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Ordeal
Excerpt from the Lexham Bible Dictionary, the most advanced Bible dictionary.
A judicial practice, common in ancient civilizations, for determining the guilt or innocence of someone suspected of a crime based on the acknowledgement of divine omniscience. Ancient belief held that deities were able to enact justice on those who had committed crimes, even in instances where evidence and witnesses were lacking. The “ordeal” consisted of a physical trial the accused had to endure, the outcome of which determined their guilt or innocence. If the accused passed the test, they were deemed innocent. Failure to pass the test often coincided with the punishment, as failure often resulted in death (see description of the divine river ordeal below).
Dictionaries
The Lexham Bible Dictionary
Ordeal
Ordeal A judicial practice, common in ancient civilizations, for determining the guilt or innocence of someone suspected of a crime based on the acknowledgement of divine omniscience. Ancient belief held that deities were able to enact justice on those who had committed crimes, even in instances where
The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary
Ordeal
ORDEAL. Like most of their contemporaries, the ancient Israelites were familiar with ordeal procedures. The conceptual basis for this judicial practice was the belief that God possessed a knowledge surpassing that of humans. A crime might have been committed without a soul in sight, but the Lord had
Catholic Bible Dictionary
Ordeal
ORDEAL An ancient form of determining a legal case or accusation by submitting an accused person to some kind of pain or personal risk. In effect, the guilt or innocence of a person was left in the hands of a deity, so the accused who survived the trial by fire, water, or torture was declared innocent.
Dictionary of Biblical Imagery
Ordeal, Stories of
Ordeal, Stories ofIf defined broadly as a difficult or trying experience that tests the resourcefulness, character and perseverance of a protagonist, the ordeal story is almost synonymous with storytelling itself. The chief ingredients of a story of ordeal are (a) a protagonist with whom the reader
Dictionary of Phrase and Fable
Ordeal
Or′deal (Saxon, great judgment), instituted long before the Conquest, and not abolished till the reign of Henry III. Ordeals were of several kinds, but the most usual were by wager of battle, by hot or cold water, and by fire. This method of “trial” was introduced from the notion that God would defend
The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, Volumes 1–5
ORDEAL, JUDICIAL
ORDEAL, JUDICIAL. The extent to which judicial ordeals can be found in the Bible depends on how the concept is defined. One definition of judicial ordeal restricts it to physical tests used to determine the guilt or innocence of persons suspected of criminal activity in the absence of witnesses or material
TRIAL BY ORDEAL
TRIAL BY ORDEAL. A physical test used to determine the veracity of an oath in the absence of human witnesses or evidence. Presumably, the deity will indicate whether the oath is false by the outcome of the trial. Numbers 5:11–31 prescribes a trial by ordeal—drinking the WATER OF BITTERNESS—for a woman