Friday, February 26, 2010

Strained relations

We are designed to expect faithfulness in marriage. When there isn't it strains the very core of a marriage.

Following is one of the strangest rituals ever condoned in the Bible...

Numbers 5:11 "And the Lord said to Moses, 12 “Give the following instructions to the people of Israel.

“Suppose a man’s wife goes astray, and she is unfaithful to her husband 13 and has sex with another man, but neither her husband nor anyone else knows about it. She has defiled herself, even though there was no witness and she was not caught in the act. 14 If her husband becomes jealous and is suspicious of his wife and needs to know whether or not she has defiled herself, 15 the husband must bring his wife to the priest. He must also bring an offering of two quarts[c] of barley flour to be presented on her behalf. Do not mix it with olive oil or frankincense, for it is a jealousy offering—an offering to prove whether or not she is guilty.

16 “The priest will then present her to stand trial before the Lord. 17 He must take some holy water in a clay jar and pour into it dust he has taken from the Tabernacle floor. 18 When the priest has presented the woman before the Lord, he must unbind her hair and place in her hands the offering of proof—the jealousy offering to determine whether her husband’s suspicions are justified. The priest will stand before her, holding the jar of bitter water that brings a curse to those who are guilty. 19 The priest will then put the woman under oath and say to her, ‘If no other man has had sex with you, and you have not gone astray and defiled yourself while under your husband’s authority, may you be immune from the effects of this bitter water that brings on the curse. 20 But if you have gone astray by being unfaithful to your husband, and have defiled yourself by having sex with another man—’

21 “At this point the priest must put the woman under oath by saying, ‘May the people know that the Lord’s curse is upon you when he makes you infertile, causing your womb to shrivel[d] and your abdomen to swell. 22 Now may this water that brings the curse enter your body and cause your abdomen to swell and your womb to shrivel.[e]’ And the woman will be required to say, ‘Yes, let it be so.’ 23 And the priest will write these curses on a piece of leather and wash them off into the bitter water. 24 He will make the woman drink the bitter water that brings on the curse. When the water enters her body, it will cause bitter suffering if she is guilty.

25 “The priest will take the jealousy offering from the woman’s hand, lift it up before the Lord, and carry it to the altar. 26 He will take a handful of the flour as a token portion and burn it on the altar, and he will require the woman to drink the water. 27 If she has defiled herself by being unfaithful to her husband, the water that brings on the curse will cause bitter suffering. Her abdomen will swell and her womb will shrink,[f] and her name will become a curse among her people. 28 But if she has not defiled herself and is pure, then she will be unharmed and will still be able to have children."

From a counseling perspective, the ritual would have some effects totally apart from drinking the brine.
 
1. Put a fear of adultery into people
2. Give spouses a way to follow their gut instinct (or irrational suspicion) about marital unfaithfulness.
3. Give the priest a moment to see by the responses if this couple is faithful to each other.
 
I have always thought this whole thing was weird.
How many sermons have you ever heard preached on it?
But the bigger picture is clear - we were designed in such a way that faithfulness is expected and deserved inside marriage.

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