Study Guide

Book of Numbers Chapter 5

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Chapter 5

Getting Rid Of The Sickies

  • But before they hit the road, God tells Moses that they need to kick anyone out of camp who "is leprous" (i.e. has a skin disease), suffers from a discharge, or anyone who's unclean because they've touched a dead body (because who doesn't love touching dead bodies?).
  • Obviously, this makes total sense to the people (after all, God is dwelling in their camp and they can't have these sickies grossing him out), so they do it.
  • Next, God lays out the penalties for someone who does wrong. Not only has this person upset the community, but he or she has also lost faith in God. And trust us, you do not want to do that.
  • First, he or she has to confess their sins to everyone. Then, that wrongdoer's got to make it financially right by paying the person they've jerked around what they lost plus 20% more.
  • If there's no wronged party or next of kin, the money goes to the priests. Along with a nice juicy ram of atonement. Score!

All The Adulterous Ladies

  • Finally, God lays out a whole ritual for figuring out if your wife has been unfaithful. It's a doozy, but let's go step by step.
  • Let's say, one day, a husband suspects that his wife has been sleeping around. He doesn't have any proof though. Today, we would say he's out of luck. But Numbers has a ritual for these jealous dudes.
  • What the man does is bring his wife to the priest along with an offering of barley (without oil or frankincense added to spice it up). The priest takes a cup of holy water, mixes it with some dust from the floor of the tabernacle (gross) and then messes up the woman's hair.
  • Can't a girl even look good when she's on trial?
  • The priest tells the woman that the water carries a curse. If she's been a good little wifey, when she drinks it, nothing will happen. But if she's been naughty, God will make "her womb discharge [and] her uterus drop." Um, ouch.
  • Then, the priest writes the curse on the cup, makes the woman drink the water and everyone sits back to see what happens. Is she a sinful harlot who will be cast out of the community forever? Or will her uterus stay in one place? The water will reveal all.
  • (Side note: No, actually it probably won't.)
  • Note that this ritual doesn't apply to adulterous men. (Who care about them? Boys will be boys, right?) But ladies better watch out.

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