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For Bible Study Nerds

The accusation of adultery in ancient Israel was no light thing, so it was significant that Jesus emphasized it in this portion of his Sermon on the Mount. In effect, Christ said to his audience, “I accuse you of adultery. Your inward sinfulness is criminally damning—regardless of your outward appearances of obedience.”

Given the seriousness of the crime of adultery in that time, that message must have been sobering for many. Consider:

• Adultery, according to Jewish law, was punishable by death, usually stoning (a grisly way to die).

• The husband whose wife had been unfaithful could legally demand the execution of both his wife and her lover.

• If the offended husband were merciful, he could have only his wife killed and accept a ransom payment from the wife’s lover in exchange for that man’s life.

• The offended husband, if he were even more merciful, might also opt simply to divorce his unfaithful wife instead of killing her—although that also meant cutting her off economically, socially, and religiously from her community. The result for women in this situation was often oppressive, unrelenting poverty.

• Even the accusation of adultery carried legal and personal consequences in that time. A wife accused of adultery was often given a trial by ordeal where she’d be forced to drink a mysterious, disgusting “potion.” If she got sick from drinking that potion, she would be declared guilty…and stoned to death.

Works Cited:

[BKW, 213; JHT, 92]

 

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