Todays Reading: Numbers 4-5
The theme of today’s reading is one we have continued to see in our journey with the Israelites encamped in the wilderness. Purity was an important topic for their journey. Like today, our relationship with God matters and after we have accepted Christ, though our sin is forgiven, sin is unacceptable to God. It hinders our connection with Him. Purity matters for us.
For the Israelites, any type of defilement was an issue and to be “clean” and “unclean” was a everyday concern for God’s people. Like us, they wanted to be in tune with God and His workmanship in their lives. So God used real physical issues such as disease to help His people understand their spiritual state.
I couldn’t help but be intrigued by the marriage defilement exercise in verses 11-31. It’s like a version of Jerry Springer- desert style.
“This ritual is an acted-out prayer that God would show whether a man’s suspicions about his wife’s fidelity were justified. The test is designed to distinguish between actual-but-unwitnessed adultery and unwarranted suspicion.
The actions all underline the seriousness of the sin of adultery. When an adulterous man and woman were caught in the act, they faced the death penalty in Israel (Deut. 22:22) and elsewhere in the ancient Near East. On this occasion the husband is merely suspicious. To confirm or dispel his suspicions the woman must offer a sacrifice (Num. 5:15–16), drink water containing dust from the floor of the tabernacle (i.e., dust from the presence of God; v. 17), and accept a curse against herself that her womb swell and her thigh fall away (vv. 19–22) if she is guilty. It is not clear exactly what this threat means (the focus is on the members of her body with which she may have sinned), but it could be a threat of a miscarriage.
Ultimately, though, the guilty wife is threatened with childlessness, a catastrophe in Bible times, whereas the innocent is assured she shall be free and shall conceive children (v. 28; cf. Gen. 20:17–18).” 1
Pretty strange if you ask me. This was a public event that took place at the door of The Tabernacle as the whole camp watched. Who would expose their marriage to such shame? The same reason why people go on Dr. Phil, Maury, or Springer – a lack of maturity. Just to put your wife through such a thing shows a little bit about the husband. If the husband was hurt by a suspicion of infidelity, why put your marriage through even more pain? One of the two partners would have to live with the consequences of the result rather than taking other more godly avenues to reconciliation.
There’s no record of anyone taking advantage of this “infidelity test”. Perhaps the very existence of it helped detour the Israelites from committing adultery and to prove there are better way’s to achieve reconciliation.
Even though the exercise of truthfulness is one that seems quite bizarre to our culture, the point of it all is so important for us today. God wants purity in our marriage. No one can escape the consequences of a unhealthy marriage. Unhealthy marriages impact the entire family unit as well as the entire faith community. God can forgive any sin and help us with any marital struggle regardless of their extreme. 2
God’s love is bigger.
God is there to help and that’s what we can go through the day with heavy on our heart.
-Follow the other staff members and their observations from our chronological Bible readings here.
1. The ESV Study Bible, (Wheaton, Illinois, Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Bibles 2001).
2. Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Geneisis-Deuteronomy, (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook Publishing, 2001).