“And should a person offend when he hears a voice in adjuration, he being a witness, or has seen or known, if he does not tell, he shall bear his punishment” (Leviticus 5,1, Robert Alter translation).
This is a strange verse, not only in its language, but in the idea that lies behind it. The word that Robert Alter translates as punishment is could equally be expressed as ‘guilt’, because although the Bible specifies actions to be taken by the offender, they are not a punishment. The word translated as ‘adjuration’ is more usually rendered to mean a curse or an oath.
The verse is discussing someone who has been called to testify in court and who fails to go. The summons they received came in the form of an oath or a curse, which would take effect if they did not heed the call. Continue reading “What Shall We Do With The Recalcitrant Witness?”