You Shall Not Commit Adultery: Bible Lesson and Life Application

by Dr. Michael L. Williams · Print Print · Email Email

Probably nothing has destroyed more marriages and broken up families than adultery. While social science experts point to a decrease in the divorce rate, what they do not report is that many people are living with someone without formally being married because they have been betrayed before by an unfaithful partner or spouse. There are even websites now that provide married people with the opportunity to meet someone interested in having an affair. For these reasons and others, a Bible and life application study of adultery is needed to know why God commanded us not to commit adultery.

What is adultery? 

The word adultery is commonly defined as (1): Noun- “voluntary sexual intercourse between a married person and a person who is not his or her spouse.” This definition tells us that at least one person in this physical relationship is married. The word adultery has the word adult as its root. When we think of the word adult, we think of someone who is of a certain age. However, historically, the word adult referred to a time when someone was no longer innocent or pure.

This can be seen in the word adulterate that is still used today in its original context in pharmaceutical and chemical industries. Adulterate is commonly defined as (2): Verb- “render (something) poorer in quality by adding another substance, typically an inferior one.” Origin: early 16th century (as an adjective meaning ‘spurious’): from Latin adulterat- ‘corrupted,’ from the verb adulterare. Simply stated, something that is adulterated is no longer pure. An example would be a chemical substance or drug that has had other chemicals added that corrupts or dilutes its purity. Likewise adultery corrupts a marriage so that it is corrupted or no longer pure. 

You Shall Not Commit Adultery 1

What is the difference between adultery and fornication? 

Fornication is commonly defined as sexual intercourse between people not married to each other (3). Biblically, fornication has a little wider definition. It can refer to prostitution or promiscuous behavior or indulging in unlawful lust by either sex married or not. It can also refer figuratively to committing idolatry (2 Chronicles 21:11; Isaiah 23:15-17; Revelation 17:2). In comparison, fornication is usually inclusive of anyone, while adultery involves at least one married person.

What does God say about adultery? 

The seventh commandment reads like this:

“Thou shalt not commit adultery.” (Exodus 20:14)”.

The Hebrew word for adultery is naap, which is used 31 times in the Old Testament (4). The literal translation refers to adultery or breaking wedlock. The Greek word for adultery is moicheuō that comes from the Greek word Moichos, which means a male paramour or adulterer. Moichos comes from the Latin masculus, which means masculine. Likewise, the word macho, which is commonly used to describe a “ladies man” means masculine or virile and also comes from the same Latin root masculus.

The penalty for those caught in adultery was death (Leviticus 20:10-13; John 8:1-5). Given today’s acceptance of adultery, some think that God’s penalty was harsh. They must consider that God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16) and fornication by a married spouse is adultery, which destroys families (Jeremiah 29:23; Proverbs 6) and is cause for divorce (Matthew 5:32; Matthew 19:9).

Is there a Spiritual perspective of adultery? 

God says that the marriage relationship between a man and a woman is an earthy model of the relationship between Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:22-33). Jesus referred to the Spiritual definition of adultery when he said, “Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). In His statement, He referred to a heart that lusts after anything that is not in keeping with a person’s faith and relationship with Christ as our bridegroom (Romans 14:23b; Ephesians 5:25-32; 1 John 2:15-16).

God considers sexual purity and faithfulness in the marriage to be honorable and will judge those who defile the marital bed (Hebrews 13:4). We see this judgment of adultery practically not only in divorce, but also illegitimate pregnancies, venereal diseases (Romans 1:26-27), and broken families that adversely affect children Spiritually and economically.

Spiritually, the idea of adultery was applied to Israel because of unfaithfulness to God in Jeremiah 3. Like literal adultery between a man and a woman, Spiritual adultery leads to illegitimate unions with non-believers (Romans 16:17-18; 1 Corinthians 10:20-21; 2 Corinthians 6:11-18). Spiritual adultery leads to a diseased faith (1 Timothy 4:1-5; 2 Timothy 3:1-9). Finally, Spiritual adultery leads to the loss of God’s blessings such as broken families that suffer because they are ravaged by Satan (Psalms 106; Proverbs 3:3; Malachi 2:2). 

How should we address adultery today?

In Jeremiah 3, we saw that adultery was applied Spiritually to Israel. However, we also find in Jeremiah 3:12-18 that God reconciled with Israel. Although God hates divorce as well as all sin, including adultery, He still demonstrates His love to those who seek His mercy and forgiveness (Isaiah 55:7; Micah 7:18; Ephesians 2:4-7). Likewise, those seeking reconciliation, mercy, and forgiveness should be forgiven and steps taken to reconcile the marriage.


Adultery is voluntary sexual activity with someone other than a spouse. God does not want us to commit adultery because it defiles the honor of marriage and represents a defiling of our relationship with Jesus Christ. Those who have committed adultery should be encouraged to seek reconciliation, mercy, and forgiveness from their spouse and God.

Read this article about adultery too: What Does the Bible Say About Adultery

Resources – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, King James Version. (1) Google. (2014). “Adultery”. Retrieved from Google: https://www .google. com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=adultery. (2) Google. (2014). “Adulterate”. Retrieved from Google: https: //www. google. com/? gws_rd=ssl#q=adulterate .  (3) Google. (2014). “Fornication”. Retrieved from (4) Strong, James, (2014). “Adultery”. Strong’s number H5003. Strong’s Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary.

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