn Heb “dried” (so KJV, ASV, NRSV).

107 tn This word also is rare, occurring only here.

108 sn Here is another hapax legomenon, a word only found here. The word seems linked to the verb “to be clear,” and so may mean the thin skin of the grape. The reason for the strictness with these two words in this verse is uncertain. We know the actual meanings of the words, and the combination must form a merism here, meaning no part of the grape could be eaten. Abstaining from these common elements of food was to be a mark of commitment to the Lord. Hos 3:1 even denounces the raisin cakes as part of a pagan world, and eating them would be a violation of the oath.

109 tc The parallel expression in v. 8 (“all the days of his separation”) lacks the word “vow.” This word is also absent in v. 5 in a few medieval Hebrew manuscripts. The presence of the word in v. 5 may be due to dittography.

110 sn There is an interesting parallel between this prohibition and the planting of trees. They could not be pruned or trimmed for three years, but allowed to grow free (Lev 20:23). Only then could the tree be cut and the fruit eaten. The natural condition was to be a sign that it was the Lord’s. It was to be undisturbed by humans. Since the Nazirite was to be consecrated to the Lord, that meant his whole person, hair included. In the pagan world the trimming of the beard and the cutting of the hair was often a sign of devotion to some deity.

111 tn Heb “days.”

112 tn The word “holy” here has the sense of distinct, different, set apart.

113 tn The Piel infinitive absolute functions as a verb in this passage; the Piel carries the sense of “grow lengthy” or “let grow long.”

114 tn The Hebrew verb is simply “enter, go,” no doubt with the sense of go near.

115 tn The Hebrew has נֶפֶשׁ מֵת (nefesh met), literally a “dead person.” But since the word נֶפֶשׁ can also be used for animals, the restriction would be for any kind of corpse. Death was very much a part of the fallen world, and so for one so committed to the Lord, avoiding all such contamination would be a witness to the greatest separation, even in a family.

116 tn The vav (ו) conjunction at the beginning of the clause specifies the cases of corpses that are to be avoided, no matter how painful it might be.

117 tn The construction uses the infinitive construct with the preposition and the suffixed subjective genitive – “in the dying of them” – to form the adverbial clause of time.

sn The Nazirite would defile himself, i.e., ruin his vow, by contacting their corpses. Jesus’ hard saying in Matt 8:22, “let the dead bury their own dead,” makes sense in the light of this passage – Jesus was calling for commitment to himself.

118 tn The word “separation” here is metonymy of adjunct – what is on his head is long hair that goes with the vow.

119 tn The genitive could perhaps be interpreted as possession, i.e., “the vow of his God,” but it seems more likely that an objective genitive would be more to the point.

120 tn The construction uses the imperfect tense followed by the infinitive absolute, יָמוּת מֵת (yamut met). Because the verb is in a conditional clause, the emphasis that is to be given through the infinitive must stress the contingency. The point is “if someone dies – unexpectedly.” The next words underscore the suddenness of this.

121 tn The verb is the Piel perfect with a vav (ו) consecutive; it continues the idea within the conditional clause.

122 sn The expression is figurative for the vow that he took; the figure is the metonymy because the reference to the head is a reference to the long hair that symbolizes the oath.

123 tn The imperfect tense in this verse is still instructional rather than a simple future. The translations can vary, but the point that it is directive must be caught.

124 tn The traditional translation of חַטָּאת (khattat) is “sin offering,” but it is more precise to render it “purification offering” (as with the other names of sacrifices) to show the outcome, not the cause of the offering (see Lev 4). Besides, this offering was made for ritual defilements (for which no confession was required) as well as certain sins (for which a confession of sin was required). This offering restored the person to the ritual state of purity by purifying the area into which he would be going.

125 tn The repetition of “the one…and the one” forms the distributive sense of “the one…and the other.”

126 tn The burnt offering (Lev 1) reflects the essence of atonement: By this sacrifice the worshiper was completely surrendering to God, and God was completely accepting the worshiper.

127 tn The verb וְכִפֶּר (vÿkhipper) is the Piel perfect with vav (ו) consecutive. The meaning of the verb is “to expiate, pacify, atone.” It refers to the complete removal of the barrier of fellowship between the person and God, and the total acceptance of that person into his presence. The idea of “to cover,” often linked to this meaning, is derived from a homonym, and not from this word and its usage.

128 tn The verb “to sin” has a wide range of meanings, beginning with the idea of “missing the way or the goal.” In view of the nature of this case – the prescribed ritual without confession – the idea is more that he failed to keep the vow’s stipulations in this strange circumstance than that he committed intentional sin.

129 tn The verb simply means “to consecrate,” but because it refers to a vow that was interrupted, it must here mean to “reconsecrate.”

130 tn The same idea is to be found now in the use of the word נָזַר (nazar), which refers to a recommitment after the vow was interrupted.

131 tn The necessity of bringing the reparation offering was due to the reinstatement into the vow that had been interrupted.

132 tn Heb “will fall”; KJV “shall be lost”; ASV, NASB, NRSV “shall be void.”

133 tc The similar expression in v. 9 includes the word “head” (i.e., “his consecrated head”). The LXX includes this word in v. 12 as well.

134 tn The Hebrew text has “he/one shall bring him”; since there is no expressed subject, this verb should be taken in the passive sense – “he shall be brought.” Since the context suggests an obligatory nuance, the translation “he must be brought” has been used. Some scholars solve the problem by emending the Hebrew text here, but there is no manuscript evidence to support the emendation.

135 tn Heb “he shall offer his offering” – the object is a cognate accusative.

136 sn The peace offering שְׁלָמִים (shÿlamim) is instructed in Lev 3 and 7. The form is always in the plural. It was a sacrifice that celebrated the fact that the worshiper was at peace with God, and was not offered in order to make peace with God. The peace offering was essentially a communal meal in the presence of God. Some have tried to equate this offering with similar sounding names in Akkadian and Ugaritic (see B. A. Levine, In the Presence of the Lord [SJLA], 3-52), but the unique features of the Israelite sacrifice make this connection untenable.

137 tn The suffixes in the MT are plural in this verse, whereas in v. 17 they are singular. This seems to be a matter of stylistic choice, referring to whomever may be taking the vow.

138 sn The offerings for the termination of the Nazirite vow would not have been inexpensive. This indicates that the person making the short term vow may have had income, or have come from a wealthier section of society. Short term vows had to be considered carefully as this ruling required a good amount of food to be brought.

139 tn “all these” is supplied as the object.

140 tn Heb “make.”

141 tn The “peace offering” is usually written as “a sacrifice of peace” (זֶבַח שְׁלָמִים, zevakh shÿlamim). The word “sacrifice” is related to the word “to slaughter,” and so indicates that this is a bloody offering in celebration of peace with God.

142 tn Some versions simply interpret this to say that he shaves his hair, for it is the hair that is the sign of the consecration to God. But the text says he shaves his consecrated head. The whole person is obviously consecrated to God – not just the head. But the symbolic act of cutting the hair shows that the vow has been completed (see Acts 21:23-24). The understanding of the importance of the hair in the ancient world has been the subject of considerable study over the years (see R. de Vaux, Ancient Israel, 436; and J. A. Thompson, “Numbers,” New Bible Commentary: Revised, 177).

143 sn Some commentators see this burning of the hair as an offering (McNeile, Numbers, 35; G. B. Gray, Numbers [ICC], 68). But others probably with more foundation see it as destroying something that has served a purpose, something that if left alone might be venerated (see R. de Vaux, Israel, 436).

144 tn Heb “which is under the peace offering.” The verse does not mean that the hair had to be put under that sacrifice and directly on the fire.

145 tn The line does not include the word “head”; it literally has “after the consecrating of himself his consecrated [head].” The infinitive construct is here functioning in the temporal clause with the suffix as the subject and the object following.

146 sn The ritual of lifting the hands filled with the offering and waving them in the presence of the Lord was designed to symbolize the transfer of the offering to God in the sight of all. This concludes the worshiper’s part; the offering now becomes the property of the priest – his priest’s due (or “raised/heave offering”).

147 sn The “wave offering” may be interpreted as a “special gift” to be transferred to the Lord, and the “heave offering” as a “special contribution” to God – the priest’s due. These two offerings have also inspired a good deal of study.

148 tn The imperfect tense here would then have the nuance of permission. It is not an instruction at this point; rather, the prohibition has been lifted and the person is free to drink wine.

149 tn Actually, “law” here means a whole set of laws, the basic rulings on this topic.

150 tn Heb “whatever else his hand is able to provide.” The imperfect tense has the nuance of potential imperfect – “whatever he can provide.”

151 tn Heb “according to the vow that he vows, so he must do.”

152 sn This brief section records the blessing of the priest, especially the high priest after he emerges from the holy of holies to bless the people (see Lev 9:22). The two main elements in the oracle are “grace and peace.” It is probable that the Apostle Paul based his salutations on this oracle. For additional information, see L. J. Liebreich, “The Songs of Ascent and the Priestly Blessing,” JBL 74 (1955): 33-36; P. D. Miller, “The Blessing of God: An Interpretation of Num 6:22-27,” Int 29 (1975): 240-51; and A. Murtonen, “The Use and Meaning of the Words lébarek and bérakah in the Old Testament,” VT 9 (1959): 158-77.

153 tn Or “thus.”

154 tn The Piel imperfect has the nuance of instruction. The particle “thus” explains that the following oracle is the form to use.

155 tn Here is the only use of the verb אָמַר (’amar) as an infinitive absolute; it functions as a verb form, an imperative or an imperfect of instruction. Several commentators have attempted to emend the text to get around the difficulty, but such emendations are unnecessary.

156 tn The short blessing uses the jussive throughout, here the Piel jussive with a pronominal suffix. While the jussive has quite a range of nuances, including wish, desire, prayer, or greeting, the jussives here are stronger. The formal subject of the verb is the Lord, and the speaker pronouncing the blessing is the priest, notably after emerging from the holy of holies where atonement has been made. The Lord says in this passage that when the priest says this, then the Lord will bless them. The jussive then is an oracle, not a wish or a prayer. It is a declaration of what the Lord imparts. It is as binding and sure as a patriarchal blessing which once said officially could not be taken back. The priest here is then pronouncing the word of the Lord, declaring to the congregation the outcome of the atonement.

157 tn The verb “to keep” concerns the divine protection of the people; its basic meaning is “to exercise great care over,” “to guard,” or “to give attention to” (see TWOT 2:939). No doubt the priestly blessing informed the prayer and promise that makes up Ps 121, for the verb occurs six times in the eight verses. So in addition to the divine provision (“bless” basically means “enrich” in a number of ways) there is the assurance of divine protection.

158 tn Whereas the first line of the blessing had three Hebrew words, the second has five, and the third has seven. In this second line and the following third, the blessing takes the form of an emblem followed by the truth. For the Lord to make his face shine on them would mean to be gracious to them. M. Noth rightly calls this image of the shining face “a figure of speech for benevolence and favour” (Numbers [OTL], 59); see, for example, Pss 4:7; 31:17; 44:4; 67:2; 80:4, 8, 20; 119:135; Dan 9:17). The image may have its inspiration in the theophanies. The picture is of divine favor – the beaming face of a parent for his beloved.

159 tn The last line of the blessing also has first the image and then the parallel interpretation – for God to lift up his face is for God to give peace. The idea of the fallen face is one of anger (see Gen 4:6,7); and the idea of the hidden face is that of withholding support, favor, or peace (see Deut 31:18; Ps 30:8; Ps 44:25). If God lifts his face toward his people, it means he has given them peace – peace, prosperity, completeness, health, safety, general well-being, and the like.

160 tn The idea of their putting the name of Yahweh on the people is somewhat problematic. The pronouncing of the name of Yahweh in this context over the people was taken to be the effectual means of blessings. “Putting the name on them” is an expression that emphasizes the truth that he is their God and they are his people or that having his name is having his blessing.



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