1 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
2 Command the children of Israel. that they put out of the camp every leper, and every one that hath an issue, and whosoever is defiled by the dead:
3 Both male and female that they defile not their camps.
4 ¶ And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
12 If any man's wife go aside, and commit a trespass against him.
14 And the spirit of jealousy come upon him, and she be defiled: or if she be not defiled:
15 Then shall the man bring his wife unto the priest, and he 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 an offering of jealousy.
17 And the priest shall take holy water in an earthen vessel; and of the dust that is in 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 uncover the woman's head, and put the offering of memorial in her hands, which is the jealousy offering, and the priest shall have in his hand the bitter water that causeth the curse:
19 And the priest shall charge her by an oath. and say unto the woman, if thou hast not gone aside be thou free from this bitter water that causeth the curse:
20 But if thou hast gone aside, and if thou be defiled.
21 Then, the priest shall charge the woman with an oath of cursing, and the priest shall say unto the woman, The Lord make thee a curse and an oath among they people.
24 And he shall cause the woman to drink the bitter water that causeth the curse.
25 Then the priest shall take the jealousy offering out of the woman's hand, and shall wave the offering before the LORD, and offer it upon the altar:
26 And the priest shall take an handful of the offering, even the memorial thereof, and burn it upon the altar, and afterward shall cause the woman to drink the water.
27 And when he hath made her to drink the water, then it shall come to pass, that, if she be defiled, and have done trespass against her husband, that if she be defiled, and have done trespass against her husband, that the water that causeth the curse shall enter into her, and become bitter.
28 And if the woman be not defiled, but be clean; then she shall be free.
AT the first blush it seems very cruel for the Jewish God to order the diseased and unfortunate to be thrown out of the camp and left in the wilderness. But commentators suggest that they must have had a sanatorium near by where the helpless could be protected. Though improbable, still the suggestion will be a relief to sensitive souls. This ordinance of Moses probably suggested the first idea of a hospital. The above account of the unfortunate wife was called "trial by ordeal," of which Clarke gives a minute description in his commentaries. It was common at one time among many nations, the women in all cases being the chief sufferers as in the modern trials for witchcraft. If the witch was guilty when thrown into the water she went to the bottom, if innocent she floated on the surface
and was left to sink, so in either case her fate was the same. As men make and execute the laws, prescribe and administer the punishment, "trials by a jury or ordeal" for women though seemingly fair, are never based on principles of equity. The one remarkable fact in all these social transgressions in the early periods as well as in our modern civilization is that the penalties whether moral or material all fall on woman. Verily the darkest page in human history is the slavery of women!
The offering by the priest to secure her freedom was of the cheapest character. Oil and frankincense signifying grace and acceptableness were not permitted to be used in her case. The woman's head is uncovered as a token of her shame, the dust from the floor signifies contempt and condemnation, compelling the woman to drink water mixed with dirt and gall is in the same malicious spirit. There is no instance recorded of one of these trials by ordeal ever actually taking place, as divorce was so easy that a man could put away his wife at pleasure, so he need not go to the expense of even "a tenth part of an ephah of barley," on a wife of doubtful faithfulness. Moreover the woman upon whom it was proposed to try all these pranks might be innocent, and the jealous husband make himself ridiculous in the eyes of the people. But the publication of these ordinances no doubt had a restraining influence on the young and heedless daughters of Israel, and they serve as landmarks in man's system of jurisprudence, to show us how far back he has been consistent in his unjust legislation for woman.
E. C. S.