In the Mishna, Sotah 1:3 and 3:3 both speak of instances in which a woman suspected of having committed adultery admits of her crime before drinking the water. Given that the penalty for adultery is death (eg: Leviticus 20:10, Sanhedrin 11:1, etc), and given that the curse of the bitter waters might not take effect immediately (cf: Sotah 3:4), under what circumstances would a guilty woman confess to her crime? Since there are no witnesses, would not every woman choose to take her chances with the water?


If she confesses she won't be put to death by Beis Din since you need 2 witnesses for that.

And if there are 2 witnesses then she won't be tested by the sota water, hence there are not 2 witnesses. We don't execute a person based on his own testimony (Rambam, Hilkhot Sanhedrin 18:6; see also Yevamot 25b), and we don't include an admission with another witness to make two witnesses (Tosefta Shevuot 5:3).

Therefore, she would be saving her life from the water by confessing and would not be executed by beis din.

  • That makes sense... although it does seem counter-intuitive. Do you have a source for the idea that a person cannot testify against herself? Or that you cannot execute somebody whose admission precedes testimony against them?
    – Shimon bM
    May 30 '13 at 12:45
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    @ShimonbM אין אדם משים עצמו רשע
    – Double AA
    May 30 '13 at 12:48
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    For the benefit of others, the statement that @DoubleAA just shared is from Yevamot 25b, and concerns a person's disqualify himself from testimony. Interestingly, the explicit formulation that we do not execute a person on his own testimony appears not to have been stated in so many words until the Rambam, Hilkhot Sanhedrin 18:6. There are, however, similar rulings, and ones from which it might be derived (such as the fact that we don't include a person's testimony with a single witness in order to make two; Tosefta Shevuot 5:3).
    – Shimon bM
    May 30 '13 at 13:39

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