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Numbers 5:12-17

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 1  with her 2  without her husband knowing it, 3  and it is hidden that she has defiled herself, since 4  there was no witness against her, nor was she caught – 5:14 and if jealous feelings 5  come over him and he becomes suspicious 6  of his wife, when she is defiled; 7  or if jealous feelings come over him and he becomes suspicious of his wife, when she is not defiled – 5:15 then 8  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, 9  a grain offering for remembering, 10  for bringing 11  iniquity to remembrance.

5:16 “‘Then the priest will bring her near and have her stand 12  before the Lord. 5:17 The priest will then take holy water 13  in a pottery jar, and take some 14  of the dust 15  that is on the floor of the tabernacle, and put it into the water.

Numbers 5:27

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.

1 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.

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

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

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

5 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.

6 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.

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

8 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.

9 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.

10 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.

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

12 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.

13 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.

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

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

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