“If the spirit of jealousy comes upon him and he becomes jealous of his wife, who has defiled herself; or if the spirit of jealousy comes upon him and he becomes jealous of his wife, although she has not defiled herself”
This section addresses the subject of marital problems; specifically that of jealousy. If a husband suspects his wife of cheating on him, but has no evidence, only suspicion; or if she hasn’t cheated, but he becomes jealous of her, this is what they are to do. The man is to bring his wife before the priest, and the priest is to make a concoction for her to drink (holy water, dirt and dried ink). Then, if she cheated on her husband, when she drinks it, her thigh will rot and her belly will swell. What’s this all about?
The Code of Hammurabi law dates back roughly to the time of Abraham. It is believed this code governed the pagan people in the area of Mesopotamia. In this code there is something very similar to what Moses is talking about in these verses. According to Hammurabi, if a woman was suspected of cheating on her husband, she was thrown into the river; if she survived, she was innocent, and if she drowned, she was guilty. Other cultures had similar rites in order to discover the guilt or innocence of a person. They might throw them in a pit of poisonous snakes or alligators, and if guilty, they would die, but if innocent they would survive. Remember when Paul was bitten by the poisonous snake, the pagans believed it was because he was guilty of a crime worthy of death.
At first glance, Numbers 5 sounds similar to those pagan rituals. However, there is a striking difference between what Moses tells the people to do, and what the Code of Hammurabi, and other pagan rituals declare. Here’s the difference. If I filled a glass with water, put in a handful of dirt from the planter, added in a little ink from a pen, stirred it up, then gave it to you to drink, would that cause your stomach to swell and your thigh to rot? It might not taste good, but it’s not going to kill you. There’s nothing deadly about it. It might make you feel sick, but it would not be an effective form of capital punishment. If you have small children, it is a mixture they probably consume on a regular basis. A little dirt, a little ink, unwashed hands and a cheeseburger or handful of grapes. When you see their filthy hands grasping a french fry, you are not concerned their stomach will swell or their thigh will rot. The difference between Numbers 5 and pagan rituals is, in this case, the woman is presumed innocent. She’s not thrown into a pit of poisonous snakes or a raging river, where 99% of the time the person dies. Instead, she’s put into a circumstance where it’s physically impossible for a cup of dirty water to cause your belly to swell and your thigh to rot.
If a woman is out cheating on her husband, there’s something wrong in the home. If the man is so jealous he’s accusing his wife of committing adultery, even when she hasn’t, there’s something wrong in that home. In one case, it’s the sin of the wife, she has committed adultery. In the other case, it’s the sin of the husband, his jealously is unwarranted. In both cases, there are problems going on in the marriage; there are problems going on at home. I think it is important for us to understand that our relationship with the Lord has to be happening in our house. You can be under the banner, in the right camp, marching with the Tabernacle in the center; you can remove the lepers, you can confess the sin, and make the 120% restitution, but if things aren’t right in the home, then the army’s not ready for battle.
What is God’s solution for a marital problem? How were they to go about solving the problem? They were to take their marital problem to the Lord. Notice, it was a problem that only the Lord could decipher. The husband’s saying, “You cheated on me.” And the wife replies, “I didn’t.” And the husband declares, “I know it.” And she’s saying, “Prove it.” And he responds, “I can’t. There’s no evidence, I just know it.” Either he’s wrong or she’s wrong; there seems to be no answer. How are we going to find an answer? God says, “Bring it to Me. Drink some dirty water and I’ll provide the answer.” It’s so ludicrous! Dirty water is not going to make your stomach swell or your thigh rot. Nevertheless, they are putting their marriage into the hands of the Lord. The Lord is going to have to solve this marital conflict.
So often, when things are going wrong in our relationships at home, we want to run to the world for help. But the world‘s answer is, “Get divorced, you were never in love in the first place”, or “Separate for a while, you need some ‘me time’.” And we think that sounds like a good idea. Not recognizing it is as foolish as if we were told, “throw her in a pit with some snakes. If she dies, it was her fault, but if she lives it was your fault.” Christian, the world does not have the answer. We must go to the Lord, and let the Lord be the one to fix the problems. Let the Lord be the One who provides the answers. Then, when she drinks the concoction and she doesn’t gain excessive weight in strange places, and loose it in others, her husband will realize, “I was wrong. Honey, I’m sorry I was so jealous. I’m sorry I brought you through that.” Or if her stomach does swell, and the wife realizes, “I was wrong. Forgive me, I’m sorry.” The Lord has solved the problem, the relationship is restored, and we are able to continue to impact the world for the kingdom of Heaven. Difficulties in marriage are not reasons to give up on marriage, but rather, are opportunities for the husband and wife to seek the Lord together. To see God accomplish the miraculous in their lives. Whatever problems you may be facing, humble yourself, go to your spouse, and begin with your spouse, to seek the Lord to heal and restore.