Chapter 3

Physical Adultery ©

  Usage of Adultery in the Old Testament  
  Examples of Adultery in the Old Testament  
  Practical Application from the Old Testament  
  Usage of Adultery in the New Testament  
  Practical Application of New Testament Usage  

With a foundational understanding of marriage and physical fornication, we can explore the subject of physical adultery.  A current dictionary defines adultery thus:

adultery  1: voluntary sexual intercourse between a married man and someone other than his wife and a married woman and someone other than her husband....  2a: unchastity of thought or act ....28

In English, adultery comes from the word "adulterate."  To "adulterate" means to make something inferior or impure by adding something harmful or less valuable to it.  It is derived from the idea of falsifying or counterfeiting.  To counterfeit means to closely resemble something else in order to mislead.  It imitates that which is genuine in order to deceive.

A Scriptural definition derived from a thorough examination of all usages of the Hebrew and Greek words translated "adultery" is:

The fracture of the marriage vow of sexual faithfulness (a vow to sexually love one's spouse only) by way of male and female sexual intercourse not prescribed by the law of God.

Adultery, in a biblical sense, always involves a male-female sexual relationship between a person and someone other than their spouse.  A broken vow of sexual faithfulness within a marriage occurring by any other means (e.g., homosexuality, bestiality, rape) is not scripturally called adultery.  A misunderstanding or misapplication of sexual ethics presented in scripture may have led many to confuse the subject of adultery see [Appendix C, Fornication/Adultery Comparison].

- Usage of Adultery in the Old Testament -

The first Scriptural occurrence will help set the pattern of usage throughout the rest of the Bible.

Ex 20:14, 17  Thou shalt not commit adultery [Hebrew na'aph 29].  (17) Thou shalt not covet [Hebrew hamad 30 , to desire, covet or crave] thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet [hamad] thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.

The ten commandments in Exodus 20, which were part of the covenant or agreement between the Lord and the children of Israel, can be divided into two groups.  The first five related specifically to their relationship with the Lord their God; the second five to their relationship with a neighbor (one within the Israelite community).  Each of the two groups of commandments has three elements or themes.  They consist of thought, word, and deed for the first set of five and deed, word, and thought for the second.31  Commands number six, "do not kill [murder (NIV)]," seven, "do not commit adultery" and eight, "do not steal," are deeds or acts in relation to another person.  The ninth command, "do not bear false witness [false testimony (NIV)]," refers to words spoken.  The tenth command, "do not covet thy neighbor's house, wife, manservant, maidservant, ox, ass,..." refers to thoughts or mental pictures and images that produce actions.

What is true in principle for the first set of five is also true for the second.  For example, keeping the Sabbath (the fourth commandment) and honoring your parents (the fifth commandment) are deeds that have their very root or basis in keeping the first and second commandments; the avoidance of making or worshipping other gods.  In other words, you cannot break the third, fourth, or fifth commandments without breaking the first two.  This same principle is true in examining adultery and covetousness.  The prohibition against adultery (the seventh commandment) will only occur with the keeping of the tenth commandment; the avoidance of coveting thy neighbor's wife, house, etc.  The very root of adultery lies in the attitude of covetousness; the earnest desire for that which belongs to another.  In English, the word "covet" means to want ardently or long for with envy.  Interestingly, this word is derived from the Latin word "cupidity," which gives rise to the word "Cupid."  Cupid was the Roman god of erotic love (the son of Venus) and is identified with the Greek erosEros means to be driven by the body and mind, and from which we get such words as erotic and eroticism; arousal of sexual feeling and love.

In verse 14 of Exodus 20 the act is addressed, while in vs 17 the thought or idea.  The prohibition against committing adultery as an action, would have been pertinent to all who were married, both male and female.  This was true regardless of whether a married person committed adultery with the spouse of another or an unmarried person (e.g., virgin or prostitute).

The thought or idea of coveting would be directed toward "thy neighbour's wife, manservant, maidservant," or "anything that is thy neighbour's."  Although the word "covet" means to desire or crave, it has no specific reference to sexual desire.  However, sexual desire may be one form of coveting.  It is not the concept of desiring or craving that is wrong but rather, the object toward which such desire is directed.  For a married individual to look upon a virgin or prostitute with sexual desire would strictly be forbidden for "anything that is thy neighbour's" would include his children (a possible source for the virgin or prostitute).

Adultery occurs as the result of an actual illicit sexual relationship or as a thought conceived in the mind.  In Matt 5:28, Jesus substantiates the idea that adultery can be committed in the mind or heart of an individual.

- Examples of Adultery in the Old Testament -

Gen 12:5  And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came.

Abram took Sarai and Lot, along with their possessions, and set out on a journey to Egypt because at that time a famine was in the land (vss 1-4, 10).  As they drew near to Egypt (vs 11), Abram became concerned for his life, as a common practice among the Egyptians and other peoples of the East 32 would be to kill the husband of a beautiful woman and take her for their own.  Because he feared this would occur, Abram coaxes Sarai into not revealing they were married (vss 11-13).

Gen 12:14-17  And it came to pass, that, when Abram was come into Egypt, the Egyptians beheld the woman that she was very fair.  (15) The princes also of Pharaoh saw her, and commended her before Pharaoh: and the woman was taken into Pharaoh's house.  (16) And he entreated Abram well for her sake: and he had sheep, and oxen, and he asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and she asses, and camels.  (17) And the LORD plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai Abram's wife.

Those great plagues or "serious diseases (NIV)" were God's intervention as Sarai was taken into Pharaoh's house to be his wife.

Gen 12:18  And Pharaoh called Abram, and said, What is this that thou hast done unto me? Why didst thou not tell me that she was thy wife?

Verse 18 shows the innocence of Pharaoh (cp vs 13) as he confronts Abram about his situation.  Pharaoh knew something was not right for the code of Hammurabi and the Egyptian codes (societal laws) contained prohibitions against adultery.

Gen 12:19  Why saidst thou, She is my sister? so I might have taken her to me to wife: now therefore behold thy wife, take her, and go thy way.

In the AV, Pharaoh's response is, "...I might have taken her to me to wife:.."  The "might have taken" is the Hebrew laqah, which is an imperfect simple active verb.  It means that Pharaoh's "taken her to wife" or having had sexual intercourse with her had not yet occurred.  It was an incomplete action with future intent.  Had the Lord not intervened, Sarai would have become the wife of Pharaoh.  God's intervention maintained the marital relationship between Abram and Sarai so that the Christ-line could be preserved.  This was a vital part of God's plan, for it was through the seed of Abraham that the Messiah would be born (Gal 3:16, 29; Heb 2:9-16).

Gen 20:1-5  And Abraham journeyed from thence toward the south country, and dwelled between Kadesh and Shur, and sojourned in Gerar.  (2) And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister: and Abimelech king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah.  (3) But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night, and said to him, Behold, thou art but a dead man, for the woman which thou hast taken; for she is a man's wife.  (4) But Abimelech had not come near her [he had not yet had sexual intercourse with her]: and he said, Lord, wilt thou slay also a righteous nation?  (5) Said he not unto me, She is my sister? and she, even she herself said, He is my brother: in the integrity of my heart and innocency of my hands have I done this.

Because of fear (vs 11), Abraham and Sarah were repeating the deception found in Genesis, Chp 12.  In vs 3, God speaks to Abimelech in a dream and tells him that Sarah was already another's wife.  Abimelech had not yet had sexual intercourse with her (vs 4) as God had intervened to prevent the marriage between Abimelech and Sarah from occurring (vs 6).  Abimelech maintained his innocence because he did not know Sarah was already married (vs 5).

Gen 20:6, 7  And God said unto him in a dream, Yea, I know that thou didst this in the integrity of thy heart; for I also withheld thee from sinning against me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her [have sexual intercourse with her].  (7) Now therefore restore the man his wife: for he is a prophet, and he shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live: and if thou restore her not, know thou that thou shalt surely die, thou, and all that are thine.

Therefore, it was imperative that God intervene and prevent Abimelech and Sarah from having sexual intercourse.  God would not allow the Devil to utilize Abraham's fear to thwart His plan in preserving the Christ-line.

Gen 20:8-12  Therefore Abimelech rose early in the morning, and called all his servants, and told these things in their ears: and the men were sore afraid.  (9) Then Abimelech called Abraham, and said unto him, What hast thou done unto us? and what have I offended thee, that thou hast brought on me and my kingdom a great sin? thou hast done deeds unto me that ought not to be done.  (10) And Abimelech said unto Abraham, What sawest thou, that thou hast done this thing?  (11) And Abraham said, Because I thought, Surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they shall slay me for my wife's sake.  (12) And yet indeed she is my sister; she is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife.

Abimelech confronted Abraham's deception regarding his relationship with Sarah.

Gen 20:17, 18  So Abraham prayed unto God: and God healed Abimelech, and his wife, and his maidservants; and they bare children.  (18) For the LORD had fast closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech, because of Sarah Abraham's wife.

The healing that took place involved Abimelech, his wife, and his maidservants.  Abimelech's affliction did not permit him to have sexual intercourse with Sarah (vs 4, 6).  In addition to this, the Lord also prevented the begetting of children by Abimelech's wife and maidservants.

The Lord made a covenant with Abraham and promised him a son (Gen 17:5, 9; 18:14) through whom the Christ-line would be preserved.  The Lord (Abraham's Covenant-God) closed the wombs of Abimelech's household to signify that the "seed of the woman" (Gen 3:15) would not come through Abimelech and Sarah but through Abraham and Sarah; the one's who were given the promise.  The Devil, capitalizing upon Abraham's fear, attempted to impede God's promise by having Abimelech marry Sarah.  This marriage would have precluded Abraham and Sarah from bearing Isaac (the forerunner of Christ).  God's intervention frustrated the Devil's plan and to this the Scriptures give witness.

Genesis 26 records Isaac's journey to Gerar, which in some ways is similar to Abraham's in Genesis 20.

Gen 26:6-11  And Isaac dwelt in Gerar:  (7) And the men of this place asked him of his wife; and he said, She is my sister: for he feared to say, She is my wife; lest, said he the men of the place should kill me for Rebekah; because she was fair to look upon.  (8) And it came to pass, when he had been there a long time, that Abimelech king of the Philistines looked out at a window, and saw, and, behold, Isaac was sporting with [caressing - NIV] Rebekah his wife.  (9) And Abimelech called Isaac, and said, Behold, of a surety she is thy wife: and how saidst thou, She is my sister? And Isaac said unto him, Because I said, Lest I die for her.  (10) And Abimelech said, What is this thou hast done unto us? one of the people might lightly have lien with the wife, and thou shouldest have brought guiltiness upon us.  (11) And Abimelech charged all his people, saying, He that toucheth this man or his wife shall surely be put to death.

Abimelech points out in vs 10 that someone might have had sexual intercourse with ("lien with") Rebekah, which would have brought guilt upon them.  Adultery, with its resulting punishment, would have occurred had someone had sexual intercourse with Rebekah.

Gen 39:7-12  And it came to pass after these things, that his [Joseph's] master's wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me.  (8) But he refused, and said unto his master's wife, Behold, my master wotteth [knoweth] not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand;   (9) There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?  (10) And it came to pass, as she spake to Joseph day by day, that he hearkened not unto her, to lie by her, or to be with her.  (11) And it came to pass about this time, that Joseph went into the house to do his business; and there was none of the men of the house there within.  (12) And she caught him by his garment, saying, Lie with me: and he left his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out.

Joseph had been sold into slavery by his eleven brothers (Gen 37:28).  He was brought down to Egypt (Gen 37:36; 39:1) and sold to Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard (who was in charge of policing and military duties).  Joseph was a successful man, and the Lord made everything Joseph did to prosper.  In vs 7, Potiphar's wife took a liking to Joseph because Joseph was "well-built and handsome (NIV)" (vs 6).  Joseph acknowledged that adultery was unacceptable and that it was great wickedness and sin against God (vs 9).

II Sam 11:1-5  And it came to pass, after the year was expired, at the time when kings go forth to battle, that David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the children of Ammon, and besieged Rabbah. But David tarried still at Jerusalem.  (2) And it came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof [which was flat] of the king's house: and from the roof he saw a woman washing [bathing] herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon.  (3) And David sent and inquired after the woman. And one said, Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?  (4) And David sent messengers, and took her; and she came in unto him, and he lay with her; for she was purified from her uncleanness: and she returned unto her house.  (5) And the woman conceived, and sent and told David, and said, I am with child.

King David allowed his passion to supersede his wisdom.  His adulterous behavior became quite apparent, for Bathsheba became pregnant.  Obviously the child was not Uriah's, for he was involved in a war (vss 6-8).  David tried to deceive Uriah into thinking the child was his by attempting to convince him to return home and have sexual intercourse with Bathsheba.  Those attempts were nullified by Uriah's loyalty to King David (vss 9-13).  Therefore, David felt that he had no other alternative than to cover his deed by having Uriah placed on the front lines during the battle to have him killed (vss 14-24).  This would provide him an opportunity to marry Bathsheba or support the idea that the child was Uriah's, in either case making the child appear legitimate.  David's actions "displeased the Lord" (vs 27) and God arranged for Nathan, the prophet, to confront King David about what he had done (II Sam 12).  The story Nathan used to convict David of his sin was primarily directed toward his stealing Bathsheba.  It was David's coveting or desiring another man's wife that served as the primary cause of all the events that happened.  Unfortunately it also led to Uriah's death.  We see the judgement of the Lord in the following vss.

II Sam 12:9-14  Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in his sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon.  (10) Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife.  (11) Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of the sun.  (12) For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.  (13) And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.  (14) Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die.

What commandments would David have despised in vs 9?  The sixth, "thou shalt not kill [murder (NIV)]" (Ex 20:13), the seventh, "thou shalt not commit adultery" (Ex 20:14) and the tenth, "thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife" (Ex 20:17).  The judgement against his adultery is evident in vs 11.  David's wives would be taken by someone close to him, and that man would "lie with thy wives in the sight of the sun."  The adultery would not be concealed as was David's (until Bathsheba's pregnancy was discovered).  Instead, it would occur openly in broad daylight (vs 12), thus reproving David and revealing his sin to the people (II Sam 16:22).  David acknowledges his sin, in vs 13, inclusive of the adultery with its deception and the murder of Uriah.  This is further clarified, as David reflected upon these events in the Psalms.

Ps 32:5  I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions [plural] unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah (Cp also Ps 51:3)

David acknowledged the "sin unto thee" that was brought to his attention through Nathan the prophet.  All of the actions that David had taken were viewed as sin even though he confessed to more than one.

Jer 29:20-23  Hear ye therefore the word of the LORD, all ye of the captivity, whom I have sent from Jerusalem to Babylon:  (21) Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, of Ahab the son of Kolaiah, and of Zedekiah and son of Maaseiah, which prophesy a lie unto you in my name; Behold, I will deliver them into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, and he shall slay them before your eyes;  (22) And of them shall be taken up a curse by all the captivity of Judah which are in Babylon, saying, The LORD make thee like Zedekiah and like Ahab, whom the king of Babylon roasted in the fire;  (23) Because they have committed villany in Israel, and have committed adultery [Hebrew na'aph] with their neighbour's wives, and have spoken lying words in my name, which I have not commanded them; even I know, and am a witness, saith the LORD.

Jeremiah the prophet specifically addresses the "…surviving elders… priests… prophets and all the other people (NIV)" who were taken captive by Nebuchadrezzar from Jerusalem to Babylon (vs 1).  Within the context, rebuke is directed against the false prophets (vss 8,9,15, 20-29) who said they were speaking for the Lord when they weren't.  Ahab and Zedekiah, were to be burnt to death (vs 22) for the villainy or "outrageous things (NIV)" (vs 23) they had done in Israel; those being committing adultery with their neighbors' wives, and speaking lying words in the Lord's name (cp. Jer 23:9-14).

- Practical Application from the Old Testament -

Prov 30:18-20  There be three things which are too wonderful for me, yea, four which I know not:  (19) The way of an eagle in the air; the way of a serpent upon a rock; the way of a ship in the midst of the sea; and the way of a man with a maid.  (20) Such is the way of an adulteress woman; she eateth, and wipeth her mouth, and sayeth, I have done no wickedness.

The word "wonderful" is the Hebrew pala' and means that which can't be distinguished or is difficult to understand and is only accessible and therefore knowable to GOD. 33  The Hebrew word for "know" is yada‘, meaning to recognize, understand or distinguish. 34  There are not three, but four things that can't be recognized or understood in regard to an important point.  As Moffatt translates, "three things make me marvel. four things I cannot fathom...."  These items that are not able to be recognized or understood and therefore distinguished are;

1)  the way of an eagle in the air
2)  the way of a serpent upon a rock
3)  the way of a ship in the midst of the sea
4)  the way of a man with a maid

These four items lead to a conclusion or application in analyzing the adulteress woman (vs 20).  If we can understand the truth conveyed in the listing of the four items, we will understand vs 20.  The one theme or element common to the four are actions that are trackless or traceless to the naked eye.  For example, one may look into the air and yet not be able to determine that an eagle has passed there.  One may look upon a rock and cannot tell whether a serpent or snake has slid upon it.  One may see a ship on the ocean but cannot distinguish the path it has taken to get there.  One may look upon a man and woman and not be able to tell whether or not they have had sexual intercourse.

Prov 30:20  This is the way of an adulteress: She eats and wipes her mouth and says, ‘I've done nothing wrong.’ (NIV)

Verse 20 illustrates the point made by the examples in vs 19 (cp. Prov 9:13-18).  She commits adultery and can afterward say "I've done nothing wrong," for there is no apparent evidence to prove otherwise.

Her sexual intercourse is an event only known to God.  One cannot look at her and know whether she has had sexual intercourse with someone else.  This is also true of her partner.  In Old Testament law (Num 5:14-31), the test of bitter waters for a suspected adulteress was used if there was no witness to substantiate the husband's jealousy.  It took the witness of the wife's guilty conscience to prove the act had occurred.  The adulterer and adulteress were only stoned when there were witnesses (cp. Lev 20:20; John 8:3, 4; Deut 22:22).

Note further, by looking at Lev 20:10, the practical consequences of adultery.

Lev 20:10  ‘If a man commits adultery [Hebrew na'aph] with another man's wife — with the wife of his neighbor — both the adulterer [Hebrew na'aph] and the adulteress [Hebrew na'aph] must be put to death.’ (NIV)

The fracture of their commitment to sexual faithfulness became evident when they forsook their respective spouses to commit adultery with each other.  The penalty for such behavior in the Law was death.  It was this judgment within the Law that the scribes and Pharisees mentioned when they brought the woman taken in adultery before Jesus (see John 8:3-7).  The conviction of adultery carried with it a punishment or consequence that was most punitive.

Prov 6:26-35  For by means of a whorish woman a man is brought to a piece of bread: and the adulteress will hunt for the precious life.  (27) Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?  (28) Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned?  (29) So he that goeth in to his neighbour's wife; whosoever toucheth her shall not be innocent.  (30) Men do not despise a thief, if he steal to satisfy his soul when he is hungry;  (31) But if he be found, he shall restore sevenfold; he shall give all the substance of his house.  (32) But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul.  (33) A wound and dishonour shall he get; and his reproach shall not be wiped away.  (34) For jealousy is the rage of a man: therefore he will not spare in the day of vengeance.  (35) He will not regard any ransom; neither will he rest content, though thou givest many gifts.

A whorish woman or "prostitute (NIV)" leads a man to be poverty-stricken financially.  The adulteress takes the consequence in a different direction and causes the man to lose his life.  The adulterer lacks understanding and wisdom regarding the significance of his behavior, as he does not foresee the punishment he will incur as a result.  He sets himself out to be a self-destroyer, as his own actions will produce his own destruction.  The husband of the adulteress, because of his jealousy, will show no mercy in the day that vengeance can be fulfilled though he is offered a bribe.  The most intimate part of the relationship with his wife has been given to another.  The sexual love of his wife was destined and reserved for him and he alone is permitted to partake.  The Amplified Bible offers a more concise translation of vss 32 through 35:

But whoever commits adultery with a woman lacks heart and understanding — moral principle and prudence; he who does it is destroying his own life.  Wounds and disgrace will he get, and his reproach will not be wiped away.  For jealousy makes [the wronged] man furious; therefore he will not spare in the day of vengeance [upon the detected ones].  He will not consider any ransom [offered to buy him off from demanding full punishment], neither will he be satisfied though you offer him many gifts and bribes.

(above brackets are supplied within the text by the Amplified Bible)

Proverbs, chapter 7, is a continuation of the theme.

Prov 7:10  And, behold, there met him a woman with the attire of an harlot, and subtil of heart [crafty intent - NIV].

This "woman" is an adulteress who has dressed herself up as a harlot to deceive a young man into having sexual intercourse with her (vss 7, 18-20).  The word "subtil" is the Hebrew natsar, meaning hidden. 35   This subtleness refers to her hidden motives or intentions.  Unfortunately, the young man is "void of understanding [lacking in judgement]" (vs 7) and follows her (vs 22), not knowing the fate that will befall him.

Prov 7:23  Till a dart strike through his liver; as a bird hasteth to the snare, and knoweth not that it is for his life.

The phrase "till a dart strike through his liver" or "till an arrow pierces his liver (NIV)" refers to disease and ultimately death. 36  The liver is the principal organ involved in purification of the blood.  An injury of this nature will result in contamination of the individual with bacteria and other toxins, eventually producing death.  Lessons displayed here can be seen by examining the lives of such men as Samson (Jud 16:4-21), David (II Sam 11) and Solomon (I Kings 11 and Neh 13:26).

Prov 7:24-25  Harken unto me now therefore, O ye children, and attend to the words of my mouth.  (25) Let not thine heart decline to her ways, go not astray in her paths.

- Usage of Adultery in the New Testament -

Matt 15:19  For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries [Gk. moicheia] fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:

Adultery proceeds out of the heart of an individual.  Keep this in mind as it becomes uniquely significant when Jesus addresses this idea in Matthew 5.

Matt 5:27, 28  Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery [Gk. moicheuo];  (28) But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery [Gk. moicheuo ] with her already in his heart.

Jesus Christ, in vss 21-48, speaks of various laws contained within the Mosaic Law.  In vs 27, He introduces the law concerning adultery.  The "whosoever" in vs 28 and 32 refer to married men as the context concerns putting away a wife.

The words "looketh on" (Gk. blepo), indicate the idea of looking with contemplation, 37 and blepo in the present active tense is more accurately rendered keeps looking.38   This is no casual glance but a persistent or determined look with a specific purpose in mind.

"Woman," (Gk. gune), is mostly translated woman, whether married or unmarried. 39  The word "to" in the phrase " lust after..." is significant because it is the Greek preposition pros and in the accusative case means with a view toward something as an end or goal.  The married man who keeps looking on another woman (obviously not his wife) with the idea of sexually lusting after or craving her has "committed adultery with her already in his heart."

Jesus says that the true essence of "thou shalt not commit adultery" is not just as an outward act or manifestation but begins within the heart.  The true commitment of marriage and more specifically, sexual faithfulness, begins within the heart.  If a husband looks on another woman with the intent of undressing her with his eyes and imagines himself having sexual intercourse with her, he has abandoned his commitment of sexual faithfulness to his wife.  Even though it only involves thoughts, the commitment within the heart is forsaken.  The heart is the innermost part of your being, which contains the intellect, will and emotions. 40  This understanding provides the completeness to the prohibition "do not commit adultery."  There are those who advocate or believe in fantasizing about another when having sexual intercourse with their spouse to enhance their sexual life.  Regardless of the rationale, in principle, they are committing adultery with someone else.

Rom 7:3  So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress [Gk. moichalis]: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress [Gk. moichalis], though she be married to another man.

In this section of the Epistle to the Romans, the permanence of the bond of marriage is used to illustrate the permanence of our unity with Christ and how both marriage and our ties with the law of Moses could only be broken or severed by death (vss 1-6).  If a wife's husband is alive, she must maintain her marital commitment.  If she marries another man, she fractures her commitment to her husband.  It is called adultery because she is still married to her husband which makes her new relationship illicit.  Yet the Scripture says that if her husband is dead, she is free from "that law" (the law or standard of commitment concerning a marriage covenant).  Death releases the claims of "that law" upon the individual.

- Practical Application of New Testament Usage -

Rom 13:8-10  Owe no man any thing, but to love [Gk agapao] one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.  (9) For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery [Gk. moicheuo], Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour [see Luke 10:27-37] as thyself.  (10) Love [Gk agape] worketh no ill [Gk kakos, evil] to his neighbour: therefore love [Gk. agape] is the fulfilling of the law.

In verse 8, love is said to be the fulfillment of the Law.  The last five commands as given in Exodus 20 are used to illustrate how this love serves to fulfill the Law.  If you love one another, then every one of these commands would be fulfilled.

Heb 13:4  Marriage is honourable in all [in all circumstances or situations in which persons are allowed by God to marry 41], and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers [Gk. moichos] God will judge.

This is an exhortation for the marriage to be held in honor, and the sexual intercourse within that marriage to be kept pure or undefiled.  God's intention for marriage is that it should be clean and not blemished or contaminated.  Adulterers are those who defile the sanctity of what God has intended for marriage alone.  There is nothing to substantiate adultery as right or permissible in any circumstance.

The husband and wife must work to make or hold the marriage honorable and the bed undefiled.  The word "bed" is the Greek koite and is used of a place to recline or lie, 42 as in Rom 13:13 ("chambering" — Gk koite).  The figure of speech, metonymy (of the subject); 43 where the object is put for that which pertains or in some way relates to it, has "bed" representing sexual intercourse. 44   The word "undefiled" is the Greek amaintos and means to be unstained or unsoiled; therefore, free from contamination 45 (see Heb 7:26; Jas 1:27; I Pet 1:4).  The word amaintos is made up of the negative particle "a" and "miaino" which means to dye with a color or stain; therefore, without a color dye or stain.  To take a white sheet and stain it with dye would be the complete opposite of "undefiled."  The sexual intercourse is to be free from contamination or impurity, just like a sheet which is as white and bright as light.  Such character can only be accomplished through sexual faithfulness.  For without it the exhortation to keep the marriage honorable and the sexual intercourse unsoiled becomes meaningless.

"God will judge" is the figure of speech metonymy (of the cause); the action is put for the effect or product of the action.  Here, "judge" is put for the punishment or condemnation produced by that judgement. 46   The same figure of speech is used in John 3:18 and Rom 14:3.  There is a contrast of ideas or thoughts; proper sexual intercourse versus improper sexual intercourse.  The correct, right or appropriate application for sexual intercourse is within a marriage.  Whereas, the incorrect, wrong or inappropriate application for sexual intercourse is outside of a marriage.  Therefore, "fornicators" and "adulterers" are used.

As mentioned at the beginning of this Chapter, adultery is the mimicking of a marital relationship that is not genuine.  An adulterous relationship is a counterfeit one.  It is deceptive in its nature and misleading in its goal.  It's deception lies in getting one to think that the adulterous relationship is a substitute for the marital one.  It misleads by appealing to the distorted notion that its relationship is going to be better; that unsatisfied needs are going to be met; that it is a relationship that will be better than the one with their spouse.  Adultery is the poison that kills a marriage.  The "lie" of adultery is that it will better serve to meet the needs of the individual.  Many relationship analysts believe that men and women don't commit adultery for purely sexual reasons.  It is rather to fulfill some unmet emotional need that is not being satisfied by their spouse.  Regardless of how genuine that relationship may appear, it is only a harmful imitation.

The counterfeit nature of adultery lies in its lack of marital commitment.  In this regard, it only imitates a marital relationship.  The "sting" of adultery resides in the breach of trust that occurs through the action of the unfaithful spouse.  Trust is the foundation for any meaningful relationship.  Unfaithfulness renders the spouse untrustworthy.  Marriage starts with a commitment, "I thee wed....."  If one is rendered untrustworthy, how can you believe the rest of what they promised to fulfill in their commitment: "To love and to hold...till death do us part"?  Marital commitment is upheld by faithfulness, which demonstrates that the spouse is trustworthy and able to keep their word.  On the other hand, adultery is an act of unfaithfulness, which establishes the spouse as untrustworthy and therefore unable to keep their word.  The fruit of unfaithfulness is to make the victim feel cheated and inferior.  In addition, it leads the victim to conclude that their spouse won't live up to their words of commitment, "for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, for better or for worse", etc. but will forsake these too.

In conclusion, it remains the responsibility of each couple to exercise the necessary effort to assure that their marriage functions according to GODly principles.  This will preserve the sanctity of that marriage as God intended, bless them in their life together, and provide a divine shield to protect them from the corruptness and consequences of adultery.

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