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In the WildernessThe Doctrine of Defilement in the Book of Numbers$
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Mary Douglas

Print publication date: 2001

Print ISBN-13: 9780199245413

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199245413.001.0001

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Israel, the Mystic Bride

Israel, the Mystic Bride

(p.160) Chapter 8 Israel, the Mystic Bride
In the Wilderness

Mary Douglas

Oxford University Press

The impressive poetic structure of the Book of Numbers leads into the deepest level of meanings. The arrangement of the legal studies through the book and their systematic interweaving with major political issues shows that if it is a law book in any sense, it deals with constitutional law. The constitution is for the society of the descendants of Abraham. This suggests a bold interpretive move by which every mention of a law concerning women in Numbers might be taken to refer, not to ‘women’, but to ‘a woman’, Israel. The case of the woman suspected of adultery seems at first to be an incongruous item, wedged between the command to put lepers outside the camp and the laws for the Nazirite. This chapter probes further into why this case is here in the first of the law sections, and suspects that the faithless woman may be Israel.

Keywords:   poetic structure, Book of Numbers, constitutional law, women, Israel, adultery, Nazirite

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