I n biblical law, the institution of marriage was protected by a categorical prohi-bition of adultery (Exod. 20:14; Deut. 5:17). However, we must turn to thevarious legal compilations in the Hebrew Bible for further insight into the jurisprudence of this apodictic censure. l The collation of laws known as the Holiness Code (Lev. 17-26) is very strict as regards family purity. We are here interested in the catalogue of injunctions on sex and marriage as recorded in Lev. 20: 10-21. Lev. 20: 10 states the following case against adultery:
But despite its explicit formulation, this statute does not explicate the circumstances under which such a law could be enfc:Jrced. The requisite details are clearly stated in Deut. 22:22. This case is also included within a corpus of laws on sex and marriage (Deut. 22: 13-29). It promulgates the law for adultery whensoever the perpetrators of said act are caught in flagrante delicto. As formulated, the crime is both a public and witnessed event. Laws addressed to the same social situation, with similar terminology, are known from cuneiform law from diverse periods and ]ocales. 3 Dent. 22:22 states:
The inclusion of this statute within a series of sex laws suggests an interesting comparison with Babylonian law. 5 Deut. 22:22 is followed (vv. 23-27) by cases of intercourse between a man and a woman who are betrothed. Correspondingly, the case of adultery in the Laws of Hammurapi (LH 129), in which the perpetrators of the act are caught in flagrante) is followed (LH 130) by a case involving intercourse between a betrothed
couple. LH 131-132 continue this catalogue of sex laws with cases involving unsubstantiated accusations of adultery. Now in view of the foregoing correspondences between LH 129-130 and Deut. 22:22-27, we would have expected laws similar to those which appear in LH 131-132 to have their reflex in the Deuteronomic corpus. However, such biblical cases as deal with unsubstantiated accusations of adultery appear in Num. 5:11-31. They have been included in the corpus of ritual praxes found between Lev. I: I and the benediction in Num. 6:22-27. This collection is formally set off from surrounding context by the following inclusio:6
The incorporation of Num. 5:11-31 within this diverse priestly corpus is apparently motivated by the fact that the ordeal which accompanies accusations of adultery is performed by a priest (v. 15), in the tabernacle (v. 17), together with various ritual offerings (vv. 15,18,25,26). Nevertheless, the relationship ofNum. 5:11-31 to the laws in Deut. 22:22-27 and LH 129-132 is a matter of interest, and will occupy our attention in a latter stage of the discussion.