Sanctioned methods of coping [with jealousy and infidelity], codified in law, sometimes claim the Bible or other religious documents as their sources. According to one passage, for example, the Lord dictated to Moses to enjoin the people of Israel to bring women suspected of infidelity to the priest, who would then make them drink "water of bitterness." If the woman was innocent, the bitter water would have no ill effect. But if the woman was guilty of infidelity, she would absorb the water, which would make her body swell with pain.Questioning how much Buss (or his intermediate source) might have slanted this for his own purposes, I looked up the passage, which happens to be Verses 11-34 of Chapter 5 of The Fourth Book of Moses, Called Numbers [if you get bogged down in this wondrous text, please do me the kindness of skipping to the bottom to see my parting comment]:
11 ¶ And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,Indeed, I'm sure that the jealous husband could be wonderfully mollified if his wife's belly swelled and her thigh rotted, just as the Puritans of Old Salem could be greatly relieved when the person accused of witchcraft failed to float and in drowning proved the charge.
12 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any man's wife go aside, and commit a trespass against him,
13 and a man lie with her carnally, and it be hid from the eyes of her husband, and be kept close, and she be defiled, and there be no witness against her, neither she be taken with the manner;
14 and the spirit of jealousy come upon him, and he be jealous of his wife, and she be defiled; or if the spirit of jealousy come upon him, and he be jealous of his wife, and she be not defiled:
15 then shall the man bring his wife unto the priest, and he shall bring her offering for her, the tenth part of an ephah of barley meal; he shall pour no oil upon it, nor put frankincense thereon; for it is an offering of jealousy, an offering of memorial, bringing iniquity to remembrance.
16 ¶ And the priest shall bring her near, and set her before the LORD:
17 and the priest shall take holy water in an earthen vessel; and of the dust that is in the floor of the tabernacle the priest shall take, and put it into the water:
18 and the priest shall set the woman before the LORD, and uncover the woman's head, and put the offering of memorial in her hands, which is the jealousy offering: and the priest shall have in his hand the bitter water that causeth the curse:
19 and the priest shall charge her by an oath, and say unto the woman, If no man have lain with thee, and if thou hast not gone aside to uncleanness with another instead of thy husband, be thou free from this bitter water that causeth the curse:
20 but if thou hast gone aside to another instead of thy husband, and if thou be defiled, and some man have lain with thee besides thine husband:
21 then the priest shall charge the woman with an oath of cursing, and the priest shall say unto the woman, The LORD make thee a curse and an oath among thy people, when the LORD doth make thy thigh to rot, and thy belly to swell;
22 and this water that causeth the curse shall go into thy bowels, to make thy belly to swell, and thy thigh to rot. And the woman shall say, Amen, amen.
23 ¶ And the priest shall write these curses in a book, and he shall blot them out with the bitter water:
24 and he shall cause the woman to drink the bitter water that causeth the curse: and the water that causeth the curse shall enter into her, and become bitter.
25 Then the priest shall take the jealousy offering out of the woman's hand, and shall wave the offering before the LORD, and offer it upon the altar:
26 and the priest shall take a handful of the offering, even the memorial thereof, and burn it upon the altar, and afterward shall cause the woman to drink the water.
27 And when he hath made her to drink the water, then it shall come to pass, that if she be defiled, and have done trespass against her husband, that the water that causeth the curse shall enter into her, and become bitter, and her belly shall swell, and her thigh shall rot: and the woman shall be a curse among her people.
28 And if the woman be not defiled, but be clean; then she shall be free, and shall conceive seed.
29 ¶ This is the law of jealousies, when a wife goeth aside to another instead of her husband, and is defiled;
30 or when the spirit of jealousy cometh upon him, and he be jealous over his wife, and shall set the woman before the LORD, and the priest shall execute upon her all this law.
31 Then shall the man be guiltless from iniquity, and this woman shall bear her iniquity. [from the King James Version]