Numbers 4-5

Today’s reading begins with a listing of the duties of the Kohathites and concludes with the prescription for determining the faithfulness of a man’s wife.

The LORD instructed Moses that among all the tribe of Levi that the sons of Kohath were to be responsible for the most of holy of responsibilities for tending to the tent of meeting. The sons of Kohath numbered 2,750 men between the ages of 20 and 50. The duties that the men of Kohath were assigned to perform related to the transport of the Tabernacle and all its holy things after Aaron and his sons had disassembled and stored the holy things of the temple. The Kohathites were assigned to bear the burden of transporting the holy things of the Tabernacle, but were not to touch the holy things. Even while they were being instructed as to their duties, the Kohathites were not even to look upon the holy things, lest the LORD strike them dead.

In addition to the holy things of the Tabernacle two additional sons of the tribe of the Levites were assigned duties related to the transport of the Tabernacle: the sons of Gershon and the sons of Merari. The sons of Gershon of the tribe of the Levites were to be responsible for the carrying of the curtains of the tent of meeting and the tent of meeting itself including wall hangings located within the Tabernacle. The sons of Merari of the tribe of the Levites were responsible for transporting the framed members of the Tabernacle.

The final portion of today’s reading describes what actions a man should take if he suspected his wife of having committed adultery. Whether or not a man had proof of his wife’s infidelity was not a requirement for bringing his wife before the priest and having the priest perform the ritual for making a determination of infidelity. The husband was required to bring a small grain offering without oil or incense. This was offered to the LORD. Then the priest was required to make the “water of bitterness that brings the curse”. This water was made by the priest by combining holy water and dust from the floor of the Tabernacle. The woman was required to make an oath given to her from the priest and then she was to drink of the water of bitterness that brings the curse. If she had committed adultery against her husband, the water would cause her womb to swell and cause her great pain. She would then be cursed among her people. If she had not committed adultery the water would simply pass through her body without ill effect and then she would be free to conceive and bear children. The husband who brought his wife before the priest to perform this ritual was free of any guilt and it was only the adulterous wife would bear any guilt.

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