Numbers beings with two chapters that are devoted to addressing the laity of the Israelite community. Following these, the next two chapters turn the attention to the priestly Levite crew. For the most part, instructions regarding the tabernacle have remained positive. The holiness of the tabernacle has remained a theme since its introduction into scripture. The same is seen in these opening chapters of the book of Numbers, the dwelling place of God is to be handled in exactly the manner which he has spoken.
Reaching Chapter 5, the manner of achieving this holiness does change. The shift is from positive reinforcement, “do this” “stand there” “place that here”, to one which is much more negative in nature: “put them out.. remove them… break faith with them.” However, it is clear that the concern in the same.
God’s camp is to be holy.
In Numbers 5, this means putting out human impurity of any kind, even those of physical ailment, for example, lepers. There is no question of confusion: the temple of the Lord will remain holy. The dwelling place of God retains the greatest sanctity.
The chapter continues by revealing even how to deal with deliberate sin, making confession, acknowledgement, and retribution central to righting all wrongs before the Lord. In fact, there is no doubt that to sin against your fellow-man is to sin against God himself. It is for this reason that atonement again comes to the forefront. It is only through the confession and restitution for wrongs that one can proceed with the priestly ritual for atonement.
The theme is powerful: there is no place for sin in the community of God.
The temple of the Lord is to be removed of all impurities. The place where God dwells is to have not a hint of uncleanliness.