Confession and Restitution with the Tărūmāh

Confession and Restitution with the Tărūmāh:

“Believing and confessing go together, and you cannot be saved without you take them both. With the mouth of confession is made unto salvation. If you ever see the kingdom of heaven you have to take this way.”

-Dwight L. Moody

Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.

James 5:16 NRSV

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.

The Lord said to Moses, “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.

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.

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.

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)

In verses 9-10, specific situations about how priests are becoming deprived of the târumah given to them.

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 verses 9-10, specific situations about how priests are becoming deprived of the târumah given to them.

By designating the priests as receivers of the restitution, also secures the livelihood of priests.


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