19 When he approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses became extremely angry. He threw the tablets from his hands and broke them to pieces at the bottom of the mountain. 20 He took the calf they had made and burned it in the fire, ground it to powder, poured it out on the water, and made the Israelites drink it. 21 Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you, that you have brought on them so great a sin?”
17 The priest will then take holy water in a pottery jar, and take some of the dust that is on the floor of the tabernacle, and put it into the water. 18 Then the priest will have the woman stand before the Lord, and he will uncover the woman’s head and put the grain offering for remembering in her hands, which is the grain offering of suspicion. The priest will hold in his hand the bitter water that brings a curse. 19 Then the priest will put the woman under oath and say to her, “If no other man has gone to bed with you, and if you have not gone astray and become defiled while under your husband’s authority, may you be free from this bitter water that brings a curse. 20 But if you have gone astray while under your husband’s authority, and if you have defiled yourself and some man other than your husband has had sexual relations with you—” 21 (then the priest will put the woman under the oath of the curse and will say to her) “the Lord make you an attested curse among your people if the Lord makes your thigh fall away and your abdomen swell, 22 and this water that causes the curse will go into your stomach and make your abdomen swell and your thigh rot.” Then the woman must say, “Amen, amen.” 23 “‘Then the priest will write these curses on a scroll and then scrape them off into the bitter water. 24 He will make the woman drink the bitter water that brings a curse, and the water that brings a curse will enter her to produce bitterness.
Notes and References
"... The woman must drink the water containing this dust (5:24). Some have claimed that there is a parallel between this case and the episode of the golden calf. Moses grinds the golden calf thin as dust (Exodus 32:20; Deuteronomy 9:21), scatters it in water, and makes the people drink (Exodus 32). My reaction is that such a view is tenuous at best. The people in Exodus are guilty! The sotah case is a process designed to determine guilt. And the dust from the Tabernacle is something positive, while the dust of the calf is the opposite. It is true that the people of Israel's turning to pagan gods is sometimes compared to adultery in the Tanah: Israel is described as a faithless wife. The term that means "a breach of faith" (ma'al) with a husband here refers to breaches of faith with God in all its other occurences in the Torah. But the cases of the sotah and the golden calf have so many fundamental differences that drawing a connection betwen them may mislead more than shed light ..."
Friedman, Richard Elliott Commentary on the Torah: With a New English Translation (p. 1149) Harper Collins, 2003
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