Numbers 5:27 When he has made her drink the water, if she has defiled herself and been unfaithful to her husband, then the water that brings a curse will enter her and cause bitter suffering; her belly will swell, her thigh will shrivel, and she will become accursed among her people. 28But if the woman has not defiled herself and is clean, she will be unaffected and able to conceive children.

Could a faithful barren wife drink the bitter water in order to get pregnant?


The reason for this law is subtle and relied on fear of consequences as described by Benson:

Numbers 5:27. The water shall enter into her — These effects, the Jews tell us, presently followed; for she grew pale, and her eyes were ready to start out of her head, so that they cried out, Carry her away, lest she defile the court of the temple, by dying there. But if what has just been observed from the Jewish writers be true, that, upon confessing her guilt, the woman was only divorced and condemned to lose her dowry, it is probable there were not many instances wherein this miraculous judgment was inflicted; for it is hardly to be supposed that any woman, conscious of her guilt, would, by asserting her innocence thus solemnly, in defiance of the Almighty, venture upon the hazard of sudden and immediate death, with all the miserable circumstances here described, rather than confess and gain time to repent.

The very fact that there is no record of this ever being implemented is testament to its effectiveness.

Barnes has something very similar:

Of itself, the drink was not noxious; and could only produce the effects here described by a special interposition of God. We do not read of any instance in which this ordeal was resorted to: a fact which may be explained either (with the Jews) as a proof of its efficacy, since the guilty could not be brought to face its terrors at all, and avoided them by confession; or more probably by the license of divorce tolerated by the law of Moses. Since a husband could put away his wife at pleasure, a jealous man would naturally prefer to take this course with a suspected wife rather than to call public attention to his own shame by having recourse to the trial of jealousy.

Thus, the force and purpose of this law was to encourage faithfulness and restrain abuse. A jealous husband is a cold husband and may have deprived the wife of her conjugal rights. If the jealously is removed, this cause of barrenness might be avoided.

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