Jealous Husbands

jealousy 6

Q. In the OT if a husband suspects his wife to be unfaithful he can bring her to the priest to be tested, but nothing was said about a wife suspecting her husband. Isn’t this male chauvinism?

A. The law of jealousy and the test for an unfaithful wife are given in Num 5:11-31. You need to remember several things before we conclude that the Bible is chauvinistic and unfair.

First, the Mosaic law is case law i.e. based on judicial decision and precedent set in earlier cases rather than on statutes or legislative action. It is practically impossible to list all cases exhaustively, so whatever principles established in the case of a jealous husband suspecting his wife to be unfaithful, would be equally applied to the case of a jealous wife suspecting her husband to be unfaithful. There was no intention of singling wives out and turning a blind eye to husbands.

Secondly, Jewish society at that time was patriarchal i.e. controlled by men, rather than matriarchal (women dominated). Therefore the cases first cited as illustrative examples used a jealous husband rather than a jealous wife. Even with this patriarchal characteristic, the Bible is way ahead of the customs of surrounding nations in how women is treated.

Third, the test (which involved dust from the tabernacle floor and ink washed off into bitter water) may seem strange to the scientific mind, but invoked divine intervention to determine whether the wife was guilty or innocent. If she was innocent, the test would clear her of guilt and prevented her husband from wrongly executing judgment without grounds. While superficially one-sided, the law provided the wife protection against false accusation in a male dominated society.

Considered in this light, the law is actually not chauvinistic, but fair. Hope this helps.

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