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The Bible In A Year: Day 51

Numbers 5-6
Job 4-7
Psalm 48

This chapter contains a very strange ritual that was to be used if a woman was suspected of having an extramarital affair. If her husband suspected her of infidelity she would be taken to the priest and made to drink a concoction of “bitter water” that would have effects on her if she was indeed unfaithful, but would have no effect if she was innocent.

There’s a few things to note here. The first of which is there is no comparable ritual for a husband who was suspected of infidelity. The obvious reason being that women in those days were not afforded many rights, and questioning why your husband smelled like women’s perfume when he says he was tending the sheep all night would’ve just been asking for trouble. For better or for worse, that was just how life was back then. So there’s no “ordeal of water for an unfaithful husband” in the law because if a husband got called out for his unfaithfulness he could just write a bill of divorce and she’d be out on the street.

This is due to the concession that Moses gave the people, because of what Jesus called “the hardness of their hearts.” This wasn’t the ideal of husbands loving their wives like Christ loved the church, as Saint Paul calls us to do. It was an imperfect provision because the law wasn’t perfect, and this can be seen by Jesus perfecting the law when he called us to a higher law of love.

Another thing is that if a husband decided to subject his wife to this ordeal, and she came through unscathed, there was no penalty for him. It wasn’t like he has to suffer because he had unjustly accused his wife.

All this may seem terribly unfair and unjust, and it really was, but it was an improvement on what existed before. Remember that the law’s purpose was to prepare the people for the coming of the messiah. They were being taught the ways of God, and moved away from the ways other nations around them conducted themselves. In that time and place, if a man thought his wife was unfaithful then he’d just kill her and replace her. Simple as that.

But now there was a way to test his jealousy and see if it was unfounded or if she really was unfaithful. It’s like the “eye for an eye” provision of the law. That wasn’t meant to be a vengeful thing, it was meant to be a limitation on revenge so that an injury or altercation didn’t become a family feud or a tribal war. It was the opposite of Lamach’s boast of killing a man for injuring him.

This ordeal of bitter water probably saved many lives in its strange way,.

Chapter 6 has the regulations of the Nazarites laid out in it. The people who took this oath abstained from alcohol and didn’t cut their hair for the duration of their oath. The most famous Nazarite in the Old Testament was Samson, who had his strength leave him when his hair was cut.

Job 4-6

Job’s friend, Eliphaz, who’s been sitting with him in silence for seven days, now speaks up in the first of what I’ll be several speeches and responses that make up the bulk of the book. He tells Job that suffering comes to everyone and that since no man is morally perfect, there must be some sin that he’s committed to bring this upon himself.

Job has lost all his belongings, including his children, and his flesh has suffered injury. His third trial will come with words, and one should not think this trivial, for there is nothing so biting as harsh speech. Job is in distress, yet he bears the burden of words in addition to wounds.

Saint Ambrose

His friend assures him that there must be something in his life that God is using this current suffering to correct. Just as a loving father reproves his children for their own good, so too does our Heavenly Father. But even though Eliphaz is correct in this general principle on the cause and effect of suffering, he’s wrong in assuming that Job is personally guilty of some wrong that’s brought this on. Job was exceptionally righteous, and though not perfect, he atoned for his failings and even those of his family.

In chapter 6 Job begins his response and pokes some holes in his friend’s assessment, and he begs God to show him what sins he had committed to bring this all on, if it was in fact his sins that have caused his calamity.

Job is angered by the accusations that he’s guilty so he begs to be shown what he has done, both for his own peace of mind and so that he can repent of that sin. But there is no major sin in his life and he knows it. The end of chapter 7 changes from Job asking his friend what he had done, to a prayer asking why God is withholding forgiveness from him because he is sorry for sins he knows he hasn’t even committed.

Part of Job’s anguish is the suffering has no meaning that he can discern, and this is frustrating and painful to us even today. When something happens we usually ask why, and that’s our first instinct. But a lot of times we get no answer and it drives us crazy, but the best response to this is to offer up our suffering to God as a sacrifice. See Question; Offering up Suffering

Tomorrow’s Readings:
Numbers 7
Job 8-10
Psalm 49
Mark 11

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