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to this subject. Solomon denominates adulterous loves, "stolen waters," but describes the lawful enjoyment of a man's own wife, as the " drinking of waters out of his own cistern, and running waters out of his own well."*
The definition and prohibition of the crime are thus quite clear. The penalty attaching on the commission of it next follows. That is mentioned among the capital punishments, in Leviticus, xx. 10: "The man that committeth Adultery with another man's wife, even he that committeth Adultery with his neighbour's wife, the Adulterer and the Adulteress shall be surely put to death."†
This is repeated in Deuteronomy, xxii. 22: "If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman." Several cases follow this last passage, mitigating the punishment where the guilt was not of equal enormity; but it is worthy of notice, that the violation of a woman during the period of her sponsalia, mentioned in the twenty-third verse,
* Prov. v. 15, 18. ix. 17. and verse 18, Septuagint.
was considered an adulterous act, and was visited by death. This marks the strictness which the Jewish law would maintain on the subject of the marriage vow. The only difference between the penalty attaching to the commission of this crime, during the contract for marriage before its solemnization, and defilement afterwards, was in the mode of executing the offender. But, of this presently. From what has been stated, it is clear that the punishment for Adultery was thus declared to be capital, and that both parties to it were placed on the same footing. Neither the violence of the passions of the one sex, nor the weakness and timidity of the other, were admitted as any excuse. The sixth chapter of Proverbs, and the 32nd and 35th verses, implies a continuance of this penalty in the days of Solomon;* and a passage, quoted below, the same in Ezekiel's time.†
The strictness of the Mosaic law, in reference to the Sponsalia mentioned above, is remarked by Maimonides. With the Jews, he states, that a woman might be espoused three ways; by money; i. e. probably, by dowry; by a writing, the settlement; or by a concubitus. Being thus espoused, though not yet married, nor conducted
* Prov. vi. 32-35.
+ Ezek. xvi. 38, 40.
into the man's house, yet was she his wife ; and if any man should lie with her besides him, he would be punished with death by the Sanhedrim. And if the man himself would put her away, he must write a Bill of Divorce. The modes of inflicting this penalty were various. A curious distinction has been drawn between the expressions of Scripture, wherein a variation in the pain and disgrace of this punishment has been supposed to be referred to; and this distinction has accordingly been prevailingly adopted by the Jews. When the punishment is simply mentioned as death, they understood it to imply strangling; but when it is said," their blood shall be upon them," they supposed the mode intended to be stoning. So Selden states it: "Interficiuntur morte; simplici mortis mentione, strangulationem intelligunt, sed quemadmodum adjicitur illud, sic sanguis super eos, lapidationem denotat.' And the reason of this was because strangling was the easiest death of the four in use among the Jews; and, where the mode was not specially prescribed, they said, Ampliandi favores," the most merciful exposition is to be given. But the rule is not correct. For the expression of the punishment of Adultery
* Selden de Uxor. Hebraica.
is of the former kind,
"Morte plectetur,” let him be put to death, which would imply strangling. But this was not so understood; for Adultery was punished by stoning. In Ezekiel xvi. 38, God is represented declaring, "I will judge thee after the manner of women that break wedlock; and in the fortieth verse, the judgment is mentioned, "I will stone thee with stones;" to which we may add, that when the Pharisees came to Christ, as related in a passage of the New Testament, on which some further remarks will be made in the third section of the Essay, they said of the Adulterers, "Now Moses, in the law, commanded us, that such should be stoned." It is not necessary to explain the meaning of these punishments, their names sufficiently indicate the mode of their infliction.
These are the parts of the Mosaic code which apply to the case of Adultery, when discovered and proved. But that law contemplated the occurrences of cases where a moral conviction might exist of the guilt of the offender, but without such evidence as would conduct to legal conviction; and here a curious peculiarity in that law rises to view, the institution of a test by which the guilt of the suspected party might be detected, or her innocence made clear; viz. the waters of
jealousy. This test was a remarkable feature in the law of Moses; it intimated the strict sense entertained by that law of the importance of purity and fidelity to the preservation of domestic and civil peace, and strongly indicated also the divine origin of that code; for it was, in fact, a promise of a perpetual miracle, by which the innocent should be cleared of all suspicion, and the guilty infallibly exposed and awfully punished. And what lawgiver, if he possessed any relic of common sense, would have instituted such a test, the efficacy of which, the irregularities and passions of a day might have brought to trial, and the failure of which would have involved himself in perplexity, and covered his legislation with shame, had he not been fully and satisfactorily persuaded of the truth of his commission from Heaven?
The particulars of this test, as related in the Scriptures, will be found in the fifth chapter of the Book of Numbers, the eleventh verse to the thirty-first.* To these, the Talmudists have added several circumstances attending the execution of this ordeal, but perhaps not of much authority. The accounts given by Maimonides and Selden are very full. The sum of
* Numb. v. 11-31.