Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Ordeal of A Suspected Adultress

Where to Find the Law Concerning A Suspected Adulteress

I usually write about specific women in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures.  Many of the interpretations I have been taught or the way women are treated in scripture I find disrespectful at the least and in some cases abusive. Although I have read most of the Bible, I continue to discover women or verses about women that I do not remember reading before.  This little jewel is from Numbers 5:11-31. I suggest reading the biblical text before the story below.  

The Woman Suspected of Adultery Tells Her Story

I had to suffer the ordeal, the humiliation.  There was no evidence against me. There was no proof, no witnesses to any infidelity.  There was no infidelity.  My husband  had a vague feeling of jealousy, a spirit of jealously and because of our laws I am the one who had to suffer humiliation.  He forced me to go to the temple with an offering of barley meal. I had to stand there, holding the jealousy offering, with my hair uncovered.  "Tell the truth" the priest shouted at me.  "Have you had sex with another man? You are under the authority of your husband. What did you do to make him jealous?" They concocted a drink made of water, dirt from the floor and their words of accusation. "If your drink this water your belly will swell and your thighs will rot. You will become a curse among the people. If you are not guilty God will grant you children." I will never let that man near me again.  

I drank their water with the dirt from the floor and their words of the accusation.  My belly did not swell! My thighs did not rot.  "What is his punishment for false accusations? " I cried. "I did nothing but for me there is suspicion and humiliation."  The priest laughed,  "For him there is nothing.  He is guilty of nothing.  He followed the law concerning his vague feeling of jealously. Be grateful you are not cursed." 

Observations on the Law Concerning the Suspected Adulteress    

This is one of those commandments you are not going to see on a monument outside a courthouse.  The stupidity and injustice of this law is almost comical.  It is an appalling commandment said to be given by God to Moses.  Verse 14b -15a even says, "If a spirit of jealousy comes on him, and he is jealous of his wife, though she has not defiled herself; then the man shall bring his wife to the priest." The injustice of this law illustrates how patriarchy has tried to control women and women's sexuality across centuries and cultures.  Sadly, there are women who suffer this kind of injustice and humiliation.