Commentary - Year 2 Sabbath 52

Numbers 5:11-31   -   Hosea 4:14   -   Psalm 96  -   2 Peter 2:1-22


II Adar 4, 5763 / Mar 8, 2003

Adar 18, 5766 / Mar 18, 2006

Adar 18, 5769 / Mar 14, 2009

Adar 16, 5772 / Mar 10, 2012

Adar 16, 5775 / Mar   7, 2015

Adar 16, 5778 / Mar   3, 2018

Adar 15, 5781 / Feb 27, 2021


Ki Tisteh / If She Goes Astray    SCRIPTURES (should be read first)


Today’s Torah portion, concerning a sotah (wayward wife), is one of those which seem difficult to understand upon a surface reading. However, when looking at “line upon line, and precept upon precept,” and considering the context, understanding becomes easier.


Firstly, it should be remembered, that marriage is to picture something greater – our relationship (as the church) with Messiah. This bride is not in the same position as Messiah, but both are to be faithful and holy. Hosea 4:14-15 indicates such a comparison.


This portion follows the teaching on stealing dedicated property and purity required in the camp of Israel. Using dedicated items for personal use was called ma’iylah – treachery (Numbers 5:6), and the user was required to make an atonement offering in order to become pure before God.


Numbers uses these two terms for marital unfaithfulness: adultery is ma’iylah – treachery (v.12), and the adulteress is nitma’ah – defiled (v.13); the latter term is the opposite of purity required for Temple worship. Marriage is thus presented as a sacred relationship that requires both faithfulness and purity, just as the relationship between Israel and Messiah.


The situation is where a wife has acted in such a way as to cause her husband to be suspicious of her faithfulness. Based upon Torah requirements for judgment to take place, there must be witnesses that she had been secluded with another man (without coercion), after having been warned against such action. However, in this circumstance, there are no witnesses to the further act of adultery.


The jealous husband must bring a meal offering. Whereas most meal offerings are made with fine wheat flour, this one is made with coarse barley flour: coarse because the wife’s actions were coarse, and animal food (barley) because she acted like an animal. The offering is not made with oil, because that represents light, and the act was done in darkness (hidden). The offering is not adorned with frankincense for a sweet aroma to God. The offering is called “jealousies” (plural), meaning that she acted against both her husband and God.


The wife cannot be punished because the required witnesses do not exist. However, if she were guilty, the prospect of an horrible death might induce her to confess; a confession would end a judgment by the court. If she were innocent, she would be vindicated by the test.


Mayim kodashim / sacred water from the Tabernacle or Temple laver is used; it represents purity and devotion. Earth is used from the floor of the Tabernacle, or from under a marble tile of the Temple floor; it represents death – returning to dust. The dirt is put into the water.


The suspect wife has the meal-offering placed in her outstretched hands, and is required to take an oath. After offering the meal-offering upon the altar, the wife is made to drink the water-dirt mixture. If she is guilty, she will die the death described in verse 21. The punishment being repeated in verse 22 is taken to mean that the man with whom she sinned will experience a similar death.


If the jealous husband is himself guilty of adultery, then the mixture will not bring death upon the guilty wife (based on the Hebrew of verse 31). If the suspect wife is innocent, she will have incurred public humiliation for her defiance in being in the company of the other man.


If she is innocent, she will be fully accepted by the husband and bear children without difficulty. This has apparent Messianic symbolism, indicative of the church that is not idolatrous bearing children.


The judgment of a sotah (wayward wife) is the only halachic action in Torah, where God directly intervenes. According to rabbinic history, it was discontinued during Second Temple times – due to rampant sin as described in the Hosea portion. God said that He would no longer punish adulteresses, when the men go apart with prostitutes.


Psalm 96 is about Yahweh judging the world with equity and righteousness. It rings with the joy of one who is devoted and expecting to be found pure.


1 Peter is about those of us who have found mercy, and how we are to be devoted and pure. We are to desire the Word of God, to grow thereby (v.2). We are to abstain from the desires of this world (v.11). we are to display righteous living before the world (v.12).We are to submit to government authority, which punishes evildoers and praises those who do right (v.13-14). Yeshua committed no sin, and no deceit was found in His mouth: we are to be likewise holy (v.21-22).



"Blessed are You, Yahweh our God, King of the Universe,

Who chose us from among all peoples by giving us Your Torah.

Blessed are You, Yahweh, giver of the Torah."


Reader 1Amen. 11 Then Yahweh spoke to Moses, saying, 12 "Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, 'If any man's wife goes astray and is unfaithful to him, 13 and a man has intercourse with her and it is hidden from the eyes of her husband and she is undetected, although she has defiled herself, and there is no witness against her and she has not been caught in the act,

Reader 2Amen. 14 if a spirit of jealousy comes over him and he is jealous of his wife when she has defiled herself, or if a spirit of jealousy comes over him and he is jealous of his wife when she has not defiled herself, 15 the man shall then bring his wife to the priest, and shall bring as an offering for her one-tenth of an ephah of barley meal; he shall not pour oil on it nor put frankincense on it, for it is a grain offering of jealousy, a grain offering of memorial, a reminder of iniquity. 16 'Then the priest shall bring her near and have her stand before Yahweh,

Reader 3Amen. 17 and the priest shall take holy water in an earthenware vessel; and he shall take some of the dust that is on the floor of the tabernacle and put it into the water. 18 'The priest shall then have the woman stand before Yahweh and let the hair of the woman's head go loose, and place the grain offering of memorial in her hands, which is the grain offering of jealousy, and in the hand of the priest is to be the water of bitterness that brings a curse. 19 'The priest shall have her take an oath and shall say to the woman, "If no man has lain with you and if you have not gone astray into uncleanness, being under the authority of your husband, be immune to this water of bitterness that brings a curse;

Reader 4Amen. 20 if you, however, have gone astray, being under the authority of your husband, and if you have defiled yourself and a man other than your husband has had intercourse with you" 21 (then the priest shall have the woman swear with the oath of the curse, and the priest shall say to the woman), "Yahweh make you a curse and an oath among your people by Yahweh'S making your thigh waste away and your abdomen swell; 22 and this water that brings a curse shall go into your stomach, and make your abdomen swell and your thigh waste away." And the woman shall say, "Amen. Amen."

Reader 5Amen. 23 'The priest shall then write these curses on a scroll, and he shall wash them off into the water of bitterness. 24 'Then he shall make the woman drink the water of bitterness that brings a curse, so that the water which brings a curse will go into her and cause bitterness. 25 'The priest shall take the grain offering of jealousy from the woman's hand, and he shall wave the grain offering before Yahweh and bring it to the altar;

Reader 6Amen. 26 and the priest shall take a handful of the grain offering as its memorial offering and offer it up in smoke on the altar, and afterward he shall make the woman drink the water. 27 'When he has made her drink the water, then it shall come about, if she has defiled herself and has been unfaithful to her husband, that the water which brings a curse will go into her and cause bitterness, and her abdomen will swell and her thigh will waste away, and the woman will become a curse among her people. 28 'But if the woman has not defiled herself and is clean, she will then be free and conceive children.

Reader 7Amen. 29 'This is the law of jealousy: when a wife, being under the authority of her husband, goes astray and defiles herself, 30 or when a spirit of jealousy comes over a man and he is jealous of his wife, he shall then make the woman stand before Yahweh, and the priest shall apply all this law to her. 31 'Moreover, the man will be free from guilt, but that woman shall bear her guilt.'"


"Blessed are You, Yahweh our God, King of the Universe,

Who in giving us Yeshua, the Living Torah, has planted everlasting life in our midst.

Blessed are You, Yahweh, giver of the Torah."



"Blessed are You, Yahweh our God, King of the Universe,

Who selected good prophets, delighting in their words which were spoken truthfully.

Blessed are You, Yahweh, Who chose the Torah, Your servant Moses, Your people Israel,

and the prophets of truth and righteousness."


Hosea 4:14

Reader 8Amen. 14 I will not punish your daughters when they play the harlot or your brides when they commit adultery, for the men themselves go apart with harlots and offer sacrifices with temple prostitutes; so the people without understanding are ruined.


Psalm 96    (To be sung.)

1 Sing to Yahweh a new song; sing to Yahweh, all the earth. 2 Sing to Yahweh, bless His name; proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day. 3 Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples. 4 For great is Yahweh and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods. 5 For all the gods of the peoples are idols, but Yahweh made the heavens. 6 Splendor and majesty are before Him, strength and beauty are in His sanctuary. 7 Ascribe to Yahweh, O families of the peoples, ascribe to Yahweh glory and strength. 8 Ascribe to Yahweh the glory of His name; bring an offering and come into His courts. 9 Worship Yahweh in holy attire; tremble before Him, all the earth. 10 Say among the nations, "Yahweh reigns; Indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved; He will judge the peoples with equity." 11 Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; let the sea roar, and all it contains; 12 Let the field exult, and all that is in it. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy 13 before Yahweh, for He is coming, for He is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in His faithfulness.


2 Peter 2:1-22

Reader 9Amen. 1 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. 2 Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; 3 and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

Reader 10Amen. 4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of darkness, reserved for judgment; 5 and did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; 6 and if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly lives thereafter; 7 and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men 8 (for by what he saw and heard that righteous man, while living among them, felt his righteous soul tormented day after day by their lawless deeds), 9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment, 10 and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority. Daring, self-willed, they do not tremble when they revile angelic majesties, 11 whereas angels who are greater in might and power do not bring a reviling judgment against them before the Lord.

Reader 11Amen. 12 But these, like unreasoning animals, born as creatures of instinct to be captured and killed, reviling where they have no knowledge, will in the destruction of those creatures also be destroyed, 13 suffering wrong as the wages of doing wrong. They count it a pleasure to revel in the daytime. They are stains and blemishes, reveling in their deceptions, as they carouse with you, 14 having eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed, accursed children; 15 forsaking the right way, they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; 16 but he received a rebuke for his own transgression, for a mute donkey, speaking with a voice of a man, restrained the madness of the prophet. 17 These are springs without water and mists driven by a storm, for whom the black darkness has been reserved. 18 For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, 19 promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved.

Reader 12Amen. 20 For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Yeshua the Messiah, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. 21 For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them. 22 It has happened to them according to the true proverb, "A dog returns to its own vomit," and, "A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire."

"Blessed are You, Yahweh our God, King of the Universe,

Rock of Ages, righteous throughout all generations.

You are the faithful God, promising and then performing, speaking and then fulfilling,

for all Your words are true and righteous.

Faithful are You, Yahweh our God, and faithful are Your words,

for no word of Yours shall remain unfulfilled;

You are a faithful and merciful God and King.

Blessed are You, Yahweh our God, Who are faithful in fulfilling all Your words."

© 2006  Beikvot HaMashiach
(Followers of the Messiah)