SPECIAL TOPIC: ADULTERY (EXODUS 20:14)

I. Context

A. It is obvious that the commandment is related to one's respect for God which is seen in respect for one's neighbor's life, wife, and property (cf. Jer. 5:8). This is verified by the different order of these commands in the Septuagint.

B. The Deuteronomic parallel shows the appropriateness of adopting this ancient truth to our culture.

C. As respect for parents was seen as a key to a stable society, so too, is this command. 

D. This command also implies God's ownership and control of our sexual and family lives.

E. This command seems to have been based on Gen. 2:24, as command number four was based on Gen. 2:1-3.

 

II. Word Study

A. The major term in this text is "adultery" (נאך, BDB 610). It is crucial that one understands this term in light of ancient Hebrew culture.

1. This term is distinct in an OT context from "fornication." Adultery relates to at least one party in the sexual relationship being married. The term "fornication" implies both parties are not married (cf. Pro. 29:3; 31:3). The distinction is lost in the NT Greek terms.

2. This possibility explains the reason for the emphasis on marital status because it relates to the importance of inheritance rights, which were involved in God's promise of "the land." Every fifty years (Jubilee) all land was to revert to the original tribal owners.

3. Adultery was culturally condemned before the Mosaic legislation (cf. Gen. 12:10ff; 26:7ff; 39:9).

4. Adultery was seen as a sin against

a. neighbor – Exod. 20:14; Deut. 5:18

b. marriage – Lev. 18:20

c. God – Gen. 20:2-13; 26:7-11

5. It was punishable by death for both parties

a. Lev. 20:10

b. Deut. 22:22-24

c. Ezek. 16:40 (metaphor)

d. strict warnings are found in Proverbs 1-9

 

III. Relation to New Testament

A. Jesus used Lev. 19:18 as a summary of the Old Testament (cf. Luke 10:27). This confirms the Ten Commandments are related to our treatment of others.

B. Jesus intensifies the commands in Matt. 5:28. He places the emphasis on motive rather than action. The Jews saw the mind as the seed bed of the soul. What one thought was what one really was (Pro. 23:7). This makes the Ten Words almost impossible to keep—that is the purpose! (cf. Gal. 2:15-3:29).

 

IV. Modern Application

A. Marriage is possibly the best modern analogy of a lifelong faith commitment in God's name. It is our best chance to understand the realities of OT covenant concepts (Mal. 2:14). Respect for our mate in all aspects, including human sexuality, helps us comprehend the thrust of this verse.

B. Marriage stability and loyalty, like respect for parents, is a major pillar of societal strength and longevity.

C. It needs to be emphasized that human sexuality is a gift from God. It was His idea and will for mankind. The commandments are not meant to thwart mankind's freedom or joy, but to give some godly guidelines for fallen humanity. The bounds are revealed for our long-term benefit and happiness. Although mankind has abused sexuality, as they have all of God's gifts, it is still a powerful drive within humankind which must be under God's control and guidance.

D. Guidelines for sexuality must be guarded so that the sacredness of the human person (female or male) is respected because they are made in God's image (Gen. 1:26-27). Our fallen focus on "me" is all too obvious in this area.