One of the concepts we are going to see in Numbers is that it deals with the sins of the mouth. The proper use of speech is important. One example of this is found in Num 5.11-31 in what is called “The Sotah” which deals with a wife suspected of adultery. This is a ceremony that was done in the Mishkan, and later the Temple. It is linked to the ceremony of the Parah Adumah (Red Heifer), the cleansing of a leper and the Azazel on Yom Kippur in several ways.
In the Sotah, the wife is suspected of adultery and she is taken “before the Lord” at the Temple. She is to drink “bitter waters” (5.24) and this is a mixture of water from the Kior and the dust from the Temple (or Mishkan) floor. She would swear that she was not guilty of adultery, but if she was, she would suffer harmful effects. The words of the oath (5.21-24) were written on a scroll and were blotted out in water, which she drank. If guilty, physical deformities could develop, and she was cursed, and eventually die (5.27).
There was no ceremony like this for a man because the woman was a picture of Israel who has been unfaithful to her husband and will drink bitter waters. If she confesses she can be reconciled, if she doesn’t, then she is cursed. This ceremony is not done if caught in the act, as seen in John 8.1-11, that was a trick. In most cases, the people involved were stoned, with the witness who saw them throwing the first stone. In biblical law, there was no capital punishment for a crime if there was not at least two eye witnesses, and they had to be credible. The couple involved were warned before committing the act and they went ahead and committed the act anyway.
The next question is this. If one was a witness to adultery and the act, what were they doing there to begin with? That was the question in John 8.7. Nobody wanted to throw the first stone as a witness because it seems whoever was there did not want to admit it because they were trying to “set-up” Yeshua. They already knew the reputation of the woman, that’s why they used her. Maybe one of their own Pharisee brothers from the house of Shammai was the man with her. Maybe they knew more than that. And where was the man caught with the woman?
Israel has been guilty of spiritual adultery. The bridegroom (Yeshua) has the right to take his bride into this trial by ordeal. This trial by ordeal is called the Birth-pains of the Messiah. Yeshua is saying, “You reject me and are guilty of spiritual adultery. I was the one that made the covenant at Sinai with you and you have broken it. Are you willing and prepared to take this test? She will say, “Amen, Amen” (5.22). This is the first time “Amen” is used in the Scriptures and it is the signal that she is now ready for the test.
Now, this ceremony has another application and it involves the birth of Yeshua. We know that Isa 7.14 is a prophecy a bout the birth of the son of Isaiah, but it also alludes to the birth of Yeshua. The word for virgin in Isa 7.14 is “almah” and it means a virgin or a young woman. In the case of Isaiah’s wife, she was a young woman who gave birth to a son and this prophecy is discussed in Isa 7.10 to 8.3. But almah was also going to apply to Miriam and she was going to have to be a virgin, so that is why the Lord chose that word for this prophecy in Isa 7.14. It was going to have numerous applications and this word can be used several ways. So the sign to Isaiah that God was going to deliver Judah from the two kings (Isa 7.1-13) was his wife (a young woman-“almah”-Isa 8.3) was going to give birth to a son. But, what was the “sign” to Miriam, Joseph and everyone else in regards to Yeshua? A virgin would conceive and give birth, but how could you prove that the woman who gave birth to the Messiah was a virgin?
In Luke 1.21-56 we have the story of Miriam and how she became pregnant, before she ever knew a man. We learn that she immediately goes to stay with Zacharia and Elizabeth after the angelic visit (Luke 1.39). They were priests (Luke 1.5) and she stays with them for three months (Luke 1.56) and then returns home. Why did she do that? Maybe it was because she was supervised by Elizabeth and nobody left her alone, especially with Joseph. At three months, she would be showing. Now, Mary was betrothed to Joseph and he found out that Miriam was pregnant. Joseph was a “tzaddik” or a “righteous man” and he did not want to disgrace Miriam, so he was going to divorce her privately. But an angel appeared to him and told him to not be afraid to take Miriam as his wife. The child within her was conceived by the power of God. That was a hard one to comprehend at first, one would imagine, but in faith Joseph married her, but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to Yeshua. Now, that is the basic story we all know, but the question is this. How could she prove to Joseph and others that she did not commit adultery and that she was truly a virgin according to the prophecy about the Messiah? She could volunteer for the Sotah test!
It is at least possible that this is exactly what she did. She was staying with a well respected priestly family and she could have gone to the Temple and submitted herself to this ceremony. That would explain some of her strange behavior after the announcement that she was going to give birth to the Messiah. By submitting herself to this ceremony, it would have been the greatest “sign” that the child within her was indeed conceived by the power of God and not man to anyone who investigated the claims that Yeshua was the Messiah. This ceremony would have been on record because they kept such records in the Temple. Anyone who doubted the origins of Yeshua and his claims could have gone into the Temple records and done the research that his mother went through the Sotah ordeal on such and such a date and has survived to that very day, meaning she was telling the truth. You will notice that there is not one recorded incidence in the Scriptures where anyone came to Miriam and called her a liar! We don’t know that she did this, but we do have a built-in mechanism in the Torah to prove that she was a virgin at the time of Yeshua’s birth.