(Numbers 5:11-31) The ritual prescribed consisted in the husband's bringing before the priest the woman suspected of infidelity, and the essential part of it is unquestionably the oath to which the "water" was subsidiary, symbolical and ministerial. With her he was to bring an offering of barley meal. As she stood holding the offering, so the priest stood holding till earthen vessel of holy water mixed with the dust from the floor of the sanctuary, and, declaring her free from all evil consequences if innocent, solemnly devoted her in the name of Jehovah to be "a curse and an oath among her people" if guilty. He then "wrote these curses in a book and blotted them out with the bitter water." and having thrown the handful of meal on the altar, "caused the woman to drink" the potion thus drugged, she moreover answering to the words of his imprecation, "Amen, amen." Josephus adds, if the suspicion was unfounded, she obtained conception; if true, she died infamously, (This was entirely different from most trials of this kind, for the bitter water the woman must drink was harmless in itself, and only by a direct act of God could it injure her it guilty while in most heathen trials the suspected party must take poison, or suffer that which only a miracle would save them from if they were innocent.--ED.)
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