The next few chapters were a little incongruous and mostly about some administrative business. Perhaps these rules and guidances from God address issues that we readers are not privvy to, but there’s no way to know for sure. It just reads a little disjointed as it goes from putting out the leprous to making restitution to a test for adultery without any kind of transition. And yes, I want to talk about all three. So let’s dive in.
The chapter begins with putting the leprous and anyone with a discharge of any kind out of the camp. There are two things that strike me with this. The first is that everything involved in procreation falls under this. So how does that work? And it must be terribly inconvenient and unnerving to have to move in and out of camp all the time as women with periods would have to do. Which brings me to the second, I couldn’t find a good source on what everyone was supposed to do while they were out there, but I imagine that even the sick kids would be out there and moms wouldn’t want to leave them untended. Though there were probably plenty of women on their period out there to tend to the sick kids and perhaps other adults. Of course, this also assumes that such carework was the sole domain of the women. Was that a way of saying to keep the hospital outside the camp now that they were going into war?
Yeah, I read way into this but it really got my attention.
Right after that is the thing about restitution, which I liked. It doesn’t assume that people do things that are amoral on purpose but that sometimes mistakes happen. It’s also not partial to gender, which I appreciate. This restitution begins with a payment to or reconciling with those wronged and then to God.
Then comes the test for adultery which really is insulting and then some. First of all, only men can accuse wives of adultery. Is it okay for a man to do? Is it not adultery when a man sleeps with someone other than his wife? What’s the deal? Either way, the test is designed for women only. This is how it goes:
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. 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, 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. 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.’
Like I said before, multiple issues with this area. Let’s begin with that this is forced on the woman. Also, what does “makes your thigh fall away and your body swell” mean? I did a google search and saw that there are many theories as to what this means, but nothing sounded terribly concrete. I did think it was interesting that one theory was that this induced miscarraige, so it was an ancient abortion ritual that somehow proved adultery. I didn’t say any of it made sense.
There’s also a grain offering of jealousy that happens regardless of whether or not the woman is guilty. This is because the husband brought her there for a reason. Guilty or not, he suspected something and deserves to pay atonement for that. I found that to be an interesting point in an entirely different way. Being jealous of your own spouse’s behavior, warranted or not, is something that needs to be atoned for with God. The last verse is one of those verses that is easily taken out of context when read alone, but it doesn’t mean what it sounds like when you read the whole thing together. The woman will be guilty of what she is guilty of and the man won’t. But the man in this case is just a husband who is checking to see if his wife is cheating on him. He isn’t actually guilty of anything but the jealousy which he must atone for with God either way, so then his guilt is done.
This chapter mostly revolves around the vow of the Nazirite. This is a vow available to both men and women and it is to “separate himself to the Lord”. Of course, the word “Nazirite” is interesting in itself from it’s familiarity and some of those who we are taught were Nazirites later down the line. For now, there is no special thing about them other than that they choose this and that it seems that they are non-Levites who choose to serve the tent of meeting or the Lord in some way. There are no specific duties outlined here.
Then it ends with a blessing that Aaron is to give the people of Israel.
The chief of each tribe must make a dedication offering on the day the alter was anointed and this chapter catalogues what those items were along with some carts and oxen that went to the Levites to carry the items for the tent of meeting. These items were distributed “according to their service” and not evenly because not everyone had things from the tent of meeting that were supposed to be carried in carts. For example, the sons of Kohath, who is a Levite among Aaron, don’t get any carts because their burdens are those that can only be carried by people.
This chapter begins with setting up some lampstands but is predominantly about the Levites. There are instructions on the “cleansing” of the Levites so that they may begin their work and then what years of their lives they would be “doing service”, which is about 25 to 50. After 50 they can keep gaurd but not do service.
The cleansing ritual here is pretty interesting. The unusual elements were using people as the wave offering (all the Levites) and that the congregation was to lay hands on them during the whole thing. It also solidified the Levites as taking the place of the first borns for God.
So there are my feelings and impressions on chapters 5-8 of Numbers. Have you read it? What do you think?