|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
5:11-31 This law would make the women of Israel watch against giving cause for suspicion. On the other hand, it would hinder the cruel treatment such suspicions might occasion. It would also hinder the guilty from escaping, and the innocent from coming under just suspicion. When no proof could be brought, the wife was called on to make this solemn appeal to a heart-searching God. No woman, if she were guilty, could say Amen to the adjuration, and drink the water after it, unless she disbelieved the truth of God, or defied his justice. The water is called the bitter water, because it caused the curse. Thus sin is called an evil and a bitter thing. Let all that meddle with forbidden pleasures, know that they will be bitterness in the latter end. From the whole learn, 1. Secret sins are known to God, and sometimes are strangely brought to light in this life; and that there is a day coming when God will, by Christ, judge the secrets of men according to the gospel, Ro 2:16. 2 In particular, Whoremongers and adulterers God will surely judge. Though we have not now the waters of jealousy, yet we have God's word, which ought to be as great a terror. Sensual lusts will end in bitterness. 3. God will manifest the innocency of the innocent. The same providence is for good to some, and for hurt to others. And it will answer the purposes which God intends.
Verse 17. - 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, pure running water. In an earthen vessel. Cheap and coarse, like the offering. 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 (1 Kings 6:16, 30). This use of the dust has been held to signify the fact
(a) that man was made of dust, and must return to dust (Genesis 3:19); or
(b) 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,
(a) is not appropriate to the matter in question, since mortality is common to all, and
(b) 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.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And the priest shall take holy water,.... Out of the laver, as the Targums of Onkelos and Jonathan, and so Jarchi and Aben Ezra:
in an earthen vessel; which held half a log, and that was but a quarter of a pint, or three egg shells; for no more was assigned, to a suspected woman, according to the Misnah (r). Some say only a fourth part: an earthen vessel was made use of, as everything vile and mean was in this affair:
and of the dust that is in the floor of the tabernacle the priest shall take, and put it into the water; first the water was put in, and then the dust, as Ben Gersom observes: there was a place a cubit square, where was a marble table, and a ring fixed in it, and when he lifted it up he took dust from under it, and put it so as it might be upon the top of the water (s); which was used, either, as the Targum of Jonathan suggests, because the end of all flesh is to come to dust, and so to put her in mind of her original and her end; and in like manner the earthen vessel might signify, that she would be broke to pieces as that vessel; as also it might direct her thoughts to the tempter, by the influence of whose temptation she had been drawn into this sin, dust being the serpent's food; and this being taken off the floor of the tabernacle, might add to the veneration of it, and make it more solemn and awful to drink of it.
(r) Sotah, c. 2. sect. 2. Menachot, c. 9. sect. 3.((s) Sotah, c. 2. sect. 2.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
17, 18. the priest shall take holy water—Water from the laver, which was to be mixed with dust—an emblem of vileness and misery (Ge 3:14; Ps 22:15).
in an earthen vessel—This fragile ware was chosen because, after being used, it was broken in pieces (Le 6:28; 11:33). All the circumstances of this awful ceremony—her being placed with her face toward the ark—her uncovered head, a sign of her being deprived of the protection of her husband (1Co 11:7)—the bitter potion being put into her hands preparatory to an appeal to God—the solemn adjuration of the priest (Nu 5:19-22), all were calculated in no common degree to excite and appall the imagination of a person conscious of guilt.
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