Confession and Restitution – A Context for the Tarumah

Numbers 5:5-10 is a report of the proclamation of the Law. Yahweh pronounced a Law through the intermediary, Moses. A law has to be spoken to Israel, which is what the purpose of the text is for. It functions as a legal instruction, in which the pronouncement of the law and the reference to its author is combined.

5 The Lord said to Moses, 6 “Speak to the Israelites. Say to them, ‘Suppose a man or woman does something wrong to someone else. Then that person is not being faithful to the Lord. People like that are guilty. 7 They must admit they have committed a sin. They must pay in full for what they did wrong. And they must add a fifth of the value to it. Then they must give all of it to the person they have sinned against. 8 But suppose that person has died. And suppose that person does not have a close relative who can be paid for the sin that was committed. Then what is paid belongs to the Lord. It must be given to the priest. A ram must be given along with it. The ram must be sacrificed to the Lord to pay for the sin. 9 All the sacred gifts the Israelites bring to a priest will belong to him. 10 Sacred gifts belong to their owners. But what they give to the priest will belong to the priest.’” (Numbers 5:5-10)


The setting of this text is an instructional setting of the priestly writers, during the post-exilic time. In verse 8, the situation is the temptation of keeping property when the original owner or his next of kin was unavailable. For this situation, the text institutes the law, and not just an ethical obligation, that restitution must be made nevertheless, now to Yahweh and hence to the priest, because the misuse of human property is also a violation of trust against Yahweh. The priestly body becomes under this condition the legal receiver of liable compensation. In verse 9-10, there are specific situations about how priests are becoming deprived of the târumah given to them.


The intention of this text was not to replace the Law. Instead, it reaffirmed the specific formulations in a summary. By adding what was not specifically mentioned in the former law, it wants to clarify any loopholes that may exist. By designating the priests as receivers of the restitution, it also secures the livelihood of priests. Again, this specificity is from the Lord, and not from human authority.35 The one who committed the crime has the opportunity to make things right for himself and for his family.



Experience the Power of Prophecy as a gift to open your mind to receive the Mind of Christ.

Why do you think the Lord wants the priest to be provided for?