The Case of ‘Suspected Adulteress’
Front Cover of Old Testament Essays, Volume 34, Issue 2, 2021


suspected adulteress
Numbers 5:11-31
Sexual injustice
gender inequality

How to Cite

Abasili, A. I. (2021). The Case of ‘Suspected Adulteress’: Reading Numbers 5:11-31 from the perspective of a married African woman. Old Testament Essays, 34(2), 385–403. Retrieved from


As studies have shown, marital sexual infidelity is attested in every society of the world. In African societies, adultery is not only strictly prohibited on social, moral and religious grounds but is also regarded, in some African cultures, as an abomination. This is rooted, among others, in the sacredness of marriage in Africa and the inseparable link between the use of human sexuality in marriage and the generation of new life for the perpetuation of the family-lineage and the community. In theory, the ban on adultery applies equally to all married men and women but in praxis, there are some hints of gender injustice against women in observing the ban on adultery. The patriarchal context in some African cultures provides the background for such gender inequality and sexual injustice against women. By using bosadi biblical hermeneutics to interpret the Sotah ritual (Num 5:11–31) – a ritual that is gender-specific, meant only for women accused of adultery – this article condemns the sexual injustice endured by married women in some (African) patriarchal societies and advocates the reading of Num 5:11–31 and other biblical texts containing ‘oppressive elements’ in a way that is liberating and empowering to the oppressed and marginalised.


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