Numbers 4:49--5:1

4:49 According to the word of the Lord they were numbered, by the authority of Moses, each according to his service and according to what he was to carry. Thus were they numbered by him, as the Lord had commanded Moses.

Separation of the Unclean

5:1 Then the Lord spoke to Moses:

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.

tn Or “his burden.”

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.

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.