ORDEAL, the generic term for the various ways and means by which divine judgment would be ascertained. The most common form of ordeal, which survived long into the Middle Ages and beyond, was entirely unknown to biblical as well as to later Jewish law: namely, the exposing of an accused person to physical dangers which were supposed to be harmless to him if he were innocent but which were considered conclusive proof of divine condemnation if he suffered harm. The only remnant of this kind of ordeal may be found in the ordeal of jealousy . It is an early talmudic tradition (Sot. 9:9) that these "waters of bitterness" ceased to be effective when adulterers proliferated. Traces of a similar ordeal by water may be found in the water that Moses made the Israelites drink after he had sprinkled it with powder ground from the golden calf (Ex. 32:20), the talmudic tradition being that this was the method used to detect the guilty. Another widespread method of ascertaining God's judgment was the curse. A written curse had first to be erased into the "water of bitterness" to be swallowed by the woman suspected of adultery (Num. 5:23), so that either the curse or the water or both could be instrumental in the ordeal. The curse is interchangeable with, and a forerunner of, the oath : he who takes the oath before God (cf. Ex. 22:7–8, 10) brings God's curse on himself if he perjures himself (cf. I Kings 8:31–32; II Chron. 6:22–23). On hearing the oath sworn at His altar, God judges – condemning the wicked and justifying the righteous (see also Zech. 5:3–4; et al.). There is a statement that when atonement was made for general sinfulness (Lev. 16:21–22), God would, by changing red into white, reveal His forgiveness, or by not changing the color indicate unforgiveness (Yoma 6:8; 67a). In many instances, God's judgment was, of course, executed directly, manifesting itself in the very act of divine punishment (e.g., Num. 16:5–7, 31–35; Deut. 11:6; I Kings 18:38). -BIBLIOGRAPHY: J. Kohler, in: Zeitschrift fuer vergleichende Rechtswissenschaft, 5 (1884), 368–76; J.G. Frazer, Folklore in the Old Testament, 3 (1919), 304–414; J. Morgenstern, in: HUCA Jubilee Volume 18751925 (1925), 113–43; R. Press, in: ZAW, 51 (1933), 121–40, 227–55; ET (19513), 182–5; EM, 1 (1950), 179–83; 5 (1968), 1003f. (Haim Hermann Cohn)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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  • Ordeal — Or de*al ([^o]r d[ e]*al), n. [AS. ord[=a]l, ord[=ae]l, a judgment; akin to D. oordeel, G. urteil, urtheil; orig., what is dealt out, the prefix or being akin to [=a] compounded with verbs, G. er , ur , Goth. us , orig. meaning, out. See {Deal},… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • ordeal — index aggravation (annoyance), burden, infliction, nuisance, pain, trouble Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton …   Law dictionary

  • Ordeal — Or de*al, a. Of or pertaining to trial by ordeal. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Ordeal — may refer to The American title of What Happened to the Corbetts, a 1939 novel by Nevil Shute Trial by ordeal, the judicial practice This disambiguation page lists articles associated with the same title. If an …   Wikipedia

  • ordeal — (n.) O.E. ordel, lit. judgment, verdict, from P.Gmc. noun *uzdailjam (Cf. O.S. urdeli, O.Fris. urdel, Du. oordeel, Ger. urteil judgment ), lit. that which is dealt out (by the gods), from *uzdailijan share out, related to O.E. adælan to deal out… …   Etymology dictionary

  • ordeal — [n] trouble, suffering affliction, agony, anguish, calamity, calvary, cross, crucible, difficulty, distress, nightmare, test, torment, torture, trial, tribulation, visitation; concepts 674,728 Ant. happiness, pleasure …   New thesaurus

  • ordeal — ► NOUN 1) a prolonged painful or horrific experience. 2) an ancient test of guilt or innocence in which the accused was subjected to severe pain, survival of which was taken as divine proof of innocence. ORIGIN Old English …   English terms dictionary

  • ordeal — [ôr dēl′, ôr′dēl΄] n. [ME ordal < OE, akin to Ger urteil, judgment < WGmc * uzdailjo , what is dealt out < * uzdailjan, to deal out, allot, adjudge < * uz , out + * dailjan < * dails, a part, share] 1. an ancient method of trial in …   English World dictionary

  • ordeal — or|deal [o:ˈdi:l, ˈo:di:l US o:rˈdi:l, ˈo:rdi:l] n [: Old English; Origin: ordal trial, judgment ] a terrible or painful experience that continues for a period of time ordeal of ▪ She then had to go through the ordeal of giving evidence. ▪ She… …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • ordeal — The most ancient species of trial, in Saxon and old English law, being peculiarly distinguished by the appellation of judicium Dei, or judgment of God, it being supposed that supernatural intervention would rescue an innocent person from the… …   Black's law dictionary

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