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1 And Yahweh spake unto Moses [Moshe], saying,

2 Command the children of Israel [Bnei Yisroel], that they put out of the camp [machaneh] every leper [tzaru'a], and every one that hath an issue [discharge], and whosoever is defiled by the dead [tameh lanefesh (unclean, defiled by reason of contact with a corpse)].

With the Sanctuary standing in such close relationship to the people it followed, as an essential element in the symbolism, that the Camp should be holy. To teach this, use was made once again of a "carnal ordinance". As the flesh-eating laws served to remind Israel, what was "clean" typified those in Covenant relationship to God; conversely, what was "unclean" represented those not so related to Him. On this account the contraction of ceremonial uncleanness by an Israelite entailed the technical loss of Covenant status.

Those affected by it had therefore no logical right to be in the Camp. To demonstrate that fact as true in every case, upon the erection of the Sanctuary certain cases (i.e., the worst) were selected as a ground for formal exclusion from the Camp, and the remaining cases as a ground of exclusion from the Sanctuary itself (Lev. I2 : 4: cf. 7 : 20). "The Lord spake unto Moses saying, Command the children of Israel that they put out of the camp every leper, and every one that hath an issue, and whosoever is defiled by the dead" (Num. 5 : I-2).

Upon their cure, or after a due lapse of time (as necessity required), people thus excluded from the Camp were permitted to recover their legal status (and, with it, their right to dwell in the Camp) by the observance of highly significant ritual and sacrificial ordinances (e.g., Lev. 15*; Num. I9t). While unclean they were forbidden to remain in proximity to the Sanctuary. "Both male and female shall ye put out, without the camp shall ye put them; that they defile not their camps, in the midst whereofI dwell" (Num. 5 : 3).

This was of a piece with the exclusion from the soldiers' encampment of any man "not clean by reason of uncleanness". "He shall not come within the camp", was the inflexible rule in his case, where considerations of hardship could be left out of account.

Thus God insisted through the medium of symbol that He could not dwell except with those who were in Covenant relationship to Him, and who realized the implications of that relationship in terms of holiness. God would have them know that He would tolerate no sort of corruption in those who were His. In the case of the soldiers' encampment it was human excrement which visibly symbolized corruption, and in the case of the Camp it was disease and death, but the rule for the one held good for the other-"The Lord thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp ... therefore shall thy camp be holy".

Law and Grace Ch 5

The corrupting condition of the flesh was a parable of the corroding effects of sin, patent for all to see; while the mortification of limb after limb typified death as the end to which sin inexorably leads. The dual parable taught plainly that corruption on the physical plane is but the image and the outcome of corruption on the moral plane (the converse also being true in the final reckoning).

The divine ban was therefore both comprehensive and inexorable. "Command the children of Israel, that they put out of the camp every leper, and every one that hath an issue, and whosoever is defiled by the dead". Such a ban was calculated to make every - devout man and woman in Israel realize how utterly sin separates man from God, for to what did the exclusion of such people from the Camp correspond if not to Adam's expulsion from the Garden? It made clear to all still left in the Camp that the obligation devolving upon them as residents there was nothing less than that of manifesting perfect sinlessness. Yet none could in practice achieve it! No matter; they were expected nevertheless to give ritual assent that such was indeed their duty by punctilious conformity to the ceremonial laws.

"Thus shall ye separate the children of Israel from their uncleanness; that they die not in their uncleanness, when they defile my tabernacle that is among them" (Lev. 15: 31).

"That they die not in their uncleanness." How significant was that caution! How close it revealed the connection between sin and death to be! Persuading the Israelite on the one hand that "there is none righteous, no, not one", what could the uncleanness regulations teach him on the other, but that "by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men for that all have sinned"? Thus through fear of death the Israelite was in one sense all his lifetime subject to bondage.

Law and Grace Ch 7


"It is an offering of jealousy, an offering of memorial, bringing iniquity to remembrance."

11 And Yahweh spake unto Moses [Moshe], saying,

12 Speak unto the children of Israel [Bnei Yisroel], and say unto them, If any man's wife [Isha] go aside, and commit a trespass [is unfaithful] against him,

"To teach when it is unclean and when it is clean": true of the leprosy laws in particular, this may with justice be said to be the ulterior purpose of every other regulation which found its place beside them in the ritual of the Law. Every mention of uncleanness, or of cleanness, was a veiled allusion to the absence, or existence, of Covenant relationship to God, and of the moral condition which was in each case presupposed. ' That relationship-its character, conditions and ethical demands - may in fact be said to constitute the great over-arching theme-study of every sub-division of the Law.

To be God's, and His alone, such was the purpose of Israel's election. "I the Lord am holy, and have severed you from other people that ye should be mine" (Lev, 20 : 26). To this fact the law of the Jealousy Offering (Num. 5: 11-31) was designed to give the most solemn emphasis. The sacredness and inviolability of the Covenant were symbolized in this instance by the mystic union of the marriage bond.

By Covenant God and Israel had become one, as man and woman do in wedlock. Thus apostasy, being as shameful an act of infidelity on the spiritual plane as adultery upon the physical, came naturally to be alluded to as "whoredom" (with all that the term implied by way of those immoral acts which are the inevitable outcome of perverted worship). It was "uncleanness" in the widest sense of the term-both in its nature and in its consequences-and thus utterly incompatible with Israel's holy calling (Deut. 6: 12-15).

Small wonder that the Priests (types here again of the Priestly People) were strictly forbidden to contract defiling marriages. The law was, "They shall not take a wife that is a whore, or profane, neither shall they take a woman put away from her husband: for he is holy unto the Lord" (Lev. 21 : 7).

What the priestly legislation thus taught incidentally, the Law of Jealousies reiterated in intensified form. It conferred upon a husband who was suspicious of his wife's chastity the right to extort from her upon oath a protestation of her innocence. If his suspicions were well-founded, it meant that the woman had been guilty of "going aside to uncleanness". Bearing in mind the twofold symbolic meaning which the Law attached to the term "uncleanness", how effectively we find the woman's act to have typified disloyalty by Israel to the Covenant bond.

And how properly too did the Law denounce it as a "trespass" (i.e., a deprivation of another's rights), and thereby intimate that such disloyalty was an act of robbery against God who had declared, "I have severed you from other people that ye should be mine".

It is precisely this which makes so luminous what would otherwise be a puzzling and discordant feature of the ritual enjoined in this case. Whereas the law conferred a right upon the husband, it made no mention of the same privilege for the woman if not she, but her husband himself, were the offending party. It can, of course, be argued that here, as elsewhere, the law accommodated itself to the social customs prevailing at the time of the Exodus. This is doubtless true; but it is a wholly inadequate explanation of the discrepancy.

Once we see in the wife (and in the wife only) a type of Israel, and so in her husband a type of God, all immediately becomes plain. It is at once obvious why the Law could legislate for infidelity in the case only of the woman. Israel might fail-and did! But that God either could, or would, fail was utterly unthinkable, and the Law designedly left no room for the veriest suspicion of it in the ritual.

It in fact did the exact opposite, declaring the action of the husband in such cases to be an act of self-vindication and a desirable repudiation of any suggestion of connivance or indifference on his part. "Then", said the Law, "shall the man be guiltless from iniquity, and this woman shall bear her iniquity." How effectively did this remind Israel that their divine Husband, in order to be true to His essential holiness, would be compelled to visit judgment and cursing upon them should they be false to Him.

Law and Grace Ch 9

13 And a man lie with her carnally, and it be hid from the eyes of her husband [ish], and be kept close, and she be defiled [she become tameh secretly], and there be no witness [no ed] against her, neither she be taken with the manner [caught];

14 And the spirit of jealousy [ ruach kina] come upon him, and he be jealous of his wife [isha], and she be defiled: or if the spirit of jealousy come upon him, and he be jealous of his wife, and she be not defiled [tameh]:

... the purpose of the ritual was only to put the wife to the proof, and not automatically to bring curse upon her: it could equally as often vindicate her innocence as expose her guilt. At the most there was only a presumption of uncleanness, and special allowance was made for the fact that her husband's suspicions were as yet unsubstantiated.

When therefore she was brought by him to the Sanctuary to undergo the trial of jealousy her case was strictly sub judice, and the ritual took careful account of that fact, catering simultaneously for possibilities both of guilt and of innocence. If as an outcome of the trial she was shown to be actually guilty, no pardon would be available to her, but death would inevitably be her punishment. 

On the other hand, were she to be proved innocent no pardon would be necessary, for there would be no sin to forgive. So the notion of expiation-this being either impossible or unnecessary on this occasion-was perforce excluded from the ritual. The woman's offering had therefore to be a cereal [v15]- that is, a bloodless -offering.

Here, however, a complication arose in view of the circumstances attending its presentation: it still remained to be seen whether her protestation were sincere or an empty pretence-whether she were really innocent or guilty. Therefore the normal adjuncts of Meal Offering, namely, oil and frankincense - the one symbolizing the origin of her works in God and the other their acceptability to Him - were forbidden in this exceptional case.

Law and Grace Ch 9

15 Then shall the man [ ish] bring his wife [isha] unto the priest [kohen], and he shall bring her offering [korban] for her, the tenth part of an ephah of barley meal; he shall pour no oil [shemen] upon it, nor put frankincense thereon; for it is an offering of jealousy [minchat kinot (grain offering of jealousies)], an offering of memorial [minchat zekaron (grain offering of memorial)], bringing iniquity [avon] to remembrance.

Oil and incense forbidden as inappropriate in a jealousy offering whose purpose was to bring iniquity to remembrance. The meal offering Lev 2, in contrast, included oil and incense because it was bringing good works to remembrance.

Allowance was next made for the fact that her ordeal, being both unsolicited and possibly unmerited, was a most humiliating experience, and anything but an act of worship. In place of the normal cereal offering of fine flour, which in the circumstances would have been both incongruous and unbecoming, barley meal - the lowliest variety of flour - was the meal prescribed for her. Yet her offering had of necessity to be brought into relation with the Altar, since her purpose in coming to the Sanctuary at her husband's behest was to protest her innocence before God whose Altar it was.

Law and Grace Ch 9

17 And the priest [kohen] shall take holy water [mayim kedoshim] in an earthen vessel; and of the dust that is in the floor of the tabernacle [Mishkan] the priest [kohen] shall take, and put it into the water [mayim]:

Here God was pleased to reveal Himself. Here He spake, as promised, to Moses, so that the very dust of the Sanctuary acquired holy properties. Thus the Sanctuary, while acting as a telling reminder to Israel of their sinfulness, bade them so fashion themselves as a nation that they should fulfil on the spiritual, as well as the literal plane the divine command:

"Let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them".

One alone in Israel put those words into effect, he in whom God's fulness dwelt. Let us thank God that His wishes and purposes thus became fact and serve as the earnest of that time when there will be heard a great voice out of heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God" (Rev. 21 : 3). The symbolism of the Most Holy Place will then be accomplished fact so that "there shall be no more death" (verse 4), and the morally leprous, corrupt and defiled will be for ever banned from the Holy Camp, and God will be all in all.


It is interesting to reflect that never once is any mention made of footwear for the priests. The presumption must be that they ministered in the Sanctuary barefooted, it being as much "holy ground" as the soil in the vicinity of the Burning Bush upon which Moses was forbidden to tread until he had first put off his shoes.

Law and Grace Ch 5

18 And the priest [kohen] shall set the woman [isha] before Yahweh, and uncover the woman's head [unbind the hair of the isha], and put the offering of memorial [minchat zekaron] in her hands, which is the jealousy offering [minchat kena'ot]: and the priest [kohen] shall have in his hand the bitter water that causeth the curse [mei hamarim hame'ararim]:

19 And the priest [kohen] shall charge her by an oath, and say unto the woman [isha], If no man have lain with thee, and if thou hast not gone aside to uncleanness [tum'a (uncleanness, impurity)]  with another instead of thy husband, be thou free from this bitter water that causeth the curse [mei hamarim hame'ararim];

Awesome indeed must have been the woman's trial. In an earthen vessel the priest placed "holy water" (drawn doubtless from the Laver), fortified with an admixture of dust from the floor of the Tabernacle - the sacred abode of God most holy. As she stood before him with uncovered head - in token of her humiliation - with her offering in her hands, the priest, holding the earthen vessel in his own hands, called on her to swear on oath that she was innocent, and to give assent with twofold "Amen" to the curses which would punish perjury.

The priest then recorded these curses in a book and symbolically washed them into the water which became "bitter" as a result -"bitter", of course, not in taste but in its associations and potential power for harm. Finally, taking the woman's offering, and, in conformity with her protestation of innocence, first waving it as a consecrated thing before God, the priest burnt the usual memorial [azkarah.) on the Altar. The woman had then forthwith to complete the ceremony by drinking the contents of the earthen vessel, fearing no ill effect if truly innocent, but incurring inevitable curse if actually guilty.

That curse would become operative in a distressing disease causing barrenness (and visible bodily changes as outward symptoms of it*) in cases of guilt - the water itself possessing not some magical potency but only a symbolic injurious power.

*The absence of these visible symptoms would preserve other barren women from the suspicion of unchastity.

Law and Grace Ch 9.

29 This is the law of jealousies [torat hakena'ot], when a wife [isha] goeth aside to another instead of her husband [ish], and is defiled;

Moses, in evident allusion to the Law of Jealousies, bade Israel beware "lest there should be among you a root that beareth gall and wormwood" that would lead them to neglect the Covenant with God in favour of another, i.e., to turn aside unto uncleanness (Deut. 29: 10-18) like the unchaste wife. Curses of sickness and barrenness would result from such infidelity, and they would be uprooted from their land (verses 19-28).

The Apostle merely borrowed his imagery from both the ritual of the Jealousy Offering and the comments of Moses upon it when he warned the would-be apostates of his own day to look diligently "lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; lest there be any fornicator or profane person, as Esau". His words are a reminder to us to-day that the moral principles of the Old Covenant have carried over into the New.

Law and Grace Ch 9

Hebrew interpolations from Bamidbar 5 Orthodox Jewish Bible (OJB)