Commentary on Numbers 5:5-10

Notes (NET Translation)

5 Then the LORD spoke to Moses:

6 “Tell the Israelites, ‘When a man or a woman commits any sin that people commit, thereby breaking faith with the LORD, and that person is found guilty, 7 then he must confess his sin that he has committed and must make full reparation, add one fifth to it, and give it to whomever he wronged.

Lev 6:1-7 describes the kinds of offenses envisaged here. The sinner has defrauded another and denied it under oath. In breaking the oath he breaks faith with God because he invoked God’s name in vain. The Hebrew of v 6 actually says feels guilty, not found guilty. The sinner must declare his remorse and make a 120% reparation payment to the wronged party.

The penalty for apprehended theft is double the value of the stolen article (Exod. 22:3) or more (Exod. 21:37). The intent of the sharp reduction of this penalty here to 20 percent is to encourage the voluntary surrender of the theft. It is found in ancient Near Eastern practice and in rabbinic law, where it is called takkanat ha-shavim, “a dispensation for the repentant.”1

8 But if the individual has no close relative to whom reparation can be made for the wrong, the reparation for the wrong must be paid to the LORD for the priest, in addition to the ram of atonement by which atonement is made for him.

Numbers addresses a question not answered in Leviticus 6: what is to be done if the defrauded man is dead? The guilty party is to pay reparations to his kin or, if he has no living kin, he is to pay reparations to the priest. A guilt offering of a ram was also to be made in all cases of fraud with a false oath.

9 Every offering of all the Israelites’ holy things that they bring to the priest will be his. 10 Every man’s holy things will be his; whatever any man gives the priest will be his.'”

Verses 9-10 appear to speak of offerings in general. The “holy things” are the gifts and offerings given to the sanctuary. Levine and Milgrom understand the Hebrew to mean the donor could choose the priest who would collect the gift as his own.

Bibliography

Ashley, Timothy R. The Book of Numbers. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1993.

Brown, Raymond E., Joseph A. Fitzmyer, and Roland E. Murphy, eds. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1990.

Cole, R. Dennis. Numbers. Kindle Edition. The New American Commentary. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000.

Friedman, Richard Elliott. Commentary on the Torah. First Edition. San Francisco, Calif.: HarperOne, 2001.

Levine, Baruch A. Numbers 1-20. The Anchor Yale Bible. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993.

Mays, James L., ed. The HarperCollins Bible Commentary. Revised Edition. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2000.

Milgrom, Jacob. Numbers. The JPS Torah Commentary. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1989.

Wenham, Gordon J. Numbers. Kindle Edition. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. IVP Academic, 2015.


  1. Milgrom 1990, 35 
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