Vol. 16 No 45 – November 5, 2017
The purpose of the commandment is to positively promote the purity of the heart, especially in regard to the marriage relationship. In the 7th Commandment we have the valuing of our and our neighbor’s marriage. The commandment specifically addresses adultery or marital infidelity.
The Hebrew reads, LO NA’APH in the Qal Imperfect for the ongoing negation of this act. NA’APH, נאַף is used 34 times in the OT and means, “to commit adultery,” which is voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a partner other than their spouse, also called infidelity. This word is unique to the Hebrew language among other Semitic languages. Other derivatives that also mean “adultery” include, NI’UP, Ezek 23:43; Jer 13:27; and NA’APUP, Hosea 2:4.
Being addressed to men first, it is defined as having sexual intercourse with a woman who was either married to a man or betrothed, that is, who had already begun the legal exchanges which preceded marriage, what we call today the “engagement.” Deut 22:23f. Sexual relations are the virtual seal of a marriage covenant, and adultery betrays the emotional-psychological intimacy that specially connects adult men and women within marriage.
Being the 3rd of the horizontal Commandments, adultery was seen as a serious sin in Israelite society. The family was the basic unit of the nation, and faithfulness to the marriage contract is the foundation for the family. The protection of the marriage protected the integrity of the family unit that was important because the family was the foundation of society and the nation. Compromise or collapse of the family meant compromise or collapse of society. Sex outside marriage involving married people is especially threatening to the marriage, family, and nation, and thus receives special focus among the 10 Commandments. Therefore, no one is allowed to have sex with any married person except his or her spouse, and no married person is allowed to have sex with anyone other than his or her spouse.
One who broke that contract was worthy of death through capital punishment for both the man and woman guilty of this act, Lev 20:10; Deut 22:22; cf, Lev 19:20, whereas fornication (cf. ZANA) did not carry this penalty. The method of death was in some cases, burning, Gen 38:24, and more generally stoning, Deut 22:23f.; Ezek 16:38-40; cf. John 8:5.
The rest of the ancient Near Eastern cultures surrounding the Israelites likewise had laws prohibiting adultery. Hittite laws, Middle Assyrian laws, and the Code of Hammurabi all contain legislation against adultery. Their law codes prescribed execution as the penalty for adultery, although the adulteress’ husband could cancel the punishment. But this is not the case of the Israelite law. The prime reason in those notations regulating the sexual activity of women had to do with patrilineal, (along the father’s line), inheritance, where genetic lines and birth order dictate who receives what upon the devolving of property after the death of a father. Thus, protecting the lineage against non-family members was of paramount importance.
In addition, as in many other societies, a woman belonged to the house of her father until marriage, and then became part of her husband’s estate. On one level, having sexual relations with a married or betrothed woman was seen as a form of stealing. The rape of a betrothed woman, for example, lowered the value of her bride price. Accordingly, the ravager of an unbetrothed virgin was liable for her bride price and to marry her, but if the father refused him, the dowry was to be paid likewise, Ex 22:16-17. Therefore, in these other cultures, the wife was considered property, and this would merely have been a case of damaged goods. Nonetheless, in Egypt (marriage contracts), Mesopotamia (hymns to Ninurta and Shamash) and Canaan (king of Ugarit extradites and executes his wife), adultery was regularly referred to as “the great sin,” Gen 20:9; 39:9, and was considered extremely detrimental to society in that it was characteristic of anarchy.
Indeed, the sin of adultery was among the reasons that the inhabitants of Canaan were judged by YHWH, Lev 18:20, 24-25; Cf. Lev 20:23; Deut 9:5; 18:12.
The sin was viewed on other levels in the Hebrew Bible as well. Adultery was understood beyond its economic ramifications. Being the third of the horizontal commandments, it was understood as a moral sin, an act which caused defilement and an offense against fellow Israelites and God, Job 24:15; Prov 6:32; 30:20; Jer 29:23; Hosea 4:2; Mal 3:5.
Job 24:15, “And the eye of the adulterer waits for the twilight, Saying, ‘No eye will see me.’ and he disguises his face.”
Prov 6:32, “The one who commits adultery with a woman is lacking sense; he who would destroy himself does it.”
Prov 30:20, “This is the way of an adulterous woman: she eats and wipes her mouth, and says, “I have done no wrong.”
Regarding the heart of the wicked, God says in Psa 50:18, “When you see a thief, you are pleased with him, and you associate with adulterers.”
Therefore, we are to be leery of the adulterer or adulteress as noted in Prov 2:16; 5:3, 20; 6:24, 26; 7:5; 22:14.
Under the Mosaic Law, a woman suspected of adultery had to face a trial before God via the Priest, cf. Num 5:11-31, under the “Law of Jealousy,” QANA. This was similar, but unlike the Assyrian practice of throwing an accused person into the river to see if he would survive to prove his innocence. For the Israelite woman, there was no current physical danger in this OT ritual. There was a solemn oath in the holy place by the woman accused, which would be a severe psychological test for a guilty woman, and there was also threatened a visitation of God’s providence. This law of jealousy was both an act of mercy, (she could be vindicated of a false accusation), and an institutionalization of a woman’s commanded submission to her husband.
The reason it is a crime is that:
- It is a breach of the marriage contract before God, and a dishonor done to God by placing man’s will above God’s, cf. Gen 2:24.
- It is a rebellious act done with forethought and planning, needless to say, the highest sort of theft, i.e. stealing a neighbor’s flesh.
- It is a debasing of the adulterer, making him a senseless wild ass, Jer 5:8.
- It is a means of destroying one’s reputation, Prov 6:32-33.
- It is a means of impairing one’s mind, Hosea 4:11-14, etc.
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A PERSONAL NOTE FOR YOU
If you have never accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, I am here to tell you that Jesus loves you. He loves you so much that He gave His life for you. God the Father also loves you. He loves you so much that He gave His only Son for you by sending Him to the Cross. At the Cross Jesus died in your place. Taking upon Himself all of your sins and all of my sins. He was judged for our sins and paid the price for our sins. Therefore, our sins will never be held against us.
Right where you are, you now have the opportunity to make the greatest decision in your life. To accept the free gift of salvation and eternal life by truly believing that Jesus Christ died for your sins and was raised on the third day as the proof of the promise of eternal life. So right now, you can pause and reflect on what Christ has done for you and say to the Father:
“Yes Father, I believe that Your Son, Jesus Christ,
died on the cross for the forgiveness of my sins.”
If you have done that, I Welcome You to the Eternal Family of God !!!