Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible, by John Wesley, [1754-65], at sacred-texts.com
num 5:3That they defile not the camp - By which God would intimate the danger of being made guilty by other mens sins, and the duty of avoiding intimate converse with wicked men. I dwell - By my special and gracious presence.
num 5:6Any sin that men commit - Heb. any sins of men, that is, sins against men, as deceits or wrongs, whereby other men are injured, of which he manifestly speaks. Against the Lord - Which words may be added, to shew that such injuries done to men are also sins against God, who hath commanded justice to men, as well as religion to himself. Guilty - That is, shall be sensible of his guilt, convicted in his conscience.
num 5:7They shall confess their sin - They shall not continue in the denial of the fact, but give glory to God, and take shame to themselves by acknowledging it. The principal - That is, the thing he took away, or what is equivalent to it. And add - Both as a compensation to the injured person for the want of his goods so long, and as a penalty upon the injurious dealer, to discourage others from such attempts.
num 5:8No kinsman - This supposes the person injured to be dead or gone, into some unknown place, and the person injured to be known to the injurer. To the priest - Whom God appointed as his deputy to receive his dues, and take them to his own use, that so he might more chearfully and entirely devote himself to the ministration of holy things. This is an additional explication to that law, Lev 6:2, and for the sake thereof it seems here to be repeated.
num 5:9Unto the priest - To offer by his hands.
num 5:10Every man's hallowed things - Understand this not of the sacrifices, because these were not the priest's peculiar, but part of them was offered to God, and the remainder was eaten by the offerer as well as by the priest; but of such other things as were devoted to God, and could not be offered in sacrifice; as suppose a man consecrated an house to the Lord, this was to be the priest's.
num 5:12If a man's wife - This law was given partly to deter wives from adulterous practices, and partly to secure wives against the rage of their hard - hearted husbands, who otherwise might upon mere suspicions destroy them, or at least put them away. There was not like fear of inconveniences to the husband from the jealousy, of the wife, who had not that authority and power, and opportunity for the putting away or killing the husband, as the husband had over the wife. Go aside - From the way of religion and justice, and that either in truth, or in her husband's opinion.
num 5:15The man shall bring her to the priest - Who first strove to persuade her to own the truth. If she did, she was not put to death, (which must have been, if it had been proved against her) but only was divorced and lost her dowry. Her offering - By way of solemn appeal to God, whom hereby she desired to judge between her and her husband, and by way of atonement to appease God, who had for her sins stirred up her husband against her. He shall pour no oil - Both because it was a kind of sin - offering, from which these were excluded, and because she came thither as a delinquent, or suspected of delinquency, unpleasing both to God and men; as one that wanted that grace and amiableness and joy which oil signified, and that acceptance with God which frankincense denoted, Psa 141:2. Bringing iniquity to remembrance - Both to God before whom she appeared as a sinner, and to her own conscience, if she was guilty; and, if she were not guilty of this, yet it reminded her of her other sins, for which this might be a punishment.
num 5:16Before the Lord - That is, before the sanctuary where the ark was.
num 5:17Holy water - Water of purification appointed for such uses. This was used, that if she were guilty, she might be afraid to add profaneness to her other crime. An earthen vessel - Because, after this use, it was to be broken in pieces, that the remembrance of it might be blotted out as far as was possible. Dust - An emblem of vileness and misery. From the floor of the tabernacle - Which made it holy dust, and struck the greater terror into the woman, if she were guilty.
num 5:18Before the Lord - Before the tabernacle with her face towards the ark. Uncover her head - Partly that she might be made sensible how manifest she and all her ways were to God; partly in token of her sorrow for her sin, or at least for any cause of suspicion which she had given. In her hands - That she herself might offer it, and thereby call God to be witness of her innocency. Bitter - So called either from the bitter taste which the dust gave it, or from the bitter effects of it upon her, if she were guilty. That causeth the curse - Not by any natural power, but by a supernatural efficacy.
num 5:19By an oath - To answer truly to his question, or to declare whether she be guilty or no, and after such oath shall say as follows.
num 5:21An oath - That is, a form of cursing, that when they would curse a person, they may wish that they may be as miserable as thou wast. Thy thigh - A modest expression, used both in scripture, as Gen 46:26, Exo 1:5, and other authors. To rot - Heb. to fall, that is, to die or waste away. To swell - Suddenly and violently till it burst, which the Jews note was frequent in this case. And it was a clear evidence of the truth of their religion.
num 5:22Amen, amen - That is, so let it be if I be guilty. The word is doubled by her as an evidence of her innocency, and ardent desire that God would deal with her according to her desert.
num 5:23In a book - That is, in a scroll of parchment, which the Hebrews commonly call a book. Blot them out - Or scrape them out and cast them 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 drank, after the words of this curse had been scraped and put in.
num 5:24To drink - That is, after the jealousy - offering was offered.
num 5:28Conceive seed - That is, shall bring forth children, as the Jews say, in case of her innocency, she infallibly did, yea though she was barren before.
num 5:31Guiltless - Which he should not have been, if he had either indulged her in so great a wickedness, and not endeavoured to bring her to repentance or punishment, or cherished suspicions in his breast, and thereupon proceeded to hate her or cast her off. Whereas now, whatsoever the consequence is, the husband shall not be censured for bringing such curses upon her, or for defaming her, if she appear to be innocent. Her iniquity - That is, the punishment of her iniquity, whether she was false to her husband, or by any light carriage gave him occasion to suspect her.