Her husband had warned her not to be alone and hide herself away with the other man, but apparently to no avail. Now a whole procedure has to be followed to substantiate or disprove her guilt.
It might be said that the law is weighted against women in that adultery by them has graver legal consequences than adultery on the part of their husbands.
Today the fabric of a marriage can be torn apart whichever party it is who has been unfaithful. It is an indispensable element in any marriage that husband and wife must be able to trust each other and be secure in each other’s loyalty.
Important as this is with a marriage lived on earth, it also applies to our relationship with God, which is so often depicted in Biblical literature in terms of marriage.
Human marriage is kiddushin, from the word kadosh, sacred or consecrated. The same word is used in describing our bond with the Almighty. Under the chuppah the words used are harei at m’kuddeshet li (“behold, you are consecrated to me”); when we perform a mitzvah we say of God asher kidd’shanu b’mitzvotav (“He has consecrated us with His commandments”).
The earthly marriage is solemnised under the canopy; Israel’s union with God took place at Mount Sinai where, according to tradition, the Almighty upended the mountain over them.
The concept of the sotah has its counterpart in this relationship too. God warns Israel in the Ten Commandments not to go after any other god. The implication is that if we disobey and hide ourselves away from Him we will be under suspicion.
But how can anyone, either an individual or a whole people, hide away from God? The prophet Jeremiah asks (23:24), “‘Can anyone hide himself in secret places that I, I shall not see him?’ says the Lord”.
The Baal Shem Tov says that anyone who hides in secret places by becoming an “I”, will find that God says, “I shall not see him!”
What God does not or will not see is the arrogant or conceited person. “I and he cannot dwell together,” says God. Someone who is totally self-centred cannot be a good partner, either with God or with an earthly husband or wife.