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Adultery, Fornication and Penalty

aymon de albatrus


"You shall not commit adultery." (Exo 20:14)

"…… you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, …………… nor any thing that is [belongs to] your neighbour’s." (Exo 20:17)

"Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but fornicators and adulterers God will judge." (Heb 13:4)


The Biblical definition of sexual Fornication is "having illicit sexual intercourse, such as: adultery, fornication, incest, homosexuality, lesbianism, intercourse with animals etc."

The Biblical definition of Adultery is "having sexual intercourse between a married or betrothed woman and any man other than her husband or husband to be". Adultery is a special case of fornication. Every reference to adultery in the entire Bible concerns sexual intercourse between a married or betrothed woman and a man other than the one to whom she is married or betrothed.

The penalty for adultery is death: "And the man that commits adultery with another man’s wife, even he that commits adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death." (Lev 20:10) (Deu 22:22)

The penalty for fornication (between man and woman):
If the woman was consensual and they were found out (of course) then the man had to pay the "Bride-Price" and could marry her if the father agreed, if not he had to pay the money (Exo 22:16,17). If a man took a virgin by force he had to pay money, marry her and could never divorce (Deu 22:28,29). If the groom found the new bride not virgin, he could complain to the elders, and if true, the woman was stoned in front of her father’s house (Deu 22:20,21). Do note that it says "because she has worked folly in Israel, to play the whore in her father’s house: so shall you put evil away from among you" meaning that fornication (sex before marriage) was not approved, ‘folly in Israel’ and that she was the property of her father, therefore by fornicating she brought dishonour to him, thus deserving death.

To us depraved decadents this appears as an incredible thing, but do note that the father had power to keep his daughter virgin (i.e. not giving her to marriage) if this seemed a good thing to him, even in the New testament: “36 ¶ But if any man thinketh that he behaveth himself unseemly toward his virgin [daughter], if she be past the flower of her age, and if need so requireth, let him do what he will; he sinneth not; let them marry. 37 But he that standeth stedfast in his heart, having no necessity, but hath power as touching in his own heart, to keep his own virgin [daughter], shall do well. 38 So then both he that giveth his own virgin [daughter] in marriage doeth well; and he that giveth her not in marriage shall do better.” (1Co 7:36-38)

The act of Fornication and Adultery (between a man and a woman) is the same, but the death penalty is always prescribed for Adultery, and at times for Fornication. The difference would be due to the fact that Adultery involves the property of another man: "…… you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, …………… nor any thing that is [belongs to] your neighbour’s." (Exo 20:17)

To be noted that the Bible prescribes the death penalty for other evil activities such as:

Also to be noted that Jesus endorsed the full Old Testament and thus even the death penalty as prescribed: "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil." (Mat 5:17). (Mat 5:18) Are we to believe the FULL Jesus as per Scripture or only a part-Jesus, the one that suit our human carnal nature?

An unbeliever said this that reflects very much the thinking of our deeply decadent society: "If the Biblical verdicts of death penalty are carried out strictly in modern Europe, a great portion of the population of the Western world would be put to death. If the above verdicts of death penalty are applied seriously to such rationalists, the population of the Western world will surely decrease to a large extent." The man has assessed the current decadent state of our sinful society correctly, indeed if the Biblical standards were to be strictly applied, not many people would be left in the Western world and elsewhere. But this does not mean that the people are correct in living and approving the most abject sins and doing away with God’s ordinances; what it means is that they are rebellious to God and evil hearted as Scripture attests: "And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." (Gen 6:5), alas, there is nothing new under the sun.

Up to recent times to lose one’s virginity was a serious thing, but now with the advent of democracy and its daughter Feminism and ‘the pill’, it is quite uncommon to find any teenager still virgin (even in the church). Indeed most young people these days shack together quite openly living like married, even the royals of England do so with the full blessing of their monarch parents. That is why we have so many sexual diseases these days and AIDS spreads exponentially due to our promiscuity. And the stupidity is to the point that many, after having played the harlot, marry in church with a white dress that is synonymous of purity, i. e. virginity, what a mockery. Indeed some even go to the extent of paying good money to special clinics to have their virginity restored, for the nuptial night, what a farce.

Jesus allows divorce, in case of adultery; the reason of the law against divorce being this, The two shall be one flesh. If the wife plays the harlot, and makes herself one flesh with another man committing adultery, the reason of the law ceases, and so does the law. By the Law of Moses adultery was punished with death (Deu 22:22). Our Saviour mitigates the rigour of that, and appoints divorce to be the penalty for He uses the word ‘fornication’ in Mat 19:9. Some interpret this to mean sexual uncleanness before marriage and found after. But this is a dubious interpretation for if the woman had fornicated before marriage she would not be a virgin at marriage and the groom would have found it out and that was a capital punishment (Deu 22:20,21). But if it was adultery (more likely) then it was also a capital crime, and there is no need of divorce, but death. We see here that perhaps our Lord was trying to alleviate the severity of the penalty and prescribed only divorce, but then ‘Fornication’ covers a multitude of sins, including adultery.

We see another example of this clemency applied to the very mother of Jesus, Mary. When Joseph, the man she was betrothed to, found her with child (Jesus) and he being a Law obeying man but also a kind, tender, merciful; so attached to Mary, that he was not willing that she should be exposed to public shame, public condemnation and death. He sought, therefore, secretly to dissolve the connexion, and to restore her to her friends without the punishment commonly inflicted on adultery. "Then Joseph her husband, being a just [man], and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily." (Mat 1:19)

Adultery has always been considered a crime of a very heinous nature attracting the punishment of death by stoning, (Lev 20:10; Eze 16:38,40; Joh 8:5). This punishment was also inflicted where the woman was not married, but betrothed as Mary was to Joseph (Deu 22:23,24). In this case, therefore, the regular punishment would have been death in this painful and ignominious manner. Yet Joseph was a religious man, mild and tender; and he was not willing to complain of her to the magistrates, and expose her to death, but sought to avoid the shame, and to put her away privately.

Put her away privily; Joseph being tender and compassionate, though strictly just and good, was minded to put her away privately; he deliberately consulted and determined within himself to dismiss her, or put her away by giving her a bill of divorce, in a very private manner; which was sometimes done by putting it into the woman’s hand or bosom. The Law of Moses gave the husband (not to the wife) the power of divorce, (Deu 24:1). It was customary, in a bill of divorce, to specify the causes for which the divorce was made, and witnesses were also present to testify to the divorce. But in this case, it seems, Joseph resolved to put her away without specifying the cause: for he was not willing to make her a public example. This is the meaning here of 'privily'. Both to Joseph and Mary this must have been a great trial. Joseph was ardently attached to her, but her character was likely to be ruined, and he deemed it proper to separate her from him. Mary was innocent, but Joseph was not yet satisfied of her innocence. Mary was in danger of being exposed to shame. Had she been connected with a cruel, passionate, and violent man, she would have died in disgrace. But God had so ordered it, that she was connected with a man mild, amiable, and tender; and, in due time, Joseph was informed of the truth in the case, and took his faithful and beloved wife to his bosom: "But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a dream, saying, Joseph, you son of David, fear not to take to you Mary your wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost." (Mat 1:20; Mat 1:18-21)

So our Lord did not abolish the Law but upheld IT fully but somewhat mitigated its severity by allowing divorce instead of the death penalty for Adultery, same as Joseph intended with Mary, which is an example of Grace.

In the New Testament we see Paul picking up the argument: "2 Thus a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. 3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress." (Rom 7:2-3) (1Co 7:39)

Well we see here that the wife is bound to the law of her husband till he lives. This means that if the woman leaves her husband and goes to live with (or even marries) another man she is still bound to her husband. Biblically that bondage is broken only if the woman received a bill of divorce from her husband or if adultery took place, by applying the penalty, death. Jesus prescribed only divorcement in case of Adultery/Fornication, but if an adulterous woman is divorced by her husband, she is still alive and thus still his wife according to Rom 7:2,3. How can this impasse be resolved? The divines that compiled that hefty theological tome ‘the Westminster Confession’ provided an exit: "Adultery or fornication, committed after a contract, being detected before marriage, giveth just occasion to the innocent party to dissolve that contract. In the case of adultery after marriage, it is lawful for the innocent party to sue out a divorce, and after the divorce to marry another, as if the offending party were dead."

The Presbyterian Polity follows the same lines: "Marriage once lawfully contracted, may not be dissolved at man's pleasure, as our master Christ Jesus does witness, unless adultery is committed; which, being sufficiently proven in presence of the civil magistrate, the innocent (if they so require) ought to be pronounced free, and the offender ought to suffer the death as God has commanded. If the civil sword foolishly spares the life of the offender, yet the church may not be negligent in their office, which is to excommunicate the wicked, and to repute them as dead members, and to pronounce the innocent party to be at freedom, be they never so honourable before the world."

By considering the offending adulterous party as if it were dead, the situation is resolved and the Law upheld and the innocent party free to remarry if so desired, not suffering for the sin of another for if he were not free he would be subject to the guilt of another.

In Conclusion:

Both Adultery and Fornication are considered serious sexual sins with terrible consequences that every Biblical Christian should avoid at all costs.

Whenever the sexual act involves the propriety of another man (wife or betrothed) the death penalty is prescribed by the word of God, id est adultery. In the case where the woman was single and willing, a price of retribution money (Bride-Price) was to be paid to the father of the woman whilst in the case of a single woman taken by force a compulsory marriage with payment of money to the father took place without any possibility of divorce.

What to say about our deep decadent society where its young people (even in the church) regularly perform fornication without limits? The Bible promotes only sexual relations within marriage to procreate and to fulfil a couple becoming "one flesh". Fornication is just as wrong as adultery and any other forms of sexual immorality, because they all involve having sex with someone you are not married to. Fornication is repeatedly condemned in Scripture along with all other forms of sexual immorality (Act 15:20; Rom 1:29; 1Co 5:1; 6:13,18; 7:2; 10:8; 2Co 12:21; Gal 5:19; Eph 5:3; Col 3:5; 1Th 4:3; Jud 1:7).

The Bible strongly commands total abstinence from sexual activities before marriage and the marital bed undefiled.

We must proclaim that Adultery/Fornication is a serious sin and that those that participate in it will not enter Heaven (1Co 6:9) and that God will judge those practicing such ungodly acts: "Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but fornicators and adulterers God will judge." (Heb 13:4)

HOWEVER

Our God is an extremely Gracious God and will forgive ANY sin (except the sin against the Holy Spirit) upon Repentance
the basis of that is what Jesus told His apostles: “And if he trespass against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to you, saying, I repent; you shall forgive him.” (Luk 17:4).  If evil man is asked to forgive any offence upon true repentance, how many more times will our Heavenly Father forgive us upon Repentance?  Much more for He is thrice Holy.
The key here is REPENTANCE, there is no forgiveness without repentance.

BUT repentance is also a Gift of God: “When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then has God also to the Gentiles granted repentance to life.” (Act 11:18).  And surely if this is a Gift then God grants it to whom He wants, which means to whom He chooses.  And who are these? of course His elect, those He elected to salvation before time began: “According as he has chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us to the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,” (Eph 1:4-5) These are those that Jesus intercedes for: “I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which you have given me; for they are yours.” (Joh 17:9)

Therefore if you find Repentance in you, it is because God has grated it to you, therefore you must act on it, truly repent and receive God's forgiveness with much joy and thankfulness, for He has blotted your sins out with the precious Blood of Jesus and your sins are now: “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He put our sins from us.” (Psa 103:12).