The Jealousy Offering
Concerning the jealousy offering, the Bible tells us that in ancient Israel, if a married woman committed adultery against her husband (Numbers 5:12), and there were no witnesses (v. 13), she will not be judged. For the law of Moses mandated that there should be at least two witnesses to secure a conviction. “One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established” (Deuteronomy 19:15 also 17:6; Numbers 35:30).
The penalty for proved marital unfaithfulness with another married person was death. Moses wrote, “‘The man who commits adultery with another man’s wife, he who commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress, shall surely be put to death” (Leviticus 20:10 also Deuteronomy 22:22–27).
Yet, if the husband had every suspicion to his wife’s adultery but lacked the proof and had a “spirit of jealousy,” he will then use the procedure of the jealousy offering in numbers 5:11-31 to determine if his wife was guilty or not.
The Bitter Drink
The jealous husband will take his wife to the priest. “Then the priest shall stand the woman before the Lord, uncover the woman’s head, and put the offering for remembering in her hands, which is the grain offering of jealousy. And the priest shall have in his hand the bitter water that brings a curse” (Numbers 5:18).
And the priest would offer the wife the bitter water. Then it shall be, if the woman was unfaithful towards her husband, that the water that brings a curse will cause her to get sick. And she would thus become a bitter disappointment to her husband, unable to build up his house. The woman would become a curse among her people. Therefore, she would be punished by death (Leviticus 20:10). God does not ignore iniquity, neither does He forgive it until it has been confessed (1 Kings 17:18; Ezekiel 29:16; Hosea 8:13; Jeremiah 44:21; Psalms 25:7). Thus, she would be an example and a warning to others.
But if the woman was faithful to her husband, then God will save her from the harmful effects of the bitter water and she would not get sick (v. 28,29). Then, she would be declared innocent (Jeremiah 2:35) and “cleared of guilt.” And she will be “able to have children” (Numbers 5:28), a compensation implying divine favor which was highly prized by the Israelites.
The basic principle of the whole unpleasant experience of the jealousy offering was that the outcome lay in God’s hands. He who sees everything that is done in secret will reveal it before the priest, the husband and the people.
In His service,