Publication details [#9082]

Radwin, Ariella M. 2007. Adultery and the marriage metaphor: Rabbinic readings of sotah. Los Angeles, Calif.. 405 pp. URL
Publication type
Ph.D dissertation
Publication language


Sotah is the rabbinic name for the ritual described in the Bible (Numbers 5:11-31) which offers an account of a husband who suspects his wife of adultery. The passage prescribes a ritual in the case of a husband's legally unsubstantiated suspicion that his wife has committed adultery. The rabbinic texts which interpret the Bible grapple with and reinterpret the ritual in various ways. In the Sifrei, Mishnah, Tosefta, Midrash Rabbah, and the Palestinian and Babylonian Talmuds, the process and procedure of the sotah ritual are spelled out in much more intricate detail, as well as subjected to halakhic norms and rabbinic imagination. This study argues that the rabbinic interpretations of sotah are shaped by the paradigmatic covenant of God and Israel as marriage partners. The notions of covenant, jealousy, and betrayal are developed based upon a revolving metaphor of God and Israel as husband and wife. As the Rabbis reflected on the notion of uncertain betrayal, they reflected also on the prohibition against idol worship and their own narrative of the golden calf. In the historical context of their Temple being destroyed, the Rabbis reflected their anxiety that God had abandoned them within the details of the sotah ritual. In the end, the marriage metaphor allows the Rabbis to establish the inviolability of the covenant. Whether guilty or not, punished or not, Israel and the Sotah are embraced by the promise of the covenant, as even sin does not abrogate the covenant. (Dissertation Abstracts)