This post will focus on the Torah ritual regarding the suspicion of your wife’s marital infidelity.
We will see the Torah's way of dealing with such a situation is sacrifice and magical potions.
Notice the Torah law does not discuss suspicion of a husbands infidelity. Is not what is good for the goose also good for the gander ? According to the Torah NO. (sources at end).
Sexual contact between a married man and an unmarried women was not considered adultery (page 294 JPS).
Numbers 5:11 and the LORD spoke unto Moses, saying: 12 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them: If any man's wife go aside, and act unfaithfully against him, 13 and a man lie with her carnally, and it be hid from the eyes of her husband, she being defiled secretly, and there be no witness against her, neither she be taken in the act; 14 and the spirit of jealousy come upon him, and he be jealous of his wife, and she be defiled; or if the spirit of jealousy come upon him, and he be jealous of his wife, and she be not defiled; 15 then shall the man bring his wife unto the priest, and shall bring her offering for her, the tenth part of an ephah of barley meal; he shall pour no oil upon it, nor put frankincense thereon; for it is a meal-offering of jealousy, a meal-offering of memorial, bringing iniquity to remembrance. 16 And the priest shall bring her near, and set her before the LORD. 17 And the priest shall take holy water in an earthen vessel; and of the dust that is on the floor of the tabernacle the priest shall take, and put it into the water. 18 And the priest shall set the woman before the LORD, and let the hair of the woman's head go loose, and put the meal-offering of memorial in her hands, which is the meal-offering of jealousy; and the priest shall have in his hand the water of bitterness that causeth the curse. 19 And the priest shall cause her to swear, and shall say unto the woman: 'If no man have lain with thee, and if thou hast not gone aside to uncleanness, being under thy husband, be thou free from this water of bitterness that causeth the curse; 20 but if thou hast gone aside, being under thy husband, and if thou be defiled, and some man have lain with thee besides thy husband-- 21 then the priest shall cause the woman to swear with the oath of cursing, and the priest shall say unto the woman--the LORD make thee a curse and an oath among thy people, when the LORD doth make thy thigh to fall away, and thy belly to swell; 22 and this water that causeth the curse shall go into thy bowels, and make thy belly to swell, and thy thigh to fall away'; and the woman shall say: 'Amen, Amen.' 23 And the priest shall write these curses in a scroll, and he shall blot them out into the water of bitterness. 24 And he shall make the woman drink the water of bitterness that causeth the curse; and the water that causeth the curse shall enter into her and become bitter. 25 And the priest shall take the meal-offering of jealousy out of the woman's hand, and shall wave the meal-offering before the LORD, and bring it unto the altar. 26 And the priest shall take a handful of the meal-offering, as the memorial-part thereof, and make it smoke upon the altar, and afterward shall make the woman drink the water. 27 And when he hath made her drink the water, then it shall come to pass, if she be defiled, and have acted unfaithfully against her husband, that the water that causeth the curse shall enter into her and become bitter, and her belly shall swell, and her thigh shall fall away; and the woman shall be a curse among her people. 28 And if the woman be not defiled, but be clean; then she shall be cleared, and shall conceive seed. 29 This is the law of jealousy, when a wife, being under her husband, goeth aside, and is defiled; 30 or when the spirit of jealousy cometh upon a man, and he be jealous over his wife; then shall he set the woman before the LORD, and the priest shall execute upon her all this law. 31 And the man shall be clear from iniquity, and that woman shall bear her iniquity.
The Torah custom has similarities to other cultures And Raises Some 'Problems'
1) Regarding the Number verses cited: (Page 294 JPS) "Water ordeals of varying types are attested from the ancient Near East."
Regarding Numbers 5:11-31 “The ordeal, or more correctly, the trial of the suspected adulteress, is a means of allaying or confirming the fears of a husband that his wife has been unfaithful.” Due to lack of evidence , judgment and subsequent punishment is left to the Divine. “Most importantly, the priest administers the women’s oath and utters the curse that takes effect if she is guilty.” The waters reveal whether she has been faithful or not.
[If the bitter waters were a poison to induce abortions, then it would likely induce abortions or potentially cause problems for an innocent pregnant wife. What kind of cipher is that ? Also, is the Torah advocating abortion ? Seems like the Creator of the Universe will have to interfere in the marital problems of the ancient Israelites]
Page 298 Myth, Legend and Custom in the Old Testament - Theodore Gaster 1969 - writes there is no doubt the ceremony washing off written curses into the water was a superstition that could not possibly produce the effect on an adulterous while leaving the faithful wife unharmed. The book explains: It is a widespread superstition that the magical influence of a written charm can be communicated to a person when the individual drinks the water that has the washed off characters in it.
[Is it possible the Torah 'author' and purveyors knew the whole procedure was bogus ? Could be, but the Torah itself never remotely suggest such a thing. Also, I am not aware that our tradition held the ordeal was bogus.] }
2) Here are several similar trials sampled from Frazer
Page 307 "In many parts of Africa it has been, and perhaps still
is, customary to submit criminal charges, particularly poison in
accusations of witchcraft, to the test of poison : the accused
and sometimes the accusers also, are compelled to swallow
a poisoned draught, and according to the result a verdict
of guilty or not guilty is returned. As a rule, a man is
declared innocent if he vomits up the poison, but guilty if
he either retains it or evacuates it by purging. Death from
the effect of the poison is regarded as a sure sign of guilt"
Page 328 Sierra Leone:
"From this account we learn that negro women demonstrate their fidelity to their husbands by drinking red water
just as Hebrew women of old demonstrated their domestic
virtue quite as conclusively by drinking bitter water and calling
down curses on their heads, or rather on their stomachs
and legs, if they lied."
Page 331 "On the Gold Coast the wood which furnishes the poison
for the ordeal is called odmn. The accused either drinks a
decoction of the wood or chews a piece of the wood and
afterwards drinks a bowl of water. The poison acts both
as an emetic and as a purge : if the accused vomits it up,
he is acquitted ; if he does not, his guilt is established.
Women accused of adultery, for example, have to drink a
brew of this poison in presence of a priest ; the draught is
believed to have power to burst the belly of an adulteress.
Fear of the consequences, it is said, often leads unfaithful
wives to confess their guilt."
Page 372 Thonga, a Bantu tribe: "A woman charged with
adultery, for example, may say to her accuser, " Let us
go and drink the poison." Accordingly, they repair to a
medicine-man, whose business it is to prepare the decoction ;
he administers a little of the drug in a potion to both the
accused and the accuser, and the one who, after swallowing
the draught, shows symptoms of intoxication or loses consciousness, is declared guilty."
Page 378 Zambesi Area.
"This ceremony is called jnuavi, and is performed
in this way. When a man suspects that any of his
wives have bewitched him, he sends for the witch-doctor,
and all the wives go forth into the field, and remain fasting
till that person has made an infusion of the plant. They
all drink it, each one holding up her hand to heaven in
attestation of her innocency. Those who vomit it are considered
innocent, while those whom it purges are pronounced
guilty, and put to death by burning. The innocent return
to their homes, and slaughter a cock as a thankoffering to
their guardian spirits. The practice of ordeal is common
among all the negro nations north of the Zambesi."
India : Page 406 "Trial by the Cosha is as follows : The accused is made to drink three draughts of the water in which the images of
the Sun, of Devi, and other deities, have been washed for
that purpose ; and if within fourteen days he has any sickness
or indisposition, his crime is considered as proved."
Page 413 "The notion, that the magical influence of a Common
written charm, whether for good or evil, can be com
municated to any person by making him or her drink the a charm
water into which the characters have been washed off, is
widespread among superstitious people at the present time
and has no doubt been so since the days of antiquity"
[Some of the trials in Frazer involve 'poisons' some do not. I do not know if the Torah's concoction contained of poison or not. [ETA - But floor sweepings are not safe to eat.]
Folk-lore in the Old Testament volume III 1918 James G. Frazer
JPS - Jewish Publication Society The Jewish Study Bible 2004 Berlin and Brettler
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