תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

the whole is this. The jealous husband brought the suspected wife to the priest, with the cake of jealousy, communicated his suspicions, and offered his witnesses; the wife asserted her innocence and required the test. “ Hanc uxorem meam zelotypus præmonui de N: quocum postea occultata est, rem, in secreta egit, atque hi sunt testes. Illa se innocenter esse ait. De te peto, ut potes, mihi detur quo rei examen fuit.”

The witnesses were then excluded ; the priest entered into a long discourse with the woman, and exhorted her to confess, if indeed it might have been the case, informing her at the same time of the results she might expect. “ Si non concubuit vir tecum, et non declinasti ad immunditiam sub viro tuo, liberabis ut innocens ab aquis sitis amaris et maledictis; sin tu declinasti sub marito tuo et polluta es, det te Dominus in execrationem et diras in ludo populi tui, adeo ut loquet Dominus corruere femur tuum et inflare uterum tuum," &c. &c.*

If the woman persisted in asserting her innocence, he prepared the bitter waters and read the curse; to which, “ illa respondebat Amen, Amen.” This two-fold solemn consent

* Numb. v. 22.

to the awful appeal which this test was about to make to God, implying, on the part of her who made it a desire to be dealt with according to her innocence or guilt, and an acknowledgment of the justice of God in visiting the guilty with the punishment, could not have been made with any consciousness of the crime, unless in conjunction with the utmost hardness of heart, presumptuous defiance of God, and even atheistical unbelief. Every. thing in the apparatus of this ordeal was calculated to produce a confession, rather than risk such tremendous consequences. Confession, too, according to the Jewish writers, was not followed by death, but only by divorce without a dowry. The curse being then blotted out with bitter water, (and the ink being made without vitriol in those days, was easily washed away,) the waters were then given, and the cake of jealousy offered to the Lord ; and, as the woman took the cup, the priest said ; « Filia mea! si adeo certum sit, te innocentem esse, ex fiduciâ innocentiæ bibe, nec omnia times ; quoniam aquæ aliter non se habent ac venenum siccatum super carnem animalis. Si vulnus ibi fuerit, dolorem affert et irrodit, sin vero vulnus ibi non sit, nullum omnino affert dolorem.” The results then testified the innocence or guilt of the woman.

Several circumstances are mentioned as occurring in this ordeal ; that, if the husband of the suspected party had been guilty of a similar crime, the waters lost all their virtue: that, if she was guilty, and the symptoms of guilt appeared in the pale and ghastly countenance, the starting eyes, and the swelling and rottenness; her partner in the crime, whoever and wherever he were, was struck with death also : but that if she were innocent of the charge, the very waters of jealousy proved no poison, but contributed as a salutary medicine to cleanse her constitution, and render her more vigorous and fruitful.

These are the particulars of this remarkable feature of the Mosaic law, respecting suspected adultery; and in an essay on that subject, they could not be curtailed. Although the Infidel, who, doubting the divine origin of a revelation, would also question the divine superintendence over the fulfilment of its denunciations, may only sneer at the credulity of those who admit the truth of the accounts just given, yet the Christian will not be disposed to deny the credibility of what, though remarkable, is not impossible: and he will indeed see nothing more unacccountable in this than in many other circumstances, well attested, which support the authority of divine revelation.

No instance has, however, been particularized of any authority wherein this expedient was had recourse to. It certainly must have operated as a powerful restraint upon the Jewish females, so to live as to be exempt from the slightest taint of suspicion: and it must have also restrained the cruel treatment of husbands, as the process must have been tried at the sanctuary, and occasioned considerable expense; and therefore would not be resorted to on slight occasions; and in this view it would undoubtedly prevent divorces for suspicion, or trivial offences; so that, in every sense, as a preventive regulation, it was productive of good.

In later ages, the crime of Adultery became so frequent and public, that the test was necessarily disused. Indeed, it was only of a nature to be applied in doubtful circumstances. Selden closes his remarks by this allusion; Ex quo multiplicati adulteri, defuerunt aquæ amaræ.”

With regard also to the general punishment attaching to this offence, the same circumstance, the increase of crime, and the growing laxity of morals, occasioned the reduction of the severity of the first enactment to the most feeble and puerile consequences; and we find the Rabbinical glossés dictating the exchange

of a capital punishment for the exposure of the adulterer naked, in the summer season, to the flies and wasps, and in the winter, steeping him up to the chin in cold water, to quench the flames of lust.

But the Hebrew laws and customs, in relation to Divorce, come now to be considered. And herein must be remarked the causes for which it was permitted, and the persons to whom it was indulged; observing, in the outset, that it was a measure rather connived at than enjoined (as the Jews thought it had been) by the divine law.

Divorce, strictly considered, is a deviation from the original institution of marriage, consequent on man's depravity, the inconstancy of his mind, and the impetuosity of his passions. We have already said, that we do not find it practised by any of the Patriarchs. The Jews, indeed, pretend that Abraham divorced Hagar, and Moses Zipporah, and thence conclude, that divorce was of an earlier date, and lawful on other accounts than those prescribed in the law of Moses ; but these instances prove quite otherwise on examination. Hagar was not a wife, but a bond-woman; and her's was not a divorce, but an expulsion brought upon herself by her foolish conduct;

« הקודםהמשך »