what is adultery in the Bible


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Ever found yourself in a heated debate over what counts as crossing the line? Sure, we’ve all had those conversations. But when it comes to defining what is adultery in the Bible, things get a little more complex.

The ancient texts lay down rules that might seem dramatic by today’s standards. Nevertheless, these age-old principles echo in our modern discussions about loyalty and ethics. Adultery wasn’t merely frowned upon; it was met with harsh penalties.

Imagine living in times when your sexual decisions could land you before a judge or worse, under stones hurled by your own community. Sounds extreme? Well, welcome to learning about what is adultery in the Bible and its definitions of stepping out of line.

As we go through this guide, we’ll learn exactly what is adultery in the Bible, how it applies to us today, and what to do about it to ensure that we are saved.

Understanding Adultery in Biblical Context

The definition of adultery for us today versus what is adultery in the Bible aren’t so far off from each other these days. It is only how society deals with and treats adultery is the major difference when compared to biblical times.

Person Hands on Holy Bible, what does the bible say about adultery

What Is Adultery In The Bible?

It’s a concept thrown around a lot even today, but what does it actually mean within the biblical context? Let’s dig into this.

To address the question of what is adultery in the Bible and what constitutes adultery, we turn to both dictionary and biblical definitions. According to the dictionary, “adultery” is defined as voluntary sexual relations between a married individual and someone who is not their spouse. 

This definition aligns with biblical teachings as well. For instance, in Leviticus 18:20, God instructs Moses that engaging in sexual activities with one’s neighbor’s wife is an act of defilement and great social wrong. 

Similarly, Deuteronomy 22:22 states that if a man engages in sexual relations with another man’s wife, both parties involved are to be put to death. 

These passages make it clear that adultery involves consensual sexual activity outside the bounds of marriage. However, they do not specify whether both participants must be married for the act to be considered adultery. 

The primary focus is on prohibiting a person from being sexually involved with someone else’s spouse. Nonetheless, it can reasonably be inferred that when a married man willingly sought out and participated in illicit intercourse, or any sexual activity, with an unmarried woman committed adultery as well.

Here is the definition of adultery according to Easton’s Bible dictionary: 

Conjugal infidelity. An adulterer was a man who had illicit intercourse with a married or a betrothed woman, and such a woman was an adulteress. Intercourse between a married man and an unmarried woman was fornication. Adultery was regarded as a great social wrong, as well as a great sin.”

It’s also not only a matter of physical intimacy; it fundamentally involves the betrayal of commitments and trust.

But why all the fuss? Well, back then (and still now), adultery wasn’t only seen as a personal sin but also as something that could shake up society by hurting its core unit: families.



Biblical overview:

  • In simple terms? It designates illicit bed hopping when one party has already said their “I dos” to someone else.
  • This understanding stretches across both Testaments – from God handing down commandments on Mount Sinai to Jesus explaining them further during His time on Earth.
  • And let me tell you— unlike today’s society, this was a serious offense. Leviticus 20:10 doesn’t mince words when it talks about consequences being capital punishment for such acts under Old Testament law.

If we jump over to how Jesus handled questions around this topic, he broadened the perspective even more. By saying looking at another person lustfully counts as adultery too—He emphasized thoughts can be just as sinful as actions.

All these pieces put together paint us quite an intricate picture. So next time someone mentions “adulterous behavior”, think beyond those Hollywood love triangles so common today—it’s got layers rooted deep within faith and morals stretching thousands of years back.

 
Key Takeaway: 

Adultery in the Bible isn’t just about cheating; it’s a serious breach of trust and vows, affecting more than just two people. It includes both actions and thoughts, showing how deep its impact goes on faith and society.

Not to mention it is directly hurting and disobeying God Himself.

What Is Adultery In The Bible?: The Seventh Commandment

God made marriage to be a very important part of life and our community. It’s seen as something special, where a man and woman support each other perfectly, showing what God intended. 

The Bible tells us that through marriage, people have children and keep their families strong in faith (as mentioned in Genesis 1:28, 9:1; Malachi 2:15). Because marriage is so important, God wants to keep it pure and safe from harm (Hebrews 13:4), which is why adultery is forbidden since it hurts the bond between married couples and families.

what is adultery in the Bible

Ancient Understanding of Adultery in Old Testament Law

Exploring the seventh commandment is like looking back in time to understand how people used to think about relationships.

“You shall not commit adultery”, or as we see it nowadays, “Don’t cheat on your spouse.” Seems simple, doesn’t it?

But actually, there’s a lot more going on behind this commandment. Back in the day, this rule wasn’t just about keeping couples happy. It was also about keeping society running smoothly and making sure that everyone knew who owned what. 

Surprisingly, wives were seen as their husband’s property, so cheating was like invading someone else’s space. The Bible even says in Leviticus 20:10 that if a man cheated with his neighbor’s wife, both of them would receive the death penalty. 

This shows us just how seriously these old societies took matters that today we might consider personal or private.



But let’s zoom out for a moment:

  • This isn’t just some archaic rule lost to history books; its ripple effects are still felt today in various forms across cultures worldwide.
  • The essence here is loyalty—a concept as relevant now as it was back then even if society takes it less seriously.
  • Loyalty within marriage helps hold communities together.

Long ago, not being faithful or honest could lead you to serious trouble. Today, many still believe that being loyal and truthful is essential for a good relationship even though people these days commit adultery left and right and take Mosaic Law’s divorce certificate concept to a whole other level (Deuteronomy 24:1–4).

It is important to know that even if you get divorced and then remarry you are still committing adultery (Luke 16:18, 1 Corinthians 7:10–11).

God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16) and marriage was intended to last a lifetime (Matthew 19:6). There are only two biblical exceptions for divorce with allowance for remarriage and that is through marriage unfaithfulness (Matthew 5:32) or abandonment from an unbelieving spouse (1 Corinthians 7:15).

Key Takeaway: 

Digging into the seventh commandment reveals more than just rules; it shows how ancient laws on adultery aimed to keep social order and protect relationships. Today, these teachings remind us that at the heart of strong connections lies loyalty, honesty, and integrity.

What Is Adultery In The Bible?: How Jesus Christ Addressed Adultery

In the gospels, Jesus affirmed the commandment against adultery, but He didn’t stop there. He escalated the conversation.

He said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:27–28).

what is adultery in the Bible

This was revolutionary. Jesus wasn’t just talking about the physical act of being unfaithful. No, He went straight for the heart of the matter—our intentions and thoughts.

He knows that actions start with thoughts. And if we can get our hearts right, our actions will follow suit.

Some folks argue that Jesus linked this teaching back to another commandment: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.” It makes sense when you think about it; both are about desiring something that isn’t yours to have.



The Definition of Adultery

We often box what is adultery in the Bible into what was scribbled down on the stone tablets ages ago (Exodus 20). But here comes Jesus flipping tables (metaphorically speaking even though He did that on a separate occasion) on what constitutes stepping out of line regarding this great sin.

Jesus’ definition hits at the root of what is adultery in the Bible. We know it lays out clear boundaries for physical infidelity but also paints emotional betrayal with broad strokes underlining its importance alongside the physical acts.

This underscores that Jesus really was addressing all generations to come. These are issues society is still wrestling with today such as emotional affairs and even pornography which wasn’t even a blip on anyone’s radars back then.

 
Key Takeaway: 

Jesus redefined adultery, emphasizing that it’s not just physical but also about the intentions in our hearts. He showed us that faithfulness starts with pure thoughts and hearts, challenging us to nurture love and respect from within.

What Is Adultery In The Bible?: Different Forms of Adultery According to Scripture

When we look at what is adultery in the Bible, we clearly see that it is performing physical sexual acts outside the bonds of being a married woman or a married man.

But there is more to it as we saw. When Jesus came, he expanded on this and shared more criteria for when one commits adultery (Matthew 5:27–28).

Grayscale Photo of Man and Woman

Nonsexual Relationships as Emotional Adultery and Visual Temptations

We saw that Scripture doesn’t limit adultery to just physical adultery or sexual intercourse with a married person. It’s time to take our Lord Jesus Christ’s words seriously and look at emotional adultery and visual temptations leading to adultery in the heart.

“But I didn’t touch anyone.” you might say. 

Ah, but have you ever found yourself sharing intimate emotional spaces with someone who isn’t your spouse? 

Or how about those times when your eyes lingered a little too long on a woman? That’s where things start getting seriously dicey.

The tactics Satan uses against us are crafty and we must be on guard. Learn more about his methods and tactics we see in the Bible.

Emotional Adultery

“The mouth of strange women is a deep pit: he that is abhorred of the Lord shall fall therein.” (Proverbs 22:14)

As we take a deeper look at what is adultery in the Bible, emotional adultery is forming deeper than surface-level connections outside of marriage and can sometimes slip under the radar because they lack physical contact (in the beginning). 

Yet, these relationships start the slippery slope and can be equally damaging; they divert affection and intimacy away from one’s spouse – constituting what many, including the Bible, consider emotional adultery.

Examples of Emotional Adultery

These are some examples of things that are considered emotional adultery and it would be wise to avoid them.

  • When a conversation becomes too personal instead of just business with a member of the opposite sex.
  • Discussing marriage issues and problems with another woman.
  • Discussing your sex life or experiences with another woman.
  • When you feel attracted to a woman’s personality or looks and you don’t guard your heart.
  • Having a woman friend that you talk to or hang out with without your wife.
  • Anytime you have chemistry or attraction to another woman and you do not attempt to escape the situation.
  • Anytime you provide inappropriate emotional support or comfort for another woman despite her wanting help. 
  • Receiving inappropriate emotional support and comfort from another woman.

Visual Temptations Lead to Adultery and Sin

Moving over to visual temptations – oh boy. Men are under constant assault to be sexually immoral.

With an internet full of clickbait and women showcasing themselves on social media and on the streets, it’s easy for the eyes to wander into territories marked forbidden. 

Indulging in pornographic materials, staring at women, “checking them out”, and harboring lustful thoughts toward another woman all constitute visual adultery. 

These are attacks of temptation from the enemy guys. These are seeds of eternal damnation and ruin if you let them sprout and grow. I cannot stress this enough.

As we already saw, Jesus himself laid down the law pretty hard when He equated looking at another person lustfully with committing adultery in one’s heart (Matthew 5:28).



The Vicious Cycle

It will become a vicious cycle if you let yourself fall down that slippery slope. 

At first, you’ll receive a little bit of sexual gratification from the first look with intent. You only get a small amount of pleasure from it and because of that, it doesn’t make you feel that guilty and it makes it easier to look again and again.

This behavior can lead to an addiction, as the brief pleasure from indulging in lustful glances seems harmless and easy to repeat. This simplicity makes it dangerously easy to fall into a pattern of constantly seeking out such moments, ultimately leading you down a path of becoming addicted to lusting after individuals other than your spouse, even if it is just to look at them.

Just look at the downfall of David and his great sin recorded in 2 Samuel 11. It all started with a simple glance at the woman Bathsheba who was a married woman. He started the cycle by moving beyond noticing her to a longer stare which cascaded into the events that took place.

And what is the root cause we see in David’s story? Lust.

Lust is the threshold of adultery, not sex. That is what Jesus was pointing out when He spoke about it in Matthew 5:27–28. 

That being said, lust is what drives all adulterous sin regardless of whether it happens in the body, eyes, or in the heart. It is also the fuel to sexual immorality.

The Elephant In The Room: Pornography Kills Souls

what is adultery in the Bible

Today, the internet is flooded with searches related to pornography, highlighting its rampant presence in society and real problem among men, both married and single.

Satan has distorted the purity of marital love and sex as part of his tactics, substituting it with lust, pornography, and various sins, corrupting what was intended to be beautiful and righteous.

The devil has also succeeded in leading many down a path of sexual addiction and sinfulness, as noted in Romans 6:19. The addictive qualities of pornography are widely recognized, illustrating how what should be an expression of love between spouses can become perverted into something harmful and destructive.

The three primary types of sin, according to 1 John 2:16, are the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Pornography encourages these by fostering physical desire and visual temptation, showing there’s a deeper issue within one’s heart. 

It not only seeks immediate pleasure but also surfaces a longing for affirmation beyond God which is spiritual adultery. Additionally, watching porn warps your self-perception, offers false gratification, devalues others, and distorts the sacredness of sex. 

The extensive harm it inflicts on your brain function, mental well-being, interpersonal views, emotional stability, and marital bonds shows its destructive nature. Everything about it reeks of Satan’s efforts to destroy the souls of men.

Healing from this requires turning towards God’s love because He alone can mend the hearts of men damaged from the hurt, rejection, or trauma that causes one to turn to porn. Only God can truly fulfill our desires and deepest needs for completion and acknowledgment. Anything else is a counterfeit that will ultimately pull you away from the Truth.

According to Philippians 4:8, pornography doesn’t align with what we should focus on. It’s addictive and controlling, therefore contradicting 1 Corinthians 6:12 and 2 Peter 2:19 as well.

Watching pornography is the direct result of having lustful thoughts, which are against God’s will (Matthew 5:28) and will lead to destruction, as highlighted in Proverbs 6:25–28 and Ephesians 4:19.

Related:
Narrow Is The Gate: The Path to True Salvation
Best Bible Verses for Men: Finding Strength and Wisdom
The Best Bible Verses About Strength in Hard Times

Defeating Addiction to Porn

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Here are some practical steps to defeating pornography in your life.

First and most importantly, without embracing salvation in Jesus Christ, achieving a genuine and enduring triumph over pornography is unattainable (John 15:5). You must first seek Christ to be saved, and if you’re unsure you can read how here.

Then you can move on to these steps.

  1. Confess your sin to God (1 John 1:9).
  2.  Ask God to purify, refresh, and change your mindset (Romans 12:2).
  3. Pray for God to guide your thoughts towards what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and commendable (Philippians 4:8), and seek out media that reflects these values.
  4. Ask God to reveal the void in your heart you are trying to fill with pornography, and ask Him to help you find your satisfaction in Him (Psalm 16:11; 37:4).
  5. Learn to control your own body in holiness and honor (1 Thessalonians 4:3–4).
  6. Understand the true meaning of sex and rely on your wife alone to meet those needs if you are married (1 Corinthians 7:1–5).
  7. Realize that by walking in the Spirit you will not gratify the desires of the flesh (Galatians 5:16).
  8. Take practical steps to reduce your exposure to porn and seductive images. Install pornography blockers on your computer, limit television and video usage, watch what you view on social media and unfollow any accounts that show provocative pictures.
  9. Find other Christian men who will pray for you and help keep you accountable. My Telegram community is really helpful for this which you can join for free.

I know this isn’t a complete guide on how to quit pornography but I pray that it will help. Another helpful resource I have seen is the book “Cutting It Off: Breaking Porn Addiction and How To Quit For Good“.

Key Takeaway: 

Adultery isn’t just physical; emotional connections and visual temptations count too. Pornography is a major problem for a lot of men but you can triumph over it through Christ.

Protect your marriage by guarding your heart and eyes, acknowledging all forms of adultery, or “xōrízō” in the Greek.

What Is Adultery In The Bible Against God?: Spiritual Adultery

Spiritual adultery signifies a betrayal of God, marked by an excessive attachment to worldly pleasures. It mirrors the infidelity found in marital relationships: “‘But like a woman faithless to her lover, even so have you been faithless to me, O house of Israel,’ says the LORD” (Jeremiah 3:20; see also Isaiah 1:21; 57:8; Ezekiel 16:30).

The Bible states that those who align with worldly values are considered “adulterous” and hold a position of hostility towards God. (James 4:4–5). The “world” here is the system of evil under Satan’s control (John 12:31; Ephesians 2:2; 1 John 5:19). 

The global system, crafted with deceptive values and superficial goals, aims to distract us from a genuine connection with God. This leads to spiritual adultery—abandoning God’s love in favor of the world’s allurements and desires. It’s a seductive trap that pulls us away from our true spiritual path. (Romans 8:7–8; 2 Timothy 4:10; 1 John 2:15–17).

A person guilty of spiritual adultery claims to follow Christ but is truly enamored with worldly temptations offered by Satan. Such individuals might profess their devotion to God, yet they are ensnared by earthly pleasures, societal influences, material comfort, financial stability, and perceived liberties. This dichotomy highlights a profound conflict between professed faith and actual desires.

The love for the world stems from our hearts, and we can eliminate worldly desires by nurturing a new affection. To avoid spiritual adultery, “set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2, KJV).

Consequences and Forgiveness for Committing Adultery

When studying what is adultery in the Bible, we also need to know what the consequences are and most importantly know that we can be forgiven for this sin and be saved in Christ.

Proverbs 6 gives some hard warnings about lusting after other women and for those who commit adultery (Proverbs 6:23-29).

what is adultery in the Bible

Biblical Consequences of Adultery

The issue of adultery cuts deep, leaving a lasting sting. The Bible is upfront about its repercussions—there’s no beating around the bush. Leviticus 20:10 takes a stern stance, once prescribing capital punishment in ancient times as a consequence. This severe penalty underlines how seriously God views the commitment to marriage and the importance of loyalty within it.

However, it’s not just about old laws or extreme penalties. Proverbs 6:32-35 offers an insightful look into personal downfall, pointing out that anyone who engages in adultery “lacks sense” and is on a track towards self-destruction—facing illness, shame, and persistent dishonor. It’s akin to detonating your life where trust shatters into fragments you can’t completely piece back together.



Instances of Forgiveness in the Bible

Now, let’s pivot to hope because there’s plenty of that too. Even though it takes a stern view on wrongdoing, the Bible overflows with promises of mercy and second chances. 

Take King David—yeah, he messed up big time by committing adultery with Bathsheba (and even arranged her husband’s death.). But when confronted by Nathan, David repented sincerely.

This biblical account shows us something powerful: no one is beyond God’s grace if they come forward with genuine repentance. 

Sure, there were still earthly consequences for David’s actions (painful ones at that), but spiritually? He was forgiven.

In Jesus’ ministry too we see this in John 8:1-11.

Remember when religious leaders condemned a woman caught in adultery? They wanted to stone her right then and there according to Moses’ Law—a trick question aimed at trapping Jesus. 

But what did Jesus do? He drew in the dirt and said whoever was without sin could cast the first stone; spoiler alert—they all dropped their stones and left.

“Neither do I condemn you,” Jesus told her afterward—”Go now and leave your life of sin.” 

That moment encapsulates Christ’s message perfectly: yes acknowledge wrongdoing but know forgiveness waits warmly for those ready to turn from sin, believe in Jesus, and repent.

 
Key Takeaway: 

Adultery’s fallout is heavy, but the Bible teaches that with genuine repentance, there’s always a path back to forgiveness. Nobody is beyond hope if they turn from their sin and seek forgiveness.

The Role of Repentance and Restoration Post-Adultery

what is adultery in the Bible

Examples from Scripture

When we talk about bouncing back from adultery, there’s no story more compelling than when Prophet Nathan confronted David in 2 Samuel 12. 

This demonstrates that even those who wear crowns can falter in grand ways. But here’s the kicker: it also teaches us about the incredible power of repentance and restoration as well.

In Psalm 51—David’s raw and wrenching prayer for forgiveness—we see him laying his soul bare before God. He doesn’t try to justify his actions but instead acknowledges his sin head-on and pleads for mercy. 

This isn’t just sorry-for-getting-caught remorse; this is deep-seated recognition of wrongdoing coupled with an earnest desire to make things right.

This biblical account emphasizes two key points:

  • Acknowledgment: Admitting one has sinned is step one on the road back from adultery.
  • Action: True repentance involves turning away from sinful behaviors towards repentance—and ultimately striving toward transformation in character and actions.

If you’re grappling with similar issues today, the takeaway couldn’t be clearer: healing starts with facing up to what happened openly and honestly then moving forward towards making amends both with God and those involved.

Key Takeaway: 

Even kings mess up big time, but the story of David shows us that admitting our mistakes and seeking forgiveness is key to bouncing back. It’s not just about saying sorry; it’s about a deep recognition of wrongdoing and taking steps towards making things right with God.

FAQs On What is Adultery in the Bible

In today’s fast-paced world, where moral values often seem to take a back seat, it’s crucial for men of faith and strength to understand what the Bible says about adultery. This understanding not only strengthens our spiritual walk but also fortifies our commitment to building stronger relationships and communities.

What is the true meaning of adultery?

The Bible defines adultery as engaging in sexual relations with someone who is not your spouse. In the book of Exodus 20:14, one of the Ten Commandments explicitly states, “You shall not commit adultery.” This commandment underlines the sanctity of marriage and emphasizes fidelity within this sacred bond.

What does Jesus say about adultery?

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27–28).

How Can Men Guard Against Committing Adultery?

Maintain Open Communication: Regularly communicate with your partner about your feelings, desires, and any issues you might be facing together.
Prioritize Your Relationship: Make time for each other amidst life’s busyness ensuring that both emotional and physical needs are met within the bounds of marriage.
Cultivate Spiritual Discipline: Engage regularly in prayerful reflection asking God for strength to resist temptations while seeking guidance from the Scriptures.

Final Thoughts On What Is Adultery In The Bible

We looked into what is adultery in the Bible, going from old writings to deep personal insights. We found out it’s not just about the person who commits adultery, but about sinning against God Himself.

It’s also about our feelings and thoughts, making us think differently about being loyal in the marriage bed. The main point from the Bible is to have respect— for God’s commandments, for promises made, for each other, and for repentance when we falter.

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