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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?

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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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