Numbers 5:1-31


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5:1 VA YEDABER YHVH EL MOSHEH LEMOR

וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָה אֶל מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹר

KJ (King James translation): And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

BN (BibleNet translation): Then YHVH spoke to Mosheh, saying


5:2 TSAV ET BENEY YISRA-EL VIY'SHALCHU MIN HA MACHANEH KOL TSARU'A VE CHOL ZAV VE CHOL TAM'E LA NEPHESH

צַו אֶת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וִישַׁלְּחוּ מִן הַמַּחֲנֶה כָּל צָרוּעַ וְכָל זָב וְכֹל טָמֵא לָנָפֶשׁ

KJ: 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:

BN: Instruct the Beney Yisra-El that they must send anyone who has leprosy out of the camp, and every one who has a bodily secretion, and whoever has been defiled by the dead.


Compare what follows with Leviticus 13.


5:3 MI ZACHAR AD NEKEVAH TESHALEYCHU EL MI CHUTS LA MACHANEH TESHALCHUM VE LO YETAMU ET MACHANEYHEM ASHER ANI SHOCHEN BETOCHAM

מִזָּכָר עַד נְקֵבָה תְּשַׁלֵּחוּ אֶל מִחוּץ לַמַּחֲנֶה תְּשַׁלְּחוּם וְלֹא יְטַמְּאוּ אֶת מַחֲנֵיהֶם אֲשֶׁר אֲנִי שֹׁכֵן בְּתוֹכָם

KJ: 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.

BN: You must send both men and women out of the camp; they must be sent out so that they do not defile their camps, in the midst of which I dwell.


ASHER ANI SHOCHEN BETOCHAM: All about me again, this monomaniacally egocentric deity! (presumably this is a primitive way of describing contagions and infections)

The practice of quarantine is entirely understandable, but the phrasing here is harsh, and the theological contradiction even harsher. It reads like a "NO LEPERS" sign, in the manner of "NO IRISH, NO BLACKS, NO JEWS" that I grew up with; a form of apartheid separating those who are physically blemished from those who are too, but not so obviously. What is revealed is YHVH's detestation of physical imperfection, the notion that something divinely created can also be imperfect. And this of course is the great and the truly fascinating paradox of the superstition of god-worship: that the entire blessed-damned Creation is imperfect; yet the Creator is deemed not only to be perfection absolute itself, but manifested in all things Created. Upon this statement an entire book could be written!


5:4 VA YA'ASU CHEN BENEY YISRA-EL VA YESHALCHU OTAM EL MI CHUTS LA MACHANEH KA ASHER DIBER YHVH EL MOSHEH KEN ASU BENEY YISRA-EL

וַיַּעֲשׂוּ כֵן בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וַיְשַׁלְּחוּ אוֹתָם אֶל מִחוּץ לַמַּחֲנֶה כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר יְהוָה אֶל מֹשֶׁה כֵּן עָשׂוּ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל

KJ: 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.

BN: And the Beney Yisra-El did so, and sent them out of the camp: as YHVH spoke to Mosheh, so the Beney Yisra-El did.


5:5 VA YEDABER YHVH EL MOSHEH LEMOR

וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָה אֶל מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹר

KJ: And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

BN: Then YHVH spoke to Mosheh, saying


5:6 DABER EL BENEY YISRA-EL ISH O ISHAH KI YA'ASU MI KOL CHATOT HA ADAM LIMOL MA'AL BA YHVH VE ASHMAH HA NEPHESH HA HU

דַּבֵּר אֶל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אִישׁ אוֹ אִשָּׁה כִּי יַעֲשׂוּ מִכָּל חַטֹּאת הָאָדָם לִמְעֹל מַעַל בַּיהוָה וְאָשְׁמָה הַנֶּפֶשׁ הַהִוא

KJ: Speak unto the children of Israel, When a man or woman shall commit any sin that men commit, to do a trespass against the LORD, and that person be guilty;

BN: Speak to the Beney Yisra-El, When a man or woman commits a sin against another person, it is also a sin against YHVH, and that person is guilty


HA ADAM: Important that we translators recognise when the text says ISH meaning "male" and ADAM means "Man", as in "Humankind". This is the latter.


5:7 VE HITVADU ET CHATATAM ASHER ASU VE HESHIV ET ASHAMO BE ROSHO VA CHAMISHTO YOSEPH ALAV VE NATAN LA ASHER ASHAM LO

וְהִתְוַדּוּ אֶת חַטָּאתָם אֲשֶׁר עָשׂוּ וְהֵשִׁיב אֶת אֲשָׁמוֹ בְּרֹאשׁוֹ וַחֲמִישִׁתוֹ יֹסֵף עָלָיו וְנָתַן לַאֲשֶׁר אָשַׁם לוֹ

KJ: 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.

BN: Then they shall confess the sin which they have committed: and the trespass shall be recompensed with its principal, and a further one-fifth added to it, and the sum given to the person against whom the sin has been committed.


HITVADU...HESHIV: Odd change of pronoun and quantity in mid-sentence from "they" to "he"; but we shall see this oddity repeated throughout the chapter; I have removed it from my translation altgoether.


CHAMISHTO: The same one-fifth that we saw added in Leviticus 27:13 as a fine for trying to pass off an unclean beast as clean; I wonder if this is why the recipe for the 12 loaves in Leviticus 24:5 was given as two-tenths, rather than one-fifth; so that it wouldn't be mistaken for this law of damages.


5:8 VE IM EYN LA ISH GO'EL LEHASHIV HA ASHAM ELAV HA ASHAM HA MUSHAV LA YHVH LA KOHEN MILVAD EYL HA KIPURIM ASHER YECHAPER BO ALAV

וְאִם אֵין לָאִישׁ גֹּאֵל לְהָשִׁיב הָאָשָׁם אֵלָיו הָאָשָׁם הַמּוּשָׁב לַיהוָה לַכֹּהֵן מִלְּבַד אֵיל הַכִּפֻּרִים אֲשֶׁר יְכַפֶּר בּוֹ עָלָיו

KJ: But if the man have no kinsman to recompense the trespass unto, let the trespass be recompensed unto the LORD, even to the priest; beside the ram of the atonement, whereby an atonement shall be made for him.

BN: But if the person has no living relative to whom the reparation-damages can be paid, let the fine be paid over to YHVH through the Kohen; in addition to the ram of the atonement, by which an atonement shall be made for him.


Why would the person require a kinsman to receive the damages, unless the person has been killed, and the law is not about any-old-sin, but the very specific crime of murder? And if that is the case, why is it so obliquely rendered?


5:9 VE CHOL TERUMAH LE CHOL KADSHEY VENEY YISRA-EL ASHER YAKRIVU LA KOHEN LO YIHEYEH

וְכָל תְּרוּמָה לְכָל קָדְשֵׁי בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אֲשֶׁר יַקְרִיבוּ לַכֹּהֵן לוֹ יִהְיֶה

KJ: And every offering of all the holy things of the children of Israel, which they bring unto the priest, shall be his.

BN: And every offering of all the holy things of the Beney Yisra-El which they bring to the Kohen, shall be his.


These laws have already been given. If YHVH gave the whole law in one piece to Mosheh on Mount Sinai, we have to wonder about this. Did YHVH suddenly remember a new aspect and addendum it? And if this is a repetition, why did Mosheh not interrupt and say: "YHVH, we already dealt with this"? To both options, the answer of course is: the whole law wasn't given in one go. We have later addenda, alternative texts, final redaction. Don't tell that to the orthodox.



5:10 VE ISH ET KADASHAV LO YIHEYU ISH ASHER YITEN LA KOHEN LO YIHEYEH

וְאִישׁ אֶת קֳדָשָׁיו לוֹ יִהְיוּ אִישׁ אֲשֶׁר יִתֵּן לַכֹּהֵן לוֹ יִהְיֶה

KJ: And every man's hallowed things shall be his: whatsoever any man giveth the priest, it shall be his.

BN: And every man's hallowed things shall be his: whatever any man gives to the Kohen, it shall be his.


LO: Several translations get in a mess with this verse, a consequence of their own mis-reading. This is the dative, not the negative, though both words are pronounced LO. Here it is LAMED-VAV (לו), not LAMED-ALEPH (לא).




5:11 VA YEDABER YHVH EL MOSHEH LEMOR

וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָה אֶל מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹר 

KJ: And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,

BN: Then YHVH spoke to Mosheh, saying,


5:12 DABER EL BENEY YISRA-EL VE AMARTA ALEYHEM ISH ISH KI TISTEH ISHTO U MA'ALAH VO MA'AL

דַּבֵּר אֶל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאָמַרְתָּ אֲלֵהֶם אִישׁ אִישׁ כִּי תִשְׂטֶה אִשְׁתּוֹ וּמָעֲלָה בוֹ מָעַל

KJ: Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any man's wife go aside, and commit a trespass against him,

BN: Speak to the Beney Yisra-El, and say to them, If any man's wife goes aside, and commits a trespass against him


MA'ALAH VO MA'AL: "Trespass" - I have left this in as the translation for the moment, pending commentary on the next several verses.


5:13 VE SHACHAV ISH OTAH SHICHVAT ZERA VE NE'ELAM ME EYNEY ISHAH VE NISTERAH VE HI NITMA'AH VE ED EYN BAH VE HI LO NITPASAH

וְשָׁכַב אִישׁ אֹתָהּ שִׁכְבַת זֶרַע וְנֶעְלַם מֵעֵינֵי אִישָׁהּ וְנִסְתְּרָה וְהִיא נִטְמָאָה וְעֵד אֵין בָּהּ וְהִוא לֹא נִתְפָּשָׂה

KJ: And a man lie with her carnally, and it be hid 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;

BN: And a man lies with her carnally, and it is hidden from the eyes of her husband, and is kept secret, and she is defiled, and there is no witness against her, nor is there any physical evidence...


LO NITPASAH: The translation leaves the statement unfinished... and infers a situation of so hypothetical a nature that it surely doesn't merit a law. "If a spoon goes missing from your kitchen, and you want to believe your neighbour's dog came in and took it, but no one saw it, and there are no hairs or footprints anywhere..." This is a law that appertains to obsessive people with deranged imaginations: this is Strindberg in "The Father", and Swann spying on Odette through the wrong window. Or perhaps not...

First: what does "defiled" mean? Is the act of adultery itself a defilation, or is this about the venereal disease she contracted or the lice eggs now hatching on her, or a factor of the man performing the sin of Onan and leaving his semen on her 
flesh? The verb here is the Hitpa'el (reflexive) form, from the root PASAH, found only once in the Tanach, in Leviticus 13:7: " But if the scab spreads further across the skin, after he has appeared before the priest for cleansing, he shall present himself again to the Kohen", which certainly suggests the woman has a venereal infection, or perhaps she has picked up a nit, a flea, scabies, a skin rash... except that, here the form is the Hitpa'el, so the suggestion is metaphorical, that she has been "spreading" the tale of her adultery, and LO NITPASAH is negative, so she has not been spreading... whence my very different translation, which the second part of the next verse appears to confirm. 


5:14 VE AVAR ALAV RU'ACH KIN'AH VE KIN'E ET ISHTO VE HI NITMA'AH O AVAR ALAV RU'ACH KIN'AH VE KIN'E ET ISHTO VE HI LO NITMA'AH

וְעָבַר עָלָיו רוּחַ קִנְאָה וְקִנֵּא אֶת אִשְׁתּוֹ וְהִוא נִטְמָאָה אוֹ עָבַר עָלָיו רוּחַ קִנְאָה וְקִנֵּא אֶת אִשְׁתּוֹ וְהִיא לֹא נִטְמָאָה

KJ: 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:

BN: And the spirit of jealousy comes over him, and he is jealous of his wife, and she has been defiled: or if the spirit of jealousy comes upon him, and he is jealous of his wife, and she has not been defiled:


KINAH: We are specifically in the realm of which commandment? What causes the defilement? Is this a matter of blood, or semen, or reputation - more likely his than hers?

And if this is as it appears to be, then I for one simply cannot accept that a divinity who created men and women equally could have given this misogynistic law. There is no equivalent for the woman who suspects the same of her husband; and as we shall see, the method of confirming the man's deranged and paranoiac suspicions are humiliating, regardless of her guilt or innocence. This is, in short, barbaric. Or is it perhaps...


5:15 VE HEVI HA ISH ET ISHTO EL HA KOHEN VE HEVI ET KARBANAH ALEYHA ASIRIT HA EYPHAH KEMACH SE'IRIM LO YITSOK ALAV SHEMEN VE LO YITEN ALAV LEVONAH KI MINCHAT KENA'OT HU MINCHAT ZIKARON MAZKERET AVON

וְהֵבִיא הָאִישׁ אֶת אִשְׁתּוֹ אֶל הַכֹּהֵן וְהֵבִיא אֶת קָרְבָּנָהּ עָלֶיהָ עֲשִׂירִת הָאֵיפָה קֶמַח שְׂעֹרִים לֹא יִצֹק עָלָיו שֶׁמֶן וְלֹא יִתֵּן עָלָיו לְבֹנָה כִּי מִנְחַת קְנָאֹת הוּא מִנְחַת זִכָּרוֹן מַזְכֶּרֶת עָו‍ֹן

KJ: Then shall the man bring his wife unto the priest, and he shall bring her offering for her, the tenth part of an ephah of barley meal; he shall pour no oil upon it, nor put frankincense thereon; for it is an offering of jealousy, an offering of memorial, bringing iniquity to remembrance.

BN: Then the man shall bring his wife to the Kohen, and he shall bring her offering for her, the tenth part of an ephah of barley meal; he shall pour no oil on it, nor put frankincense on it; for it is an offering of jealousy, an offering of memorial, bringing iniquity to remembrance.


MINCHAT ZIKARON: "Or perhaps not..." - and this phrase is the key, and it changes everything.


I asked about the number of the commandment, because number seven (Exodus 20:12) states clearly "LO TINAPH - לא תנאף - you shall not commit adultery", which leads on (Leviticus 20:10) to "If a man commits adultery with another man's wife - with the wife of his neighbour - both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death". But here she is not being put to death; she is being allowed (enabled?) to make a sin-offering and thereby atone the sin. So is the difference, as posed above, that no "defilement" took place; or does the difference lie in the lack of witnesses, the absence of evidence (including blood or semen or venereal disease), and the law is in fact protecting the woman from a Strindbergian husband - one who believes his wife has committed adultery, when she may well not have done. Or is it in fact something entirely different... By taking her to the Kohen, and following the ritual that is given in the next several verses, the woman is cleared of any accusation, and the man's jealous suspicions are dealt with even if she has had sex with another man. Though this will still leave one "problem", as we shall see in verse 19ff, and especially in verse 27.



5:16 VE HIKRIV OTAH HA KOHEN VE HE'EMIDAH LIPHNEY YHVH

וְהִקְרִיב אֹתָהּ הַכֹּהֵן וְהֶעֱמִדָהּ לִפְנֵי יְהוָה

KJ: And the priest shall bring her near, and set her before the LORD:

BN: And the Kohen shall have her approach the altar, and set her before YHVH


A woman at the altar - HIKRIV is the verb that is always used when an offering is brought.


5:17 VE LAKACH HA KOHEN MAYIM KEDASHIM BI CHELI-CHARES U MIN HE APHAR ASHER YIHEYEH BE KARKA HA MISHKAN YIKACH HA KOHEN VE NATAN EL HA MAYIM

וְלָקַח הַכֹּהֵן מַיִם קְדֹשִׁים בִּכְלִי חָרֶשׂ וּמִן הֶעָפָר אֲשֶׁר יִהְיֶה בְּקַרְקַע הַמִּשְׁכָּן יִקַּח הַכֹּהֵן וְנָתַן אֶל הַמָּיִם

KJ: And the priest shall take holy water in an earthen vessel; and of the dust that is in the floor of the tabernacle the priest shall take, and put it into the water:

BN: And the Kohen shall take holy water in an earthen vessel; and he shall take some of the dust that is on the floor of the tabernacle, and the Kohen shall drop it into the water


White magic and atavism!


5:18 VE HE'EMID HA KOHEN ET HA ISHAH LIPHNEY YHVH U PHARA ET ROSH HA ISHAH VE NATAN AL KAPEYHA ET MINCHAT HA ZIKARON MINCHAT KENA'OT HI U VE YAD HA KOHEN YIHEYU MEY HA MARIM HA ME'ARERIM

וְהֶעֱמִיד הַכֹּהֵן אֶת הָאִשָּׁה לִפְנֵי יְהוָה וּפָרַע אֶת רֹאשׁ הָאִשָּׁה וְנָתַן עַל כַּפֶּיהָ אֵת מִנְחַת הַזִּכָּרוֹן מִנְחַת קְנָאֹת הִוא וּבְיַד הַכֹּהֵן יִהְיוּ מֵי הַמָּרִים הַמְאָרְרִים

KJ: And the priest shall set the woman before the LORD, and uncover the woman's head, and put the offering of memorial in her hands, which is the jealousy offering: and the priest shall have in his hand the bitter water that causeth the curse:

BN: And the Kohen shall set the woman before YHVH, and uncover the woman's head, and put the memorial-offering in her hands, which is the jealousy offering: and the Kohen shall have in his hand the bitter water that causes the curse


Is this the "curse" as in menstruation, or the curse as in "white magic and atavism!" as a euphemism for "superstitious nonsense"?

Unless (I left my note on 
MINCHAT ZIKARON in verse 15 somewhat unfinished; I know) what we are reading isn't this at all - and the second paragraph of the link below ("Name Meaning") will demonstrate this very clearly. MEY HA MARIM HA ME'ARERIM is the hint of this. It links to the name MIR-YAM (Miriam), the waters of bitterness and the orgiastic rites performed as fertility rituals in her honour. I strongly suspect that the Redactor is attempting here to transform one cultic ritual into another, and that, before monotheism, when it was perfectly acceptable, indeed required, for a woman, married or otherwise, to offer herself as a hierodule for the festivals, that this practice was used to make the woman pure and clean again when she returned to her husband afterwards. It allows the woman to have had ritual intercourse without being defiled, and the man to deal with the fact that some stranger just had sex with his wife; neither are dishonoured; indeed, both are formally honoured, and that is why it's a memorial offering, and not a sin offering; and that is why the normal accoutrements of a sin offering are specifically excluded: the oil and the frankincense; and why no animal is slaughtered. In this ritual, in those times, she did no wrong - but the husband may well remain as unhappy about her having participated as she would if it had been him as May King with another woman. So that needs purging too.


But then...


5:19 VE HISHBIY'A OTAH HA KOHEN VE AMAR EL HA ISHAH IM LO SHACHAV ISH OTACH VE IM LO SATIT TUM'AH TACHAT ISHECH HINAKI MI MEY HA MARIM HA ME'ARERIM HA ELEH

וְהִשְׁבִּיעַ אֹתָהּ הַכֹּהֵן וְאָמַר אֶל הָאִשָּׁה אִם לֹא שָׁכַב אִישׁ אֹתָךְ וְאִם לֹא שָׂטִית טֻמְאָה תַּחַת אִישֵׁךְ הִנָּקִי מִמֵּי הַמָּרִים הַמְאָרְרִים הָאֵלֶּה

KJ: And the priest shall charge her by an oath, and say unto the woman, If no man have lain with thee, and if thou hast not gone aside to uncleanness with another instead of thy husband, be thou free from this bitter water that causeth the curse:

BN: And the Kohen shall charge her by an oath, and say to the woman, If no man has lain with you, and if you have not gone aside to commit an unclean act with a man who is not your husband, you are hereby free from this bitter water that causes the curse...


Is this a completely different law for a completely different circumstance, mixed up with the previous; or is my reading of the previous simply wrong? The trouble is, the traditional reading makes so little sense, you can find no commentary to support an explanation of it, anywhere.

What this verse is doing is purging the accusation, based on her oath of innocence in the matter of actual adultery. Is her oath not sufficient without it? And if she denies it, and her denial is now accepted, surely it is his mouth that needs washing clean, not hers? So this verse too makes no sense.


5:20 VE AT KI SATIT TACHAT ISHECH VE CHI NITMET VA YITEN ISH BACH ET SHECHAVTO MI BAL'ADET ISHECH

וְאַתְּ כִּי שָׂטִית תַּחַת אִישֵׁךְ וְכִי נִטְמֵאת וַיִּתֵּן אִישׁ בָּךְ אֶת שְׁכָבְתּוֹ מִבַּלְעֲדֵי אִישֵׁךְ

KJ: 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:

BN: But if you have gone aside to another who is not your husband, and if you are therefore defiled, and some man has lain with your who is not your husband...


If I'm wrong, and it is as described, then we need to focus on the phrase, used in the previous verse as well as this one, TACHAT ISHECH: a woman is "beneath her husband", a second-class citizen, mere property, and not equal at all. At what point did the equality of Creation subside into the chattelhood of Torah?

And if I'm right, then the words of the ceremony endorse a clear distinction between ritual hierodule ceremony and plain and simple adultery. If the woman had intercourse as a hierodule, then she slept with the god, not the surrogating man, and is undefiled; through the ceremony, extra-marital affairs are condemned. And in the words too, endorsed in the next verse.




5:21 VE HISHBIY'A HA KOHEN ET HA ISHAH BI SHEVU'AT HA ALAH VE AMAR HA KOHEN LA ISHAH YITEN YHVH OTACH LE ALAH VE LI SHEVU'AH BETOCH AMECH BE TET YHVH ET YERECHECH NOPHELET VE ET BITNECH TSAVAH

וְהִשְׁבִּיעַ הַכֹּהֵן אֶת הָאִשָּׁה בִּשְׁבֻעַת הָאָלָה וְאָמַר הַכֹּהֵן לָאִשָּׁה יִתֵּן יְהוָה אוֹתָךְ לְאָלָה וְלִשְׁבֻעָה בְּתוֹךְ עַמֵּךְ בְּתֵת יְהוָה אֶת יְרֵכֵךְ נֹפֶלֶת וְאֶת בִּטְנֵךְ צָבָה

KJ: Then the priest shall charge the woman with an oath of cursing, and the priest shall say unto the woman, The LORD make thee a curse and an oath among thy people, when the LORD doth make thy thigh to rot, and thy belly to swell;

BN: Then the Kohen shall make the woman swear an "oath of swearing", and the Kohen shall say to the woman, "May YHVH curse you, and make your name a proverb of wickedness among your people, and may YHVH make your thighs rot, and your belly swell...



"Oath of cursing" and "oath of swearing" are two very different propositions. She is not cursing here, though she risks being cursed. She is swearing an oath. What the Kohen is doing is to place on a curse on her, in the event that she commits perjury, swearing innocence when she is in fact guilty.

Difficult grammar here; a narrative phrase has been introduced so the previous verse appears to have been left unfinished; but is in fact completed after the narrative intervention, continuing into the next verse.

YERECHECH NOPHELET: A most interesting punishment. How do thighs "fall away"? But wait. Why the thigh anyway - what is it about thighs, rather than "may your veins turn varicose" or "may you go deaf and blind"? And of course the thigh is the YERECH, and the YERECH links to the moon (click here for example), and the hollow of the thigh links to Ya'akov wrestling at Penu-El with one of the moon-goddess' night-spirits, the Lilim; and if this were a Mir-Yam ceremony...
there is also a connection that needs making between the waters of purification in the ceremony and the waters of birth; which the next verse indicates through the word ME'YAYICH.



VE ET BITNECH TSAVAH: The belly swelling may be a way of suggesting that her adultery will become known within the next few months, or it may be a way of cursing her with the infertility of a collapsed womb and ruined stomach muscles; or it might simply be the poisonous cocktail of unhygienic floor-dust and bitter water acting as a purgative. But again, see ME'AYICH in the next verse: this is the gut, not the uterus.


5:22 U VA'U HA MAYIM HA ME'ARERIM HA ELEH BE ME'AYICH LATSBOT BETEN VE LA NEPIL YARECH VE AMRAH HA ISHAH AMEN AMEN

וּבָאוּ הַמַּיִם הַמְאָרְרִים הָאֵלֶּה בְּמֵעַיִךְ לַצְבּוֹת בֶּטֶן וְלַנְפִּל יָרֵךְ וְאָמְרָה הָאִשָּׁה אָמֵן אָמֵן

KJ: And this water that causeth the curse shall go into thy bowels, to make thy belly to swell, and thy thigh to rot: And the woman shall say, Amen, amen.

BN: And this water that causes the curse shall go into your bowels, to make your belly swell, and your thighs rot, And the woman shall reply, Amen, amen.


Again the shifting pronoun, but this time in mid-sentence.

AMEN, AMEN: This is a problem too, because the concept of Amen (from Emuna = faith or trust, the source of Maimonides' "Ani Ma'amin" = I believe) is a response to prayer, and an attitude of reasoned intellectual faith in the deity, and I don't believe that either such prayer or such theology were in place at the time of Mosheh (we will see it in practice at the end of Deuteronomy; and that too is most likely an anachronism).




5:23 VE CHATAV ET HA ALOT HA ELEH HA KOHEN BA SEPHER U MACHAH EL MEY HA MARIM

וְכָתַב אֶת הָאָלֹת הָאֵלֶּה הַכֹּהֵן בַּסֵּפֶר וּמָחָה אֶל מֵי הַמָּרִים

KJ: And the priest shall write these curses in a book, and he shall blot them out with the bitter water:

BN: And the Kohen shall write these curses in a book, and he shall blot them out with the bitter water


The act of writing is not impossible; assuming that he used Egyptian hieroglyphs. "Book" is merely an anachronistic bad translation - the Yehudit word is "sepher", and sepharim were commonplace in ancient Egypt in the form of rolled scrolls of papyrus. Blotting them out in the water of bitterness (note that, without pointing, it could read either as MARIM or MIR-YAM, for which see my note to verse 18) is a wonderfully primitive act of atavism. Write them down and blot them out by dissolving them in the very waters of purification; a kind of aquatic Azaz-El!


But they are also curious in another way. If the woman has now admitted fornication, and been cursed for it in the face of her community, as above, why blot them out? Blotting out infers redemption: this would only be significant if she had coupled as a hierodule. And if she has now admitted adultery, then the law requires her death, and the man she slept with.



5:24 VE HISHKAH ET HA ISHAH ET MEY HA MARIM HA ME'ARERIM U VA'U VAH HA MAYIM HA ME'ARERIM LE MARIM

וְהִשְׁקָה אֶת הָאִשָּׁה אֶת מֵי הַמָּרִים הַמְאָרְרִים וּבָאוּ בָהּ הַמַּיִם הַמְאָרְרִים לְמָרִים

KJ: And he shall cause the woman to drink the bitter water that causeth the curse: and the water that causeth the curse shall enter into her, and become bitter.

BN: And he shall cause the woman to drink the bitter water that causes the curse; and the water that causes the curse shall enter into her, and become bitter.


All this talk of bitter waters leads us back to the bitter herbs of the Passover, and, again, to the name Mir-Yam (Miriam) which reflects precisely the bitter waters, and the great lakes of Mitsrayim (Egypt) are known as... the Great Bitter Lake and the Little Bitter Lake... there is still more, even more, to this text than has thus far met the eye. Mosheh has just prepared the Beney Yisra-El for their desert journey, which we will witness takes us from water-shrine to water-shrine - and here we are, witnessing the key ceremonies and rituals of those water shrines. Indeed, I am only surprised that there isn't a Kohenet rather than a Kohen conducting these ceremonies.

And if she is pregnant, would they then cleanse the unfertilised seed, so she lost the baby - Biblical abortion? No, the Kohen is in fact purifying her womb. And why might he need to do that? In the fertility rites, the whole point of her having intercourse as a hierodule is to get pregnant, to bear the sacred child conceived on the day of the sacred festival, thereby confirming that the deity (the goddess in fact) is still with the people, and that there will therefore be a good harvest etc this year. This is not really purgation of sin at all, but purgation of any germ that might obstacle fertility; this is sanctification!


5:25 VE LAKACH HA KOHEN MI YAD HA ISHAH ET MINCHAT HA KENA'OT VE HENIPH ET HA MINCHAH LIPHNEY YHVH VE HIKRIV OTAH EL HA MIZBE'ACH

וְלָקַח הַכֹּהֵן מִיַּד הָאִשָּׁה אֵת מִנְחַת הַקְּנָאֹת וְהֵנִיף אֶת הַמִּנְחָה לִפְנֵי יְהוָה וְהִקְרִיב אֹתָהּ אֶל הַמִּזְבֵּחַ

KJ: 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:

BN: Then the Kohen shall take the jealousy-offering out of the woman's hand, and he shall wave the offering before YHVH, and offer it on the altar


5:26 VE KAMATS HA KOHEN MIN HA MINCHAH ET AZKARATAH VE HIKTIR HA MIZBECHAH VE ACHAR YASHKEH ET HA ISHAH ET HA MAYIM

וְקָמַץ הַכֹּהֵן מִן הַמִּנְחָה אֶת אַזְכָּרָתָהּ וְהִקְטִיר הַמִּזְבֵּחָה וְאַחַר יַשְׁקֶה אֶת הָאִשָּׁה אֶת הַמָּיִם

KJ: 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.

BN: And the Kohen shall take a handful of the memorial-offering, and burn it on the altar, and afterward he shall cause the woman to drink the water.


Where verse 24 sanctified the sacred child, this is an act of purification, enabling the hierodule to return to the community, unblemished, her reputation intact, still a virgin if unmarried, unsullied by charges of adultery if married. The Virgin Mir-Yam, so to speak!


5:27 VE HISHKAH ET HA MAYIM VE HAYETAH IM NITME'AH VA TIM'OL MA'AL BE ISHAH U VA'U VAH HA MAYIM HA ME'ARERIM LE MARIM VE TSAVTAH BITNAH VE NAPHLAH YERECHAH VE HAYETAH HA ISHAH LE ALAH BE KEREV AMAH

וְהִשְׁקָהּ אֶת הַמַּיִם וְהָיְתָה אִם נִטְמְאָה וַתִּמְעֹל מַעַל בְּאִישָׁהּ וּבָאוּ בָהּ הַמַּיִם הַמְאָרְרִים לְמָרִים וְצָבְתָה בִטְנָהּ וְנָפְלָה יְרֵכָהּ וְהָיְתָה הָאִשָּׁה לְאָלָה בְּקֶרֶב עַמָּהּ

KJ: 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, and her belly shall swell, and her thigh shall rot: and the woman shall be a curse among her people.

BN: And when he has made her drink the water, then it shall come to pass that, if she has indeed been defiled, and has committed a sin against her husband, that the water that causes the curse shall enter into her, and become bitter, and her belly shall swell, and her thigh shall rot: and the woman shall be a curse among her people.


I suggested earlier that verse 27 leaves behind a problem - one that only applies if this is not a pre-Mosaic hierodule ritual. If she has done nothing wrong, the purgative will end the matter. But if she has done wrong - then Leviticus 20:10 is very clear that she must suffer the death penalty (which Maimonides, as explained in my note to Exodus 21:33, believed was strangulation, though in John 8:2-11 the punishment is clearly stoning). But here there is no death penalty, but only the purgation-ritual and the memorial-offering. So which is the Law? I think that this adds endorsement to my hierodule theory.




5:28 VE IM LO NITME'AH HA ISHAH U TEHORAH HI VE NIKTAH VE NIZRE'AH ZARA

וְאִם לֹא נִטְמְאָה הָאִשָּׁה וּטְהֹרָה הִוא וְנִקְּתָה וְנִזְרְעָה זָרַע

KJ: And if the woman be not defiled, but be clean; then she shall be free, and shall conceive seed.

BN: And if the woman has not been defiled, but is clean; then she shall be free, and she shall conceive seed.


Yes, but whose? The husband to whom she has returned, or the hierophant, by whom she is already pregnant (may Isis or Ishtar or Astarte be praised, hallelu-Yah)? Remember that these desert shrines are all water-shrines, oases in the middle of drought-land, and in the middle of the region of the Bitter Lakes, one of the great ancient homelands of the cults and atavistic rites and ceremonies of the water-goddess.


5:29 ZOT TORAT HA KENA'OT ASHER TISTEH ISHAH TACHAT ISHAH VE NITMA'AH

זֹאת תּוֹרַת הַקְּנָאֹת אֲשֶׁר תִּשְׂטֶה אִשָּׁה תַּחַת אִישָׁהּ וְנִטְמָאָה 

KJ: This is the law of jealousies, when a wife goeth aside to another instead of her husband, and is defiled;

BN: This is the law of jealousies, when a wife goes aside to another instead of her husband, and is defiled


Which answers my question at the end of verse 27: which Law should be followed, the stoning or the memorial-offering?


5:30 O ISH ASHER TA'AVOR ALAV RU'ACH KIN'AH VE KIN'E ET ISHTO VE HE'EMID ET HA ISHAH LIPHNEY YHVH VE ASAH LAH HA KOHEN ET KOL HA TORAH HA ZOT

אוֹ אִישׁ אֲשֶׁר תַּעֲבֹר עָלָיו רוּחַ קִנְאָה וְקִנֵּא אֶת-אִשְׁתּוֹ וְהֶעֱמִיד אֶת הָאִשָּׁה לִפְנֵי יְהוָה וְעָשָׂה לָהּ הַכֹּהֵן אֵת כָּל הַתּוֹרָה הַזֹּאת

KJ: 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.

BN: Or when the spirit of jealousy comes over him, and he is jealous of his wife, and shall set the woman before YHVH, and the Kohen shall execute upon her all this law.


5:31 VE NIKAH HA ISH MEY AVON VE HA ISHAH HA HI TIS'A ET AVONAH

וְנִקָּה הָאִישׁ מֵעָו‍ֹן וְהָאִשָּׁה הַהִוא תִּשָּׂא אֶת עֲו‍ֹנָהּ

KJ: Then shall the man be guiltless from iniquity, and this woman shall bear her iniquity.

BN: Then shall the man be guiltless from iniquity, and this woman shall bear her iniquity.


What iniquity is the man clear from? If it is simply about his paranoiac suspicions concerning his wife's fidelity, then it simply confirms again the lack of equality between men and women and is really quite despicable. But if it is a post-hierodule ceremony, then the "iniquity" is indeed the man's, because the whole community will know that his wife served as hierodule at the ceremonies, and probably the man was known, even a clansman, a neighbour, his bitterest enemy or rival, his best friend - and likewise an anonymous hierophant acting as surrogate for the male god in a Creation ritual that will end, like the tale of No'ach, with the breaking, and the sweetening, of the very bitter waters.



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