Taboos and Abominations
As previously mentioned, a widow could marry her late husband's brother, but women and men who committed adultery were put to death, since such a commission was a capital offence. The Old Testament records in Leviticus 18 that the Lord gave Moses instructions to pass on to the children of Israel regarding the near relatives of a man with whom sexual relations or marriage was unlawful:
Father's wife (assuming she is not his biological mother)
Sisters and half sisters
Father's brother's wives
Women were afforded some protection by the men to whom the belonged. They lived out their lives mostly in the safety of the home. Yet, incidences of incest and abuse must have occurred for Leviticus 18 to provide such detail about what kinds of sexual relationships were forbidden. The chapter also admonished any man who lay with a woman when she was unclean (having her menstrual cycle). In addition, it addressed the wickedness of other types of sexual defilements, such as a man having a carnal relationship with his neighbor's wife. While no Protestant or Catholic religious doctrine adhere strictly to the rules laid out in old Hebrew doctrines, some of the ancient taboos have certainly been incorporated into our modern laws and moral codes of conduct.
The admonishment against a man lying with another man in Leviticus 18:22 has been used as the basis for arguments against homosexuality. Chapter 18 emphasizes the sanctity of sex, and ends by saying that anyone who does not heed the law would be cut off from among his people.
Adultery in ancient times usually began with an accusation against the woman. To prove her innocence, she was forced to drink dirty and cursed water that a priest had mixed from sweepings of the temple floor. If she were guilty, drinking the water would have made her stomach swell and her thighs droop. Perhaps the ritual was so horrific to contemplate that the woman would confess rather than drink the nasty mixture. The commission of adultery among the ancient Hebrews was nothing less than a religious offence. Later, however, the ancients relaxed the double standard, and the rabbinical priesthood took men to task as well. Eventually, adultery came to be viewed as more of a legal and societal issue than a religious crime.