Today we’re going to take a close at the water ritual procedures for the married woman suspected of committing adultery.
This is also a great opportunity to review some basic Torah vocabulary and principles.
So here we go!
First, the jealous husband brings his suspected wife to a priest together with a barley offering.
Second, the priest escorts the woman to the front of the Tabernacle.
Third, the Priest puts Holy Water into a special cup and also adds some dust taken from the floor of the Tabernacle.
Fourth, the Priest hands over the barley to the woman and unbinds her hair.
Fifth, the Priest holds the cup containing the mixture of holy water and Tabernacle floor dust and recites an oath in front of the woman.
The woman responds by saying “Amen, Amen“.
Sixth, the Priest writes down the oath he has just uttered and washes off the ink of the letters from the surface of the sheepskin scroll into the cup (now filled with Holy Water and dust from the tabernacle floor).
Seventh, the barley the woman was holding is presented to HASHEM as a burnt offering (OLAH in Hebrew) on the Altar.
Eighth, the woman drinks the concoction now containing the three elements of Holy Water, dust, and ink.
Finally, if the woman is guilty, her reproductive organs will be rendered useless.
If she’s innocent, all will be candy dandy and she’ll go on to produce many healthy Israelite babies.
Okay, let’s now go over one by one the parts above I underlined and bolded in red.
FRONT OF THE TABERNACLE:
Whenever you come of across the phrase “before the Lord” in Torah, understand that that’s just an idiom referring to the front of the Tabernacle which would later be replaced by the Temple.
“Holy water” is just a synonym for “living water“. The two are exactly the same thing. Remember that “living water” is simply water that has been drawn from a running source like a river or a spring connected to a river. Holy water was used to fill the Copper Laver at the Temple and during Temple rituals the priests would wash their hands and feet with holy water.
We’re told the priest had to take dust from the Tabernacle floor (later the Temple floor). Why? Because the Tabernacle and later the Temple was where God dwelled and whatever is in proximity where God dwells contracts His Holiness. It’s as simple as that. Recall the scene in Exodus when God told Moses to remove his sandals because he was standing on literally holy dust. The dust was holy because God’s presence was there. So literally the holy dust from the tabernacle floor was placed in the concoction the woman was going to be given to drink.
INK OF THE LETTERS:
The ink of the letters was the last ingredient added to the mixture. Now the most important thing you need to know is that after the oath was written down, the letters YUD, HEH, VAV, HEH were also written. How do we know this? Simple. Because by definition, A BIBLICAL OATH ALWAYS INCLUDES GOD’S PERSONAL NAME YHVH. Not “Adonai”, not “Lord“, not “Elohim” and not the generic term “God“. A Biblical oath always includes God’s personal name. Minus God’s Name, you don’t have an oath. And you had best believe what I’m telling you right now is a matter of historical fact. This ain’t allegory or conjecture folks. This comes straight from what was recorded during those times about this water ritual.
REPRODUCTIVE ORGANS WILL BE RENDERED USELESS:
Here, special Hebrew idioms are used. Literally, if guilty the woman’s reproductive organs will shrivel up. Some translations will say her “thigh will sag and her belly will swell“. “Thigh” is actually a word that refers to either the male or female genitals. The direct correlation between the woman’s guilt and her reproductive organs being rendered useless makes good sense. It is by way of her genitals that the unfaithful wife sinned and thus it is her genitals that will be cursed. Keep in mind that the woman becoming barren is a supernatural act of God. It’s not like the concoction the woman drank was poisonous.
Now what’s probably very difficult for us modern folks to understand is just how devastating it was for a Hebrew woman during Bible times to be unable to bear children.
In our day and age, abortion is rampant and we even have healthy married couples making deliberate decisions to never have any a children.
The other day I even read an article about a woman who firmly decided she never wanted to have a children and underwent an irreversible surgical procedure so that she could never give birth to a child.
Such behavior would have been unthinkable during Bible times.
A woman not being able to have children and especially a son was equivalent to a man being castrated
It was considered the ultimate humiliation and a curse from God.
In those days, children were also considered a measure of wealth for the simple reason that in an agricultural-based society more children meant more future manpower to work the fields.