Numbers 5:11-31 Commentary: Jealousy offering or “abortion recipe” in the Mosaic Law
Numbers 5:11–31 “Jealousy offering” or “bitter water ordeal” is an ancient Israelite ritual for women suspected of adultery. Atheists have labeled it an “abortion recipe,” which is misleading. Under the Mosaic Law, the ritual was intended to avoid hasty judgments and protect women from wrongful accusations.
(23-24) The priest shall then write these curses on a scroll and wash them off into the water of bitterness. Then he shall make the woman drink the water of bitterness that brings a curse so that the water which brings a curse will go into her and cause bitterness.
Cultural relevance of “Jealousy Offering”
In the ancient Israelite society, women had limited rights and were vulnerable to unfair treatment based on mere suspicions. Accusations of adultery could lead to severe consequences, such as divorce, poverty, or even violence against the accused wife.
The “jealousy offering” was a legal means to address these delicate situations. It offered a formal process for investigating allegations of adultery, providing a way to prevent impulsive or aggressive judgments by husbands.
Heavily symbolic ritual
The symbolism created a psychological impact on both the accuser and the accused. It is worth noting that many ancient tests for innocence were structured similarly, relying on symbolic elements to elicit confessions from the guilty.
Numbers 5:11–31 are often misunderstood and weaponized to discredit the Bible. However, in ancient Israel, this culturally relevant practice offered protection for women and sought divine justice in cases of suspected adultery, protecting and promoting women’s rights.
Supernatural Intervention of God
The most intriguing aspect of the ritual is the belief in divine intervention. The effectiveness of the test did not hinge on the natural properties of the concoction but on the idea that God would reveal the truth through supernatural means.
God would intervene if the accused wife were guilty, causing physical signs such as swelling and sickness, while an innocent woman would experience no harmful effects. This perspective reinforces the idea that adultery is seen as a sin against God, not just a breach of marital trust.
The bottom line, the “jealousy offering” in Numbers 5:11–31 is a practice to protect women and seek divine justice under the Mosaic Law of ancient Israel.