Numbers 5:23
And the priest shall write these curses in a book, and he shall blot them out with the bitter water:
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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.Blot them out with the bitter water - In order to transfer the curses to the water. The action was symbolic. Travelers speak of the natives of Africa as still habitually seeking to obtain the full force of a written charm by drinking the water into which they have washed it.23, 24. write these curses in a book—The imprecations, along with her name, were inscribed in some kind of record—on parchment, or more probably on a wooden tablet.

blot them out with the bitter water—If she were innocent, they could be easily erased, and were perfectly harmless; but if guilty, she would experience the fatal effects of the water she had drunk.

These curses, wherewith she cursed herself, to which peradventure her name was added.

In a book, i.e. in a scroll of parchment, which the Hebrews commonly call a book, as Deu 24:1 2 Samuel 11:11 Isaiah 39:1.

Blot them out with the bitter water, or, rase or scourge them out, and cast then into the bitter water. Whereby it was signified, that if she was innocent, the curses should be blotted out and come to nothing, and if she were guilty, she should find in her the effects of this water which she drunk, after the words of this curse; had been scraped and put in. And the priest shall write these curses in a book,.... The above curses imprecated on herself by an oath; the words and the letters of them were written at length, in a scroll of parchment; and, as some say also, her name, but not her double amen to them (y):

and he shall blot them out with the bitter water: wash them out with it, and into it, or scrape them off of the parchment into it.

(y) Misnah, ut supra, (Sotah, c. 2) sect. 3.

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

(m) Shall wash the curses, which are written, into the water in the vessel.

23. a book] The Heb. term sçpher denotes anything which can receive writing, e.g. a strip of parchment. Here it is something from which the written words of the curse can be washed or wiped out into the water. The curse is considered to be in this manner literally conveyed to the potion. The eating of written charms is a frequent practice in Thibet and India for the cure of disease. In Egypt ‘the most approved mode of charming away sickness or disease is to write certain passages of the Korân on the inner surface of an earthenware cup or bowl; then to pour in some water, and stir it until the writing is quite washed off: when the water, with the sacred words thus infused in it, is to be drunk by the patient’ (Waddell, The Buddhism of Tibet, quoted by Gray, p. 54).Verse 23. - In a book. On a roll. Blot them out with the bitter water. Rather, "wash them off into the bitter water," in order to transfer the venom of the curses to the water. Ἐξαλείψει... εἰς τὸ ὔδωρ, Septuagint. The writing on the scroll was to be washed off in the vessel of water. Of course the only actual consequence was that the ink was mixed with the water, but in the imagination of the people, and to the frightened conscience of a guilty woman, the curses were also held in solution in the water of trial. The direction was founded on a world-wide superstition, still prevalent in Africa, and indeed amongst most semi-barbarous peoples. In the 'Romance of Setnan,' translated by Brugsch. Bey, the scene of which is laid in the time of Rameses the Great, a magical formula written on a papyrus leaf is dissolved in water, and drunk with the effect of imparting all its secrets to him that drinks it. So in the present day, by a similar superstition, do sick Mahomedans swallow texts of the Koran; and so in the middle ages the canonized Archbishop Edmund Rich (1240) on his death-bed washed a crucifix in water and drank it, saying, "Ye shall drink water from the wells of salvation." The priest was to bring her near to the altar at which he stood, and place her before Jehovah, who had declared Himself to be present at the altar, and then to take holy water, probably water out of the basin before the sanctuary, which served for holy purposes (Exodus 30:18), in an earthen vessel, and put dust in it from the floor of the dwelling. He was then to loosen the hair of the woman who was standing before Jehovah, and place the jealousy-offering in her hands, and holding the water in his own hand, to pronounce a solemn oath of purification before her, which she had to appropriate to herself by a confirmatory Amen, Amen. The water, which the priest had prepared for the woman to drink, was taken from the sanctuary, and the dust to be put into it from the floor of the dwelling, to impregnate this drink with the power of the Holy Spirit that dwelt in the sanctuary. The dust was strewed upon the water, not to indicate that man was formed from dust and must return to dust again, but as an allusion to the fact, that dust was eaten by the serpent (Genesis 3:14) as the curse of sin, and therefore as the symbol of a state deserving a curse, a state of the deepest humiliation and disgrace (Micah 7:17; Isaiah 49:23; Psalm 72:9). On the very same ground, an earthen vessel was chosen; that is to say, one quite worthless in comparison with the copper one. The loosening of the hair of the head (see Leviticus 13:45), in other cases a sign of mourning, is to be regarded here as a removal or loosening of the female head-dress, and a symbol of the loss of the proper ornament of female morality and conjugal fidelity. During the administration of the oath, the offering was placed in her hands, that she might bring the fruit of her own conduct before God, and give it up to His holy judgment. The priest, as the representative of God, held the vessel in his hand, with the water in it, which was called the "water of bitterness, the curse-bringing," inasmuch as, if the crime imputed to her was well-founded, it would bring upon the woman bitter suffering as the curse of God.
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