Spells and divinations in the Bible about infidelity (cheating)

Question 221, from Gary

I heard tonight that somewhere in the Old Testament there is a “Spell, or Divination, that a man can do which will determine if your wife has cheated on you or not. It was said that doing this divination will give you an answer from God and his truthful wisdom. Have you ever read about this divination?

I heard someone talking about this question and I was curious if really is true and is it something we are allowed to do ? Where in the Bible can I find this ?

There is no such spell or method of divination contained in the Bible that can be conducted to determine infidelity. There is a ‘test’ that was apparently carried out by priests in the Tabernacle if a wife was suspected of being unfaithful. This can be found in Numbers chapter 5, verses 11-31. The woman in question ate a tainted grain offering, which had been mixed with dirt from the tabernacle floor, which would cause miscarriage, supposedly only if she was pregnant by another father.

Although the priest would pronounce a judgmental curse over the woman suspected of unfaithfulness (verse 21-23), this was not a ‘magic spell’. It does seem like a form of divination with the theory being that God would prevent harm befalling the righteous and therefore determining the facts of the situation. It has been suggested that tainted grain would contain ergotamine from fungus growing on grain or found on the tabernacle floor. Ergotamine has been known to induce labour and could possible cause miscarriage. This passage has therefore been used to argue that the Bible endorses abortion in some cases. This passage also underlines the highly patriarchal society of the ancient Hebrews as there is no test for men who are suspected of infidelity.

As the tabernacle-based religion and priesthood has been superseded, this test is no longer practiced. It should also be pointed out that this is probably a very unreliable way of determining a person’s faithfulness in a relationship and it would be wiser to base decisions on better evidence.