In the times of the Old Testament God dwelled with His people in the Tent of Meeting at the center of the camp. Therefor the camp was a holy place and people who were unclean could not be in the camp where the Lord dwelled. Neither was it acceptable for an unclean person to mix with other people. People were infectious if they had a disease that could spread to other people. Therefore people who were infectious had to live outside of the camp. Outside of the camp meant beyond the borders of the camp where they lived in caves or tents. At times everyone is unclean and there are many reasons why someone would be unclean. In Leviticus chapter 15 you can read the laws that describe how a person can be unclean. Example are:
- A disease of the skin would make a person unclean.
- Blood or liquid coming from the genital areas of the body would make a person unclean.
- If a person touched a dead human they would be unclean for a week.
Now that Jesus has come these rules do not apply as they did in the Old Testament times as man can approach God through Jesus. Jesus, the Son of God touched people who had diseases and healed them. Jesus touched dead people and raised them from the dead. (Luke 17:12-19; Luke8: 40-56)
People who do not believe in Jesus remain unclean because of their sin. These people cannot come near to God. The only way a man can come to God is through Jesus (John 14:6) People must believe that Jesus died as their sacrifice for the sin in their life. If they repent and turn away from their sin, then they receive forgiveness and their sin is washed away by His shed blood. (1 John 1:7) Only Jesus can make a man clean so that God will accept them.
When a person sins against another person and is not honest about it that person has also sinned against God. All sins against people are sins against God, as it is God’s Law that has been broken. Here God is reminding Moses that all sin is against God.
The laws for the Israelite people were stricter than the law of other nations. When a law was broken the offender had to confess the law that he had not kept. Beyond that they had to repay the cost of their sin to the one who had suffered the loss or damage. The one who was guilty also had to pay up to one fifth beyond the amount that they owed.
It was God’s way to teach the Israelite people that to sin was very costly. Also if a person was truly sorrowful for their sin they would be willing to pay more than the actual cost of their actions. This showed that they were truly sincere and the other person was bound to forgive them. Neither was this person to commit a wrong act against the offender.
Even if the one who had been sinned against had died the guilty person had to pay. The relatives of the deceased would receive the money and if there were no relatives then the priest would receive the money. The priest would receive the money as he was God’s representative and the sin is actually against God. Also the guilty person would have to bring a male sheep that could be sacrificed for atonement.
These laws were very important as the Israelites were in preparation for marching into the Promised Land to conquer it. There was to be no division or conflicts between the people, as they were to be united. People who march together had to be loving and forgiving towards one another. As they forgave one another God could forgive them.
As in all nations the family structure was very important to the Israelite nation. The families keep precise record of their ancestors. Adultery was a serious crime in the Hebrew culture, as it should be in all cultures. If a man’s wife had sexual relations with another man the husband could not be sure that he was the father of his children. The Law of God warns husbands and wives that they must be faithful towards one another. (Exodus 20:14) The punishment for adultery was death but there had to be evidence. There had to be evidence, the husband or wife had to prove that their spouse had been unfaithful. If there was no evidence, then these are the instructions that had to be followed and God would be the judge.
Even if the woman was innocent of the crime she would follow out through this ritual. She would express her faith that God would protect her. But if the woman was guilty she would be very afraid of God’s Judgment. She would probably confess to her husband that she had committed adultery in the hope that her husband would forgive her. Or she might run away.
If the woman was not guilty of adultery then this ritual would prove her innocence to her husband and everyone else. The husband would have to take her back as his wife. God’s protection provided safety for the innocent woman.
The husband and the wife went to the priest with a Barley offering. The Barley was to be free of oil or incense. (Leviticus 4:11-13) The water that the priest kept in God’s Tent was Holy Water. The Holy Water was to be mixed with dust and the ink that he had used to write the curse. Both the water and the dust were symbolic. The dust may have been a reminder that the unclean snake ate the dust. (Genesis 3:14) Then it is also a reminder that man was created from the dust. (Genesis 2:7) The woman’s hair had to be loose, it had to be untied.
If the woman was guilty of adultery, then the bitter water would bring a curse upon her. She would become barren and unable to have children. In the Jewish culture this was a very bad thing to happen to a woman and it would cause her to lose her happiness. If the woman was innocent then the water would cause her no harm, as she would be protected by God. It would also prove that she was innocent.
Adultery is a serious sin. God does not want Husbands and wives to be unfaithful to each other. Trust is a most valuable commodity and once broken it many never be repaired. Adultery hurts people and destroys families. Man hardly forgives and never forgets but we must remember that God forgives sin if people are sorry. Jesus forgave the adulterous woman and did not punish her, but He did tell her that she must not sin again. (John 8:2-11)
Paul warned the Church in Corinth that they must not continue to sin in this way. “But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler–not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.” (1 Corinthians 5:11-13)