3.16) The Serpent’s Curses Match those of an Adulterous Woman in the Bitter Water Trial

For me, the most intriguing evidence that the Serpent was the failed first wife of Adam comes from God’s infamous cursing upon her and Eve in Ge 3:14-15.  The framework of those curses indicate that God judged the Serpent and Eve in the first bitter water trial.  The bitter water trial is a husband’s test for adultery in a wife as specified in Numbers 5:10-31.  God judged the Serpent according to an adulterous woman undergoing the trial.  God judged Eve according to an innocent woman subjected to the trial.  Like the trial’s adulteress, the Serpent ate dust, her belly suffered curses, and she and her seed would be slain by the promised seed of the innocent woman.  Like the trial’s innocent woman, Eve suffered pain in birthing her promised seed.  Although her promised seed would be wounded, it would prevail over the curses and crush the head of her rival.  Through her promised seed, she would be saved from the curses. 

Those not familiar with the bitter water trial might consider this proposed evidence as one of the more esoteric proofs for Lilith.  However, as one becomes more familiar with the trial, it becomes clear that it solves many mysteries concerning her.  First, the trial reveals that the Serpent was adulterous in her rebellion.  This confirms Lilith’s legend that she mated with angels and bore seed to them.  Secondly, the trial confirms that Lilith was idolatrous against God and contemptuous of his power.  This again matches the general tenor of the Lilith legend.  Thirdly, the mystical elements of the trial also elucidate the details of the struggle between the seed of the Serpent and the seed of Eve.  This struggle finds portrayals and foreshadowing throughout the Bible.  It manifests itself in such diverse events, from Israel’s golden calf episode at Mount Sinai to Israel’s Yom Kippur ceremony. 

In order to understand how the trial pertains to Lilith and Eve, a basic review of the bitter water trial is needed.  There are two fundamental sources of information on the trial which we shall study.  First and foremost is the description of the trial in the book of Numbers.  Second is the trial’s discussion in the Talmud.  The Talmud was written by rabbis who lived not long after the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE.  The principle goal of that ancient book was to preserve for posterity the details of Temple rituals.  The bitter water trial was one such ritual. 

3.16.1          The Bitter Water Trial in Numbers

The best place to start studying the bitter water trial is to see what the Bible says about it.  Below is the Bible’s description of the bitter water trial in Numbers 5:11-31. 

Numbers 5:11-31 (KJV)
11  And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
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 beside 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 an 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.

The trial’s rituals might seem bizarre and brutal to the modern Western mind.  The main purpose of the trial, besides discovering if a wife had cheated on her husband, seems to be to destroy the adulterous woman.  The trial also has stupendous supernatural elements that are a challenge to accept.  Did every adulterous woman who underwent the trial actually suffer such a horrible death?  If so, why would any guilty woman ever subject herself to such fate? 

Table 3‑17 below gives a breakdown of the twenty major steps of the bitter water trial.  This table is constructed from a literal reading of the text. 

Event # and Description
1) Husband brings wife to Priest.
2) Husband brings wife’s minchah (meal offering) for her.
3) Priest brings woman near Jehovah
4) Priest places holy water in earthen vessel.
5) Priest adds dust of Tabernacle floor to this water
6) Priest sets woman before Lord
7) Priest uncovers woman’s head
8) Priest puts minchah in her hands,
9) Priest has in his hand the bitter water that causes the curse.
10) Priest causes woman to swear to her innocence.  
11) Priest charges an oath to the woman to be free of bitter water if guiltless
12) Priest charges a second oath of cursing to the woman that if she is guilty, her thigh will rot and her belly swell because of the water
13) Woman responds “Amen, Amen.”
14) Priest writes curse in book and blots it out in the water
15) The woman drinks the water.
16) The water causes bitter pain in her.
17) Priest takes minchah from her, waves it, and brings it to altar.
18) Priest takes handful of minchah and burns it on altar.
19) Woman drinks water again.
20a) If woman is defiled, the water shall cause bitter pain, her belly shall swell and her thigh shall rot.
20b) Otherwise, if woman is pure, she is free and shall conceive a child.

Table 3‑17: Outline of Bitter Water Trial in Nu 5:15-28

There is an important and obvious feature of the trial that needs to be noted.  Verse 27 is clear that the adulterous woman shall be destroyed by fantastic curses.  Even more importantly, verse 28 is quite clear that the innocent woman shall conceive seed as a result of the trial.  The verse may even be interpreted as saying she shall conceive the seed during the trial’s rituals.  This is a remarkably naked statement concerning the deeper mysteries of the trial, namely that it involves the supernatural insemination of seed. 

3.16.2          The Bitter Water Trial in the Talmud

In the Talmud there is a wealth of additional information on the bitter water trial.  This information fleshes out the bare bone account provided in Numbers.  Much of the extra detail provided by the Talmud can verified by other passages in the Old Testament that referenced the bitter water trial in generating prophetic or poetic imagery. 

The Talmud’s Mishnah calls the adulterous woman of the bitter water trial a Sotah (hjv – Strongs 7847).  Sotah means “to deviate” or “to turn away from.”  The term applies to the adulterous woman because she has turned away from both her husband and the Torah.  The word sotah is used only six times in the entire Bible.  Four of these come in the bitter water trial of Nu 5.  There it is used to describe the defiled woman who has “turned away” from her husband. 

According to the Mishnah, in the days of the Second Temple a husband had the right to submit his wife to the Sotah trial if he had any reasonable doubt as to his wife’s faithfulness.  For example, if a husband had warned his wife not to seclude herself with a certain man, and later she later allowed herself to be alone with that man for a time sufficient to have had intercourse, then the husband had the right to submit his wife to the trial.  The wife could refuse to take the waters, but this was grounds for divorce.  If she agreed to take the test, the husband began the process by taking his wife and any necessary witnesses to the local Beit Din (i.e. the court or literally “house of judgment”).  If the woman pleaded innocent before the Beit Din and indicated that she was willing to drink the waters of the Sotah, then the Beit Din would refer the case to the Sanhedrin (the Jewish religious supreme court that convened in the Temple at Jerusalem).  This meant that the husband and wife would journey to Jerusalem.  During this time the husband was not allowed to have sexual relations with his wife. 

Once the husband and wife were before the Sanhedrin, the priests would vigorously persuade the woman to confess to her misdeed and forgo the trial.  Their motivation was to prevent the holy name of Jehovah (Yahwehhwhy) from being blotted out during the trial’s rituals.  This name was written twice upon the scroll to be blotted in the bitter waters.  The erasure of Jehovah’s name was considered a very serious matter.  The priests would fervently attempt to prevent this from occurring.  They would give incentives to the woman to confess.  They would say to the woman, “My daughter, much is done by wine, much is done by joking around, much is done by kidding, and much is done by bad friends.  For the sake of the great Name which is written in holiness, do it so that it will not be blotted out by water.”[1]  

If she did confess, the woman was ordered to leave her husband, and the case was dismissed.  However, if she still insisted on her purity, the priests then attempted to tire her out.  They led her back-and-forth all over the Temple.  In this, they hoped that she would become worn-out to the point of confession.  If after this, she still insisted on her innocence, they would take her to the Eastern gate, which is Nicanor’s Gate.  This gate stood before the sacrificial altar and separated the court of the women and the court of Israel.  This gate is the closest point to which women were allowed to approach the altar and Heikhal (holy place).  It is in this same place that women were purified after childbirth and that lepers were purified.  At this point the Mishnah relates that the woman underwent a series of public humiliations intended to disgrace her.  A priest would tear her clothes until her breasts were exposed.  He would let her hair down (also mentioned in Numbers 5:18), which was a particular disgrace for a Jewish woman.  The woman’s jewelry was removed from her.  A rope made of twigs was tied around her (the Midrash indicates a flaxen rope from Egypt was used).  Spectators were allowed to come and stare at her in her disgrace.  In short, she was made a public spectacle.  The Mishnah considered it a mitzvah (divine precept) for women to come and take part in the humiliation of the Sotah by witnessing these acts.  This belief was justified with Ezekiel 23:48, which asserted they should do so such “that all women may take warning and not commit lewdness as you have done.” 

The Mishnah further explains that these acts were done unto the woman midda-keneged-midda – which means that the sin you measure out shall be measured back to you in equal form and in justice.  The Sotah primped herself for sin, therefore the Omnipresent made her repulsive.  She exposed herself to sin; therefore, the Omnipresent exposed her to her peers.  She began to sin with the thigh and afterward with the belly, therefore the thigh suffers the curse first and afterward the belly. 

The Mishnah relates that when the husband brought his wife forward to the priest, he carried his wife’s minchah meal offering for her in a basket of palm twigs.  The husband then took this basket and placed it into the hands of his wife.  This unusual minchah had four qualities unique from all other minchah offerings proscribed by the Torah.  First, all other minchah offerings began and ended their ceremonial use in a Temple service utensil.  The Sotah offering came forth in a basket of palm twigs.  Second, all other minchah offerings required oil and frankincense.  Numbers 5:15 strictly forbids this for the Sotah.  Thirdly, all other minchah offerings were of wheat.  This offering was of barley.  Fourthly, although the Omer meal offering was barley, it was a sifted barley flour.  The Sotah minchah was un-sifted flour. 

The priest prepared the bitter waters by first taking a new clay bowl and filling it with water from the Temple’s laver.[2]  The priest would then enter the Heikhal, turn right, and lift a marble flagstone by a ring attached to it.  He then grabbed a handful of dust from the floor beneath the flagstone and put it into the water.  The Midrash states that the dust was added to the water as a reminder to the woman that if she was innocent, she was promised by God a son of the caliber of Abraham, who described himself as dust and ashes.  This follows the teachings on golems and the book The Bitter Waters Code (BWC), which hold that the dust of the trial was the basis for forming the body of the trial’s supernaturally inseminated seed.   

The priest would then write the following curses on a scroll.  The curses and commandment to write them come straight from the text of Numbers 5:19-21.  The two occurrences of the word “the LORD” in the curse are the holy name of Jehovah. 

The Written Curses of the Trial
If no man has lain with you, and if you have not turned aside to uncleanness, while you were under your husband’s authority, be free from this water of bitterness that brings the curse.
But if you have gone astray, though you are under your husband’s authority, and if you have defiled yourself, and some man other than your husband has lain with you,

then the LORD make you an execration and an oath among your people, when the LORD makes your thigh fall away and your body swell. 

The Mishnah then states that the priest took the offering from the basket, put it into a utensil of service, and lay this into the woman’s hands.  Next, the priest took the offering, waved it, and brought it near the altar.  He took a handful and burned it upon the altar (the remaining portion would be for the priest to eat).  It is hear that a disagreement about the sequence of events occurs.  Some rabbi’s believed that the priest would first give the woman the water to drink, and then offer up her minchah.  However, R. Simeon said that first the priest would offer up her meal offering, and then give her water to drink.  I hold both are right because the woman drinks twice.  In Numbers 5:24 the priest causes the woman to drink.   Then in verses 25 and 26, he offers her minchah.  In verse 26, after the minchah is offered, the woman drinks again.  If the text is taken to mean what it plainly states, then one must conclude that the woman drank the waters twice – once before and once after the minchah offering. 

If the woman was guilty, immediately upon her second drinking her face turned yellow, her eyes bulged out, and her veins swelled.  The priests yelled to have her taken away promptly, lest her quickly putrefying body defiled the Temple courtyard. 

The Mishnah concludes that shortly before the destruction of the Second Temple, the Sanhedrin under the leadership of Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai decided to discontinue the trial of the Sotah.  This was done because the supernatural curses no longer took effect, and the holy name of Jehovah was blotted-out in vain.  The miracle stopped in 30 CE, which is 40 years before the Temple’s destruction and the time of Jesus’ crucifixion.  The rabbis attributed the miracle’s loss to a general spiritual decline in the people.  The only other commonly re-occurring miracle at the Temple also stopped at the same time.  This involved the miraculous transformation of the Scapegoat’s shani cloth from crimson to white during the Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) ceremony. 

3.16.3          The Mystical Bitter Water Trial

Now that the physical steps of the bitter water trial have been laid out, lets discuss mystical aspects of the trial that relate to Lilith and Eve.  A full discussion of the trial’s mystical nature is a vast topic.  It is tackled in detail in BWC, which shows that there are profound supernatural events occurring underneath the surface of the trial’s rituals.  This is first hinted at in Numbers 5:27, which says the innocent woman shall bear seed as the result of the trial. 

As laid out in BWC (and confirmed by the Zohar, see 5.3), the following mystical events transpired during the trial.  When the women drank the bitter waters in which dust was suspended and in which the name of Jehovah and the written curses were blotted, a golem was supernaturally created and animated in their womb.  This golem was the seed of the trial.  For the defiled woman, Jehovah sent fathering spirits to supernaturally animate her golem into a seed of abomination and adultery.  For the innocent woman, God sent spirits to animate her golem into a seed in the image of God.  When the priest took the women’s grain offering to the altar, their seeds were also taken as an offering to Jehovah.  These seeds bore away the curses which the women first drank.  The defiled woman’s seed of adultery was a sacrifice rejected by Jehovah.  He was returned with the curses to the woman when she drank the second time.  The innocent woman’s seed was an accepted sacrifice to Jehovah.  The seed was slain and arose in the smoke of the grain offering to Jehovah.  There, the seed was miraculously revived, the waters were healed of their curses, and a replacement seed was returned to the woman when she drank the second time. 

When the women of the trial drank the second time, vastly different outcomes resulted.  For the defiled woman, her rejected seed was returned to her in waters, along with the cures which it could not successfully bear away from her.  The curses took hold of her, beginning in her womb.  That is why the first effect was a swelling belly.  Just as the golems of legend grow, her supernatural fetus grew, and the curses spread.  next, her thigh fell away.  This resulted from the false oath she uttered upon her seed, for in the Bible a person would swear an oath upon their progeny by swearing upon their thigh.  Finally, as the curses spread the Sotah was consumed away.  The innocent woman enjoyed a much better fate.  When she drank the second time, there were no curses in the waters.  Her first seed successfully carried away the curses.  With her second drinking, a second promised seed was given to her.  This seed was a seed of innocence, but not the same revived seed in the image of Jehovah which took away her curses.  This second seed was the normal seed of man.  It was the seed promised to her in Numbers 5:27. 

The above events may seem fantastic, but an exhaustive study done in BWC teases out these mystical conclusions.  As we shall see in chapter 5.3, the Zohar supports many of these mystical elements.  Various modern scholars have also support the notion that a golem is created in the course of the trial.  Dr. Avraham Elkayam of Bar-Ilan University links the creation of a golem to the Sotah trial.  He notes the resemblance between the Sotah rite and the ritual of creating a golem.  Both share common physical elements.  The rite of Sotah uses dust, holy water, and the Divine name.  These same elements are used in creating a golem.  Furthermore, the procedural steps of the two rites are seen as identical by him.  Professor M. Idel’s (Ben-Zvi Institute for the Study of Jewish Communities in the East) holds that the rituals of the Sotah trial would have caused the woman to bear a son if proven innocent.  This is because of the connection between the Bible’s technique of trying a Sotah and the technique for making a golem.  

Dr. Elkayam explains that rabbis have long held the belief that a golem was created in the trial.  In the middle ages, the rabbis continued to believe they could create golems, in part because they continued the Sotah rites.  In some Jewish communities of that era, a woman suspected of adultery was brought to the synagogue to undergo the ritual.  A rabbi would fulfill the role of the priest.  He would draw holy water from a spring, gather dust from four corners of the Holy Ark in the synagogue, and throw it into the water.  He would then write down the names of God and rinse the writing off in the water.  He then gave the water to the suspected woman to drink.  The expected outcome was either death for the woman, or more hopefully, the son promised to her by Numbers.  It was evident to the rabbis that the rite supernaturally caused the pregnancy of the innocent woman.  They then linked the steps of the rite to a formula for creating a man outside of the trial.  The result was the golem. 

The link between golems and the bitter water trial is also demonstrated in the legendary characteristics of the golem.  The rabbis infused the unusual elements of the bitter water trial into their tales of golems in order to reflect the nature of the Sotah rituals from which they learned to make the beasts.  First, golems were typically animated by the holy name of Jehovah placed in their mouth.  The seed of the bitter water trial was animated by the blotted name of Jehovah in the waters.  Second, recall that golems constantly grew in size and power over time.  This is in mimicry of the growing fetus of the Sotah, which caused her belly to swell.  Also, recall that a golem tended to go out of control over time and slay its maker.  So it was also with the defiled Sotah, who yielded an iniquitous golem seed that brought a rampage of death to her.  Finally, recall that rabbinic tradition held that a golem could be destroyed by erasing the first letter of the word “truth” written upon its forehead.  If the leading aleph (a) of emeth (tma), which means “truth”, were erased, the word becomes meth (tm), which means “death.”  The use of emeth as a word of power for the golem has obvious parallels to the Sotah.  The purpose of the Sotah trial was to search out the “truth” of the woman’s claimed innocence.  If her seed did not bear the emeth “truth” of her innocence, then it brought the curses of meth “death” to itself and her. 

3.16.4          The Bitter Water Trial of Lilith and Eve

Below I have compiled a list of 8 evidences that the curses levied against the Serpent and Eve constituted a bitter water trial.  By knowing that the trial was used as a template for their curses, we may surmise that the Serpent was a wayward adulterous wife of Adam.  This could only be Lilith. 

  • The Serpent, like the Sotah, eats dust.
  • The Serpent, like the Sotah, is cursed in her belly.
  • The Serpent, like the Sotah, looses functionality of her legs.  The Sotah’s thighs rot and fall away, making her legs useless.  The Serpent is cursed to go upon its belly, implying a non-functionality to her legs. 
  • The Serpent’s seed, like the Sotah’s, is animated by fallen spirits. (We shall see in chapter 6 that the Serpent’s infamous seed is Azazel, who was likely sired by fallen angels called Watchers.)
  • Just as the trial’s adulterous seed of iniquity slays (temporarily) the innocent woman’s promised seed, so too does the iniquitous seed of the Serpent bruises the heel of Eve’s promised seed.
  • Like the promised seed of the Sotah trial, the promised seed of Eve shall be revived from his bruising and shall crush the head of the Serpent and slay her iniquitous seed.
  • Eve, like the innocent woman of the trial, is cursed to bring forth children in pain and sorrow. The innocent woman of the trial must undergo the same rigors and pain as the defiled Sotah, at least until her grain offering is taken to the altar.
  • Eve, like the innocent woman of the trial, is saved by the process of childbearing through the curses of the trial. Eve’s salvation is certainly true in the sense that her seed is Messiah, who is triumphant over the Serpent’s seed.  The Biblical doctrine that Eve was saved through childbirth is made quite clear by 1 Timothy 2:14-15.
1 Timothy 2:14-15 (KJV)
14  And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.

15  Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.

There are two important points to be taken away from the bitter water trial in relation to Lilith’s legend.  First, Lilith was the archetype of the Sotah.  In refusing to submit to Adam, she was the first wayward adulterous wife who went astray under her husband.  Second, because of her archetype status, many of the surmised rabbinic aspects of Lilith’s legend were drawn forth from elements of the bitter water trial.  For example, the act of unleashing and disheveling the Sotah’s hair may have been the basis for Lilith doing the same.  Unleashing the Sotah’s hair was said to unleash the spirit of Lilith within her.  It was also believed that the animating idolatrous spirit within the Sotah was empowered by the blotted name of Jehovah which she consumed.  Likewise, Lilith was empowered to sprout wings and flee by uttering the Ineffable Name of Jehovah.  Finally, Lilith’s desire to slay children can also be linked to the trial.  According to her legend, Lilith’s deadly desire stemmed from her anger at having one hundred of her own children slain by God’s curse every day.  Likewise, the idolatrous animating spirit of the Sotah trial suffered the death of its seed in every trial.  Hence, the suffering of this animating spirit may have been the basis for Lilith’s legend stating that a hundred of her own seed died every day. 

Much more could be said on the bitter water trial in relation to the Lilith legend.  However, such a discussion is out of the scope of this book.  See BWC for more on this subject. 

[1] Sotah 1:4 B, The Mishnah: A New Translation, Jacob Neuser

[2] Ex 38:8 states that this brass laver was made from the looking-glasses, or brass mirrors, of the women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle.  Being constructed of these mirrors is generally viewed as a sign of sacrificing vanity.