I'm moving back into the Old Testament this week to examine another chapter in the Bible that you will likely never hear during your average, run-of-the-mill Sunday morning thumping. Oh you'll most assuredly hear the other side of abortion - the side where the church firmly opposes any and all types abortion. However, what religious leaders always seem to hide from the eager masses is that the Bible actually outlines a precise method of aborting fetuses. Especially fetuses currently gestating in the womb of a suspected "unfaithful" wife.
It's a childish, barbaric, and shamelessly misogynistic method, but we are talking about the god of the Old Testament here.
We begin with the god of the Universe, speaking with Moses:
Then the Lord said to Moses, "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: 'If a man’s wife goes astray and is unfaithful to him so that another man has sexual relations with her, and this is hidden from her husband and her impurity is undetected (since there is no witness against her and she has not been caught in the act), and if feelings of jealousy come over her husband and he suspects his wife and she is impure - or if he is jealous and suspects her even though she is not impure - then he is to take his wife to the priest. He must also take an offering of a tenth of an ephah of barley flour on her behalf. He must not pour olive oil on it or put incense on it, because it is a grain offering for jealousy, a reminder-offering to draw attention to wrongdoing.
I know what you're thinking... How can a man even know if his wife is unfaithful and, "goes astray" if this woman's whole sexual escapade is hidden from the poor sap? It says it right there! "There is no witness against her and she has not been caught in the act"! Thus far, this whole thing sounds to me like a pathetically insecure momma’s boy with a severe case of little man's syndrome.
Oh, and did you also catch that god made a point to command Moses to tell Mr. Jealousy-pants to make sure and bring an offering of flour? Just FYI - this is not an amount to shake a stick at. We're talking roughly a half of a gallon dry weight. So yes, even the ever providing god of the Universe knew never to skip a chance to guilt people into giving the priest - oops, I mean the Church - free food. Because, you know, the lord provides, right?
Moving omnipotently forward:
"'The priest shall bring her and have her stand before the Lord. Then he shall take some holy water in a clay jar and put some dust from the tabernacle floor into the water. After the priest has had the woman stand before the Lord, he shall loosen her hair and place in her hands the reminder-offering, the grain offering for jealousy, while he himself holds the bitter water that brings a curse. Then the priest shall put the woman under oath and say to her, "If no other man has had sexual relations with you and you have not gone astray and become impure while married to your husband, may this bitter water that brings a curse not harm you. But if you have gone astray while married to your husband and you have made yourself impure by having sexual relations with a man other than your husband" - here the priest is to put the woman under this curse - "may the Lord cause you to become a curse among your people when he makes your womb miscarry and your abdomen swell. May this water that brings a curse enter your body so that your abdomen swells or your womb miscarries."
"'Then the woman is to say, "Amen. So be it."
So... holy water, clay jar, dust from the floor, stand before the Lord, let the woman's hair down and... guilt trip her. Oh wait, then command god to curse her AFTER the guilt trip. Yeah, sounds totally plausible, right?
As a matter of fact, this is all very similar to modern infomercials where the company throws so much utter nonsense at you that after a while your mind simply forgets to be analytical and begins to believe that with all those ingredients, it must be legitimate. I mean, all those sciency words, coupled with people that swear that this concoction worked... What's not to believe, right? RIGHT?
Okay, at this point we all know that this pathetic process is no more effective than a really bad mystery movie where they isolate the poor woman in a very dark room and shine a really bright light in her face in hopes of a confession. This guy just throws in a priest, some celestial wizardry, and a nasty drink with "dust" from the floor.
Oh, and one quick point before we continue. Being a man, I certainly would never presume to speak for women, but I’m quite sure that no mentally stable woman would accept any of that crap, and she certainly wouldn’t be so submissive as to say, “So be it.”
But that's not all! Remember the infomercial? That's right - even in the Bible, they knew that something like this needed to be as complicated as possible and repeated enough times so that people would begin to believe it:
"'The priest is to write these curses on a scroll and then wash them off into the bitter water. He shall make the woman drink the bitter water that brings a curse, and this water that brings a curse and causes bitter suffering will enter her. The priest is to take from her hands the grain offering for jealousy, wave it before the Lord and bring it to the altar. The priest is then to take a handful of the grain offering as a memorial offering and burn it on the altar; after that, he is to have the woman drink the water. If she has made herself impure and been unfaithful to her husband, this will be the result: When she is made to drink the water that brings a curse and causes bitter suffering, it will enter her, her abdomen will swell and her womb will miscarry, and she will become a curse. If, however, the woman has not made herself impure, but is clean, she will be cleared of guilt and will be able to have children.
"'This, then, is the law of jealousy when a woman goes astray and makes herself impure while married to her husband, or when feelings of jealousy come over a man because he suspects his wife. The priest is to have her stand before the Lord and is to apply this entire law to her. The husband will be innocent of any wrongdoing, but the woman will bear the consequences of her sin.'"
You got all that? Is it complicated enough for you yet?!?!?
Just make sure you memorize these crucial steps if you want to help some poor sap that's fallen victim to a wily, unfaithful woman who has managed to keep her torrid liaisons hidden from everyone (even god itself.) Sure, you could just keep looking this up every time you needed the curse. But if you make sure to memorize it, you'll look far more priestly while you're busy divinely and miraculously aborting a fetus in the name of god...
In all seriousness, consider that during the this time frame, it is certainly plausible that our species was already well aware of very effective naturally occurring poisons that would most assuredly induce an abortion. And in general, priests were the most educated people in the area. So my bet is that those magic curse scrolls mentioned in the second set of verses could certainly be marinated premeditatively with just such a poison.
Either that or just let one of these poor girls off the hook if the priest was fond of the girl's family. And we all know how convincing it had to be to the uneducated masses, not to mention how convenient it had to be for the priest when the fetus of a known harlot was magically aborted based solely on the whim of a man and what he happened to know about the carnal habits of the girl.