Neon Amen sign

Can I Get An Amen?

In Numbers 5:22, a priest orders a woman who is accused of adultery to drink water that is mixed with dust from a tabernacle floor. The priest reasons that if the woman has committed adultery, the brew will inflict her with a wasting disease, but if she is innocent she will consume the drink, unharmed. Adding to the woman’s plight, she is required by God to submit to her shabby fate by yelling, “Amen, Amen!” What’s striking about this passage is not that God thought a woman’s digestive tract could determine guilt, but that it is the Bible’s first—as well as history’s first documented—mention of the term amen. In early biblical passages, the term “is used as an affirmation, particularly with respect to a curse,” explains Yochanan Rivkin, a rabbi at Tulane University’s Chabad House, but...

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