June 14, 2019

You Want Me to Pay for All of That?

Numbers 5

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Unclean People

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Command the people of Israel that they put out of the camp everyone who is leprous1 or has a discharge and everyone who is unclean through contact with the dead. You shall put out both male and female, putting them outside the camp, that they may not defile their camp, in the midst of which I dwell.” And the people of Israel did so, and put them outside the camp; as the LORD said to Moses, so the people of Israel did.

Confession and Restitution

And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel, When a man or woman commits any of the sins that people commit by breaking faith with the LORD, and that person realizes his guilt, he shall confess his sin that he has committed.2 And he shall make full restitution for his wrong, adding a fifth to it and giving it to him to whom he did the wrong. But if the man has no next of kin to whom restitution may be made for the wrong, the restitution for wrong shall go to the LORD for the priest, in addition to the ram of atonement with which atonement is made for him. And every contribution, all the holy donations of the people of Israel, which they bring to the priest, shall be his. 10 Each one shall keep his holy donations: whatever anyone gives to the priest shall be his.”

A Test for Adultery

11 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 12 “Speak to the people of Israel, If any man's wife goes astray and breaks faith with him, 13 if a man lies with her sexually, and it is hidden from the eyes of her husband, and she is undetected though she has defiled herself, and there is no witness against her, since she was not taken in the act, 14 and if the spirit of jealousy comes over him and he is jealous of his wife who has defiled herself, or if the spirit of jealousy comes over him and he is jealous of his wife, though she has not defiled herself, 15 then the man shall bring his wife to the priest and bring the offering required of her, a tenth of an ephah3 of barley flour. He shall pour no oil on it and put no frankincense on it, for it is a grain offering of jealousy, a grain offering of remembrance, bringing iniquity to remembrance.

16 “And the priest shall bring her near and set her before the LORD. 17 And the priest shall take holy water in an earthenware vessel and take some of the dust that is on the floor of the tabernacle and put it into the water. 18 And the priest shall set the woman before the LORD and unbind the hair of the woman's head and place in her hands the grain offering of remembrance, which is the grain offering of jealousy. And in his hand the priest shall have the water of bitterness that brings the curse. 19 Then the priest shall make her take an oath, saying, ‘If no man has lain with you, and if you have not turned aside to uncleanness while you were under your husband's authority, be free from this water of bitterness that brings the curse. 20 But if you have gone astray, though you are under your husband's authority, and if you have defiled yourself, and some man other than your husband has lain with you, 21 then’ (let the priest make the woman take the oath of the curse, and say to the woman) ‘the LORD make you a curse and an oath among your people, when the LORD makes your thigh fall away and your body swell. 22 May this water that brings the curse pass into your bowels and make your womb swell and your thigh fall away.’ And the woman shall say, ‘Amen, Amen.’

23 “Then the priest shall write these curses in a book and wash them off into the water of bitterness. 24 And he shall make the woman drink the water of bitterness that brings the curse, and the water that brings the curse shall enter into her and cause bitter pain. 25 And the priest shall take the grain offering of jealousy out of the woman's hand and shall wave the grain offering before the LORD and bring it to the altar. 26 And the priest shall take a handful of the grain offering, as its memorial portion, and burn it on the altar, and afterward shall make the woman drink the water. 27 And when he has made her drink the water, then, if she has defiled herself and has broken faith with her husband, the water that brings the curse shall enter into her and cause bitter pain, and her womb shall swell, and her thigh shall fall away, and the woman shall become a curse among her people. 28 But if the woman has not defiled herself and is clean, then she shall be free and shall conceive children.

29 “This is the law in cases of jealousy, when a wife, though under her husband's authority, goes astray and defiles herself, 30 or when the spirit of jealousy comes over a man and he is jealous of his wife. Then he shall set the woman before the LORD, and the priest shall carry out for her all this law. 31 The man shall be free from iniquity, but the woman shall bear her iniquity.”


[1] 5:2 Leprosy was a term for several skin diseases; see Leviticus 13
[2] 5:7 Hebrew they shall confess their sin that they have committed
[3] 5:15 An ephah was about 3/5 bushel or 22 liters

You Want Me to Pay for All of That?

Key Verse | Numbers 5:5-7

And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "Speak to the people of Israel, When a man or woman commits any of the sins that people commit by breaking faith with the LORD, and that person realizes his guilt, he shall confess his sin that he has committed. And he shall make full restitution for his wrong, adding a fifth to it and giving it to him to whom he did the wrong."

Bio | Christina Edwards

Hello! My name is Christina Edwards. Six years ago, I walked into The Porch (Watermark's young adult ministry), and I was challenged with a simple question: "Would people know you were a Christian by the way you acted?" Now I get to volunteer at The Porch, sharing what God has done in my life.

Some fun facts about me:

  • I once wound up in the ER after a watermelon seed-spitting contest with a seed stuck in my ear;
  • I can't ride a bike; and
  • If cooking were a love language, it would be mine. 

Central Truth

God cares about our relationship with Him and our relationships with other people. 

Devotional | Numbers 5

I grew up an Army brat—moving every few years and loving it. I developed a knack for talking to people and quickly making friends. I learned, however, that making friends and developing ...

I grew up an Army brat—moving every few years and loving it. I developed a knack for talking to people and quickly making friends. I learned, however, that making friends and developing meaningful relationships were not the same thing.

God made us to live in relationship with others. He created us in His image (Genesis 1:26-27), said it was not good for us to be alone (Genesis 2:18), and even called us His friend (James 2:23). But I learned that my inability to recognize or own up to my mistakes was creating a barrier to developing meaningful relationships. Sin creates separation between us and those around us. 

But God knows this, and in Numbers 5 He provides a roadmap for restoring relationships that have been damaged by sin. He says to:

  1. Reflect and determine the sins you have committed against others (Numbers 5:6);
  2. Share those sins with God (Numbers 5:7); and
  3. Take inventory of the true damage your sin has caused, and determine what it will take to leave those you have hurt better than you found them (Numbers 5:7).

In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus passes through a crowd in Jericho; meets Zacchaeus, a chief tax collector; and stays at his home. Zacchaeus is transformed by knowing Jesus. And tellingly, he acts to immediately provide restitution for the hurt he had caused to others (Luke 19:8).

For most of my life, pride kept me from restoring relationships that I had damaged. But I recently completed re:generation, Watermark's 12-step recovery program. In step 4, I surveyed the damage my sin had done to others. In step 9, I faithfully followed in Zacchaeus' footsteps and began making amends with family and friends.  

Jesus took on the weight of our sins (past, present, and future) when He died on the cross, so we can freely confess our sins to Him. And we can make amends to reconcile with those around us that He has called us to live in relationship with.

See Comments

Discussion Questions

1. What keeps you from fully confessing your sins to God?

2. In what areas of your life do you "go it alone" because you believe God can't or won't show up?

3. What is keeping you from restoring damaged relationships?

9 Comments available

Jay Caruso 6 days ago

Thank you Christina Sin creates separation between us and those around us. I think when the Holy Spirit is in your heart you feel convicted to confess your sins and be able to forgive and deal with the consequences of your with Jesus beside you

Michael Scaman 11 days ago

In the opening verses, sins against others are sins against the Lord.

Atoning sacrifice to the Lord Restitution for the neighbor 20% of the restitution to the priests

“Against you only have I sinned” Psalm 51

greg jones 11 days ago

Ancient instant replay-this jealousy is under further review.

Some Christians say this. After reviewing the review and after walking with God a little longer we’ve ruled, whether warranted jealousy or unwarranted jealousy, women being made to drink poison is not a good idea, and we say this without nuance. They are today’s fundamentalist when it comes to women not being required to take a jealousy test. However because of their fundamentalism on that issue they say it requires them to nuance their understanding of “and the LORD said to Moses.”

Don Freeman 11 days ago


Richard Kirk 11 days ago
Reply right arrow

Sue, Thanks for pointing out God’s grace!

Hope Harris 11 days ago

In reading today’s passage I had to remind myself that the sexual integrity is Moral Law that applies to all people “men and women”, across time and place.

Marriage has freedom with limits. Men and women are are to both to remain faithful and committed to their spouse. Stepping outside of this relationship causes “relational vandalism.” (Bible Project)

A broken marriage invokes hostility and jealousy. It brings tension to household distrust and so much more. Far fromGods plan of peace health and wholeness.

Lord today I lift up marriages that are suffering from acts of adultery. Would you restore those relationships and reconcile spouses to you and each other.

Hugh Stephenson 11 days ago

I am reflecting on verses 5-10. Until re:gen I never fully appreciated how critical confession is to my own spiritual health and maturity. And then, even how important amends is. God demands justice and restitution. Satan battles me all the way.

I love the quotation below. Especially the first sentence.

“Between covenant promise and covenant possession lay a process of rigorous journey through hostile opposition of terrain and terror. Israel had to understand that occupation of the land could be achieved only through much travail, for Canaan, like creation itself, was under alien dominion and it had to be wrested away by force, by the strong arm of Yahweh, who would fight on behalf of His people.” (Constable quotes Merrill.)

Father, I pray to chain my heart to your covenant promise. Only my complete and total surrender can see me through to it’s possession.

Sue Bohlin 12 days ago

Thank you Christina! I bet you got real excited when reading the chapter you drew for writing a devo, huh? grin

OK, I’ll say it–this section is just WEIRD.

I’ve known a number of women with jealous husbands who put more faith in their groundless fears than in their faithful wives. It’s a hard situation, and I can’t even imagine how much harder in that ancient culture where men pretty much had all the power. But as weird as this “drink this potion” command is, we can see God’s tender grace on display for an innocent wife married to a jealous husband whose ego was easily bruised by mere thoughts rather than any evidence. This ritual was like a pre-technology lie detector test: if you were innocent, you had nothing to fear, and the accusing husband would bear the shame rather than the wife.

Michael Scaman 13 days ago

One would think the possibility of bringing a curse and God holding people accountable would be a good restrainer Num 5:23-24 with curses and consequences - and could even mean vindication. But people are fallen and fear of punishment doesn’t always restrain.

As far as ‘unclean people’, ironically (SPOILER ALERT - Numbers 12) Aaron and Miriam will question Moses about Moses wife (and possibly about her African background) and Miriam coming ‘white’ with leprosy becoming (an unclean person) and Miriam although healed will have to ‘do some time’ as if unclean.

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