Today, I am reading and commenting on Numbers 5-6.
There are two interesting rituals in today’s passage. The first discusses what a husband should do if he thinks his wife is unfaithful, but has no proof. This ritual bothers me because it places a burden on a wife to prove her faithfulness to a jealous husband but no similar burden is placed upon a husband of a jealous wife. However, that is a result of a culture that was very different from ours today. While I am about to make a partial defense of this ritual that does not mean that I think we should practice it today. This ritual eliminates a husband being able to excuse his abuse of his wife on the basis of claiming it was because she cheated on him. If he thinks his wife has cheated on him this passage gives him the only course of action open to him; take his wife to the priest and make an offering for God to pass judgment. The other aspect of this is that I firmly believe that God has the power and will to make it so that a woman who was guilty of no sin would suffer no consequence from undergoing this ritual.
The second interesting ritual in today’s passage is the vow of a Nazirite. The passage does not make it clear why someone would take a vow of a Nazirite. Part of the reason would be to declare oneself dedicated to service to God. However, every time I read this passage it seems to me that there is more to such a vow than that. It seems to me that one would take a vow of a Nazirite as a way to emphasize the seriousness to which one held some ministry or activity that one was going to do in service to the Lord. As an example of what I mean by this: one might take a vow to read through the Bible in a certain amount of time (say a year). To add a bit more dedication and focus to that vow, one might make it as a vow of a Nazirite and follow the rules laid out in this passage. The vow of a Nazirite contains a private and a public element. On the private side, one would avoid wine and all of the products of the grape vine. The discipline of doing this would help the individual to focus on God. On the private side, one would not cut one’s hair for the duration of the vow. This would signal to those around them that they were dedicating themselves to serving God.