INTERIOR SANCTITIES OF ISRAEL

                           (Chapters 5 and 6)

 

 

 

                                    Ch. 5

 

vs.1-4 -  REMOVAL OF THE UNCLEAN.

vs. 5-10 -  RESTITUTION OF TRESPASS,

vs. 11-31 -  JEALOUSY PURGED.

 

 

                                    Ch. 6

 

vs. 1-21: NAZARITES DEDICATED.

vs. 22-27: BLESSING OF THE PEOPLE.

 

Whether these portions of the Divine legislation are connected with the

surrounding narrative:

 

(1) by an order of time, as having been given at this point, or

(2) by a harmony of subject, as completing on its inward side the perfection

      of the camp, or whether

(3) their insertion here was in a sense accidental, and not now to be

      accounted for, must remain uncertain.

 

Against (1) it must be observed that there is a decided break in the order of time

at the beginning of chapter 7.

 

Against (2) that a large part of the Levitical enactments might have been added

here with an equal propriety.

 

 

 

            Numbers 5

 

                        THE UNCLEAN TO BE REMOVED (vs. 1-4).

 

1  “And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,  2  Command the children of

Israel, that they put out of the camp every leper,” – The law of the leper had

been given in great detail in Leviticus 13 and 14, and it had been already ordered that

he should be put out of the camp (Ibid. ch.13:46, and ch.14:3). “and every one that

hath an issue,” – These defilements are treated of in Leviticus 15; where, however,

it is not expressly ordered that those so polluted should be put out of the camp –

“and whosoever is defiled by the dead:”  The fact of being thus defiled is

recognized in Ibid. ch. 11:24; 21:1, but the formal regulations concerning it are

not given until Numbers 19:21. Probably the popular opinion and practice was

sufficiently definite to explain the present command.

 

3  “Both male and female shall ye put out, without the camp shall ye

put them; that they defile not their camps, in the midst whereof I dwell.”

Cleanliness, decency, and the anxious removal even of unwitting pollutions

were  things due to God Himself, and part of the awful reverence to be paid

 to His presence in the midst of Israel. It is of course easy to depreciate the

value of such outward cleanness, as compared with inward; but when we consider

the frightful prevalence of filthiness in Christian countries

 

  • of person and dress,
  • of talk,
  • of habit in respect of things not so much sinful as uncleanly,

we may indeed acknowledge the heavenly wisdom of these regulations,

and the incalculable value of the tone of mind engendered by them. With

the Jews “cleanliness” was not “next to godliness,’’ it was part of godliness.

 

4  “And the children of Israel did so, and put them out without the camp:

as the LORD spake unto Moses, so did the children of Israel.” It is difficult to

form any estimate of the numbers thus separated; if we may judge at all from the

prevalence of such defilements (especially those under the second head) now, it must

have seriously aggravated both the labor and the difficulty of the march. Here was a

trial of their faith.

 

 

The Necessity of Putting Away Sin (vs. 1-4)

 

In this section we have, spiritually, the necessary sentence of banishment upon those

defiled with sin, and the duty of separating them. Consider, therefore:

 

  • THAT NO LEPER MIGHT STAY IN THE CAMP OF ISRAEL; HE

MUST BE “WITHOUT.” Even so it is the necessary fate of THE

SINNER WHO IS THE TRUE LEPER  — a fate which God Himself, as

we may reverently believe, cannot alter, — that he must be for ever separated

from the company of all pure and holy beings (Hebrews 12:14; Revelation

21:27; 22:15). Until he is healed he may be with, but not of, the people of

God; numbered with them indeed, and following the earthly fortunes of the

Church, as the lepers in the wilderness; but really separated from them, and

this the more profoundly because of the outward proximity. If a sinner

could go to heaven as a sinner, even there he would be a banished man,

beholding the joy of the saints from outside with a sense of difference,

 of farness, which would itself be hell.

 

  • THAT NO ONE UNCLEAN THROUGH ANY ISSUE MIGHT

STAY IN THE CAMP OF ISRAEL. And this was more severe, because it

was a much more common and much less dreadful case than leprosy, being

in most cases neither very apparent nor very permanent; yet this also

entailed banishment while it lasted. Even so all habits of sin, however little

shocking to the natural mind, exclude the sinner until he be healed from

 the true fellowship of the saints. They are indeed “natural” enough to the

fallen soul, as these issues are natural to our present body of humiliation, but

they are not therefore harmless. One sinful habit, however common amongst

men, would disqualify and unfit the soul for the companionship of heaven,

and so would entail an inward and real exile even there. A habit of lying is

one of the commonest outcomes of human life as it is; but “whatsoever

maketh a lie” must be “without.” (Revelation 22:15)

 

  • THAT NO ONE EVEN WHO HAD TOUCHED A DEAD BODY

MIGHT STAY IN THE CAMP OF ISRAEL. The defilement of death

passed over with the taint of it upon all that came in contact with the dead.

Even so that contact, to which we are daily and hourly exposed, with those

dead in trespasses and sins is enough to unfit us for fellowship with pure

and holy beings. If only the taint, the subtle contagion, the imperceptible

communication of spiritual death pass upon us, as it almost must in daily

intercourse with the world, it separates pro tanto from the communion of

saints. It must be purged by the daily prayer of repentance and supply of

grace ere we can be at home and at one with the really holy. And note that

these three forms of uncleanness:

 

Ø      leprosy, which was rare and dreadful;

Ø      issues, which are common and little noticed:

Ø      the taint of death, which was imperceptible SAVE TO GOD!

- represent in a descending scale the three forms of sin

which separate from God and His saints, viz.

 

ü      open and notorious wickedness;

ü      sinful habits such as spring out of ordinary life, and are

little regarded;

ü      the subtle taint of spiritual death caught by careless

contact with the evil world.

 

  • THAT IT WAS THE DUTY OF ISRAEL — a duty to be discharged

at cost of much inconvenience; a duty in which all must help, not sparing

their own — TO PUT AWAY ALL WHO WERE KNOWN TO BE

POLLUTED FROM THE CAMPS. Even so it is the duty of the Churches

of Christ to separate open sinners from their communion, not only lest

others be defiled, but lest God be offended (Matthew 18:17; I Corinthians 5:2,

11,13; II Thessalonians 3:6). And note that many unclean may have remained in

the camp, whose uncleanness was not suspected, or could not be proved; but if

so, they alone were responsible.  Even so there be very many evil men in the

Church who cannot now be separated; but if the principle be zealously

vindicated, the Church shall not suffer (Matthew 13:47, 49; I Corinthians 11:19;

II Timothy 2:20).

 

 

                        The Expulsion and Restoration of the Unclean (vs. 1-4)

 

The host has now been marshaled. The several tribes have taken the places allotted to

them in relation to the tabernacle and to one another. They are about to set forth on

the march from the wilderness of Sinai. Before the signal is given, certain final

instructions for the regulation of the camp have yet to be delivered, and this about

the removal of unclean persons is one of them. The general intention of it is

intimated in the terms employed. The host is to be so ordered, both in the camp

and on the march, as to make it a living picture of the Church, and the Church’s

relation to God. It is to be made manifest that He dwells and walks among the

covenant people (Leviticus 26:11-12), that He is of pure eyes, and cannot suffer

evil to dwell with Him. Accordingly, there must in no wise abide in the camp any

man or woman that is unclean. Persons afflicted with uncleanness must be

removed, and live outside of the sacred precinct. Such is the law here laid

down.

 

·         IN ATTRIBUTING TO THIS LAW A RELIGIOUS INTENTION, I

DO NOT FORGET THAT A LOWER AND MORE PROSAIC

INTERPRETATION HAS SOMETIMES BEEN PUT ON IT. There are

commentators who remind one of the man with the muck-rake in the

“Pilgrim’s Progress.” They have no eye except for what is earthly. To them

the removal of the unclean is simply a sanitary measure. I freely admit that

there was a sanitary intention. The sequestering of lepers, the early and

“extramural” burial of the dead — these are valuable sanitary provisions,

and it is plain that this law would lead to them. But I need not wait to

prove that THE LAW LOOKS HIGHER, and that its paramount intention

is moral  and SPIRITUAL!.

 

·         Passing on, therefore, to the RELIGIOUS INTENTION OF THIS LAW,

observe who exactly are excluded by it from the camp. They are of three

sorts, viz., lepers, persons affected with issues of various kinds, and

persons who had come in contact with the dead. This does not by any

means exhaust the catalogue of defilements noted in the Levitical law. But

these were the gravest. Only these three disabled from residence in the

camp. My reason for calling attention to this point you will understand

when I mention that these three uncleannesses, so prominent in the law of

Moses, received the same kind of prominence in the gracious ministry of

Christ. Read the story of the leper (Mark 1:41); of the woman with the

issue of blood (Mark 5:27-30); of the raising of Jairus’ daughter and

the widow’s son at Nain (Mark 5:41 and Luke 7:14). In no one of

these passages is the Levitical law named. Much the greater number of

those who read or hear them fail to perceive that in Christ’s mode of

performing the miracles there was any reference to what the law had said

about the defiling quality of the evils on which His gracious power was put

forth. That there truly was a reference surely needs no proof. No Jew ever

forgot what the penalty would be if he suffered himself to be in contact

with a dead body, with a leper, with a person having an issue of blood.

Certainly our Lord did not forget. Nor would it be doing justice to the

truth to say that our Lord touched as He did, notwithstanding the

defilement thereby contracted, and its troublesome consequences. He, of

set purpose, sought occasion to put Himself in contact with every one of

the three causes of defilement noted in the law. Keeping this in mind, let us

ask the meaning of the law.

 

ü      The general intention. It was to be a memorial of the truth that our

nature is deeply infected with sin, and that sin disables all in whom

it is found for enjoying the fellowship of God here and hereafter.

In this Levitical statute, I admit, the lesson is not taught explicitly.

There was nothing morally wrong in any one of the three sources of

defilement named. The teaching is by symbol — a kind of object

lesson — and not the less impressive on that account.

 

ü      The meaning of the several symbols.

 

o        Defilement by the dead. Why is this? Because death is the wages of sin

(Genesis 2:17; 3:19). Compare the representation of death which

pervades Psalm 90 — “the prayer of Moses.”

 

o        Defilement by leprosy. A touching symbol. It admonishes us that sin,

besides being blameworthy and deserving of death, is a vile thing, to be

loathed and recoiled from, as men loathe and recoil from a leper;

contagious also, and apt to spread.

 

o        Of the third symbol I need say only this, that it reminds us that sin is an

hereditary evil (Psalm 51:5).

 

ü      The relation of this law to Christ and his work. That it has a relation has

been already pointed out. The relation may be conceived of thus : The

law is the dark ground on which the redemptive work of Christ unfolds the

brightness of its grace. Christ did not keep aloof from the evils which

afflict our fallen nature, and which perpetually remind us how deep our

fall has been. He took occasion to put himself in contact with them. He

touched the leprous man. Not that leprosy was sweet to Him; it was to

Him as loathsome as to any man in Palestine that day. Nevertheless,

He touched the leprous man, and the leprosy fled before the power

of that touch. Leprosy, wasting issues, death — these are the memorials

and tokens of the sin that is the fatal heritage of our fallen race; and one

who would know our need of redemption cannot do better than meditate

on them as they are set forth in the Levitical law. Leprosy, wasting

issues, death — these evils our blessed Lord went up to in His ministry;

He touched them, and their flight the instant that they felt His touch

gave, and continues still to give, assurance to men that He is indeed

the Saviour.

 

o       He can forgive sin;

o       He can make us clean;

o       HE IS THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE! 

 

 

 

                   The Public Exclusion of the Unclean (vs. 1-4)

 

This law, like many others, in part a sanitary law; but also educational in

spiritual truth, and typical of eternal realities. Two truths taught:

 

·         THE HOLINESS OF GOD. This lesson, so hard to the Israelites, was

impressed on them in many ways, e.g., sacred men ministering in sacred

places, on sacred days, etc. This holy God dwelt in the midst of their tents,

and walked among them (Leviticus 26:11-12). The God of life and

purity was utterly alien from death and impurity. Defilement, whether

willful or unavoidable, could not be tolerated in His presence. If the

polluted are retained, God withdraws. Sin is “the abominable thing” which

God hates. He is “of purer eyes than to behold evil” (Jeremiah 44:4;

Habakkuk 1:13).

 

·         THE EXCOMMUNICATING POWER OF SIN. The consequences to

the excluded Hebrews, though limited, were by no means light. They had

to suffer loss of privileges, ceremonial and spiritual, and a sense of

humiliation from the notoriety of their position. For the time they were out

of communion with God and His people. Thus sin has an isolating power.

Apart from an act of ecclesiastical excommunication or Divine judgment,

its tendency is to separate us from the people of God through want of

sympathy. We cease to enjoy their privileges even if not debarred from

them. We lose self-respect when sin is exposed, if not before. We are out

of communion with God, into whose presence we cannot truly come with

sin indulged in our hearts (Psalm 66:18; Ezekiel 14:3). God’s salvation is

 from sin, not in sin. No wonder, therefore, that the impure are sentenced:

 

ü      to excommunication from the Church on earth (I Corinthians 5:9-13),

ü      to exclusion from the Church in heaven. (Revelation 21:27).

 

 

 

                                    Things that Defile (vs. 1-4)

 

The book up to this point is occupied with the counting and discipline of

the people, both those for war and those for tabernacle service. Now the

cleansing of the camp is to be attended to.

 

·         THE CLASSES WHO WERE DECLARED UNCLEAN. Certainly we

must not be too curious in our inquiries here, or we may soon pass the

verge of what is edifying. But there are some points of note with regard to

all three classes.

 

ü      The leper. Why should he be declared unclean? Perhaps as suffering

      from a more manifest disease than others, maybe a peculiarly offensive

one, and one of the most difficult to cure. These are conjectures which

give a little light, but the great reason for ceremonial uncleanness in

the case of human beings, as in the case of lower animals, is to be

found in Jehovah’s positive injunction. Leprosy was thus to be one

of the great types in the body of the defiling effect of sin upon the

soul. It is clear that in the course of ages the idea got fixed in the

Israelite mind that the cure of leprosy was to be considered as a

cleansing. Jesus commanded His apostles to heal the sick, cleanse

the lepers. The leper was not a common victim, but singled out to

impress the fact that the ultimate cause which produces disease is a

strange and polluting thing; no necessary element in human nature,

though now it be actually present in us all.

 

ü      The person with an issue. Thus uncleanness is connected with birth as

      well as with death. Whenever a child is born, a being is brought into the

world, which certainly will add something to the evil in it, though

possibly it may add much to the good. The saintliest of believers has

had in him the possibilities of the worst of unbelievers. Human nature

is truly the creation of God, fearfully and wonderfully made; but there

is also the fact of birth from sinful human parents to be remembered.

This is a great mystery, to be delicately handled; but the uncleanness

here indicated may be taken as intended to remind parents how one

generation transmits not only nature, but sinful nature, to another.

 

ü      The person defiled by the dead. There is great significance in being

      made unclean by the dead. Of all things in the world that manifest the

effects of sin, this is the greatest — DEATH!   By sin came death. All

lesser results lead up to this. A dead body, in one sense as sacred a thing

as there is in the world, is yet also one of the most unclean. As long as

there is life there is something to protest against the reign of sin, and

resist it; but life being gone, SIN RIOTS AND REVELS IN THE

CORRUPTION of what was once fair and strong. The coffin and the

gravestone hide, but they only hide. It was one of our Lord’s most

terrible words to the Pharisees to compare them to whited sepulchers.

 

·         THE LINE OF SEPARATION. There are large details in Leviticus

respecting all these instances of uncleanness (chapters 12–15). The line of

separation was clearly marked and sternly enforced. To go out of the camp

meant much personal inconvenience, perhaps pain — suffering added on to

existing suffering. Imagine the mother tending her sick child, waiting its

expiring breath, closing its eyes, composing its body, then compelled to go

without the camp. This typical ceremonial uncleanness indicates the sharp

separation, between good and bad men. The word of God accords in all its

references to this. There are two classes, and only two:

 

ü      the clean and the unclean,

ü      the sheep and the goats,

ü      the wheat and tares,

ü      the children of God and the children of wrath.

 

It also indicates the extent to which discipline can be carried in the Church

of Christ on earth. There are some offences so plain that the guilty may at

once be cut off from outward communion.  But there may be others quite

as unworthy who yet do and must escape, because their life makes no crying

scandal. Many a professed and long-continued adherent to the true Church is,

nevertheless, as worldly, hard, and selfish as any of the ungodly. God reckons

all such outside the camp.  He alone has the knowledge and authority to

reckon. Learn then the danger of all spiritual uncleanness. That so much

was declared typically unclean, shows that spiritual uncleanness is a very

great danger. The boundary between the Church and the world cannot be

too strictly kept.  Since we are all advancing to death, it is proof of the

power of sin in our nature. We are all unclean with the worst of uncleanness.

It only waits for us to feel all the evil, and the way is clear to the remedy -

(“But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship

one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us

from all sin.  If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and

the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to

forgive our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say

that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His Word is not in us.”

( I John 1:7- 10).

 

 

RESTITUTION TO BE MADE FOR TRESPASSES (vs. 5-10).

 

5 “And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,  6  Speak unto the children of

Israel, When a man or woman shall commit any sin that men commit,” –

Literally, “[one] of all the transgressions of men,” i.e., the wrongs current amongst men 

“to do a trespass against the LORD,” -  This qualifies the former expression, and

restricts its reference to the sins mentioned in Leviticus 6:2-3, 5, viz., wrongs done to

the property of another. Such wrongs, perhaps because they were considered

legitimate as long as they were not found out, WERE TAKEN UP BY THE

LORD HIMSELF as involving a trespass against His own righteousness -“and that

person be guilty;  7  Then they shall confess their sin which they have done:

and he shall recompense his trespass with the principal thereof, and add unto

it the fifth part thereof, and give it unto him against whom he hath trespassed.”

 

8  “But if the man have no kinsman” – No goel, or personal representative.

This supposes that the wronged man himself is dead, and it is an addition to the law

of restitution as given in Leviticus 6, an addition clearly necessary to its completeness.

- “to recompense the trespass unto, let the trespass be recompensed unto the

LORD,” - The wrong-doer must in no case be the gainer by his own wrong,

and if the trespass could not be “recompensed” to man, it must be “recompensed’’

to the Lord, who was as it were joint-plaintiff in the cause – “even to the priest;”

- on the general principle that the priest was the visible representative of the invisible

Majesty – “beside the ram of the atonement, whereby an atonement shall be

made for him.”

 

9  “And every offering” - Hebrew, terumah, heave offering (Exodus 29:28).

Septuagint, ἀπαρχὴ - aparchae – firstfruits .  Those offerings, or portions of

offerings, which were not consumed on the altar, but “presented” at the altar. Having

been offered, they were the property of the Lord, and were given by him to the priests -

“of all the holy things of the children of Israel, which they bring unto the priest,

shall be his.”

 

10  “And every man’s hallowed things” – Dedicatory offerings, such as

first-fruits, not exactly of the nature of sacrifices - “shall be his:” - i.e., the priest’s -

 “whatsoever any man giveth the priest, it shall be his.” A general principle,

including and confirming the previous rules; subject, of course, to the other

and greater principle, that whatever the Lord claimed for Himself by fire

must first be consumed. These directions concerning the rights of the

priests to offerings are very often repeated in various connections. There

was probably a strong tendency amongst the people to cheat the priests of

their dues, or to represent their claims as exorbitant. It is in the spirit of

covetousness which underlies all such conduct that we are to find the

connection between these two verses and the rest of the paragraph.

 

 

Confession and Restitution (vs. 5-8)

 

These trespasses are explained and illustrated in Leviticus 6:1-7. In both passages

provision is made for confession, restitution, interest, and atonement — in

Leviticus  the atonement being spoken of more fully than here. Notice that three

parties are provided for in the directions given.

 

  • THE WRONG-DOER. The wrong-doer has done injury to himself as

well as another. In one sense the injury is even greater. What we suffer

from others, grievous and irritating as it may be at the time, need not be an

abiding ill; but the injury we inflict on others is great spiritual danger to

ourselves. Hence the man truly confessing the wrong he had done was

proving himself in a better state of mind, no longer the victim of

selfishness, and glorying in his shame, but showing an awakened

conscience, and a repentance needing not to be repented of. Consider the

benefit David got (Psalm 51). Confession, restitution, and atonement

cleanse the bosom of a great deal of “perilous stuff.” Restitution, though

a loss in possessions, is a gain in peace. Reparation of a wrong done to a

fellow-man is to be valued for the injured person’s sake; but it is a great

deal more that the wrong-doer for his own sake has been brought

right with God.

 

  • THE PERSON WRONGED. He is provided for as far as he can be

provided for. To make reparation in all respects is indeed impossible. A

wrong-doer, with all his efforts, cannot put things exactly as they were

before. Still he must do what he can. Hence the provision to add a fifth

over the principal. Doubtless a truly repentant trespasser would not stop

even at that to show his sincerity in reparation. Zaccheus restored fourfold.

Surely there are some injured persons to whom it would be a greater joy

and a greater benefit to see their enemies altogether altered than if they had

never been hurt by them at all. One great good, as concerned the person

wronged, was that confession and restitution would do much to allay,

 and perhaps obliterate, the sense of injustice. “It is not what a man

outwardly has or wants that constitutes the happiness or misery of him. It is

the FEELING OF INJUSTICE that is insupportable to all men.

The brutalest black African cannot bear that he should be used unjustly”

(Carlyle). Again, injured persons themselves may be injurers. A sense of

wrong suffered is not always effectual in hindering the sufferer from

wronging others. So the confession and repentance of one might lead to

the confession and repentance of another. Who knows the TOTAL

EFFECT  produced on the persons to whom Zaccheus made his fourfold

restitution?  (Luke 19:1-8)

 

  • JEHOVAH HIMSELF. Acknowledgment and restitution were not

enough without atonement. To injure a fellow-man is to rebel against the

government of God, robbing him of some possible service from the person

injured. The wrong-doer, from the pricking of conscience, or mere uneasiness

of mind, may make some reparation to his fellow-man, whom he can see;

but if he thinks he has then done all, he may find, from continued

uneasiness, that something is yet unaccomplished. It is the greatest blot on

sinful men, not that they are unjust to one another, but that they have come

short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).  That glory must be restored,

and God take the place of self, if human relations are to come right. There is

no scheme of teaching or example that, acting on natural lines, will ever make

men perfectly just to one another. Things must be put right with God, for of

Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things (Romans 11:36).  Let no one,

therefore, make confession and restitution here look large, and atonement be

pushed into the corner as an unimportant detail. Just as the confession and

restitution point forward to the pure and vigorous ethics of Jesus, so the

slain animals point forward to Him who takes away the sin of the world.

 

 

No Fraud Permitted by God (vs. 5-10)

 

We have here, as part of the moral law of God which changeth not, the

duty of making confession of, and satisfaction for, any wrong done to

another, and the duty of not withholding what is rightly theirs from the

ministers of God. Consider, therefore:

 

  • THAT EVERY WRONG DONE TO ANOTHER IN RESPECT OF

HIS PROPERTY WAS ASSUMED BY THE LORD AS A TRESPASS

AGAINST HIMSELF. So now every wrong or fraud, and all cheating or

sharp dealing, practiced by one of us against another, is not merely an

offence against man, — such as may be excused by the necessity of the

times, or the custom of business, or the universal prevalence of such

practices, — but is an outrage against the righteousness of God which

HE WILL NEVER OVERLOOK!   To such a man God Himself is

“the adversary” (Matthew 5:25); and if He be not repaid, then will He

Himself “repay” that man (Isaiah 59:18; Romans 12:19). He that hath

cheated his neighbor of a penny hath gained unto himself an eternal and

immeasurable loss, except he repent, confess, restore (Exodus 34:7;

Isaiah 61:8).

 

  • THAT EVERY ONE WHO HAD DONE SUCH WRONG MUST:

 

Ø      CONFESS,

Ø      MAKE RESTITUTION.

 

So now there is no true repentance for, and no real forgiveness of, such

wrongs — from the least even to the greatest — unless they are

 

ü      humbly acknowledged,

ü      liberally made good (Luke 19:8).

 

Those wrongs (alas, how many!) which are never found out, which are not

acknowledged through false shame, and not made good through

covetousness, are like bullets lodged in the body, which will not cease to

cause misery, disease, and death.

 

  • THAT IF THE WRONGED MAN WAS DEAD, AND HAD LEFT

NO REPRESENTATIVE, THE TRESPASS MUST STILL BE

RECOMPENSED TO THE LORD BY BEING PAID TO THE PRIEST.

So now it is a certain maxim of Christian morality (as of law) that no man

be a gainer by his own wrong. If he cannot repay to the person wronged,

directly or indirectly, he is bound to make recompense to God by devoting,

it to some pious purpose. If a man has made a fortune by fraud, his

repentance is vain unless he make over the whole of it to the good of

his neighbors. This will not cleanse his conscience, — only the one Sacrifice

can do that, (the Redemption of Jesus Christ) but without it his

conscience cannot be cleansed.

 

  • THAT GOD DID CAREFULLY INSIST THAT HIS PRIESTS

SHOULD RECEIVE THEIR PORTION, and SHOULD NOT BE

OVER-REACHED.  Even so is the law of Christ (I Corinthians 9:7-14;

Galatians 6:6; I Timothy 5:17-18).

 

 

 

                                    Conscience Money (vs. 5-10)

 

This precept is a continuation of the one laid down in the preceding verses,

and, like it, admonishes the people regarding the purity which ought to

prevail in a camp honored with the presence of the Holy One. Since the

Lord dwells in the midst of the camp, there must not abide in it anything

that defileth — any leper, any one having an issue, any one who has been in

contact with the dead. Nor is it bodily defilement only that entails this

disability. The man “that doeth hurt to his neighbor” (Psalm 15:3) is unclean in

God’s sight. Fraud is as defiling as leprosy. Even if it is such as the criminal law

cannot reach, God’s eye sees it, and is offended with it; and the wrongdoer

must regard himself as excluded from the camp till he has made

restitution to his wronged neighbor, and brought a sacrifice of atonement

to the Lord.

 

·         Keeping in view the scope of the law as I have described it, you will without

      difficulty master the particulars laid down, especially if you read along with

it the law in Leviticus 6:1-7. It is essential to observe that this injunction is

not a part of the criminal code. It is not laid down for the guidance of the

judges, but for the guidance of a man’s own conscience. The restitution

enjoined is similar to that known among ourselves as CONSCIENCE MONEY.

Take an example. A man finds a pruning-hook by the side of a highway,

evidently left there by mistake. He takes it home. “An excellent pruning-hook;

the very thing I was in need of. I need not make a noise about the lucky find;

I will keep it to myself.” A few days after, the loser turns up, and makes

inquiries about his hook. But the finder denies all knowledge of it, and it

remains in his possession. Among us the criminal law would have something

to say to this dishonest finder. The meshes of the Hebrew criminal code

seem to have been wide enough to let him go. But the holy law of God

speaks to his conscience.

 

ü      He is to confess his fault. Even in matters belonging to the criminal law,

the Jews laid great stress on confession. It was a maxim among them, that

if a man brought an offering for his offence, but omitted to confess the evil

he had done, his offering would not avail for atonement (compare I John 1:9).

 

ü      He is to make restitution to the person wronged. In the instance

supposed the pruning-hook must be restored, or its equivalent in money,

with one-fifth part added. This, let me observe in passing, shows that the

trespass contemplated is not a trespass such as fell within the scope of the

criminal law; for the restitution enjoined in the criminal law was much

ampler.   A thief restored double; a sheep-stealer fourfold; a cattle-lifter

fivefold (Exodus 22:1-4). Mild penalties certainly, but more severe than

the restitution enjoined here.

 

ü      A ram is to be brought to the Lord as a trespass offering for atonement.

 

ü      If the person who was wronged is dead, the restitution is to be made to

the next heir, — the kinsman, or goel (v 8), whom failing, it is to be

made to the Lord in the person of the priest. In connection with this, the

people are admonished that all gifts solemnly dedicated to the priest fall

under the same rule as conscience money paid by way of compensation for

fraud. Omission to pay them will defile the camp.

 

·         WHAT DOES THIS STATUTE OF CONSCIENCE MONEY

TEACH US?

 

ü      When a man does wrong to his neighbor he sins against God, and must

crave God’s pardon for the wrong. There have been religious systems —

the old Greek and Roman paganism, for example — which completely

disconnected religion from morality. A tendency in the same direction, who

that knows himself has not caught a glimpse of in his own heart? Against

that fatal divorce the whole word. of God is a protest and warning. Read

Psalm 15:2. When a man does wrong to his neighbor he must make

compensation to his neighbor. It will not do simply to confess the wrong

to God, and beg his pardon. That is only one half of what the case

demands. Satisfaction must be made to the person wronged. In many cases

the civil magistrate will see to this. In many other cases the wrong-doing is

of a kind which his sword cannot reach — fraudulent bankruptcies often

elude the law. In all cases alike, God commands the person who has

wronged his neighbor to repay him with increase.

 

ü      The wrongdoer who omits to repay as required is admonished that he is

an unclean person, whose presence defiles God’s sanctuary. In God’s sight

the camp is defiled by the presence of a man who defrauds as much as by a

leper. If you would see how deeply this aspect of the precept before us

impressed itself on consciences in Israel read Psalm 15, a psalm fitted

surely to suggest alarm to those amongst us who in business habitually

violate the golden rule, and yet claim a place in God’s sanctuary.

 

ü      In the complications of modem life it will happen far more frequently

than in ancient Israel that satisfaction for fraud cannot be made directly to

the parties defrauded. In this case the money is to be devoted to charitable

and pious uses. To be sure, ill-gotten wealth is a very undesirable source of

income for either Church or charity. I much doubt whether God honors it

to do much good. But if the fraudulent person is truly penitent, and has

done his best to make compensation to his victims, he may hope to escape

the defilement and curse that cleave to dishonest gains by bestowing them

where they may possibly do some good.

 

 

 

THE TRIAL OF JEALOUSY (vs. 11-31).

 

11  “And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,  12  Speak unto the children

of Israel, and say unto them, If any man’s wife go aside, and commit a trespass

against him,” – The adultery of the wife is here regarded only from a social point of

view; the injury to the husband, the destruction of his peace of mind, even by the

bare suspicion, and the consequent troubling of Israel, is the thing dwelt upon.

The punishment of adultery as a sin had been already prescribed (Leviticus 20:10).

 

13  “And a man lie with her carnally, and it be hid” -  Or, “if he be hid.”

This verse is explanatory of the former - “from the eyes of her husband, and be

kept close, and she be defiled, and there be no witness  against her, neither

she be taken with the manner;” - The latter four words are not in the Hebrew. It

means no doubt “taken in the act” (John 8:4).  Aὐτὴ μὴ ᾖ συνειλημμένη – Autae

mae ae suneilaemmenae – She isn’t taken in the act., Septuagint.

 

14  “And the spirit of jealousy come upon him, and he be jealous of his

wife, 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:”  As far as the mischief

here dealt with was concerned, it was almost equally great whether the woman was

guilty or not.

 

15  “Then shall the man bring his wife unto the priest, and he shall bring her

offering for her,” -  Hn;B;d]q;, “her offering;” h;yl,[;, “on her account.” It was

to be a meat offering — not connected on this occasion with any other sacrifice —

of the fruits of the earth, symbolizing the fruits of her guilty, or at least careless and

suspicious, conduct. As of barley meal, not of fine wheat flour, it indicated her

present low and vile estate (deserved or undeserved); as without incense or oil, it

disclaimed for itself the sanctifying influences of God’s grace and of prayer.

Thus every detail of the offering, while it did not condemn the woman (for

one found guilty could not have made any offering at all), yet represented

her questionable repute and unquestionable dishonor, for even the unjust

suspicion of the husband is a dishonor to the wife -“the tenth part of an ephah

of barley meal;” - Barley meal. In the days of Elisha half the price of fine flour

(II Kings 7:1), and only eaten by the poor (Ezekiel 4:12; John 6:9) – “he shall

pour no oil upon it, nor put frankincense thereon; for it is an offering of

jealousy,” -  Literally, “of jealousies.” taon;q], an intensive plural - “an offering

of memorial, bringing iniquity to remembrance.”  An offering to bring the

woman into judicial remembrance before the Lord, in order that her sin (if any)

might be remembered with Him, and be declared.

 

16  “And the priest shall bring her near, and set her before the LORD:”

Either at the brazen altar or at the door of the tabernacle.

 

17  “And the priest shall take holy water” -  Probably from the laver which

stood near the altar (Exodus 30:18). The expression is nowhere else used. The

Septuagint has ὕδωρ καθαρὸν ζῶν,– hudor katharon zon -  pure running water

“in an earthen vessel;” – Cheap and coarse, like the offering - “and of the

dust that is in the floor of the tabernacle” - This is the only place where the

floor of the tabernacle is mentioned. As no directions were given concerning it,

it was probably the bare earth cleared and stamped. The cedar floor of the temple

was overlaid with gold (I Kings 6:16,30). This use of the dust has been held to

signify the fact:

 

  • that man was made of dust, and must return to dust (Genesis 3:19); or
  • that dust is the serpent’s meat, i.e., that shame and disgust are the

inevitable fruit of sin (Genesis 3:14; Isaiah 65:25). 

 

Of these, man is not appropriate to the matter in question, since mortality is

common to all, and the serpent is far too recondite to have been intended here.

It is very unlikely that the spiritual meaning of Genesis 3:14 was known

to any of the Jews. A much simpler and more intelligible explanation is to

be found in the obvious fact that the dust of the tabernacle was the only

thing which belonged to the tabernacle, and which was, so to speak,

impregnated with the awful holiness of Him that dwelt therein, that could

be mixed with water and drunk. For a similar reason the “sin” of the

people, the golden calf, was ground to powder, and the people made to

drink it (Exodus 32:20). The idea conveyed to the dullest apprehension

certainly was that with the holy dust Divine “virtue” had passed into the

water — virtue which would give it supernatural efficacy to slay the

guilty and to leave the guiltless unharmed - “the priest shall take, and

put it into the water:”

 

18 “And the priest shall set the woman before the LORD, and uncover

the woman’s head,” -  In token that she had forfeited her glory by breaking,

or seeming to have broken, her allegiance to her husband (I Corinthians 11:5-10);

perhaps also with some reference to the truth that “all things are naked and

open to the eyes of Him” with whom she had to do (Hebrews 4:13) - “and put

the offering of memorial in her hands,” - That she herself might present, as it

were, the fruits of her life before God, and challenge investigation of them - “which

is the jealousy offering: and the priest shall have in his hand the bitter water

that causeth the curse:” - Bitter water. It was not literally bitter, but it was so

fraught with conviction and judgment as to bring bitter suffering on the guilty.

 

19 “And the priest shall charge her by an oath, and say unto the woman,

If no man have lain with thee,” -  The oath presupposed her innocence –

“and if thou hast not gone aside to uncleanness with another instead of

thy husband,” – Hebrew, “under thy husband, i.e., as a wife subject to a

husband (Ezekiel 23:5; Hosea 4:12). ὑπ’ ἀνδρὸς οὖσα – hup andros ousa –

being under a husband - Septuagint.  It was only as a femme couverte (married

woman) that she could commit this sin - “be thou free from this bitter water

that causeth the curse:  20 But if thou hast gone aside to another instead of

thy husband, and if thou be defiled, and some man have lain with thee beside

thine husband:”

 

21 “Then the priest shall charge the woman with an oath of cursing,

and the priest shall say unto the woman,” – These words are parenthetical,

just as in Matthew 9:6. The latter part of the oath is called “an oath of cursing,”

because it contained the imprecations on the guilty - “The LORD make thee a

curse and an oath among thy people, when the LORD doth make

thy thigh to rot,” -  Hebrew, “to fall.” - Τὸν μηρόν σου διαπεπτωκότα – Ton

maeron sou diapeptokota - allows your thigh to fall away, and your body to swell-

 “and thy belly to swell;” - The Hebrew zabeh is not of quite certain meaning,

but probably this.

 

22    “And this water that causeth the curse shall go into thy bowels,” –

(see Psalm 109:18)  - εἰς τὴν κοιλίαν σουeis taen koilian sou – will go into

your bowels.  It has been thought that these symptoms belonged to

some known disease, such as dropsy (Josephus, Ant.,’ 3:11, 6), or ovarian

dropsy. But it is clear that the whole matter was outside the range of the

known and of the natural. An innocent woman may suffer from dropsy, or

any form of it; but this was a wholly peculiar infliction by DIRECT

VISITATION OF GOD.   The principle which underlay the infliction was,

however, clear: δἰ ῶν γὰρ ἡ ἁμαρτία διὰ τούτων ἡ τιμωρίαdi on gar hae amartia

dia touton hae timoriia -  the organs of sin are the seat of the plague – “to

make thy belly to swell, and thy thigh to rot: And the woman shall

say, Amen, amen.”  Amen, amen. Doubled here, the woman was to accept

(if she dared) the awful ordeal and appeal to God by this response; if she

dared not, she pronounced herself guilty.

 

23    “And the priest shall write these curses in a book,” -  on a roll -

 “and he shall blot them out with the bitter water:” - Rather, “wash them

off into the bitter water,” in order to transfer the venom of the curses to the water.

ἐξαλείψει εἰς τὸ ὕδωρ – exaleipsei eis to hudor - he shall blot them out into the

water - Septuagint. The writing on the scroll was to be washed off in the vessel of

water. Of course the only actual consequence was that the ink was mixed with the

water, but in the imagination of the people, and to the frightened

conscience of a guilty woman, the curses were also held in solution in the

water of trial. The direction was founded on a world-wide superstition, still

prevalent in Africa, and indeed amongst most semi-barbarous peoples. In

the ‘Romance of Setnan,’ translated by Brugsch. Bey, the scene of which is

laid in the time of Rameses the Great, a magical formula written on a

papyrus leaf is dissolved in water, and drunk with the effect of imparting all

its secrets to him that drinks it. So in the present day, by a similar

superstition, do sick Mahomedans swallow texts of the Koran; and so in

the middle ages the canonized Archbishop Edmund Rich (1240) on his

death-bed washed a crucifix in water and drank it saying “Ye shall drink water

from the wells of salvation.”

 

24  “And he shall cause the woman to drink the bitter water that causeth

the curse:” - This is said by anticipation, because she did not really drink it until

after the offering (v. 26) - “and the water that causeth the curse shall enter

into her, and become bitter.”

 

25  “Then the priest shall take the jealousy offering out of the woman’s

hand, and shall wave the offering before the LORD, and offer it upon the

altar:  26  And the priest shall take an handful of the offering, even the

memorial thereof, and burn it upon the altar, and afterward shall cause the

woman to drink the water.” According to tile law of the minchah (Leviticus 2),

only an handful was burnt as a “memorial” (Hebrew, azkarah), the rest being

“presented,’’ and then laid at the side of the altar to be subsequently eaten by the

priests. All this was done before the actual ordeal by drinking the water, in order

that the woman might in the most solemn and complete way possible be

brought face to face with the HOLINESS OF GOD!   She stood before

Him as one of His own, yet as one suspected and abashed, courting the worst

if guilty, claiming complete acquittal if innocent. 

 

27 “And when he hath made her to drink the water, then it shall come

to pass, that, if she be defiled, and have done trespass against her

husband, that the water that causeth the curse shall enter into her,

and become bitter,” -  Rather, “as bitter,”or “as bitterness,” i.e. as producing

bitter sufferings - “and her belly shall swell, and her thigh shall rot:

and the woman shall be a curse among her people.” - i.e., shall be used as

an example in the imprecations of the people.

 

28  “And if the woman be not defiled, but be clean; then she shall be

free, and shall conceive seed.”  As a sign of the Divine favor; to a Jewish woman

the surest and most regarded (I Samuel 2:5; Psalm 127:3; Luke 1:58).

 

29  “This is the law of jealousies, when a wife goeth aside to another

instead of her husband, and is defiled;  30  Or when the spirit of jealousy

cometh upon him, and he be jealous over his wife, and shall set the woman

before the LORD, and the priest shall execute upon her all this law.

31 Then shall the man be guiltless from iniquity, and this woman shall

bear her iniquity.”  This is the law of jealousies. A law prescribed by God,

and yet in substance borrowed from half civilized heathens; a practice closely

akin to yet prevalent superstitious, and yet receiving not only the toleration

of Moses, but the direct sanction of God; an ordeal which emphatically

claimed to be infallibly operative through supernatural agencies, yet

amongst other nations obviously lending itself to collusion and fraud, as

does the trial by red water practiced by the tribes of West Africa. In order

to justify heavenly wisdom herein, we must frankly admit, to begin with —

 

  • That it was founded upon the superstitious notion that immaterial

virtue can be imparted to physical elements. The holiness of the gathered

dust and the awfulness of the written curses were both supposed to be held

in solution by the water of jealousy. The record does not say as much, but

the whole ordeal proceeds on this supposition, which would undoubtedly

be the popular one.

 

  • That it was only fitted for a very rude and comparatively barbarous

state of society. The Talmud states that the use of it ceased forty years

before the destruction of Jerusalem (if so, during our Lord’s earthly

lifetime); but it may be held certain that it ceased long before — indeed

there is no recorded instance of its use. It was essentially an ordeal,

although one Divinely regulated, and as such would have been morally

impossible and highly undesirable in any age but one of blind and

uninquiring faith. And we find the justification of it exactly in the fact that

it was given to a generation which believed much and knew little; which

had a profound belief in magic, and no knowledge of natural philosophy. It

was ever the wisdom of God, as revealed in the sacred volume, to take

men as they were, and to utilize the superstitious notions which could not

at once be destroyed, or the imperfect moral ideas which could not at once

be reformed, by making them work for righteousness and peace. It is,

above all, the wisdom of God not to destroy the imperfect, but to regulate

it and restrain its abuses, and so impress it into his service, until he has

educated his people for something higher. Everybody knows the extreme

violence of jealousy amongst an uncivilized people, and the widespread

misery and crime to which it leads. It may safely be affirmed that any

ordeal which should leave no place for jealousy, because no room for

uncertainty, would be a blessing to a people rude enough and ignorant

enough to believe in it. Ordeals arc established in a certain stage of

civilization because they are wanted, and are on the whole useful, as long

as they remain in harmony with popular ideas. They are, however, always

liable to two dangers.

 

Ø      They occasionally fail, and are known to have failed, and so fall into

disrepute.

 

Ø      They always lend themselves readily to collusion or priest-craft. The

trial of jealousy being adopted, as it was, into a system really Divine,

and being based upon the knowledge and power of God Himself,

secured all the benefits of an ordeal and escaped all its dangers.

It is probable enough that the awful side of it was never really called

into play. No guilty woman would dare to challenge so directly a

visitation so dreadful, as long as she retained any faith or any

superstition. Before the time came when any Jewish woman had

discarded both, the increasing facilities of divorce had provided

another and easier escape from matrimonial troubles.

 

 

The Sin of adultery (vs. 11-31)

 

We have here, in the letter, a piece of legislation altogether obsolete,

because adapted to an age and to ideas utterly foreign to our own; yet, in

the spirit, we have, as part of the moral law of God which changeth not,

the unspeakable abhorrence in which the sin of adultery is held with Him,

and the great displeasure with which He regards the mere suspicion of it.

For this ordeal was not merely or primarily to punish guilt or to restore

domestic peace but to remove sin and passion from before the eyes of God.

Consider, therefore:

 

  • THAT GOD RESERVED HIS MOST AWFUL VISITATION OF

OLD TIMES FOR SUCH ADULTERY AS HAD SUCCESSFULLY

ESCAPED HUMAN OBSERVATION. So there is no sin which

More surely destroys a nation or a class by kindling the wrath of

God against it than adultery. So the Jews in the time of the later

prophets (Jeremiah 5:8; Hosea 4:2), and m the time of our Lord (John 8:7;

the Talmud, as above); so the upper classes in France before the

Revolution; so perhaps our own today.  (England 200 years ago;

I wonder about the Sexual Revolution in the United States????

CY – 2011)

 

  • THAT GOD DID NOT APPOINT DIVORCE AS A REMEDY

AGAINST CONJUGAL UNFAITHFULNESS. For it is no remedy

against the sin, but only against some of its painful consequences.

The glosses and traditions of the Jewish lawyers made divorce easy and

common, because they no longer believed in the righteousness of God

or in the hatefulness of sin, as sin.

 

  • That nothing is more abhorrent from the will of God concerning us

THAN THAT FIERCE JEALOUSY AND CRUEL SUSPICION

SHOULD INVADE FAMILIES, and poison the purest source of

 human happiness. Both, therefore, sin greatly — the wife who gives

the least ground for suspicion by levity or carelessness of conduct, the

husband who nurses a spirit of jealousy, and does not try to bring it to

the test of facts.

 

  • That the sin of adultery was PUNISHED UNDER THE LAW WITH

MISERABLE DEATH, WHEREAS CHRIST REFUSED TO AWARD

ANY SECULAR PUNISHMENT TO IT (John 8:11). And this is

 

Ø      because of the greater mercifulness of the gospel, calling men to

repentance (Romans 2:4; II Peter 3:9); but also

 

Ø      because of the greater severity of the moral law now revealed,

threatening eternal death to all adulterers (Galatians 5:19, 21;

Hebrews 13:4).

 

  • THAT THIS SPECIAL AND AWFUL PROVISION WAS MADE

ONLY AGAINST THE SIN OF THE WIFE, because it is from her sin

that jealousy and its consequent crimes do as a fact arise in rude

communities. But under the more perfect law of Christ there is no

difference made between the same sin in men and women, but rather

the sin of the man is denounced because it is more lightly accounted by the

world (Matthew 5:28; I Thessalonians 4:6, “in any matter”).

 

 

The Trial of Jealousy (vs. 11-31)

 

Just previously, regulations are laid down with respect to offences in general. Here

is an offence which needed to be dealt with in a special way, as being one where

restitution was impossible (Proverbs 6:34-35).  The offence also destroyed a

relation of peculiar sacredness  and importance, and the discovery of guilt

was difficult, perhaps impossible of attainment, by ordinary lines of proof.

 

  • THE HUSBAND’S POSITION IS RECOGNIZED. The spirit of

jealousy is not condemned as in itself an evil passion. In it he might be

angry and sin not. The spirit of jealousy could not be too much excited or

too amply satisfied, if only the facts corresponded to his feelings. No

mention is made of a similar ordeal for the husband to pass through if a

spirit of jealousy were awakened in the wife, and so it may seem that more

severity was meted out to the woman than the man. But the offence of an

unfaithful husband, equally great of course as a sin, might not be equally

dangerous as a crime. The principles of human law which compel men to

graduate crime and punishment had to be remembered in the theocracy. An

examination of the Mosaic laws against sexual impurity shows that they

provided stringently for both sexes. The adulterer was punishable with

death. A guilty wife in the discovery of her guilt dragged down her

paramour (Leviticus 20:10).

 

  • THE WIFE’S POSITION IS RECOGNIZED. To punish her more

severely for a lapse of conjugal fidelity was really to honor her, showing

that in one respect more was expected from her. It became every Israelite

to walk circumspectly; it peculiarly became the Israelite matron. May we

not say that the spirit of jealousy, though it might often be manifested on

insufficient grounds, was nevertheless in itself a provision of God, through

nature? The reputation of a wife is a very delicate thing, and was meant so

to be. The tenth commandment specifies, “Thou shalt not covet thy

neighbour’s wife” (Exodus 20:17).  Hence we may infer there was some

temptation to men to commit this sin, and wives needed to be specially on

their guard. The ordeal to which God called them, hard as it might seem,

had a most honorable side. Let it not be said that Mosaic legislation showed

the Oriental depreciation of woman. God was caring for her even then, but she

had to partake of the severity of the law, even as, long after, represented by

the woman taken in adultery, she shared in the clemency and tenderness of

the gospel.

 

  • THE UNERRING DISCOVERY OF GUILT. God took the matter

away out of the obscurities of circumstantial evidence. The very nature of

the offence made it difficult for a suspicious husband to get beyond

presumption. “The eye of the adulterer waiteth for the twilight”

(Job 24:15; John 3:19-20 – that is until man became so brazen as to sin

in the open and in defiance of God’s commands – CY - 2011). But God

called the accused wife among the solemnities of the tabernacle, and

concealment and evasion thenceforth became impossible.

Notice how the ordeal was painless in itself. There was no walking on

burning ploughshares nor demand on physical endurance. It was

independent also of anything like chance, as if the casting of a lot had been

held to settle the matter. The bitter water was drunk, and God, who brings

ALL SECRET THINGS INTO JUDGMENT, showed the indubitable

proof in the swollen body and the rotted thigh. Proof, sentence, and

punishment were all in one.

 

  • THE DISCOVERY, EQUALLY UNERRING, OF INNOCENCE.

One wonders what the history of this ordeal was in practice; how often

used, and with what results. We know not what terrible tragedies it may

have prevented, what credulous Othello it may have restored to his peace

of mind, what Desdemona it may have vindicated, and what Iago it may

have overthrown in his villainous plots. “God shall bring forth thy

righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday”

 (Psalm 37:6). There will be A FINAL CLEARING OF ALL THE

INNOCENT however many have been condemned at a human bar.

The whole matter assumes its most significant aspect when we note

how the apostasy of God’s people is figured by gross and shameful

breaches of the marriage vow (Ezekiel 16).  The doom of the adulterous

wife foreshadows the doom of the backsliding believer, WHO LIKE-

WISE IS UNFAITHFUL!

 

 

 

 

                                    Conscience Money (vs. 5-10)

 

This precept is a continuation of the one laid down in the preceding verses,

and, like it, admonishes the people regarding the purity which ought to

prevail in a camp honored with the presence of the Holy One. Since the

Lord dwells in the midst of the camp, there must not abide in it anything

that defileth — any leper, any one having an issue, any one who has been in

contact with the dead. Nor is it bodily defilement only that entails this

disability. The man “that doeth hurt to his neighbor” (Psalm 15:3) is unclean in

God’s sight. Fraud is as defiling as leprosy. Even if it is such as the criminal law

cannot reach, God’s eye sees it, and is offended with it; and the wrongdoer

must regard himself as excluded from the camp till he has made

restitution to his wronged neighbor, and brought a sacrifice of atonement

to the Lord.

 

·         Keeping in view the scope of the law as I have described it, you will without

      difficulty master the particulars laid down, especially if you read along with

it the law in Leviticus 6:1-7. It is essential to observe that this injunction is

not a part of the criminal code. It is not laid down for the guidance of the

judges, but for the guidance of a man’s own conscience. The restitution

enjoined is similar to that known among ourselves as CONSCIENCE MONEY.

Take an example. A man finds a pruning-hook by the side of a highway,

evidently left there by mistake. He takes it home. “An excellent pruning-hook;

the very thing I was in need of. I need not make a noise about the lucky find;

I will keep it to myself.” A few days after, the loser turns up, and makes

inquiries about his hook. But the finder denies all knowledge of it, and it

remains in his possession. Among us the criminal law would have something

to say to this dishonest finder. The meshes of the Hebrew criminal code

seem to have been wide enough to let him go. But the holy law of God

speaks to his conscience.

 

ü      He is to confess his fault. Even in matters belonging to the criminal law,

the Jews laid great stress on confession. It was a maxim among them, that

if a man brought an offering for his offence, but omitted to confess the evil

he had done, his offering would not avail for atonement (compare I John 1:9).

 

ü      He is to make restitution to the person wronged. In the instance

supposed the pruning-hook must be restored, or its equivalent in money,

with one-fifth part added. This, let me observe in passing, shows that the

trespass contemplated is not a trespass such as fell within the scope of the

criminal law; for the restitution enjoined in the criminal law was much

ampler.   A thief restored double; a sheep-stealer fourfold; a cattle-lifter

fivefold (Exodus 22:1-4). Mild penalties certainly, but more severe than

the restitution enjoined here.

 

ü      A ram is to be brought to the Lord as a trespass offering for atonement.

 

ü      If the person who was wronged is dead, the restitution is to be made to

the next heir, — the kinsman, or goel (v 8), whom failing, it is to be

made to the Lord in the person of the priest. In connection with this, the

people are admonished that all gifts solemnly dedicated to the priest fall

under the same rule as conscience money paid by way of compensation for

fraud. Omission to pay them will defile the camp.

 

·         WHAT DOES THIS STATUTE OF CONSCIENCE MONEY

TEACH US?

 

ü      When a man does wrong to his neighbor he sins against God, and must

crave God’s pardon for the wrong. There have been religious systems —

the old Greek and Roman paganism, for example — which completely

disconnected religion from morality. A tendency in the same direction, who

that knows himself has not caught a glimpse of in his own heart? Against

that fatal divorce the whole word. of God is a protest and warning. Read

Psalm 15:2. When a man does wrong to his neighbor he must make

compensation to his neighbor. It will not do simply to confess the wrong

to God, and beg his pardon. That is only one half of what the case

demands. Satisfaction must be made to the person wronged. In many cases

the civil magistrate will see to this. In many other cases the wrong-doing is

of a kind which his sword cannot reach — fraudulent bankruptcies often

elude the law. In all cases alike, God commands the person who has

wronged his neighbor to repay him with increase.

 

ü      The wrongdoer who omits to repay as required is admonished that he is

an unclean person, whose presence defiles God’s sanctuary. In God’s sight

the camp is defiled by the presence of a man who defrauds as much as by a

leper. If you would see how deeply this aspect of the precept before us

impressed itself on consciences in Israel read Psalm 15, a psalm fitted

surely to suggest alarm to those amongst us who in business habitually

violate the golden rule, and yet claim a place in God’s sanctuary.

 

ü      In the complications of modem life it will happen far more frequently

than in ancient Israel that satisfaction for fraud cannot be made directly to

the parties defrauded. In this case the money is to be devoted to charitable

and pious uses. To be sure, ill-gotten wealth is a very undesirable source of

income for either Church or charity. I much doubt whether God honors it

to do much good. But if the fraudulent person is truly penitent, and has

done his best to make compensation to his victims, he may hope to escape

the defilement and curse that cleave to dishonest gains by bestowing them

where they may possibly do some good.

 

 

 

 

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